Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Spilling Over

Spilling overhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif on 365 Project

Is it just me or does anyone else feel like they are coping most of the time but then something comes up that's kind of significant, but kind of not and then you feel as lost, scared and alone as you did right back at the beginning?
...and then everything just spills over?

I was doing OK. I had started the new school year with an entirely new mandated curriculum and I was OK. I had everything planned out so that it would be fairly cruisy.

...and then I was given a second year level to plan across.

...and the stress built, but I was OK.

....and then a Huge Scary Python started visiting my chicken's cage every night (it's body is thicker than my arm).

...and I started to crack a little. Greg is the person who dealt with scary creatures.

...and then?

...then we had 10 inches of rain in two days.

...and then I discovered that all the money I've spent on drainage and fixing the problem from when it happened last time only mitigated the problem: there was water seeping into my garage again.

....and suddenly, I really wasn't OK.

All of these stresses suddenly became insurmountable: too much for me to deal with.

...and meanwhile, I'm determinedly 'coping' lest my boss think I wasn't coping and take away work.

...and my friends are telling me how strong I am (when they don't see me weeping in the shower at midnight).

But then, Just One Person does something positive for me, without me needing to beg and suddenly I can cope again. I can pick up the pieces and keep moving forward.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dear Dad

Cousin Ida, dad and me

Dear Dad,

You've been gone 7 years now. What happened to you happened to me. I lost half of myself and have to build a new life from the rubble left behind.

I think often of what it would be like to be you. Not only did you have to watch mom deteriorate and suffer and then die, but you had to grieve while trying to raise me.

I'd like to say that you did things to help me grieve and I'm sure you did, I just can't remember a lot of day-to-day evidence. You did not find me counseling. You did not let me keep any of mom's things. You did not let me ask questions or talk about mom without feeling terrible for asking. You weren't present for me because you were working or drinking heavily or both.

That doesn't mean you didn't try. That doesn't mean you didn't do your best to survive while helping me. I know you were trying to make it through each day the best way you could. I know now how the grief can give you tunnel vision. No energy left for anything but making it through the day most of the time.

You did do one wonderful thing for my grieving process. You brought my older cousin to live with us and she was a buffer between you and me. She loved me like a daughter and let me be me, let me feel my pain. But she couldn't stay forever.

And once she left, and it was just you and me again, the darkness and pain took over our household again.

How strangely amazing, though, that I now see things from the perspective of a widowed person AND the perspective of a little girl who lost her mom.

Now that I am a part of the widowed community, I hear from widowed parents who are somehow managing to help their kids grieve while grieving themselves and I'm in awe of the self-sacrifice that must take. I don't believe surviving this undamaged is even a possibility, for the kids or the spouse, but putting energy into getting the family help and living despite the pain, is heroic. It takes strength I doubt any of us think we're capable of.

I know now that the strength it took you to care for mom while she was dying and to care for yourself and me after she died, was super-human. I am grateful that you stuck around as long as you did and I'm pretty sure it's a waste of time to think of the ways I wish you'd done it differently. You did what you could do. You were damaged.

You were in pain AND raising a sad little kid who lost her mom.
I never would have known the depth of your pain if this hadn't happened to me. It's impossible to imagine unless you don't have to imagine.

I'm glad you've been released from your pain and I'm glad I can use your struggle as a gauge for my fight. I will not avoid getting help or isolate myself and I will not let this turn me into someone who will spend the next 30 years killing myself with alcohol.

I will burn my pain as fuel and come out on the other side with more strength, empathy and capacity for joy.

I know you'd say that you didn't expect any less from me.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thank You and Hello

First, I would like to thank ‘Dan in Real Time’.  I admire how he has always been true to his moniker and what a great last post about love. I think about my three children when they ask, which one of us do you love more? I of course want to answer, "Whoever eats their vegetables."  But I try to explain to them that love is not a first, second, and third place contest, it’s ever growing. So thank you Dan for bringing that point home again.

I had quite a year in 2008. My third daughter was born in March, my mother-in-law died in April, and my wife died from breast cancer in July. This was all under the same roof because we moved in with Lisa's mom in 2005 to help her colon cancer.

After Lisa passed, I moved my family out of that house and into my parent’s basement. When we first moved in, my mother was taking care of her 93 year-old mother. Yes, four generations living under one roof - there is something about me and muti-generational living I can’t seem to escape.

When my wife died of breast cancer, she was 39.  I have three daughters –yes the cosmic joke keeps getting better and better – all under the age of 12.  The last six months of my wife’s life can be described as a girl who was doing everything she could to stay alive, and a boy who was doing everything he could to let her die peacefully.  It’s a contradiction I still carry with me to this day.

My journey has brought much trial and error, reflection, sadness, new beginnings, confusion, loneliness, and growth.  It is my hope to take my observations of what I am experiencing and give it a voice.  Please never hesitate to contact me or share a different opinion from my own.  There is so much to explore, so much hurt to heal, and our voices are what helps us get through the day.

Thank you to Michele, the other writers – love all of your work – and the entire WV community for allowing me a space to share my journey.  May we all find our new place in this world, while keeping the best parts from our past.

Saturday, January 28, 2012




That is the number of blog posts I've written since he died.

In them, my shock, love, pain, perseverance, setbacks, growth, knowledge, and life have been encapsulated.

People have asked me how I'm able to write each week.

Sometimes I'm not sure.

Sometimes it's been the only thing to keep me going.

And sometimes...like right now...I just don't have anything to say.

It's kind of like sitting in a silent room...you need it to just absorb...reflect. To take it all in.

So I'm taking in the things around one: the past four years of writing since his death. The comments and encouragement from others that my mind's crazy ramblings are shared, and understood, and enough.

So today..post 143...I will end it with a thank you and a period and a smile.


