Sunday, September 30, 2012

His story is coming to a end, I promise!

After my husband's suicide attempt, my husband was scared.
The experience he had with his attempt, shock him to his core.
His attempt really scared him.
And made him really take a hard look at his mental state.

He started trying really hard to get a handle on his bipolar.
He tried a lot of medications.
Did personal counseling.

For the first time, he took it seriously.

But it didn't last.
The medication were always a short term fixed.
Then they stopped working.

A month later, May 2009, Seth tried to take his life again.

Below is Seth's writings about his experience.
   I was out of the hospital for a while and working when I just totally lost it again. I was up in the air about 28 feet working on a phone/cable line and started crying and wrapped my safety harness around my neck then hung myself for about 5 minutes. The problem with hanging is it takes too long. I decided to come down from the telephone pole and called Melinda and told her I needed to go back to the hospital. I did a self commitment to the mental ward at Uof U and stayed there 2 weeks this time. 

I promise, I am almost to the end of Seth's story.
Then my widow story begins.
Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 29, 2012



Last night I lost the world, and gained the universe.” 
― C. JoyBell C.

Letting go.

I always hated when people pronounced that I needed to do so...

And still kind of do :)

But as I sit here in a sea of cardboard boxes...2 months after the flood. 2 months away from all material things I've accumulated over the last 26 years.

It hit me.

As sifting through the million shirts of Michael and myself..the million little things that have no direct connection to him or I, but I held on was than that I realized that I had to let go....

Not of him...not of our eternal love and how in love with him I still am....not of that damn smile that still gives me the warm fuzzies...

Letting go is letting go of the life I expected us to have...the one I unconsciously didn't realize I was holding onto through some material things that don't embody who and what we are....

Letting go is embracing the life we live now, on different plains, but still together.

Embracing the fact that moving his clothes out of my closet into one of his own (minus those warm sweaters i love to wear in the winter and that hell of a sexy uniform he filled out so well) isn't letting go of him....that donating some items ( shirt) that he wouldn't give a fuck about will never take away from all that we always will be.

I've let go of the rock in my hands that consisted of all that was supposed to be...I let it go in order to embrace the life here in front of me...the life carrying so many gifts from him and from myself once I allowed myself to free up my hands to grab them...

So let isn't this horrible phrase consisting of forgetting those you love more than allows you to love them even more and grasp the immense amount of love still out there.

Thank you, flood. Thank you, baby. It feels good to let go of all of the what could have been's...and hug onto the what will be' heart fills fuller and my eyes feel mind feels free in knowing that the now is all I need.

Friday, September 28, 2012

In Need of A Little Pick Me Up?

It's been a rough week, and I'm so glad it's Friday - it's been a week of Mondays!  I thought I'd share the song that is keeping me on the positive path in a very negative week.  Have a heavenly day :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Read, Daddy"

Jeremy in the sailor suit, and his other mini-me, Carter bearing the same sweet features.

Now the school is in full swing and we've kinda (and I use that term loosely) got a routine going, I've been able to spend a lot of one-on-one time with my man cub. I haven't had just one child with me in over 5 years! It's been nice to just play with him, talk to him, and watch him grow. His life thus far seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye and I know I was checked out for the first part of it. I feel like I've missed a lot.

Spending more time with him has made me face a lot of grief associated with his life, though. Watching him learn new things and knowing that Jeremy will never get to see him grow. The ache that comes with the understanding that Jeremy never got to hold his son. Thinking about the day he was born never ceases to make me emotional. Sometimes I think that day was harder in some ways than the day Jeremy died. We talk about 'daddy' all the time - he associates my necklace with Jer, the pics of him around the house, the tattoo on my arm, even the Toronto Maple Leafs logo he recognizes with his daddy. It's so incredibly bittersweet.

Last week, I sat down and showed Carter the video I have of Jeremy reading "Barnyard Dance" to Faith and Caleb. He was mesmerized. And I was full of tears and smiles. We went about our day and week until the other day, Carter was pointing to the table throwing a fit because I couldn't understand what he was wanting. When I finally figured out that he was pointing to my computer and saying "read Daddy, read Daddy" I burst into tears. 

He remembered.

Not only did he remember, he wanted more. More of his daddy. He wanted more of this presence he hears referred to all the time but hasn't met him or touched him yet. To hear his voice, see his face, and see him snuggle up against his big brother and sister made an impact on that little 19-month-old heart. He watched it again and again. 

For all the times I worry that Carter may not understand or I might share enough....I realize that Jeremy really is a presence in our hearts and in our lives. And he's in the heart and life of a little man cub who's never met him face to face, but who lives out his legacy as the spitting image of his daddy. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Happiness Project ......


...... has been making me think this week.

I'm not sure how I became involved in this, but I am.

I think it may have been through an email, though I can't be sure.
But I also can't think of any other way I would have agreed to do this.

I am a volunteer for this project.
Which entails me receiving 3 texts a day, 7 days a week, for more than one week.  I think.  I can't remember how long this is supposed to last.

But I get 3 texts every single day, asking me to rate my level of happiness at that given moment.
On a scale of 1 - 10.  One being very unhappy.  Ten being ecstatically happy.

I've been doing this for a week now.
And it's made me really think.
I mean really.

