Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It's been 5 years. In that 5 years I've changed in so many ways. I'm still the same old me, but different. Daniel didn't know this me. The one that survived his loss, the one that has been raising our child by myself. The one that bears the burden of making it all happen, all day, every day.

You'd think it would make me more serious, all of this loss, all of the responsibility, all of the stress. It hasn't. In many ways I'm more light-hearted than I was before. Life is beautiful and life is short. I am reminded of that daily. When I forget for a moment and get bogged down in the minutiae, usually I snap out of it quickly. What's the use? I know that I could be hit by a truck tomorrow. If my number is called, I want to be sure I'm enjoying my life at the moment it happens. No excuses, no regrets.

I couldn't ever imagine loving someone besides Daniel, but then I couldn't imagine the horrors of his cancer and living without him either. Apparently anything is possible. Weeks before Daniel died he told me he was afraid I'd choose to be alone and he didn't want that for me. He gave me his blessing when I couldn't bear to hear it, but his words have echoed in my head on and off for 5 years.

Sooooo, I'm outing myself on the blog and confessing to you guys that I'm seeing someone. I have been for a few months now, and it has been fabulous. He's fantastic and I'm so lucky to have stumbled across him. Sometimes life makes you margaritas and even salts the rim at no extra charge :) It's different being in this relationship; I'm different. But in the words of a wonderful friend, different doesn't have to be bad, different can be really, really good.

Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.

Monday, November 29, 2010

If You Weren't Dead

Over the past five years any time that I have done something that I believe Phil would have either actively disliked (getting a tattoo) or probably didn't appreciate (leaving his ashes in a locked safe for three years) I have used this phrase, "Well then you shouldn't have died," to justify my behavior.

This phrase when looked at from another angle goes something like this..."If you hadn't died__________." And there have been any number of ways to fill in the blank. Here are a few from the first couple of years: If you hadn't died I wouldn't be ready to punch the poor, unsuspecting fence contractor in the face for asking me how long I plan to live in this house four months after you died. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be standing in the bathtub in my Ugg boots, your boxers, and a sweatshirt stomping my feet to try to convince whatever animal is under the house that he wandered into unfriendly territory and should leave immediately...at one in the morning. If you hadn't died I wouldn't have to work twice as many hours at the same time as I became responsible for twice as many household duties. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be home alone with the dog when the kids go off to their dad's crying into Chinese food for one. If you hadn't died your shoes wouldn't need a new home, and I wouldn't be wearing both our wedding rings. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be the person who hushes a room every time she walks into it and then spends the rest of the evening wearing her best 'Really I am fine' mask.

As time has moved on the end of this sentence has been populated with different kinds of sentiments. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be known by our friends (and often my children) as the 'death lady'. If you hadn't died I wouldn't think at least once every day that life is short, and then have that thought impact the outcome of a decision. If you hadn't died I wouldn't have traveled the country by myself, unafraid and ready for adventure. If you hadn't died I would not have been forced to redirect my life at the age of 35, carving out a whole new future from a blank slate. If you hadn't died there are some amazing people who would not be a part of my life. If you hadn't died I would not have learned that not wanting to is not the same thing as being unable to do any number of things. If you hadn't died I would be living an entirely different life. If you hadn't died I would never have flown half way to Australia to meet a man I was introduced to on the Internet. If you hadn't died I would not be the woman I am today.

There has been some buzz around the widow world about whether a remarried widowed person dishonors their new spouse by continuing to discuss the ways their widowhood experience impacts their lives. And I mean our current life, the one that is happy and includes a new love and many, many new blessings. I can only speak for myself, but here is my thought...how could my past not influence my future? Especially a past which has created, due to the fact that Phil died, the person I am today. Phil's death still impacts by daily life. Not in the horrifically painful ways that used to form those early days, and now not so much because of his physical absence, but more because of what his absence has taught (and continues to teach) me. I was loved well. I enjoyed a partnership that fed my soul. I stretched and grew as a person; first as Phil's wife, and then as his widow. I didn't ask to know what I know, but the knowledge death imparted has changed me. In most ways for the better. I don't think of the differing ways I have filled in this loaded sentence to be a balance sheet. There is no way to measure out in even amounts what I lost and what I have gained. I didn't have a choice about my life circumstance. All I can do is make the most of what lies ahead, in honor of the potential that exists with each day that I draw breath.

So while the ruminations about life without Phil continue to mill about my brain, my ability to love Michael is firmly rooted in the love I once knew with Phil. Not in exchange, but in addition. If Phil wouldn't have died I would never have believed that life after widowhood could be so beautiful.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Exhaustion runs through me
so thoroughly
that I am sure my body now uses it
in place of 30% of my blood.

I can't think.
Eating feels too strenuous
unless I can rip open a bag.
And then if I do,
what I eat is so tasteless
that I end up spitting it out
into the garbage.
Why bother making the effort to chew that crap.

I look haggard,

My skin does not reflect exuberance
but looks more like a pond that has not been drained
properly, murky, unclear and blachy.

I know that I am killing myself.
Not by over dosing on pills,
or alcohol
but by just running at this pace,
the pace of a young,hustling widow
with kids.

I know it needs to stop,
or my body will stop me.
And then I will be made to rest
in a hospital
and it will be a fitful, uneasy rest
because even there
I will be making the ever changing priority list
of things that NEED to get done.