“I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.”
-Virginia Woolf

Friday, January 27, 2012

It's Just A Wall

Why would a wall hurt my feelers? It’s just a silly wall made of stucco, wood, drywall, paint and trim. No significant events happened on or near the wall. Actually, if I really, really thought about it, I’m not totally certain the wall was even the topic of more than just a few conversations. It’s just a wall. Yet, as I watched it slowly being rebuilt over the last few weeks from how it’s been since about a year before Maggie’s Angel Day, it has hurt – every single step.

I don’t recall when exactly I decided to tear it down. The reasons why I took down the wall are irrelevant, really. I know she wasn’t there at the time otherwise she would have been in the middle of it, directing and participating, swinging a hammer and going to town. I wish I could recall where she was. It’s likely she was at MD Anderson for one of the many, many visits she made (and one of the very, very few I didn’t attend.) I remember the look on her face when she saw the mess I had made while she was gone. Thankfully, she had accepted early in our relationship that my exploits were my little missions and they made me happy. So she grinned and asked simply “What are you going to now?” Apparently, as time has proven up, I was going let it sit for more than three years.

What’s interesting is that as the wall has been slowly rebuilt over the last week, every step that was completed was a punch to my heart. The more complete the wall, the worse it hurt. Walking into the room after the drywall was attached hit me like a ton of bricks. Adding texture made it all the more real. Right now it sits textured but not painted with no trim yet talking about it drives me to tears almost immediately.

Maybe to my heart the wall represents the incomplete dreams Maggie and I had. We definitely had wonderful plans for that room but that was before the cancer came calling. It was going to be a beautiful room filled with pictures we both took of the flowers from our garden. We even named it, appropriately, The Flower Room. But she never saw that dream completed. Instead, she let it go like she had to let go of so many other things she cared about. And I had to watch that little dream die.

I’m going to finish that wall. It’s almost there and I’ve asked some friends to help me because for some reason I can’t seem to do it myself. I feel silly when I cry every single damn time when I say that Maggie will never get to see that wall finished. It’s just a stupid wall. But for some reason that wall has a very real connection to my heart.

Hurt or not, I’m going to finish that wall. Hurt or not, I’m going to rebuild. Even if I don’t understand why it still hurts.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

someone who knows

"My dad is married to my aunt," my friend, Jenny, said. "I know," she said, "it's rather....Jerry Springer-like."
She went on to explain that after her mother died when Jenny was a teenager, her father eventually found love again with his sister-in-law.
Jenny seemed a bit sheepish when she explained this to me. But she needn't have.
I have heard of this phenomenon quite a few times actually. When a spouse loses their beloved through death, occasionally they find understanding, and love, in those who grieve most closely alongside them. Sisters of spouses, best-friends, cousins....
I can totally understand this. I can imagine what a comfort it would be to be fully able to share your grief with another who had known just what you had lost and to be able to share a intimate relationship with that person without fear of being misunderstood or worrying about their feelings of "measuring up" to an unknown person.
I wonder how many of us widows/widowers have found love, comfort or even just close and meaningful friendships with our dead spouse's friends or family after their death?
I wish I had that now and then....Someone to share Jeff's loss with me.....

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Guess You Could Call it Venting .....

                                                  picture from here
.... rather than throwing up his/her emotions all over me.
"Venting" sounds so much nicer.

But it felt just like being thrown up on.  Not at all as nice as "venting".
And it felt pretty crappy, truth be told.
But it comes with being a mom.
And it REALLY comes with being a widowed mom.

During the Christmas break .... right at the beginning .... one of my children threw up all over me.  Emotionally.
I was soaked.
And shocked.
And exhausted.
And, though this child had no idea (and I don't really think it would've mattered) ....  I was locked in a deep depression.
Great timing, kid.

So the first night this child was home, around midnight or so when the other kids had gone to bed, this child turned to me, and with fury I've rarely seen in his/her eyes .... informed me, out of the blue, that he/she lost a lot more than a father on that night back in December of 2007.  Both Jim and I died that night.
He/she lost both parents.  And I totally changed.  And after that night, I was never there for him/her.  Ever.

I sat there a bit stunned for a moment.
Not stunned that those feelings were felt, but stunned with the force of the vomit and the amount of fury accompanied by it.  But most of all, stunned that this is something I have freely admitted often over the past 4 years.  I have admitted it to all 6 of my children.  I have admitted it on my personal blog.  I have admitted it here.
But evidently, my admissions .... and my apologies have not always been heard.
This child thought this was a new concept for me.  And that I needed to know the anger and hurt and unfairness of my selfishness.

We were up until 4:00 a.m.  And we never really got anywhere.
I repeated the apologies that I've said before.
I said that I regretted that they lost me, too.
And that I wish I could've grieved differently .... but that was impossible.
I couldn't lock my grief away.
I lost too much.  I was not able to grieve in any way other than the way I did.  And that, no matter how much I regretted it, if it were to happen again, it would happen the exact same way.
I told this child that there is no way he/she can understand that.  Unless, one day, he/she is blessed enough to fall deeply in love, get married, be together and stay deeply in love for 27 years .... and then experience the death of that deeply-loved person.  But even then ..... even then, I would not be totally understood.

I cried a lot.
I apologized a lot.
As much as one can apologize and yet admit it could not have gone any differently.  I lost half (at least) of myself that night in 2007.  I lost my identity.  I lost my love, my best friend, the one person who knew me better than anyone, the one person who always had my back .... no matter what.  The one person with whom I had 6 children.
I lost our future.
I lost almost everything.

I was not heard during those hours.
There was too much anger.  Too much grief and fury had been stored up and locked away ..... until it could not be held back any longer.

At 4 a.m. I said that I was exhausted and that we were getting no where.  So I asked if we could go to bed and start again the next day.
And was told yes.

So the next day ..... again, after midnight ..... it was brought up again.
I'm not sure this child was able to bring up all of the vomit.
I didn't realize that one person could hold that much vomit.

This child needed an answer I could not give.
I could not make everything "all better".
I could only acknowledge what I've acknowledged openly for 4 years.  I could only acknowledge that these feelings were valid.  And that it totally sucked that my children basically became orphans in less than 24 hours time ..... suddenly and unexpectedly.
And that this child was not alone in feeling this way.