The first time I received a text asking me to rate my happiness level, I had to stop and consider.  I thought about where I was at that point in time, and how I felt about being in that place.
And just the process of stopping and taking inventory of my life, and my current situation ....... made me stop and realize something.

I am very, very blessed.
And I have many wonderful friends.

And ...... I am pretty happy at this point in time.
Yes, it's a different kind of happy that I had "before", but it's still happiness.  And that's huge.

I've never been able to give it less than a 5.
I gave one 5.  That was the minute I got back to my home after chasing down two dogs.

I am happier than I thought I was.
At first that was amazing to me.

But not any longer.
I've come to realize that I am much happier than I thought I was on a daily basis.
I wouldn't have been able to say that three years ago.  Or four.
Or even two.
Not by a long shot.

But time has moved forward ...... even when I didn't want it to.
And that's turned out to be a good thing.

That's not to say that I'm ecstatically happy 24 hours a day.
But I am happy most days.

In spite of being a widow.
And an only parent.

In spite of so much.

I am blessed.
In so many ways.

And I hope that that gives you hope.
Things will not always be as dark as they are now.
I promise.
You will experience happiness again some day.
I promise that, too.

In spite of living daily life on this path.
In spite of losing all that you lost.
Like me.

I experienced true love.
With the love of my life.
With my other half.
With the best man I knew.

Not everyone can say that.

I don't take that for granted.
But I do appreciate it.
Every day of my life.

And that makes me happy.
In spite of ....... well, you know.

I'm glad that I signed up for this "project".
I needed to be reminded ....... of how very blessed I was ...... and still am.

You will get here.
Before you know it.
And you will feel grateful ...... for how blessed you were.
And still are.

Many of us experienced a love that most people never get to know.
Most of us were blessed.
And maybe, if we're lucky, we'll be blessed again.

But even if we're not ...... we can still be happy.  And grateful.
Because we had something huge.
Very huge.
And most people can only dream of obtaining that.

So stop and think about how blessed you were/are.
And realize that, in spite of so much, you can be happy.
One day at a time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Misconceptions from the ill-informed

Funny Graduation Ecard: You can't choose the people you are in school with, but you can choose who to put a voodoo curse on. 

I wrote the following on my facebook page after I attended my high school reunion last Saturday night, where it quickly became apparent that the "cool kids" were still trying to tell the rest of us what we "should do".  A few facebook friends asked to share it, so I've reposted it here as I think we all have had days like this, or people who think they know what widowhood is like when they have no way of actually *knowing*.
(I looked awesome and totally HAWT at the reunion BTW, thanks for asking:) Despite the idiots, I did also manage to have a great deal of fun with some truly awesome people (including two other widows) who have always been there for me.


I need to be clear about something before I next feel the urge to scream at someone: grief is not something you can just "get over".

Grief is NOT the same as depression, although the two can often be found seeping through the neural pathways, hand-in-hand.

Telling me that you know how I feel because your dog /  Great Uncle / axolotl (yes, I know!)  died is NOT helpful.
Neither is comparing widowhood with divorce: they are not the same.

It is OK to still be sad 2.5 years after the death of your spouse.  For that matter, it is OK to be sad 50 years later too.  Grief is like a roller-coaster ride where there are dips and turns in the most unexpected places, but the thing is, you either learn to live alongside it, or you don't.
(and the latter option is where the depression kicks in).

Telling me to "get help" because I say that I still grieve the loss of my husband is ludicrous. The Actual Professionals (as opposed to armchair psychiatrists) agree that my mental health is worth bottling because I realise one truth: I will never be truly "done" with grief. 
But I also realise that for every wave that knocks me to the ground, I will get up after it passes because I am made of strong stuff.  And the surf isn't as wild as it used to be so I don't get knocked down as often or for as long.

So - how do widows deal with grief?
We talk.
We cry.
We laugh.
We joke.
We hug.
We compare notes.
We laugh at daaaarrrk humour.
We roll our eyes at each at ill-informed comments.
But above all, we talk.

Because by talking, we realise that we are not alone and we can draw strength from this realisation.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dream Water or Insomnia Water?

Or in my case, drink to panic and then wake up every few hours to make sure I'm not dead. 

I have just not been sleeping through the night. Not one night in...I don't even know how long. I wake up at 4 or 5 am and lie there in a state of mild unease and anxiety. Sometimes I fall back to sleep and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I take melatonin, sometimes I take Advil PM, sometimes I drink sleepytime tea. Nothing seems to consistently work. The lack of sleep makes me a forgetful, confused and weepy girl. I need a hell of a lot of sleep to function on all cylinders.

Last night, in an effort to get more sleep, I drank a little shot of a natural sleep aid called Dream Water*.

Right after I drank it I went to take my daily dose of Zoloft (I'm serotonin-challenged) and stopped suddenly before I could shake the pill out of the bottle into my palm. I realized with a shock that the "natural" sleep aid I took could have unfortunate interactions with Zoloft.

Then I did what I know I shouldn't have done. I googled drug interactions with zoloft.

The active ingredients in Dream Water are melatonin, 5-HTP and GAMA. I have taken melatonin many times before but was completely unfamiliar with the other two.