So as I crawl into bed, faced with
the prospect of getting
8 hours of sleep, instead of the 5 I can't exist on
I promise myself that I will

I promise that I will stretch in the morning.
I promise that I will use the damn massage
gift certificate that was
sent to me
over a year ago.
(This person took the time to send me several of them! So I better damn use them. THANK YOU whoever you are.)

I promise to refill the well with water by
and eating
and doing nothing
for at least 30 minutes a day.

He would be proud of me for all of my promises.
He used to say
"What? Do you think you'll finally
get everything done on your list?
You will die with a to-do list so
stop worrying about it so much."

He died with his to-do list
and the biggest thing that is going
is me.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It Took

It took 3 years to do it. 3 years to put up the Christmas tree.

The Christmas season has always been a favorite of mine. Growing up, I remember walking down the stairs to those twinkling lights and the warm sense of joy.

I loved the season so much that Michael and I got married on December 23rd.

After he died, the season and everything it meant died too.

Presents, joy, festivity....my heart screamed "Screw it all."

But this year....3 plus years after Michael was killed, I've done it. I spent the day picking out new ornaments to add to our collection, a new tree skirt, mulled wine to sip on during decoration, candles to burn that smell of apple cider and spice. I even tuned the station to 95.5...Delilah...100% Christmas tunes...and I sang along...i whistled down the aisles.

I've spent the evening decorating our home and feeling that same feeling i did as a child, but with another type of warmth, the warmth of our love that still lives on...stronger than ever.

I'm excited to wake each day and look at the tree..the tree that has no gifts laid beneath it...since the one gift I could ever need is within me....planted by my one true love.

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.
~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Friday, November 26, 2010

not all bad

Photo from here...

When we think of being widowed, we most often think of the sadness, the loss and the loneliness created in the wake of our loss. We reflect on what once was. We imagine and recreate what could have been 'if only'. We long to be transported back in time to when life seemed sweeter and kinder.
Rarely do we think of the blessings we have gained. The lessons we have learned. The better people we have become.
I know that since Jeff died, I take the positives in my life less for granted. This is not to say that I don't still grumble like a petulent child when life doesn't provide what I feel it should. But I am certainly more aware of the amazing and awe-filled things that those touched by trauma are gifted with. I notice the small crystalline patterns created in the dog's water dish and marvel at their beauty. I realize that I am either going crazy or have been struck by some seemingly silly, glowing warmth that makes me....grateful that there is still breathtaking beauty in the world.
I realize now just how lucky I was to have found such love in my life and even when we argued over who's way was the 'correct' way to load the dishwasher, I was blessed.
I feel the gift of knowing that life does not revolve around 'what' but 'who'. This fact was probably known to me before losing Jeff....but not internalized. I still have the occasional longing for a pair of coveted gumboots, but I realize that in 15 years those same boots may lay lifeless and forgotten in my shoe rack....and those who I actually love may be lifeless as well....but certainly not forgotten.
I feel a peace that I did not once possess. I know that I cannot change much of what happens in the world or my life. Events happen. Losses occur. I cannot dictate these happenings. I can only control my own actions. This brings my soul a form of solace. Worrying will not change what may happen. I can only face what has happened.
Although life is less sweet without my love sharing it with me, it is sweetened somewhat with the realizations and epiphanies my loss has opened my eyes to. And I am grateful for these blessings.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


one by one,

with each trip

to minnesota,

they started to appear.

new to me.

new to maddy,

but obviously

only new to

the two of us.

first it was

the bucket of crayons.

then the silk pillow

and matching silk blanket.

then the baton

with the water

and green glitter inside.

this trip?

a plastic doll house

and all the

accessories that

belonged inside.

no one

had to say anything.

i knew they

belonged to


when she was child.

i could tell

the age of each

item simply by

noticing the wear,

but the more

obvious signal

that they belonged

to her was in the

looks her parents

had on their faces

as maddy enjoyed

playing with them.

they were happy.

because these things...

they're not being

treated as museum relics,

banished to some

storage box never

to be seen again.

they're in maddy's hands,

taking the abuse

of another 2.5

year old.

just as they would

have if


were alive.

so as maddy's crayons

wander off of the paper

and on to the table,

or as maddy's pillow gets

covered in drool,

or maddy's baton is used

as a golf club,

or as maddy's dollhouse

accessories get thrown

from one end of

the room to

the other,

the three of us

can watch,

smiling together,

happy to see

her so happy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bitter Sweet ....

.... is the word I use to describe the upcoming Holidays now.
Not as sucky as they've been (I hope), nor as sweet as they used to be.

Jim died exactly one week before Christmas.
Three weeks before his birthday.

My "death march" begins right before Thanksgiving, as I remember where we were that year, what we were doing, how unsuspecting we all were.
I am hoping that it's a bit (heck, I'm hoping it's a LOT) easier this year.
So far, I've only had one really bad day.
And it was .... really bad.

I doubt that it will be the last.
But one really bad day is much better than one really bad week, and so on and so on.

I am taking the kids to go visit Jim's brother and his family.  My father-in-law will also be there.  We haven't seen him since last Thanksgiving.  Jim's mom died 5 months after he did.  Also unexpected (it was a very sucky year).

I am looking forward to seeing them, but it will be very bitter sweet.  He should be there with us.  She should be there with us.
But .... that's life.
And death.
And life again.

This is the time of year when we're supposed to think about all of the things for which we are thankful.
This is the first Thanksgiving that I think I now have a longer list of what I'm thankful for, rather than a list for what I'm not thankful.
It took me quite a while to be thankful.
Truly thankful .... about anything.

And .... that's ok.
At least with me.