But I also stated that I've come a long way in the last 2 years .... and have become a better parent.  Not the one they lost .... she will never be back.  But parts of her have come back .... significant parts.
And damn it ..... that's pretty huge.  And good.
And deserves acknowledgement.

I also said that I hope and pray that none .... not one .... of my children EVER have to experience this grief.
But if they do .... I will be the first one there.
And I will do everything I can to help them on this path ..... which truthfully, won't be much.  Because no one can do much for us, can they?  Even those who've been widowed, cannot take that pain away.  It must be felt.  The Valley of Death must be walked through.  Even though every fiber of my motherly being would want to protect them from that walk .... would want to carry them through it myself ..... would want to feel all that grief again if it meant they didn't have to ..... there wouldn't be a damn thing I could do.

Maybe one of these days this child will be able to get even an iota of what I felt ..... what I went through .... how I barely survived my grief.
Maybe not.

I'm ok with that.
I don't expect them to ever understand .... and again .... I pray they never have to.

And so part of my Christmas break was spent feeling totally soaked in vomit.  And almost hated.
But I think mothers were made to be vented upon.
Not really thrown up on ..... not after the first year after birth, anyway.  I mean, with 6 kids .... I've been "spit up on" lots and lots of times.  And vomited on.
But nothing like this.
It comes with the territory.

The territory of being a mother who was widowed at an early age and who grieved harder than she thought possible.  A mother who, for a while, thought her children would've been better off if she was dead, too.
There's nothing like gallons of vomit to reinforce that feeling.

A few days after our 2nd late night episode, I was able to ask this child about "seeing someone", which, of course, was refused.  But I persisted .... because that's what mothers do.
As they attempt to wipe some of the vomit off.
This child finally agreed to "think about it".  I doubt that that was a true statement, but I can always hope.
Because I think professionals are used to a lot more vomit than that.  And fury.
And I think both of those are normal reactions .... and that EVERYONE could use someone to talk to .... at one point (or several) in their life.

I wish I could've been a better "griever".  I wish I could've been a better mother.
It was ..... what it was.
I cannot go back.  I cannot change the damage that was done to my heart.
Or my children's.

I can only say I'm sorry and that I hope for a better future for all of us.

And be sure to keep lots and lots and lots of Pepto around the house ..... just in case.
Cuz it takes a hell of a long time to clean off all of that vomit.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

This I Believe

I wrote this in June of 2009 to describe how the death of someone I love so much redefined life's important (and not so important) moments. Every time I happen upon this essay, I renew my commitment to never lose sight of what death and grief have taught me.

As a young woman entering into adulthood with lofty goals, sterling ideals, and great hope for the future I could have easily created a long list of my personal beliefs. This list would have included ideas about both the tangible and the intangible; broad concepts and specific ideals; God and mortal beings. There would probably even have been a mention of death and eternity…but only in the abstract because my beliefs about death were untested until August 31, 2005.

My husband’s untimely death in a tragic accident turned my personal credo upside down. The day I lost my husband was the same day that theory became reality, and faith became more than just a concept to which I paid lip service. Grief is the ultimate test of faith. Faith requires trust. Death robbed me of the sense of security on which trust is so often based, making the idea of trust incomprehensible. And the whole vicious circle renewed itself daily as I tried in vain to determine why I was living a sorrow filled nightmare. My inability to escape the reality of widowhood forced me to evaluate my idealistic beliefs and determine whether they could withstand the blinding glare of grief.

As the reality of my husband’s death set in, I began to imagine the following personal truths as tall pillars that I view through a cloud of dust and rubble created by a major earthquake. Though everything around these support beams has fallen, they miraculously remain. I rub my eyes to look again, because for any structure to survive an earth shattering experience of this magnitude seems impossible…and yet these columns stand tall amongst the debris of loss and grief.

I believe in everlasting love. I believe that God is not a being who resides in a structure, but a spirit who lives in the hearts, and hands, of loving people. I believe that the length of your life is not an indication of your impact on the world. I believe that time is indeed a gift. I believe that human beings have the power to heal each other. I believe that shared experience can bond individuals in a unique and life changing way. I believe that our lives are a tapestry and each experience, wonderful or terrible, adds richness to the final fabric. I believe that tomorrow is only a dream. I believe that life is too short to hold grudges. I believe that people are inherently good. I believe that buying lemonade from my daughter at her new job is more important than spending an extra hour at my own work. I believe that the people who come into my life do so for a reason. I believe that kindness changes lives. I believe that this too shall pass. I believe that life is a gift, but like all gifts must be opened to be truly appreciated.

These are a few of the pillars that have survived my personal earth quake. I lean on them when I feel unable to stand. When grief occasionally stirs the dust of sorrow, I look for them to steady my course. My widowhood experience has taught me that when faith requires me to walk forward blindly, those pillars will guide the way.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Storm's End

A view of the shop and garden in my back yard
My part of the Pacific Northwest just experienced an epic snow and ice storm the likes of which I never thought I'd see living here. There are LOADS of people still without power 6 days after the storm first rolled in. I wrote the following on Friday, January 20.

I think we may have come to the beginning of the end of this year's epic storm, but I'm still cautious. The power came on a little while ago and I rushed to take a shower and run the dishwasher while I had the chance. I'm not yet ready to get too excited about the power when the tree limbs are still coming down and it looks like some really windy weather is on its way. The kind of wind that snaps tree limbs and brings down power lines.
I haven't been out of the house since Sunday. The only humans I've seen since Monday were a couple who braved this crazy weather to look at my house. My house is officially on the market.

I have deliberated endlessly about selling this place. I've considered renting it out, keeping it but moving out, selling it, and even staying in it, but down deep I knew all along that I couldn't stay here REALLY. It was still so wrenching that I was hoping for something to happen that would FORCE the decision. As Dave's birthday rolled around, I wished for a clear message or sign that leaving this house was the right thing to do. And then, as if by some strange cosmic force, the storm arrived on his birthday and continued for the next 3 days. Being trapped here, wondering when the power would come on again, and how I'd get out of my snow-blocked driveway for more gas for the generator, and how I'd keep the fire going, and how I'd get through another day completely alone in this big house made it clearer than ever.
It was as though I got my message. Loud and clear.