The google search led me to a list a mile long of drugs to NEVER TAKE ALONG WITH ZOLOFT. There were little red exclamation points next to each drug name. It may as well have been a giant skull and crossbones and a blinking red neon sign that read "IMMINENT DEATH".

In the list was 5-HTP. Before I panicked too much (I vaguely wondered if I should be making myself barf) I noticed some other medications on the list. They included Advil, almost every cough medicine known to man, and a migraine medication I've taken for years. It appeared as though they put every medication available by prescription AND over the counter on the "do not mix with zoloft" list.  So, I relaxed. I did not commence "fingers down the throat" or "head to the ER" mode. I just went to bed. But my brain continued to worry about the possibility of dying in my sleep so I woke up about every two hours, ALL NIGHT LONG. Thanks Dream Water!

What I realized, though, was that as much as I hurt and often wish to be relieved of the pain and work of grief, I don't want to die. I'm not ready to go. Even the thought of being with Dave again isn't enough to give me a real death wish of any kind.

There are times when I see young families and think that maybe my chance for that is over and was taken from me the day Dave breathed his last. There are times when I wish for an end to my pain. But not once have I actually wished to die.

I want to live. I want to feel true joy and happiness again.  I know deep down that I deserve it.

At the very least, I have now recorded these thoughts I'm able to have on a "good day" and can remind myself that I've felt this way, this hopeful, and that I can feel it again. I can access that emotion again. Maybe on a bad day I won't be receptive to this feeling, but it's there. It's filed away for later. The terrible, black days always have a light at the end of them.

Knowing that is sometimes the only way through the days when hauling myself out of bed feels impossible.

*This is not an ad for Dream Water. It would be a pretty crappy ad, if so. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A pocket full of cash

My favorite picture of Seth. This was on our wedding day.
I look at his face, and he looks so happy, and completely lost in love.
August 12th, 2005

When I got home from work and saw all the prescription bottles were gone...

I just knew.
My deep, dark, fear, was becoming my reality.

I felt like from August 12th, 2008 to April 1st, 2009, was just a waiting game.

I knew deep down in my heart, that one day, the love of my life was going to try (or succeed) to kill himself.

I never wanted to admit to myself that I knew this and how much fear I had bottled up inside my heart and soul.

When Seth didn't come home that night, I knew he was somewhere...
Trying to take his own life.

I didn't sleep at all that night. Every noise, I would be up, looking out the window, hoping the noise I heard was my husband pulling in the driveway.

He never did.

The next day, I had a email from my bank. My account had been overdrawn.

I checked my account online, and found $1,200.00 had been withdrawn.
I had $300.00 in NSF fees within only a 12 hour period.

I called the bank, and they confirmed, that Seth had withdrawn the money.

Now my husband is missing, I'm not even sure if he is alive, and I don't have a penny to my name.
I couldn't pay the mortgage.
I couldn't even buy food or put gas in my car.

The police didn't pay much attention to my cries for help. "He's an adult, he doesn't have to come home if he doesn't want to." "We don't consider it a missing person case until 72 hours has passed".

I begged and pleaded with them. I told them I knew he was going to try to kill himself.

I knew he was in trouble.

They took my information, but did not issue a missing person report.

I went to work that morning. Knowing I couldn't sit home and hope he pulled into the drive way.

Around noon, I got a call from a doctor in a hospital that was 5 hours away from me.

Seth was in the ICU.
He took all the pills he had.

The following is Seth's writing about his attempt. It is the exact writings he did about this. 

- Warning - This might be too graphic for some readers.

I have bipolar disorder and went into a depression and got some professional help. They put me on a drug called Lamictal. It helped a little but I still thought about suicide daily. I took the pills for a few months and then one day decided I did not want to live any more. So I planned trip in week to go kill myself. When the day came I had just refilled my prescription and had a shit load of pills. I grabbed the pills emptied my bank account and took off to Zion’s National park to kill myself. Somehow I ended up at Arches National park instead, but that didn’t really matter. I found a back dirt round that was rarely traveled. I had 11,000 milligrams of lamictal on me so I crushed it up and drank it with a drink. Then I waited to die at peace in the front seat of my truck in the middle of no ware. Then all of sudden I started vomiting like there was no end. My vision started to flicker like an old tv and then I went blind. I panicked and started my truck and drove it right into a sand dune. I continued to throw up nonstop all night. I tried to get out of my truck to dig it out of the sand but found I was paralyzed from the waist down. I crawled across the desert floor on my elbows until I reached my tires. I still couldn’t see my vision was flickering very fast and I can’t really explain that part. I got to the tire and tried to dig my truck out of the sand. After digging for a while I crawled back to the door of my truck. I still could not move my legs. I also noticed at this point that I no longer had control of my fingers. I tried to open the truck door but it seemed impossible without the use of my fingers. I finally got it open and pulled myself back into the truck. All I remember from this point on is vision going yellow but I could see. And I kept vomiting and coming in and out of consciousness. I must have passed out with my foot on the gas because I blew my engine.
When morning came around I just remember wakening to the sound of a jeep. It was a National Park Volunteer. I wondered over to her and asked her to call me an ambulance. I park ranger showed up first and confiscated my hand gun and just kept me conscious until the ambulance got there. The ambulance just gave me a hydration IV, nothing special needed. I had vomited all the Lamitical I took out of my body already.
When I got the hospital the nurse was really nice to me but the doctor was a jerk. I do not think he likes suicide attempts. 