Who, that first and/or second year,  can be thankful about anything when their spouse up and dies?
Who can be thankful that they themselves aren't dead?
I couldn't.
Not for a very long time.

But now .... I am.
I'm thankful that Jim was in my life for as long as he was.
I'm thankful that he showed me how to love and that he loved me enough to last my life time.
I'm thankful that I still have family and friends who support and love me.
I'm thankful that I still have friends who still miss him.
I'm thankful for my children.

I am thankful for the new people who've come into my life since Jim died ..... and yet only because he died.
I'm thankful for you.

Very, very bitter sweet.
Don't you think?

The "Holidays".
A time to be cheery, be with family, and to celebrate.
And ....

....a time to be sad.

Very, very ..... bitter sweet.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Roses for Deltha

Thanks to our guest blogger Jo Rozier for filling in for Michelle today, we appreciate you!

In what has become a tradition of ours, this Tues my kids and I placed roses in the sand. We tend to commemorate milestones related to my wife and especially the anniversary of her death by going to her favorite place, the beach. Inevitably whatever flowers we have wind up being planted ever so gently in the sand. Some years we'll add a short note and 'sign' the sand...others years (this year) we let the flowers speak for themselves, a silent testimony of love, one for another.

I pulled the kids out of school, put the dog in a kennel, took leave from work and rented a lodge on the ocean front. We made a day long event of our commemoration. Well, maybe not quite an entire day, we spent some time driving through our old neighborhood on Base and of course did some 'retail therapy'. It was a day largely spent recounting one happy memory after another. I never cease to be amazed or grateful at how much joy my kids derive from memories of their mother.

That evening in our lodge and without prompting, each child came up to me individually and shared with me a heartbreaking memory from their mother's death...one child remembered a final fight with their mom and wished they had been better behaved, another remembering the moment when I told them mommy was about to die. I never cease to feel pain at the wounds they now carry with them. Both received hugs and assurances; mommy loved them without reservation and it was no easier saying the words, 'mommy is going to die' than it was hearing them.

Overall, and by unanimous agreement, it was great day. Thank-you all for the cards, notes, Facebook posts and especially for the prayers. It mattered and made a difference.

Monday, November 22, 2010

How to be Thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just returned home from dinner out with the kids. It's a nice rainy night, and we were all so warm and cozy inside the restaurant. It was the usual mix of merriment, and frustration, with us trying to have a good time, yet my daughter and I having to sit through the boys' ongoing bickering. I shouldn't be too surprised, as I don't think I liked my older brother much until we both became adults. Yet my lackluster mood must have been quite transparent, as my daughter asked if I was feeling okay. I asked why she was asking, to which she responded that I looked either very tired, or perhaps life was just getting to me. Without giving much thought to what I was going to say, I unfortunately responded that I was tired of life. Not one of my best moments.

I'm really struggling to maintain a sense of gratitude for life these days. Of course it is only highlighted by the fact that Thanksgiving arrives this week. I'm so tired of all the commercials with all the happy families preparing for their gatherings. I know that there is plenty for me to be thankful for, that's not the issue. I'm just tired of having to be optimistic about a life that has really disappointed me.

I think people would be very surprised to hear this from me, as I'm usually a good spirited person. I'm the one who others feel good about, knowing that I am "doing so well" in spite of my loss. Family members keep telling me that things are beginning to go my way, and that there must be good things ahead for me and my kids. I wouldn't necessarily argue their point, I am fortunate, and some positive things have been coming my way, yet again, why must I be thankful?

Is it because being bitter is so unbecoming? Is bitter so last year? Well, I suppose it is. I know that I need to be thankful, yet I struggle to know how. For the sake of those gathered around the table I will put on my thankful attire. I will speak in platitudes if I must. Yet here, and now, I want to express how difficult it is to do so. I want to say that I am thankful for many things, yet I am not yet at a place where I can genuinely say that I am a thankful person. I am not yet ready to celebrate this feast of thanksgiving. I am still hurting, and I know that I am not alone. At the same time I know, and trust, that I will be in a better frame of mind in the future, and for that, I suppose I am thankful.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Black Hole

Ezra during a visit with Art in the hospital

I’m reading a report from a development optometrist Ezra saw last week. It’s a second opinion.

I didn’t read the first report. I tried to..

but it was too hard.

Both reports highlight some of the things Ezra is struggling with in school.

It spells out several areas he needs help in, like the need to work with reading specialist.

It tells me what the assessment people at our local public school are echoing even though they haven’t finished their assessments yet.

It says that Ezra needs substantial help in reading and writing.

This report is easy to read


straight forward in it’s recognition of his issues and the recommendation and how they can help him.

And I’m sitting here,

in this damn coffee shop,

snot and tears running down my face,

feeling overwhelmed.

Again, the floor beneath me is farther away than it was just moments ago.

And I'm lonely

and scared and

feel just horrible,

Absolutely horrible.

It’s not that I miss Art that is making me cry.

It’s that my son is struggling

And it is on me to help him,

me to arrange the appointments,

to enlist his siblings in helping,

to send submit the docutmention to the insurance company to get the measly $50 that will help cover the $150 per session cost.

And I so need someone else here.

Someone else who is invested in Ezra, in me

to help sort through all of this,

to remind me that we will be ok and that

even though this is overwhelming now, it will not always be so.

It’s in moments like this that I see that 1 year and 7 months is

not as far away as I wish it was.

It’s in moments like this the big fat fucking whole that I have so nicely covered over with white gauze pours its blackness out and onto the kitchen floor.