It's not even that I couldn't handle it. I handled it. I made the fires, I hauled the firewood, I dragged the generator out of the garage, I started the generator, I dug the car out of the snow. I did everything myself and I didn't need help. I know I can handle all of it. But I don't want to. I want to focus on moving forward and staying here is staying stuck. Stuck in the memories of a life I no longer get to live. Stuck keeping a house and too much land up and running. And the workload will only get worse in the spring and summer.

Even if I didn't live here alone, I'm still so far from opportunities I don't even know exist. I'm still isolated.

So that storm gave me what I was desperately looking for. It gave me a huge con to add to my pros and cons list in my head.
Staying in this house: CON - If there is a storm, you will have to live like a pioneer ALL ALONE for days on end.

Unfortunately, I still get clammy-handed and heart-skippy when I think of living in a new place. That anxiety wasn't relieved by this added resolve to move.

It's the first thing I think about when I wake up (often in the middle of the night) and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep. It's never far from my mind throughout the activities of the day, either.

But just because I fear it doesn't mean I shouldn't do it.

The storm said "This is no longer the right place for you, honey."

Saying goodbye to this place will break my heart. As it mends, though, it will be stronger. Yet another hurdle to say I conquered.

As of today (Monday, January 22), It looks as though I will be temporarily moving to the big city on  February 4. Wish this country mouse luck moving to her new urban digs!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Farewell Wish for You.


This has been a significant week. On Wednesday my kids and I had a celebration of life, honoring my husband Michael's birthday. It was an uplifting occasion, really. In the past this was the most difficult of days. Well, also was our wedding anniversary and the anniversary of his death. Oh, and the anniversary of the day we met. Perhaps I should also list the various holidays that meant so much for us. You get the point.

Each day after entering the world of widowhood is difficult. There is no way around it. From the day our spouses die, and those days forward, our lives will no longer be the same. The joyful days that we used to celebrate will now take up space with realities of our loss. I have come to accept this, and find that I am becoming quite comfortable with this more and more. On the other hand, what I also find is that it is becoming easier and easier to deal with this. Experience and time speaks volumes.

I suppose there are those that might feel that the pain of my loss is less now that I am in a new relationship. I don't know if that is my truth. My loss is my loss, and it will never go away. I can say that having someone close who is willing to support me through these challenging times is of significant help. And although my relationship is still somewhat new, I know that I deeply love this person, and I know that I will spend each day striving to strike that right balance between what I had and what I have.

I recognize that where I am at, or what I speak of, may not sit well with many readers. Many of you are still in the early stages of your grief, and the thought of new love is hard to consider. I can say that I truly didn't expect to find myself here, and I didn't expect to find my heart expanding to make room for a new love this soon. Yet here I am, and I recognize that it is time to begin focusing on the person standing here in front of me. I know that this will take a lot of effort on my part. I don't know exactly how Abel feels, yet I imagine that it has been challenging to open his heart to a man who still holds onto another. I can remember a few weeks ago when we were lying in bed and he said softly to me "remember that I am the one who is here."

Hearing Abel's words made me realize that I was perhaps taking for granted how strong he was, and how willing he was to hold me when I was missing Michael. Those quiet words also told me that he is a vulnerable person, who fears having his heart broken. This reminds me of another past conversation when Abel acknowledged that we would not be together if Michael had not died, and that clearly Michael was the love of my life. I didn't hesitate one moment to be honest and clear with Abel, that Michael was not the love of my life, as I don't believe that there is just one love of my life. I believe that people come into our lives, by chance, or by purpose, and if our hearts are open, love can enter.

I have too much love to give, and I know that I want to live the rest of my life with love. I feel so fortunate right now, and yet it is not necessarily because I have romantic love. I have the love of my children. I have the love of my extended family and friends, and I will soon have the opportunity to love a grandchild. So yes, I am quite fortunate.

So here is my wish for you. Love, and be loved. I know that your heart has been broken, mine was too. Yet keep in mind that a benefit of a broken heart is that there are many cracks on the surface which can make the flow of love happen easily. Love others openly, and let them love you. Know that I love all of you, and will miss this opportunity to share my words and journey with you. You have each touched my heart in so many ways. Many of you are friends that I have met along the way. Many of you I know through your loving comments. Know that I will be reading, and will remain a part of this community, just in a quieter way.

With my departure it is now my pleasure to share with you the voice that will take up residence here on Sundays, Matthew Croke. Many of you may recognize Matthew, as he has been a guest contributor here on Widow's Voice. What you may not know is a bit of his story. Matthew lives in the NW suburbs of Chicago, and is raising three girls all under the age of 11. Matthew lost his wife Lisa three years ago in the same year they lost his wife's mother who they were also living with. In his own words Matthew speaks of his journey as "trying to find my new place in this world while helping the girls find theirs." What a lovely perspective. I'm already looking forward to reading his words each week.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Michael loved Calvin and Hobbes:

A kid's pretend friend that he asked lifes big and not-so-big questions to. An invisible tiger that always seemed to help guide him through his childhood.

Michael became that tiger to me when he died...he became the person I talked to for guidance...who I asked life's questions to. But the response I knew would never come from him...it would have to be felt and heard by me and me alone. But still, I asked. I screamed and cried for reasoning to this tragedy before me.

As time has passed though, I've noticed that fewer and fewer of those questions on life, do I want, or even need an answer to. Just as a child grows up not needing a fictitious animal to guide their way.

In no way am I stating that I don't still lean on my baby in the toughest of moments, but I've realized that the moments where I have been the most incapacitated by grief, are when I have been thinking about nothing but the future, the world in front of me without him by my side.

2012 is carrying a new constant that I know would make him happy, and I know brings a smile to my face. One I picked up along the in 2011.