Even though I was completely shattered that my husband had just tried to kill himself, I was so relieved to know he was alive. What happened, we could get through.

The doctor said Seth didn't want to talk to me, he wasn't ready. That he wanted me to know he was ok.

 I was then handcuffed and driven to the Mental Hospital at the U of U by a sheriff. He made me were shackles and cuffs the entire way. He was a really nice guy. All my clothes were covered in throw up and I stunk real badly, but he didn’t care. When I got to the U of U they committed me to 5 West Mental Ward. 

Seth was in the psychiatric ward for two days before he called me. With psychiatric wards, you have to have a password to call the patient or go see them. If you didn't have the password, the hospital would tell you they didn't have a patient under that name. I had to wait for him to call me before I could go see him.

One nice thing about the ward, was that with the password, not just anyone could call or go see him. He didn't want me to go see him. And he defiantly didn't want his family there.

When he gave me the password, he asked me not to give it to his family, that if he wanted to see them or talk to them, he would call them. 

When his family asked me about going to see him, I told them that he asked me not to give the password out, and that he would call when he was ready.

His family didn't believe me. They called the psychiatric ward asking to speak to him, and (because they didn't have the password) they were told they didn't have a patient there under that name.

I was angry. I felt like his family didn't believe me or trust me. That I was trying to keep their son and brother away from them. When really I was respecting his wishes.

I knew Seth was there to get treatment, and if he didn't want people there, that was his decision. 

When I went and saw Seth for the first time, he was medicated to the point that he would slur his speech. He would forget what we were talking about mid sentence. 

He was distraught. He would sit and cry, and ask me if I was going to divorce him.

During that time, I never once thought about leaving my husband.

I loved him, he was alive, and that's all that mattered.

At least in the psychiatric ward, he was safe.

Saturday, September 22, 2012



Mindfulness and being in the moment have always been things I thought I was doing/good at.


I understand the past and only take from it the things that will make my present more amazing.


I understand that focusing on the future and what others believe it should be is a waste of anyones time. It's finding our present moment and reveling in it that matters.


And yet, when challenged to just silence myself for once, I saw that it wasn't the past or future that were my enemies..but otherwise, my inability to shut my mind off and be in the now. Even in moments of peace and quiet, the little voice chatted on.


But with that realization and daily application to note these moments, many things surfaced. One stuck out most recently. You see, I've never been a fan of all the quotes saying that we must let go of our past. I assumed that meant I'd be letting go of my love...something I'll never do. But it hit me that I'll never have to let go of him and the love we share, but let go the life we had planned. 

A simple concept, but so profound when actually applied to the mind.

Living in the love we have in the now with the who I am now and the life I live the present.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Humility from the Top of the World

Friday I returned from the most wild travel adventure I’ve ever taken.  It’s emotionally difficult for me to classify the trip as “most amazing” or “most fun” out of reverence to my former life and the many travels Maggie and I shared, but I feel like it’s more of a tribute to me living beyond the life I had before, like I have broken out into a whole new world.  And that’s fact.  The daily experiences I experienced exceeded my wildest expectations and, likewise, reset my gauge for what I should expect, or rather, insist that the rest of my days be like.  A whole new world was opened up to me and open eyes can’t un-see what’s been seen.  This is the start of something wonderful.

Sitting atop the peak of Huayna Picchu, I thought of Maggie and how she’d have loved to be sitting right beside me.  Then I realized she was there all along, coaxing me along.  The wonder in my eyes as I gazed down on the valleys thousands of feet below me was a reflection of how she would have seen the same. The majestic peaks staggered mountain after mountain humbled me and helped me understand that what has happened to her and me has happened for ages. And yet, life continues.  I am but a simple man, broken-hearted, but not broken.  For I climbed every single step of Huayna Picchu, pausing for breath when I needed to, but I did it, all the way to the top and then back down again.  I never gave up.  I lived to see the indescribable 360-degree peak.  Eventually, I made it down safely – tired, sweaty, hungry and beat down.

My visit to Huayna Picchu has humbled me.

Now, I feel like I’m climbing back down my own personal mountain.  I feel like I’ve beaten the climb and the altitude.  The views are still dizzying and the stairs can be slippery, but all I need to do is stay focused.  But the path is smoother and the threat of falls less ominous.  I’ll trudge on.  I’ve already made it up.  Now, I suppose like it’s always been, it’s one foot in front of the other.  But the footsteps are getting easier.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Finding my verb

I wrote this post on my blog in March of 2011. I had forgotten about it. But the call to find and use my verb has been tapping me on the shoulder again, so I thought it was very relevant to repost tonight.

I am still here.

The truth is, I'm here almost every night, staring at a blank computer space, unable to make my fingers move. Every day, a million different things go on in my head that I want to write down, but I can't configure them into coherent thoughts when I sit to write. Even more than that, I sit and wonder if I really have anything to say that I haven't said already. I can find new adjectives, manipulate metaphors, use a thesaurus...but at the end of the day, it feels the same:

My husband is dead.
It still hurts like hell.