My baby boy has some kind of learning difference that requires

me to stand up, to fight for him, to take on, get, schedule, oversee his educational well being


I don’t know if I have

the strength.

I’m crying because this ring that I wear to remind me of everything what Art and I had

Reminds me today of what I am missing.

Im crying because death is just so fundamentally sad and no matter

how much I eat or not,

drink or not

laugh or not

move on or not

Ezra’s father is never coming back

And I stand here,

In the middle of that big fat fucking loss

in this darkness and again, I feel lost.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


It happened.

I'd become comfortable. I'd accepted the fact that I must survive...thrive in this world without my soul mate. It became acceptable. It became something other than a curse.

Then it happened. News. News that I was not supposed to deal with without him by my side. News that made me want to screw the comfortable and scream for the past. News that I didn't know how to take.

I had retreated into a world that was only known to me many years ago...I didn't want to go back there, yet my heart knew no other path.

I guess that is what it is. Like a down comforter chair. You see it. It looks so welcoming. You decide to sit in it. It's blissful as your muscles are enveloped by its comfort, by its surroundings. But just as you sink in more and put your feet up, it happens, you're abruptly thrown to your toes, thrown into a confusion of sorts that you never saw coming.

Maybe the secret isn't dwelling on the fact that it started "just when". Maybe it's a matter of celebrating and being grateful that I had that "just when".

Life is the greatest mystery. The second greatest is our heart's capacity to handle it all. The only thing that isn't a mystery is the love that drags us through the hell we find ourselves in. Drags is through those moments when we had just become comfortable.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Photo from Sidekickstudios

I have a crush.

A sweet, secret, hang-out-with-our-kids-at-the-park, crush.

When I see him, my heart does it's best impersonation of a two year old having a spastic temper tantrum.

I worry when I'm in his vicinity, that I act too eager. Talk too fast. Stare too intently into his kind, blue eyes. Fear that I may spontaneously transform into a giggly pimple-faced teenage girl if he accidently lets his hand graze over mine for a nanosecond when he insists on paying for my coffee.

It's be a looooooong time since I have felt.....well, felt for someone like this. And although I haven't been a 'nun', it's been since I met Jeff and became good friends that I have had these sorts of stirrings of 'something more'.

I don't know, however, if I am just so pathetically lonely that I am making my vision of our 'relationship' more than it is in reality.....Or if he is giddy and excited too when he sees my mini-van pull up outside the school gate.

I am SO out of practise and so overly....excited that I am afraid to move in any direction for fear of wrecking the perfect, sweet, 'G' rated thing we've got going on.....But, oh, if I had the guts.....

So maybe, tonight, I'll lay in my bed and do the strangest thing a wife could possibly do. I'll ask my (dead) husband's advice on dating. And maybe in the morning, he'll have enlighten me in my sleep.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

whose memories?

are the memories i have mine, or do they belong to someone else?

i think about that a lot.

like yesterday i was driving through hollywood and i saw an apartment building that we considered moving into. i could remember the interior, and i could remember the balcony, and the sound of traffic, and the smell of new paint and new carpet, and several other details with which i won't bore you.

but as i thought about it, i couldn't remember if i'd really been to the place that was so clearly a part of my memory, or if it's a memory of something liz once told me.

and she's not here to confirm whether or not i was there with her.

but it doesn't really matter. the memories that belonged to her are now mine, and whether or not i actually experienced all of them, well, i see it as my duty to remember them as best i can.

it's part of my way of keeping her around for madeline.

then this:

a few minutes after passing that apartment building, i was stopped at a stoplight and found myself listening to (and for the first time ever really, really hearing) a few lines of a song called, "the country diary of a subway conductor" written by a guy named david berman for his band, the silver jews.

the lines?

"imagining places i was almost sure i'd never been & had taken to assuming were the memories of my grandfather somehow deposited in my mind. they were there and gone."

i hear things like this and think i should just quit writing because everything i think has been thought before, and in a much more eloquent way.

i don't even know if any of this makes sense to anyone but me.

but if you're confused by what i wrote, read what david berman wrote.

that's exactly what i'm trying to say.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Seem to Be Falling Apart ....

... but this time .... I'm falling apart physically more than emotionally.
At least for now.

I'm not sure which is worse.

I'm just hoping that, this time, I can cope with a physical problem without having the waves of grief crash in on me.

I've had to deal with a lot of crap since Jim died .... crap that my body has experienced because of, in my opinion, my grief.
My body has not dealt with Jim's death very well.
It seems to be staging a revolt.  Several body parts seem ready to resign.
Hell, some may just get fired if this keeps up.

I know that things start falling apart as we get older, but I also know that I have aged too many years to count since December 2007.

I'm tired.
I'm tired of having to deal with pain and I'm tired of having deal with it without my husband.

And I'm pissed.
I'm pissed at what grief has done to me .... emotionally as well as physically.

But I'm more pissed that Jim is forever younger than me.

Although I'm sure he finds great amusement in it.

I'd love to be able to tell you that my emotions have stayed in check, but that wouldn't be the truth.
I woke up this morning knowing full well that it was going to be "one of those days".  And it was.
The waves hit me as soon as I got out of bed.
So much for better "healed" after 2 years and 11 months (tomorrow).  But who's counting?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

And So It Goes

My son Grayson has been Daniel's "mini me" since birth, and there are so many things about him that are like his dad that it sometimes takes my breath away. The way he walks, talks, thinks, the look on his face when he gets very excited, his look of intense concentration....the list goes on and on. Every once in a while I see a flicker of me, in the midst of these giant flashes of Daniel, but mostly I see just Grayson. My funny little guy who is so tender hearted and can make me laugh out loud on a daily basis.