A constant that freed me from the constraints of life that my pain and loss had me chained down with... had imprisoned me with its uncertainty.

The constant of living now...and nothing more.

I know the future will be what I make of it, but my present...my present was awaiting me to embrace it...and for more than just a second...I have done so.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Quick Punch in the Gut

If you're on Facebook, you've probably seen the postings about the birthday video for Rachel, a recent widow. I don't really know the details of her story, but from the video it seems her husband was fighting cancer and he made a video for her as a present for her birthday. The video is of him, holding poster boards of his words -not speaking, but showing video of their wedding, telling her how much he loves her, and their two small children are in the video too. It is absolutely precious. Of course (and I say that as a bitter widow of cancer) - of course he dies.

I saw the link to the video on FB, and it even had a great "grab some tissues" warning on it. Like an idiot, I watched. I sat alone on my bed and cried like a baby. It was just so damned beautiful, and so freakin sad. I felt her loss like my own, and for a few gut wrenching sobs I was transported back 6 years ago, hating cancer, mad at God and wondering why life is so painful and unfair. I don't get much time to myself, so the cry must have lasted all of a one minute and I had my game face back on. But the instant gut reaction caught me off guard and the black thoughts weren't so easily dismissed.

Death sucks and it will always suck. Cancer sucks. I have felt and continue to feel helpless in the face of cancer, and continue to hate M.D. Anderson (a cancer treatment hospital in Houston) and their beautiful facility - clearly money is no object....what is the incentive to cure cancer? If they cure it, the cancer research facilities, treatment hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies will stop making so much money. I have serious doubts that a cure is really high on their board members agendas.

Clearly I am bitter about cancer. I just don't show it everyday. Rachel's video was beautiful and a horrible reminder of the victims of the disease and the senseless loss. It hit me hard and I'm still pissed. KCUF RECNAC.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Photo from here....
Originally posted on my personal blog after one year of widowhood....

Occasionally, I am now bouyed by a lightness and happiness that I can't explain. I worry at times that I have 'lost the plot' so to speak. That I'm a nut job about to slip over the edge. I mean, really, I've had a shite of a last year. I lost my husband/best friend, my sweet and wonderful grandfather and my beloved 15 year old dog. I am scraping to make ends meet. I am alone. My kids are somewhat damaged from the monumental changes in their short little lives....But somedays, inexplicably, I am happy.
I feel traitorous saying that and even worry that some people will misinterpret these pockets of joy thinking that I don't miss Jeff with every breath I take while wishing he were here to enjoy these upswings and bubbles of bliss.
In fact, I only think that it is because of the loss of Jeff that I can feel this. Before he died, I was bogged down with worry about vacuous and frivolous shit. I could see how I had been wronged in every situation. I could find fault and anger everywhere. I am still 'blessed' with this ridiculous and terrible gift....but I am also learning to be able to turn it off. I am concentrating so hard on trying to see the positive, to feel joy, to search for the good in an effort to not drown in grief, that I am learning to shut out that sinister and nepharious self-destructive voice. When that voice is silent, I feel joy. Pure, warm joy. I can feel sadness and pain alongside it, but I can still turn my face to the light and smile. This, the ability to force myself to stare through rose-coloured glasses, has been the largest gift that Jeff has given me....it is just such a shame that it has been in the loss of him that I have found this gift. I wish we could have shared our life together with this realization in mind....and not just the cognitive recognition of this, but the actual realization that I have had since losing my love.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Would Our Spouses Be Happy .....

..... to know that we're in a relationship with someone?  Would they be happy to know that we might even love someone else?

A friend asked me today how it's possible to reconcile the love of two men ..... one very much alive, the other .... very much dead.

I told her that I'm not sure how it's possible, but it is.  And that's a fact.
I consider it to be the way a pregnant woman feels when expecting her second (or later) child.  You wonder how in the the world you are going to be able to love this next child as much as you love your first.  And you doubt that it's possible.  But then ..... the moment that second (or later) child arrives .... you wonder what in the world you were thinking?!  You hold that baby and forget any doubt that you ever had.  The second that child arrives your heart grows bigger.  Big enough to hold another person.

It's the same when you fall in love.  At first, you can NOT imagine ever loving another person the way you loved your spouse.  You know that it's not possible to love another man/woman .... ever.  In fact, you find that thought appalling.  You still feel married.  There is no room in your heart for another love.  And there never will be.

But then one day, when you least expect it ..... you meet someone.  Someone who is special enough to catch your attention.
And you feel a strange sensation in your heart.  Like it beats a little faster.  Or skips one or two beats.
You decide that you'd like to know more about this person.  And he/she feels the same way about you.
Then one day, one day that seems no different than any other day ...... you realize something.
You realize that your heart has somehow grown a bit larger.  And you never saw it coming.
You didn't really feel it happening.  You just wake up one day and know that something feels "different".
Your heart now holds love for two people.  And it's nothing short of a miracle.  And 100% possible.

And I'm here to prove it.
Jim is in my heart.
Jim will always be in my heart.

And yet my heart has grown larger.  And now holds love for another man.
A man who is different from Jim.
A man who knows he's not in a competition with Jim.
A man who is secure in the knowledge that I love Jim, will always love Jim ..... and now I love him.  I love him as much as I loved Jim.
And that is truly a miracle.

What would Jim think of this?
What DOES Jim think of this?
I think he's thrilled.
I believe that he's as happy with this new love as I am.
I know that in Jim's heart ..... after God ..... I was number one.
Just as he was in mine.

He wanted me to be happy.
He wanted me to feel loved.
And secure.
And special.

Just as I would want him to feel.

People who have not been widowed don't get it.
Just one more thing they don't get.
I'm glad that they don't.
I hope they never need to.

But the rest of us ..... we're learning things we never wanted to know.
Like it's possible to love another person .... and not feel guilty or disloyal to our spouse.
At least I hope that you're all learning that.  Or will learn it.
Because true love wants only the best for its love.