But this weekend I've had a couple of cool experiences that has given me a voice again. First of all, people have been writing me the last few days, wondering where I've been. It's nice to know that people like what I have to say and want to hear more from me.

Second was an encounter with Mark Duckworth, lead singer of the band Salient (check em out, btw). Mark and I have crossed paths several times, singing at the same events and hanging out here and there. This weekend, we were both singing for the youth rally at my home church (I with DeeperStill - the group my husband sang with, and Mark with his band) and we all went out after the event on Friday night. He approached me afterwords to thank me for my blog and FB postings to Jeremy and expressed an appreciation for my writing. Mark probably knows that I hear that often - which I do. I've been overwhelmed by the response that my story has received and people have expressed their appreciate for me sharing it many times. But what Mark probably doesn't know is that I really took it as a huge compliment from him as someone who has written some incredible music to note my writing, which in my opinion, is not that great. He encouraged me to keep writing and reminded me that there are so many people that I am still unaware of that are reading and praying for me. I guess I needed the reminder.

Next happened during church this morning. Without going into the entire sermon, since I could never do Patrick Mead justice by trying to recap his incredible lesson, I will say something struck me today. It was a combination of the sermon and something that was said during our Missional Moment today about finding our verb as a Community of God. We are not saved by our works but we do good works because we are saved, therefore we must put our faith into action by finding our verb. I've struggled with finding mine my entire life, and today it was as if a finger was tapping me on the shoulder and I heard it:

WRITE. That's your verb. 

Everyone has a different verb, and I don't believe this will be mine forever, as I am not a writer (at least not a good one). But for now, in a season when I feel broken with nothing to offer, I felt God showing me a way to still somehow offer something in the midst of my weakness: My words. My story. My journey. As awful as it is for me right now, I know it's blessing others along the way.

One of my and Jer's best friends wrote me something a couple weeks ago that has been swirling in my head since. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing:

"I think that most people are numb to the fragility of life, and they go about in narrowly focused on their own lives, living in quiet desperation seeking real connection with people. Even with all the advancements in technology and more ways to connect electronically than we've ever had before, people still struggle to truly connect with another. 

On a broad level I think that the genuineness of your writing, and sharing of yourself through these last months has people flocking to your posts in droves because your transparency creates the type of deep connection they so desperately crave. However wrong, right, weird, well intentioned, or wild it is, I watch people find connection and MEANING in your pain & happiness. Whether or not you're seeking it, that is a truly transcendant gift." 

There you have it. This is certainly NOT the way I wanted to watch my blog grow, and how I wanted to make even the smallest impact on the world, and yet it's happening whether I like it or not. It's not a gift I asked for, but I will take it for now in hopes that it will reveal healing and purpose back into my life. I will continue to try to write through this mess I'm living in.

***As a side note, I would love to hear what your verb is and how you feel called to use it.

Trust ......

                                                         Photo source

...... is a terrible thing to waste.

And I have wasted it.
On more than one person.

But I won't waste it again.
Which is kind of sad, because that means that I will never again trust easily.

Especially not a man.
I hope that makes him happy.
I hope he's pleased to know that he was such a dirt bag that he taught me to be wary.

Not really.
I don't hope he's happy.
He doesn't deserve to be happy.
Nor do the people who knew what he was doing.
The people who lied to me.
As he lied.

I have not reached forgiveness yet.
And I'm ok with that.

In fact, in spite of him ...... in spite of them ...... I am happy.
Very happy.
And very, very, VERY relieved.

I'm also thankful.
Thankful that I grew very tired of walking on egg shells.
Thankful that I finally spoke my mind.
And got out of jail.

I put the bars up when I decided to walk on those egg shells.
I imprisoned myself when I chose to stay quiet, rather than give voice to my feelings.
I locked the door when I tried to make him happy, by not saying what I thought.
So I have no one to blame ...... but myself.

But I learned something very valuable.
No man is worth that cost.
No true man would accept that price.
No real man would charge that much.
Or try to use a woman in that way.

And I will not settle for someone who's less than a man.
Never again.

I would rather be single until the day I die than to be with the facade of a man.
I would rather be alone for the rest of my life than live with a user.
I would rather live happily by myself, than be imprisoned by someone who doesn't know how to love.

I would rather love a dead man for the rest of my life, than love someone who doesn't deserve to be loved.

I paid a price for trusting someone too easily.
A very high price.
But I am thankful for the lesson.

And I am happy to be free.
And happy to be able to do what I want, when I want ...... and to answer to no one.
No one on earth anyway.

I look forward to the future.
And living life ...... with me.
Traveling, visiting, working, ....... enjoying ...... life and living.
With my children.
With my family.
With my friends.
With whomever.
And with me.

And even if it's only me ...... I'll be happy.
And relieved.
Very, very relieved.
And hopefully always thankful.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More like him

I am, at heart, a homebody.
An introvert who is too fond of her own company.

Greg was gregarious (in joke) and loved to explore different places and meet new people.  He talk to anyone about anything.  He was one of those blokes that everyone loved within 5 minutes of meeting him.

My idea of a relaxing evening was an easy (but healthy) meal, kids bathed and settled in bed then cuddling-up on the couch and watching TV; Greg would be the person itching to take the kids to the beach for a swim at 6pm when he got home from work.
He'd get annoyed when I wouldn't want to put dinner on hold, rug everybody up to go out.