Lately, people have started to tell me how much he resembles me. An old photo of me when I was his age looks oddly like him....I hadn't noticed, but it made me laugh out loud to see his face with my Farrah Fawcett wings and a purple corduroy outfit! The changes in him over the past five years are the biggest indicator to me of how much time has passed. He has lived almost half of his life without his Dad and has doubled in size. Funny how things work.

I force myself to focus on the good things in the past five years. Grayson reads, rides a bike, writes a story, wins a basketball tournament, etc. I try not to add the horrible clause "without his Dad" after every event. Sometimes it is hard. Either way, it is what it is. We're doing it all "without Daniel" and as sucky as that is, we are doing a good job of it.

Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vive la Vida

There was a time when the idea of "living my life" was an oxymoron. How could I take the advice to live my life when a huge section had been torn out and I was staring in disbelief at the gaping hole left behind? Why make life plans when they can be swept away permanently by a suburban going 50 MPH one summer evening at 5 o'clock? If life is supposed to be lived out loud, what happens when you've lost your voice? As my world tilted on a new axis that was both foreign and surreal, my enthusiasm for waking up each morning lasted only until the inevitable moment when I realized that Phil was still dead.

My personal tragedy was the only lens through which I could see the world. No matter which way I turned my soul's camera, the picture was the same. The daily emptiness I felt filled every frame and became my entire focus. I needed help adjusting my lens, but didn't have any idea where to start.

Then other widowed people entered my life, and I began to see things from a different perspective. Realizing that I was not the only one struggling to accept an unwanted life had an immediate affect on my outlook. Somehow I felt a little less out of control. The fact that other people who had been sentenced to outlive their spouses were managing to find joy in unexpected places proved that glimpses of happiness did exist in the darkness. Candle points of light began appearing on the horizon in the form of other widowed people, and slowly I began rediscovering the gifts that had been sitting quietly beside me in the inky blackness.

There is often an assumption that when widowed people get together we host cry fests and curse the heavens in unison. While I will admit to some cleansing crying/cursing, the thing I value most about my widowed friends is the fact that they encourage me to live my life. In fact, they often dare me to. These are the people who remind me that life is short, in case I'd forgotten. These are the people who both acknowledge my life altering loss, but also refuse to allow me to use that void as an excuse to hide under my bed. My widowed community confirms that life is not fair, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't still participate. People who have loved and lost know the value of a friend, no matter what time of day that friend is needed. In some ways death trumps all, and in other ways life trumps all. I learned that from my widowed friends.

No, I don't need a widowed community so that I can talk about death. I need my widowed community to inspire me to really live my life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wild Crazy Lonely Shame

I'm lonely.

For several weeks I have been breathing in loneliness and exhaling it too. It soaks me in its wet, heavy haziness.

Every time I look anywhere, there is a couple, together, sharing a joke, a small gentle familiar kiss, a rest of a familiar hand on the small of a back, the lack of space between them

and all I can do was sigh.

When will my turn come?

It's no longer about dating men. It's about having one of my own.

I thought I had it with Mr. Singapore
only Mr. Singapore is well....
in Singapore for another four months.

I thought I had it with Mr. Bike,
only honestly, Mr. Bike is why I feel so lonely.

Mr. Bike is kind and warm and in the beginning so attentive. And then Mr. Bike stopped being attentive.

He's been so busy he says
He's opening a new store, he says
Reasonable excuses
But they
And when I voice my needs up against those excuses, I feel crazy.

And this is where I feel embarrassed. Instead of walking away, instead of saying "I am worthy of more than this" I picked up the attentive flame and ran after him.

"I'm here" I said, through txts and emails and phone calls.

I am not sure if I did it too much, not enough or if he just didn't speak the language but

I am not getting very much from him. Every time he throws me a damn crumb, I find myself hoping again.

I am having trouble letting this "relationship" go.


If this is a relationship then my standards have truly gone to an embarrassing low level.


I think they have.

I keep him because he is the first man I can imagine keeping. I can see introducing him to my kids, taking him with us to the the ranch, hanging out with my friends. Because he is a most excellent kisser and because it's easy to be with him, when I'm with him.

I keep him because I don't want to be alone, even though I am.

And maybe that is his purpose, to show me the possibilities. To see that I can be in 'like' again, that I am capable of a relationship, that I want a relationship.

And I am afraid
that he is
all I can get.

The fear (and honestly the lack of faith) keep me entwined in him when it is better for me to let him go.

I am faced with this fact:
Being a widow, being someone who has profoundly lost
has left

Death ripped me open
I am a "well dressed nerve" as my therapist says
and so I don't trust my judgment.

But staying feels awful.
Leaving is full of uncertainty and fear.
Just like death.

I will end this
or at least let it
fizzle out

I am tired of feeling wild crazy lonely
I have already been through so much.

But I think I may stay
for a little while longer
until another man
comes around.

I can leap to him
like a monkey from one tree to another
across the abyss
of loneliness.

The shame of not
being in
for me
better than being out of something.

I just can't take the loneliness anymore.

So I will take what he offers
until I can find better.
I will stay wild crazy lonely because
when he does give to me
it is exactly what I need.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

You Too

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one’.”

-C.S. Lewis

Today is just one of those days where I wanted to talk about how grateful I am for my fellow widows.

The women that pull me out of a funk, the women that give me hope, the women that know the unspoken words in my heart, the women that know the depth and never-ending length of my love.