I know that Jim wanted nothing but the best for me.
And he would love the man who loves me the way he did.
A man who puts me first.
A man who loves me unconditionally.

Yes, there have been times when I've wondered if it's worth it to love another man ..... and risk losing another one.
Is it worth giving my heart away again ..... perhaps to lose it all over again?
There have been days when I've thought, "No.  Don't love another man ..... you'll never survive that kind of loss again."

But I know that Jim would not want that for me.
He wouldn't want me to guard my heart so tightly that I never feel love again.
He wouldn't want me to be afraid to give my heart away ..... to feel too fragile to love and be loved.

And truthfully, I don't want that for me, either.
If I had my life and love to live all over again with Jim, knowing that I would lose him as tragically and as early as I did ..... I would still choose to love him all over again.
His love was worth the grief.

All love is worth the grief.
Being loved, feeling loved, giving love ..... is worth the risk.
Jim would think so.
And I've learned to agree with him.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


By Moonlight on 365 Project

There are days when I am still astounded that he hasn't come home.

6:30 pm rolls around and I find myself listening for the distinctive note of his car pulling into the driveway.

I find myself looking for him in the shed, expecting to see him fixing something on his workbench.

My brain hasn't worked out that he is gone.

I am like Red Dog, searching high and low for the one he loves. Searching faces and seeming to ask "have you seen him?" Going from place to place, determined to find the person who he loved above all others. Never stopping.

On the day Greg died, I looked for him in the faces of the policemen, expecting them to tell me where he was ... when they had already told me where he wasn't.

I searched the faces of his friends.

I search for him every night in my dreams .... and sometimes I find him.

I found him in my dreams last week and I asked him WHY he had to go. (That question that we all wonder: WHY did they die, WHY are we left here without them, WHY they were taken long before their time???)
In the dream, he just carried on making a sandwich and explained (as though repeating himself for the umpteenth time) that "there was a car accident".

....and even though that is the truth of it, it doesn't seem to stop my subconscious mind from searching for him every day and every night.

Because I have lost him, and I still have this desperate need to find him.

... I know the word "loss / lost" annoys a lot of widows and I want to assure you that I do know exactly where his body is, but "lost" is a word I often use because it describes how *I* feel as well.

Monday, January 16, 2012


from here

Maybe what grief triggers do is peel back all my layers to where my original pain lies.
I might be constructing a new life for myself out of the rubble his death left behind and really kicking ass. I might go days or even weeks without losing hope or crying. Then, something will happen that may or may not be a big deal and all the progress I've seemingly made is peeled away to show me, in sharp contrast, what I am still grieving. Sometimes, the layers get peeled back to before the most recent tragedy and remind me that I'm still grieving old losses, too.

My own recent trigger peeled back the layers of growth to the original pain I carry with me - the loss of my mother and the ensuing childhood raised by someone who always seemed burdened by my presence. His behavior managed to program my child's brain to believe that I was a hardship. Many years of my own work on myself and a 15 year relationship helped to restore much of my self-worth. When Dave died, I continued to see proof of my inherent worth when the people who care about me freely gave of their love and kept me afloat during my darkest times.

But a recent grief trigger that got at my sense of worth seemingly unraveled much of this work. Not permanently, of course. And it won't take years to weave it back together again. It'll take days, maybe weeks, tops. But it's a reminder of how I carry old pain with me. Not just Dave's death, which takes up most of the space in my heart right now, but ancient hurts that aren't fully healed.

I think that's why grief triggers can be so insidious. I think they're just triggering the grief of my most recent loss, but it might actually be a compounded pain they trigger. One pain leads to another, leads to another, leads to another. They get all wrapped up in each other and almost indistinguishable.
Add that to a chronic worrier and over-thinker and it's a grief storm extravaganza.

Fortunately, with the help of dedicated friends, I know I can weather the storms. In the middle of the storm I forget this fact and need to be reminded, but after having ridden many out, I have proof that they are not permanent and that there is an end in sight.

Triggers are a part of everyday life. They will find me even if I don't open myself up to them. Unfortunately, just living life makes me vulnerable to them. And living life without letting fear rule me REALLY opens me up to them. Rejection or further loss can be powerful triggers.

But they'll be there in mundane places too. My mailbox, my iPod, my kitchen, the realty sign in my yard. All unavoidable.

Each time a trigger gets me, it builds my strength. The next trigger might not hit quite so hard and my recovery from it might be quicker and easier. None of that means it won't hurt just as much as always, or even MORE than ever before, though. That's another realization I've made. To be reminded that the pain won't last doesn't resolve the pain itself. It might give me enough hope to ride out that current storm, but it doesn't eliminate the pain and the pain grinds me to a halt. And that is okay. It's okay to feel too heavy to move. It's okay to admit that the weight of the grief is too heavy to bear standing up under and to let it take me down.

As soon as the weight lessens, though, I have to take my chance to stand up again and run with it, getting my feet underneath me again and readying myself for the next hurdle life sends me.

So today, the weight lessened enough to stand up under it and make some plans for moving forward.
Now I can build up strength again and attempt to live life without the fear of the next storm's arrival.

That is my daily challenge.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Preparing for change.

Change direction

It's time for change.

I have been taking stock into where my life has been, where it is at the moment, and where I want it to go in the not so distant future.

For many of us, well, for all of us I suppose, change was at one time an unwelcome visitor. Change happened to us. Change came up from behind, kicked our feet up from beneath us, and took something we most valued.

I know that when my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor change happened to me. When that final day arrived and he was taken from me, change definitely happened to me. Since that day, change has continued to occur, both welcomed and unwelcome, expected and unexpected.

The way I tend to live my life, especially these past couple of years, is to anticipate what I think I will need. Rather than let change happen to me, I make the first move, and keep moving.

Lately I have known that it is time to make some changes, and after giving it some serious thought I have decided to change my writing. Firstly, I need to take a break from all writing for a short time. I need to focus on my day to day living, and put some focus on the new person in my life. I feel like I need to live my day to day life without over analyzing it. I also need to do this more privately.