I'm sad to say, I won more often than I should have ...

.... but not always.

.......Friday afternoons were fair game for anything - a walk in the park, bikes down the hill, pizza picnic at the beach - whatever.

The kids loved it, Greg loved it, and I'd tag along just because..... but I always did enjoy it.

But now .... I am the one who does random bushwalks in the afternoon.
....meandering beach walks after school, sometimes followed by an early dinner of fish and chips from one of the cafes along the waterfront.  After all, the beauty of the bay is literally 1 km away and we don't make enough use of it.

We've discovered new places as well: the bird hide circuit and mangrove board walk are now regular haunts;  a new playground at the other end of town; a back way to our local park.

....and I like it. 
....I LOVE it.

It blows the cobwebs from my head and I can breathe deep from the sea air.  Making memories with the kids as we race to the top of the hill overlooking the bay.
I will admit that I do derive an inordinate amount of pleasure from bringing my camera along and taking shots like the above.

But part of me is sad for all of those lost afternoons when Greg could have been walking alongside us, discovering these fantastic places right outside our door.

Yet I am glad that we are now regularly leaving the house to investigate the beauty of the local area, just like Greg.

....and I love that I am becoming more like him.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Still Alive For You, Love


I tried dating. It didn't my favor...shall we say. The whole thing felt like I was being jerked around by my heart. Not that he meant to or that he was malicious. Just that my poor, aching heart felt so torn up already and the experience of allowing myself to be vulnerable and hopeful again for a moment, only to have the whole thing blow up in my face really hurt. It really, really hurt.

But what I've discovered is that when everything else falls away - the humiliation, rejection, anxiety and pain that went along with it all, even the excitement, the affection, the companionship, the glimpse at happiness and joy, when all of that was stripped away and I had to face reality once again, it's still there. The gaping hole that is Dave's absence. It's still there and was exactly what I got to avoid in a small way for a little while.

Not that there's anything wrong with a little of that. The loss that I've suffered is too huge to take in all at once and all the time. I have to live and distract and try to find a new life.
It's a part of the process and some of it is healthy and normal. I need distraction. I need to feel alive again. I need to make mistakes and try new things and feel the fear of being vulnerable again. But, there, behind all of that was this pain I haven't fully addressed - the loss of this man I miss so much, that I can't look at that pain directly very often. I have to look at it peripherally just to not be taken down by it.

The truth is, that man I lost was the love of my life. He was my best friend. He was my everything. I suffered something so horrible and painful when he died. And I'm still suffering. Sometimes I think I'm not suffering LESS as time goes on, because I miss him MORE the longer he is gone.

After a last, sad conversation with this new man I had to say goodbye to today, I went for a run in the woods. So many thoughts crowded my mind as I ran, but I felt more peaceful than I had in weeks. I blasted the Bon Iver song, Perth through my earbuds until I felt myself begin to let go of some of the tension I'd been holding onto for days. The lyric still alive for you, love* reverberating through my mind and heart again and again as my feet flew above the dusty trail.

The woods are my church. The trees, moss, spiders, pine needles and ferns my cathedral and stained class. I feel closer to Dave when I'm there. At the halfway point, I turned around to jog back to the car, and without warning, a sob tore through my guts and out of my lungs and left me gasping. I stopped and bent over at the waist, my hands on my knees, as more sobs followed, one after another.  It's just this, my heart said when it could no longer be silenced by the pounding of the jogging and the music, my husband was everything to me and he is gone. I'm lost without him and I try so hard every moment of every day to be good at this new life, but I'm terrified and I need him and I miss him. My heart is cracked wide open. 

That one truth ripped through me like an explosion and I trudged back to the parking lot, winded by the racking sobs. At a bend in the trail, the sun pierced the thick canopy of leaves and shone a ray of brilliant light through several elaborate spiderwebs. I stopped in the middle of the trail, face raised to the sky. Tears I didn't know were leaking from my eyes slowly made tracks down my cheeks to my neck, and sweat dripped down the hollow of my spine, as I let the warmth of the sun soak into me.

It was so bright that I had to partially close my eyes, narrowing my view of the trees and glowing webs to a pinhole. It was so achingly beautiful that I wanted Dave to see it. I wished and prayed for Dave to appear to me in the trail behind me. His soul, his ghost, his spirit, whatever. I wished so hard. I turned around, opened my eyes and waited to see him coming around the corner. Just a memory of him, even. I prayed to feel his hands on me. I prayed to feel him wrap his arms around me and hold me.  I prayed to hear him reassure me that I'd be okay and that he loved me. It didn't happen. He didn't appear to me. He didn't hold me. I didn't feel him.

But, I did feel my own strength resurfacing from somewhere deep inside. I turned away from the bend in the trail where I had hoped to catch a glimpse of his sweet face and I walked on. Toward the sun, the trees, the life I have to live without him. I have to keep walking toward it. Even though he can't physically walk beside me.

I know he wishes he could be here with me. I know he misses me too. But I've been waiting for him to come home and he's not going to. I've been avoiding that horrific, giant, unavoidable, black cloud of truth a little bit, nough to survive the last 15 months. Somehow, though, I'm going to have to face that truth completely. Bit by tiny bit, I will have to fully accept that he is gone and that his absence has been and continues to be shattering.