I've tried to make sure and not imagine the "what-ifs" in life, but I must say that I would not be who I am or what I've become without each of them.

Each have come into my life at different points since Michael's death, but with each I've been able to have it..that moment where we looked into each others eyes...all differences set aside...to say the words that would make us feel alive once more....understood on a planet we once felt alone on....

"You too!?"

Friday, November 12, 2010

time after time

Photo from Holly Northrop

I keep returning here to write something. To let you all know that things are okay and that life goes on and we are happy. They are, it does and often we are.
But I am feeling the weight lately of a realization. One I should have had two years and eight months ago.
This is FOREVER.
Not solely being without Jeff.
But taking the garbage out by myself. Half-heartedly laughing at a movie alone. Waking up with two frightened children and their nightmares. Making turkey dinner for three.
All of it. Alone. All of it on me. All of it, my responsibility.
The monotony of continuing on is exhausting. The strength needed to smile and be optimistic waning.
I am at a point where I feel like my 'get out of jail free/talk about Jeff as much as I want' card is expiring and I should allow a conversation to pass without dropping his name. But I am not ready. He is still my lover/friend/husband.
I want to write about it all. I want to talk about it. I know that so many will tell me that it is MY timetable and to do what I need to do....But I also wonder about other's patience and my sanity for remaining in the world of 'what was'.
I am so painfully lonely....and writing about it seems so terribly lame and pathetic. I have never felt this lonely. Socially, I am quite satisfied. I have great friends. A ridiculously busy life. No 'free' time.
But 'intimately', I am starving. I want to whisper in the dark to someone who will whisper back. I need to know that there is someone, who happens to have a physical body, that has genuine interest in the intricacies of my mind and my little family. To feel that when I am drowning under an ocean of mundane yet necessary tasks, that someone will help....just because. I want to be touched. I want to not be alone. I want to have the luxury of allowing fear and vulnerability in.
I want to be loved again.
....And I feel so pathetic for writing about this loneliness yet again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


gray and black hair,

missing teeth,

reeking of booze,

wearing a shirt that

said, "vote no on yes."

the man talked to me

about outdated technology

while i sat there

trying to ignore him

staring at the tv,

waiting for the results

of another election.

"what's your name?"

"matt," i told him.

"matthew?" he said, reaching

out to shake my hand.


he told me that

matthew was one of

the hippest names

someone could have,

then something about

never letting anyone

call me matty.

then he said this:

"you know, the only hipper name is elizabeth."

i looked at my group

of friends,

standing in a circle,

all of

them laughing at

a joke i missed.

they had long

since stopped listening

to this lunatic,

but i had

had a hard time

ignoring him.

i wish now that

i had escaped.

i shook my head

and stared into

my drink.

what the hell was

this old drunk talking about?

of all the names

he could have mentioned,

why hers?

"yeah," i said.

this really happened,

just as i wrote it.

i've said

it before and i'll

say it again,

i do not

believe in signs.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Dead Husband vs. ....

.... a nice bank account.

That's the issue today.  I originally published the majority of this post (with a different title) on my personal blog on October 27th.  But it seemed to hit home with so many widowed people that I thought I'd write it again (and add to it) here.

"You treat yourself nice." ....

.... someone said to me yesterday, while looking at a pair of boots I was wearing.  (I got them in Spain and they were quite inexpensive, but who cares?  They're from Spain!)
Anyway, this person made this statement with a kind of smirk on their face and I, being a woman, wondered what was really behind it.  So I asked what the statement meant (while refraining from using the correct word, "nicely", thank you very much.  Yes, I can be petty and gracious at the same time.  :)  ).  I was told that it meant nothing, it was just a statement.  Funny, it sounded more like an accusation.
And I've been thinking about it since yesterday.
It's not the first time that I've felt "accused" of not being a "poor widow".

Jim made a good living.  He worked his ass off for 27 years in order to make a good living.  It took a long time and many lean years for our family, but he kept working.
Not only did he work hard, but he also thought ahead.
I had no idea how far ahead he thought.
And because he did, he is still taking care of me/us.

I am blessed and I am constantly aware of that fact.
I am blessed in many, many ways .... not just financially.
I don't have to work, fiscally-speaking, but I do have to work, emotionally-speaking.
I can travel and I can buy inexpensive boots in another country.
I can't go around buying yachts and houses and huge items like that or I will one day really have to work, financially-speaking.
But as long as I'm careful .... I'm good.
I still donate my time as well as my money to charities and to my church and to my alma mater.

Having said all of this ..... if Jim were here .... I'd be far wealthier .... in every aspect of my life.
He was worth far more alive than dead.
To me.
And to my children.

I would give up every penny that I own if it would bring him back.

So when people seem to "accuse" me of having the money to do mostly what I want .... I want to scream.
Because no amount of money is worth the loss of Jim.
No amount of money can replace what I've lost.
No amount of money will buy joy, contentment or lasting happiness.
No amount of money will heal my now half of a heart into a whole one.
No amount of money will bring Jim back from the dead.

Why do some people seem to think that things must be OK if we have money?
Do they think that money, and the spending of it, heals a broken heart?
Does it mean that those of us who don't "have" to work are grieving less than those who do?
Do they entertain the thought, even for one nano-second, that having money makes up for not having a spouse?
Or do they think that because we spend money to try to attain a little happiness (because yes, it is nice to be able to travel, or buy something that's for fun and not for a need sometimes) then we are less of a person who deserves to grieve our loss?