With this in mind I have decided to end my regular writing here on Widow's Voice. Next week will be my final posting. I believe that when one person goes silent, another speaks. It is my hope that by honoring what I know is best for me, stepping aside, I will be creating a space so that someone new may begin. I often think of us all as making up a beautiful and rich quilt. We are all bound together through our hope and through our grief. Each of us is unique, and by sharing our own personal stories and comments here on Widow's Voice we create something that is so warm and comforting.

For now, I am preparing for change. I am formulating my thoughts and feelings, and will be writing one last message next week. And who knows, I may pop up every once in awhile here, or somewhere else. I don't think I can stop writing all together, yet I know that I need to begin writing something new. For now, know that I am already feeling some anticipatory loss just by making this decision, and sharing it with you.

Much love.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

2010 to 2012

***2 Years later and I thought it appropriate to share, as much still rings true.***

Well, it's 2010.

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

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

Friday, January 13, 2012

Movie Ratings for Widow/ers

Enough already! I’m tired of being blind-sided by movies that are themed around the death of a spouse, especially when I (or my social planners) think that the movie is a feel-good, pick-me-up. There’s nothing quite like crying your way through a Disney movie while the 10 year old kid beside you stares. Why, you ask, am I all worked up? Well let me tell you about New Year’s Day.

A good (and very sweet) female friend of mine and her girlfriends have a New Year’s Day tradition which they invited me to participate. They like to dress in their pjs and camp out at the local movie house for the whole day, moving from one movie to the next, carelessly wasting away the day in big-screen fantasy world. It’s a nice, gentle way to usher in the New Year. Ya gotta love a good plan, right?

(WARNING: The following is a complete plot spoiler. If you want to see the movie “We Bought a Zoo” with no knowledge of what you are walking into, skip the next two paragraphs.)

So I joined the crew of all women for the movie “Girl With a Dragon Tattoo.” It was a shocking but good flick. I definitely enjoyed it. To release the tension of such an edgy flick, the plan was to wrap up with a feel-good flick about animals. How can you go wrong with animal comedy? So right from one theater to the next, we headed to watch “We Bought a Zoo.” The previews were all fun animal foibles and full of cuteness. Laughter and “awww!” abound. Then the feature film started. Oh, it wasn’t five minutes into the film when the words “…because my mom died six months ago” spat out of the 14-year-old main character’s mouth. Despite my instant butt pucker, I could feel the entire row of movie seats jiggle as the rest of my crew locked down for a surprise emotional maelstrom. And it got worse, a LOT worse from there.

And thus began the emotional jack-hammering. The writers spared no heart-wrenching cliché that a long, losing battle with cancer affords. There was the putting-the-young-daughter-to-bed scene when she asked “Was Mommy hurting?” There were the various scenes with the heartbroken widower looking at the laptop computer that held an endless supply of lovely pictures of his beautiful wife (who, in my mind, looked a heck of a lot like my Maggie) while gratuitous emotional music dripped. Scene after scene, it was like someone took my life, added a zoo and some kids, and played it out on the big screen before me. Well, sort of. At least it felt that way. So I cried. A lot. In the movies. With a 10 year old boy staring at me. The whole movie. The WHOLE movie.

It didn’t take long for my entire crew to join in the tear parade. So much for the feel-good, fun flick to wrap up a relaxing day.

So enough! We’ve all said it before, usually with cursing involved, that there should be a list of movies that widows and widowers should be warned not to see (or at least be warned BEFORE they see them.) Let’s get this started right now.

Here’s how this is going to work. If you’ve seen or heard of a movie that widows and widowers need to be warned about before they see it, add a comment below with: A) The name of the movie, B) a rating from 1 to 5 of how bad the reference is (‘1’ being not so bad and ‘5’ being terrible), and C) a basic description of why we should avoid the movie. I’ll take care of the rest. After we’ve come up with a list together, I’ll make a web page or a Google document that includes them all so we can get this out to the widow world. I’m tired of being blind-sided by movies. Let’s help others avoid the same train wreck.

I’ll start (Warning! Spoilers abound):

  • “Up” Rating: 4 Reason: The basic premise is about a sad guy who lost his dear best friend and wife and hasn’t been able to let go and move on.
  • “We Bought a Zoo” Rating: 5 Reason: The whole movie is about a guy who’s wife died of cancer and his grief while he tries to move on and help his kids cope with grief.
  • “Star Trek” (The 2009 version) Rating: 3 Reason: The opening scene depicts a wife losing her husband in an explosion while she’s talking to him and giving birth to their child. (Yes, I am so much of a sad dork I cried at the open scene of the Star Trek movie.)
  • “Contagion” Rating: 2 Reason: Very early in the movie, the main character watches his wife die of some type of contagious disease. The worst is watching the doctor tell him that his wife has died and he can’t seem to comprehend the depth of what has happened.

Please add yours in the comments.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Real or remembering?

.Photo from here...

I was walking the dog in the sunshine earlier today. I was listening to a fabulous song that makes me think of that bitter-sweet sensation.
The feeling where you could swear "they" are with you. That you can almost feel their breath on your neck or hear their familiar sounds in the dark? The feeling that they are thinking about you or have just whispered that they love you in your ear?
Is it real? Is Jeff really non-physically "with" me? Can he see me? Is he expressing his love for me through some sort of cosmic vibrational love? Or is it just a chemical memory of a hormone cocktail that was once specific to our relationship? Merely a jolt of misfired oxytocin?
I want to believe it is his essence/spirit/soul slipping into the spot beside me and holding my hand or stroking my face with whatever energy would have once controlled his large calloused hands. I want to hope that he can feel and hear my thoughts. That he can know the loss that is still felt without his body next to mine.
But the pessimistic, rational scientist that lives within my brain scoffs. I begin to wonder if it is a similar phenomenon to deja-vu - scientists claim that this occurrance is merely a misfiring of the brain's chemistry creating the illusion that you have already experienced this exact moment.
In my heart, though, I can feel him. I have known the love of others. Though not a deep or profound, I have loved other men. And what I feel when I sense him near is not the residual effects of generic love. It is a feeling specific to him...and me.
Maybe I am crazy or naive. Maybe I am just allowing myself a fairytale to alleviate some of the feelings of loss and to provide hope that I will be with him again. But I really do feel like he is with me. Not all the time. But when I do, I sense him so breath-takingly close that I freeze and hope that this moment lasts just a little longer. That for just this second, it is just he and I.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Yes, I'm Posting Twice ....