I have to allow myself to really accept that my heart is broken, I'll never be the same, and the whole thing has been unspeakably hard. I've put on a great show so many times. I've gritted my teeth and gone out in public and smiled and made words come out of my mouth when all I've wanted to do is lie in bed focusing only on breathing in and out. I've pushed myself forward when all I've wanted to do is live in the past and cling to what was. I've been hard on myself and had ridiculously high expectations for myself. I've felt ashamed of my failures and my shortcomings. I've second guessed every damn decision I've made. I've treated myself in ways I'd never treat a good friend. I've treated myself like a person who hasn't just lost her world and had to start over.

I'm not that person. I'm not okay. I had the shit kicked out of my heart and had to watch the life I knew dissolve before me like a mirage. That person doesn't function like a "normal" person who's not grieving. That person requires special treatment. That person needs extra TLC and patience and love and while my friends could always do that for me, I often couldn't do that for myself. It's time I did. It won't be easy. But I'll do it for him.

Still alive for you, love.*

*I just discovered that the lyric might actually be "still alive who you love" which bugs me because "still alive for you love" makes more sense and means more to me.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

But I need roller blades!

There is one memory that sticks out in my mind.

I had gone to see Seth at his apartment. He had no furniture or dishes.
He slept on the floor.

He asked me if he could move “our” bed to his apartment, so he could have a bed to sleep on.
My answer was “Umm.. No, you moved out. If we get divorced we will separate our belongings at that time”.

He was angry with me.

Told me it was my fault he was sleeping on the floor in his apartment.

I remember looking around his apartment, and noticed a box of brand new roller blades. I asked him how much they cost him, and he said “$300”.

I said “You know, rather than sleeping on the floor, you could have bought a bed with that $300.”

He got angry and said “But I need roller blades!”

I said “So having roller blades and sleeping on the floor makes more sense?”

I could see it “clicked” in his head.
What I was saying made sense to him.

I could see the anger subside. He realized I wasn’t the enemy. I was trying to help.

I was pretty baffled how something that was common sense to me wasn’t common sense to him.

This wasn’t the Seth I knew.

The Seth I knew would have thought about this rationally. The Seth I knew wouldn’t sleep on the floor in order to have roller blades.

He asked me if he could borrow $300 from me to buy a bed.

I was angry.

He made WAY more money than I did, yet he wanted to borrow money from me, to buy a bed.
After he just barely bought $300 roller blades.

He wanted me to sleep on the floor in our house, so he could have a bed at his apartment.
In a manic episode, it made sense to buy roller blades, and ask his wife to sleep on the floor, so he could have a bed to sleep in and have his roller blades.

I lent him the $300 and made it very clear he owed me the money. After all, we weren’t “together”. He lived somewhere else so it was no longer “our” money. It was MY money, and he owed me every cent of it back.

Surprisingly, he paid me back.

The roller blades now sit in my garage, being used only once.

After our counseling session, I knew the truth behind Seth’s strange behavior.

Shortly after that counseling session, Seth called me and asked if he could move back home.

I answered “Of course, if you get medical treatment”.

Seth moved home just before Halloween 2008.

We took him to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with bipolar type 1. Wanting a second opinion and confirmation of sorts, we took him to two other doctors, and ultimately receiving the same diagnoses.

After his diagnoses, I read everything I could find on bipolar type 1.

Unfortunately, I knew the suicide rate with people that have bipolar type 1.

The suicide rate is 70%.

Seth started treatment. The medications seemed to help some but also seemed to make some things worse.

He always had an underlying depression.

The depression wasn’t the scary thing for me. It was the mania and psychosis.

At least with the depression he could think clearly. He would sleep and be depressed, but he still had a clear head.

When he was manic, he was all over the place. He would start 20 projects, had brilliant ideas, he was always on the go. However, with the mania came the hallucinations and voices. He wouldn’t sleep or eat for days. He would get paranoid, overwhelmed and scared. He said he had about 5 different voices in his head. They were always whispering and he could never really make out what they were saying.

Then came the depression.

The projects he started wouldn’t get finished. He would sleep, eat, and drink too much booze.

He would then feel like a failure because his projects never got finished.

He rapid cycled between mania and depression. Sometimes he would cycle monthly, sometimes daily. Because he cycled so fast, getting him stable was always hard.
With the rapid cycling, by time we got him to the doctor, we were already a day or two late.

Every day was a struggle. We kind of just bumped along, hoping to get him stable.

He was put on lithium (which was the best medication he ever took), antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiety medication, sleeping medication, and an “emergency” medication that would pull him out of mania quickly.

April 2009 rolled around. He still wasn’t stable.

It was April 1st. I was at work. For some reason, I had a horrible feeling something was wrong with Seth.

I left work and went home.

When I walked through the front door of our house… I knew…I just knew.

I looked for his medications that I had just filled the day before; all the bottles were missing…
And so was he.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


“I close my eyes, thinking that there is nothing like an embrace after an absence, nothing like fitting my face into the curve of his shoulder and filling my lungs with the scent of him.” ― Jodi Picoult
It hits sometimes out of nowhere.