Bottom line:  I don't give a crap what they think.
I know, probably better than they do, that I have no control over what others think. Nor do I have control over what "issues" or "baggage" they might have.
I learned 35 months ago that I really have control of nothing.  I just thought I did.

I would rather be dirt poor .... and still married to Jim.

But I'm not either one of those.
And so I do things to try to catch a bit of happiness here and there.
Does it make my life better?
I don't think so.
Does it make my life easier?
Certainly .... in some ways.
In others .... not so much.

I feel so much empathy for those widows who have to work, and work hard, to make ends meet.
There are far too many of them.
Life is not fair .... ask any one of us.
I want to slap every single alive husband who doesn't have insurance (by his choice).
There.  Is.  No.  Excuse.

But I also refuse to apologize for having a husband who loved me so much that he thought of me even as he thought of his future death.
And I refuse to apologize for living my life the way I want to live it now.

Yes .... I can buy myself something nice when I feel like it.

But .... I wish I had Jim, who would do it instead.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I'll Never Make It That Far

I remember talking to Michele about 4 and a half years ago about a widow she had met. The woman in question had been a widow for 5 years and she was in a MUCH different place than we were (we were at about 6 months). I very distinctly remember saying I couldn't imagine surviving this horrible life for 5 years. I remember thinking in my head that there was no way I'd be in a better place - EVER. I was certain I would feel hellish, wrung out, unbearably sad and subject to fits of rage (at the world in general) for years. Pan forward 4 and a half years, and I have the opportunity to assess my progress.

In part, I was right. I did, and do feel all of those things sometimes still. The good news is that it isn't all day every day. I remember realizing, with relief and also a terrible sadness, that I was beginning to feel better the majority of the time, and only terrible sometimes. It felt great, but it also felt awful. How could I feel better? He's dead. My brain sometimes told me I was a terrible wife. I shouldn't be capable of happy laughter or quiet contentment....I should be roasting forever over the pyre of grief. I should be miserable for eternity - only that misery would truly honor my husband. Only the daily, repeated, physical evidence of my agony would truly show the world what a great husband he was, and how much he was missed.

Fortunately for me, my heart intervened. My heart told me that the only way to truly honor him was to live a life he would have loved for me and Grayson. My heart kept telling me that he meant it when he said he hoped I could find a way to be happy. My head finally started hearing his words "if you're not having a good time, it's your own damned fault." Finally my heart prevailed and my head believed it.

It's funny to be in the place of the 5 year widow now. It's still unthinkable that it has been 5 years, and I do have the terrible days. What ISN'T unthinkable is that I can have a happy life. I can, and I will. If I'm not having a good time, it's my own damned fault.

Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.

Monday, November 8, 2010


I get up each morning, turn off the alarm, then go downstairs to get my boys up for school. I shower, get dressed for work, make sure the pets are taken care of, then off we go. My days are getting busier now that I am working once again. I go about my day, eager to learn all the new things about my job, getting to know new people, and putting on a smile whenever I pass someone in the halls. As the morning continues, I feel myself sink, and I find myself taking in deep breaths of air.

Hang in there. You can do it. Just one day at a time.

I move forward, remind myself that I am a survivor, and keep going. After awhile I can get distracted from my reality, and I am able to to laugh with my peers. As the work day comes to an end, I am able to think about all that I accomplished, and walk out of the office feeling good about how I spent my time. I walk through the near empty office, smile and say goodnight to all that pass my way, and head out to my car.

It's there that it happens. Tears.

I take in a few deep breaths of air.

Hang in there. You can do it. Just one day at a time.

I am sinking, back to feeling numb, and wonder what all the effort is for. Something needs to change. I don't like this emptiness that is taking space once again. When does it stop? Does it stop?

It's time to ask for help. It's time to seek out companionship. I realize that I have done it again. I have isolated myself. Easy to do. He is not here.

I remind myself to take a few deep breaths of air.

Hang in there. You can do it. Just one day at a time.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wild Crazy

L, my 13 yr old is taking French. The Spanish classes met at the same time as the Jazz Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra. He plays the cello.

And he says “Mom, what would really help me is if we went to France.”

And I say, “Ok, wanna go this summer?” This is not a bluff. I have spent the past three weeks deciding where we will live (Chamonix region). I have checked out vacation homes in that area and I have posted on yahoo traveler groups for insider tips. And honestly, I think we may stay a little longer like a year or ….three.

My living room is devoid of furniture, having sold it all a few months ago. Last week, I spent 3 hours in a furniture store. I made the sales person drool as I choose a rug, a coffee table and a cool comfy chair and then inquired about someone who could go to my mom’s garage…in Connecticut (I live in LA), measure the furniture that is being stored there and then make arrangements to ship it out here.

Tonight, I am standing at a party, talking to a man, looking at his lips and I open my mouth to say “I’m sorry. Can you just kiss me right now? I want to see if your lips are as soft as they look and if you are as good a kisser as I think you may be.” I pause before I say anything, then don’t say anything at all.

I feel crazy.

Wild crazy.

The kind of crazy that lately let’s me buy two pairs of jeans for more money that most people’s monthly car payments. The kind of crazy that almost has me purchasing a new piece of art work for 3 months of rent. The kind of crazy that has me longing for physical touch that I considering leaving my kids alone, knocking on “this” guy’s door at 12 midnight just so I can be held and caressed and can fall asleep in a man’s arms. In a man’s arms. In a man’s arms.

It’s the kind of crazy that will make my friends and family whisper to each other “Well, obviously, she’s still grieving and hasn’t thought this through.”