.... in one day!  Surprise!!!!

That's because we need your help.

We have an "Outreach Project" and we need a lot of help from you wonderful Widow's Voice Followers!!  :)

We have a huge need for all of you "East Coasters" to help us gather information so that we can, in turn,  spread the information about Camp Widow East.
All it requires is time on the phone.  No driving, no gas bills, no loading up the kiddos and hauling them around town!
And .... this is a great way for those of you who won't be joining us to help us in a huge way.

First, by "East Coasters" I'm referring to anyone living in Minnesota, all the way south to Louisiana, and then from those states (and those in between) all the way over to the East Coast.  Yes, I realize that some of you may not consider yourselves to be "East Coasters", but for our purposes, please just take on the title for a few months.  :)

What we need are information gatherers.  We need to gather all the info we can on confirmed Bereavement Support groups (in hospitals, churches, temples, synagogues .... wherever), Hospices, funeral homes, etc.  By confirmed I mean that if you find a phone number on line, or in a phone book, please call that number to make sure they still have a support group.  We need to get their address, phone number, and the name of the contact person (and web site, if they have one).
You don't have to tell them anything about SSSLF or Camp widow.  Just say something like, "I'm looking for bereavement services .... who can I contact about that and may I have the address & phone number?"
That's it ..... pretty basic and very easy.  Once you start collecting information it would be great if you could put it i some kind of easily readable document so we can combine them all without a lot of trouble.
Our plan is to send a CWE packet to every support group we can.  
We need to start gathering this info ASAP and then send it to me by February 17th.  My email is janinee@sslf.org.
It would also be great if you'd email me and let me know if you'll be able to help us out with this.
Thanks so much to each and every one one of you.
As always ..... you ROCK!!!

Forever Young .....

.... while I grow older and older.

Saturday was Jim's birthday.
Only, he didn't get a year older.

He died only a few weeks before his birthday.
Six months later .... I became older than he did.

And so it continues.

At first I was angry about that.
Two and a half years later when I hit a rather big birthday ..... I was beyond angry.  I was downright pissed.
Yet one more thing that wasn't fair.

Not only will he be forever young ..... in everyone's mind, especially my children's ..... but he'll also be pretty close to perfect .... in their minds.
I'm the parent who's left.
I'm the one who enforces the rules.
Or rather, the one who tries to enforce the rules.

I'm the one they get angry with when I treat them the same way we both treated them.
I'm the one who sometimes gets treated a whole lot nicer if I give them what they want.
I'm the one who's been accused of abandoning my parenting role while I grieved .... and grieved hard.
I'm the one who's been angrily told that they lost both parents the day Jim died.
Funny ..... but I've been admitting to that for 4 years now.

I'm the one who has wished .... on many an occasion .... that Jim was the parent who was left behind.
I have no doubt that he would've done a much better job.

I wouldn't be the one left to watch our children grow ..... alone.
I wouldn't be the one left to watch them graduate high school, college, grad school, marry (hopefully), have children (hopefully) .... and do all of the other things that two parents normally share .... and celebrate.

And while my days are so much better than they once were, the waves are fewer and farther between, and I am mostly happy ......

There are times, once in a while ..... and probably always will be ..... when I wish that I were remembered as almost perfect ......
And forever young.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Uncontrolled Release

I wrote this post almost a year ago after some of the scariest days I have faced as a widow. Neighbouring towns were ripped apart by what was described as an "inland tsunami" a year ago today. Then, all that water had to continue down the catchment into MY town. My city flooded. Big Time. Many homes and possessions were lost but thankfully fewer deaths than our neighbouring towns. But scaremongers were saying that our dam may collapse which would have meant complete disaster and many, many more deaths.
Today, I remember those frightening days and the lives that were destroyed during the floods of 2011. I hope you'll forgive the repost.....

There is no doubt that Wivenhoe dam saved Brisbane from greater flooding in January 2011. But it only covers about a third of the total catchment for the Brisbane River, so Brisbane still flooded.
I heard a hydrologist on the radio, speaking about the way in which the dam operates….. it is designed so that hydrologists can operate and control the release of water in such a way to both minimise flooding downstream while preserving the integrity of the dam wall.
If the inflow of water became so great that the structural integrity of the dam was compromised, the dam is designed to regulate itself and perform what’s called an uncontrolled release.
This is not the scenario that we ever want to see because the dam can’t tell what the tidal river is doing and will dump enough water to preserve itself with little regard to the river conditions. Specifically, the flood which has coincided with some of the biggest king tides of the year. Tides which needs carefully planned controlled releases of water to minimise damage downstream.
….and all of this made me think about grief…
I find I have to regulate the times during which I allow myself to wallow in complete despair, cry out in pain as the hot, angry tears course down my face. I have to swear and scream and tell God exactly what I think of him. I have to feel sorry for myself and rant and rage about how utterly horrible my life is.
Because when *I* regulate the spillway of grief, I get to do it when nobody can hear me scream.
The last thing I want is an uncontrolled release at school, or near the kids, with friends or while driving the car.
…and it sucks when it hits as I lay in our bed and see the empty space and that voice in my head keeps saying don’t go there, don’t think about the “multiple injuries”. don't do it now, you need to sleep, find a happy place, find a happy place, find a happy place….
Except all of my happy places have Greg in them. They are happy places BECAUSE he is there.
So I need to find another way of controlling the release. Of controlling the uncontrolled release.
Of controlling the other two-thirds of the catchment not covered by the dam on my grief.
and that is a hard thing to do.