I remember the day I came home from the hospital after Art died. I remember having the need to COMPLETLEY rearrange my house so that it too would be as changed and different as I felt. I was wild crazy with grief.

It is all I can do to keep this wild, crazy in check.

I am wild crazy with “Why the fuck not? Huh, really why the fuck not?!!!” I can’t afford to spend a month in France. Hell, my French is on the level with a two year old.

And everyone knows the way to get a man is not to, in the middle of a conversation, stop him from talking and challenge him to kiss you to see if he kisses well.

But it’s what I want to do. I want my habits to reflect the crazy wild I feel.

I want my kids to have ‘those” kind of stories that they share with their college friends and beyond. “One year, my mom lost it. She took us to France for the summer and we stayed there for four years!” “She dated this guy who……” “She wore these hot pink jeans and …..” I want them to know what if feels like to be wild crazy and to survive it and to look back and say “Wow but cool!”

And here’s the thing, while it feels wild crazy, there is a part of me that knows I make more sense than most people on the other side of death. There is piece of me that understands that after death

“Fuck it”

is a really good answer.

There is part of me that really, really wants to let loose, to live large, to worry later cause I have spent the last 46 years of my life worrying. I have spent the last 4 years of my life watching my husband recover then die from cancer. I have spent the last 1 year and not even 7 months finding my feet, my hands, learning how to breath a whole new kind of air. And I know I will spend the next 45+ years (I will live well into my 100s) missing the man I see in my children. So why the hell, not!

So, I’m gonna stop writing because ya know what? Chamonix is amazing in the summer. I still have my rock climbing shoes and harness. I hope our babysitter is willing to come. I wonder if she speaks French.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


"What do I do now?"

"Where do I go?"

"How do I live?"

These are just a few of the many questions so many of us ask after the loss of our counterpart...our soul mate.

These questions helped fill my overactive brain from focusing on the reality that I needed to stop living in a nightmare and do it...venture into the wild and find the answers for myself...find life.

But I can say now, that the search needed little manpower, for in reality we cannot live life in questions....In search of some bigger picture. I think the only thing we can truly do is what Rainer Rilke said herself..."live the questions themselves" and hope...madly hope....that in the midst of living them they answer themselves. And that we are too busy living life to even care that they've been answered, for our life has become nothing but an outward expression of those answers.

For when it comes to it, the only questions worth answering are those that have a simple answer..."I did it for love."

Friday, November 5, 2010

deja vu....again

Photo from Background

A local stable burnt down last week. Now as I drive past the ashes where the barn once stood, I see the surviving horses milling around their paddocks...looking slightly lost.
When I read an article in the local paper about the event, I could imagine the throat choking smoke, the flames licking the sky, the sounds of crashing timbers and sirens. I thought of the horses wild and wide eyed screaming their fear into the night. I imagine how terrifying it must have been for them as something so new, fearful and unexpected happened to and around them.
It made me think of Jeff and his last moments of life.
It brought me back, yet again, to the moment of his death. His wide eyes. The shock and fear exposed within. My screaming. The confusion and the finality.
I imagine what he must have felt like. I torture myself with the question of whether he felt comfort in the fact that I was there and trying to save his life. I worry over whether his death was physically painful and just how much pain was felt - tooth ache amount? giving birth amount? Did he lose consciousness with a floaty cottonwool head comfort that I have experienced when passing out after exposure to too-graphic surgeries on television?
It makes my heart race and my stomach contract everytime I remember these surprisingly short last minutes with him. It seems that I use these trips back in time as a barometer with which I measure my pain threshold and my 'recovery'. Like checking if an element is still warm a few minutes after boiling a pot of water, I don't know that this practise serves any 'real' purpose...but I do it anyway.
Although the fire took hours to burn out, I do so hope that Jeff's fear and pain was short. And for me, I so hope that eventually every news story involving death does not bring me immediately to that place again.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


in a drawer.

in a bag.

some yarn.

a notebook.

on one page:

"chunky baby sweater"

on another:

"cable knit baby hat"

in her handwriting.

those words

followed by

a bunch of

numbers that must

have meant

something to her.

eyes scanning the

pages, finding different numbers

at the top

of one page:


at the top

of another page:


a bunch of

numbers that mean

something to me.


projects started

(never finished)

for our daughter.

i held the notebook.

i turned the pages.

nothing after

those two dates.



i pulled out the yarn.

knitting needles

right where she

left them,


but which one?



and where is

the other?

i wish she would

have taken me seriously

that one time

when i asked her

to teach me

to knit

(i probably should've asked with a straight face).

maybe i'll learn

you know,

to fill up those pages

for both of them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Who Would've Thought ....

There are way too many widowed people around.

And is it just me or do there seem to be more and more all of the time?
It's as if our "club" is growing by leaps and bounds.

And that, my friends, is one of the worst/best things in my world.
Last week I met three newly widowed people and two who are not-so-newly widowed.
It broke my heart.
As if my heart could break any further.

I hate meeting new people on this path.
And yet I instantly love them, too.
I hate that they have any reason to meet me .... and yet I'm so relieved that I can be here for them.

Who would've thought that each of us could be so unhappy to make new friends?
Who would've thought that you could cry just by meeting someone?
Who would've thought that you could bond instantly with a total stranger?

Who would've thought that you'd give up everything in your life to not have a reason to meet these people?

Who would've thought that, in spite of not wanting to be in the same "club" with all of you,
I don't know what I'd do without you?

Who would've thought ....