The pangs of separation. The hollow feeling that drains every ounce of energy as it reminds you of the absence and presence.

Life goes on cruise control and then the engine I call my soul is reminded that I didn't get that "oil change", that time allotted to just feel and not repress those random instances that have a way of making the whole journey feel as if there may be a bit of "air out of the tire".

So where do I go to get a battery jump for the heart....iTunes movie trailers...I know...I'm demanding.
It was something I did all the time when Michael was alive (being the movie buffs we are)....and used to check new trailers each week.

It had been a while and I ended up watching this one.
Tears rolled down my face.

I always hoped all hopes that I'd see Michael was something that kept me alive in the beginning and at random instances even now...and seeing this trailer made me think "what if we always knew...if we were certain we'd be connected life after life...pre-destined...some short, some long...ohhh....what that would mean!'

And it may be.

I have no eloquent words to say other than watch it...

It's beautiful and terrifying and comforting...and basically, life in general....and maybe the future and past lives we've lived.

Ohhh...and I know in my heart of hearts we will be back together...destinies eternally intertwined.

Friday, September 14, 2012

And so it begins....

It's that time of year, the weather begins to change, fall begins to show little signs of appearing.  It marks the beginning of the annual march to the deathaversary.  This is my 7th trip down this path and I'm becoming a pro.  In years past, it took me a few weeks to recognize that I was a bit grumpy, a bit emotional, and generally out of sorts.  This time, I'm ready for it.  You'd hope so, wouldn't you?  After 7 years you'd sort of hope I'd begin to recognize the signs.  I'm waiting for it, and so far, nothing.  But it's early yet. 

The march usually starts around the end of September.  It starts the day we got his third diagnosis, and it extends through our wonderful train trip to California, our week at MD Anderson head and neck cancer center, my birthday in the emergency room, a lovely and terribly sad family bbq, and culminates with the horrible last days leading to the actual anniversary.  Each year I walk the days and mark them.  I hold them in my arms,  I hug them, I cover them with my tears and then let them go.  Each year it is slightly less painful, but only slightly.  Each year I am reminded of the good and bad of those last days and I am reminded of how precious life is.  How quickly it can be taken, and how much I need to appreciate the people I have while I have them.

My life is so much better now than it has been in years, and I am grateful for it.  But I'm always aware of the loss we have experienced, and the choice I have made to make the best of what's left of my days.  I'm hyper aware of how quickly things can change.  I want to be more grateful and more focused on the things that matter.  I want to savor every moment and hold tight to all the memories being made now.  I could be hit by a truck tomorrow, and I want "no regrets" to be my motto until then.

I'm working on it. Hard.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

relationships with risk

My morning runs always seem to be my time where I figure out life's puzzles (or find more life questions to ask). There's something about that me time when I can reflect, pray, organize my thoughts, and focus on myself that is very centering.

This morning I felt a little disappointed about the relationships in my life. With life changing so much in the last 6 months or so, I've noticed a lot of people stepping back. And I get it, I really do. My life stays so busy now with a house of seven. But I have not stopped needing any of those relationships in my life, or craving them. I know that since my life no longer qualifies as "tragic" and people assume I'm all "better" they've stopped calling, writing, commenting, coming around, or even talking about Jeremy. This breaks my heart, and makes grief harder. There are still those few people who are very dear to me who have been there for me when I need them, but overall I've noticed a change. 

The change is not only grief related. For whatever reason, I've had multiple friendships throughout my life that have dissipated due to elements out of my control or for reasons I didn't even know about. It's one of the hardest transitions to go through in relationships; feeling like you would do anything you can to fix/change/maintain the relationship, and it moves on without you. 

No matter how much I tried to distract myself with other things this morning during my run, my brain kept going back to that hurt and I kept wondering 'why do I bother letting people in so close if I always end up getting so hurt by it?' People I let close either die or leave. This was a hard reality to choke down today.

But the truth I discovered this morning was that I keep seeking out and aching for those relationships because they're life-changing. Those relationships, whether short-term or long-term, have made me who I am and have taught me so much along the way. Sure, there's risk involved - that's true of any relationship. But the risk is worth it. It's worth the risk to have a friend who can share life's burdens with you so you don't have to carry them yourself. It's worth the risk to have a relationship with someone who knows you're crazy and loves you anyway. 

I could safe-guard my heart and stay away from getting too close to people who could really hurt me. But then, how safe would that actually be when I am missing out on one of the biggest blessings in life? How safe would it actually be for me when I end up carrying all my baggage alone? A girl could get seriously hurt doing that. 

So, I'll stand by, waiting for transition to take its course and trying to remember that the risk is worth it. I will also continue to pray that I can embrace and invest in those special people in my life now and be a worthy risk for someone else.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just When You Thought It Was Safe ......

...... it's suddenly not.

I have always described grief and grieving as standing in the ocean.  In the beginning I wasn't able to keep standing because of the relentless pounding of the waves.  They came at me one after another.  It felt as if I were in the middle of a a typhoon, or a hurricane.  I've been in the middle of a hurricane since then ..... and I think it still applies.

I couldn't withstand the waves ..... they kept knocking me over and pulling me under.  It was all I could do to try to reach above the water line and get a breath before I was pulled under again.
In the beginning all I could do was dog paddle and barely keep my face above the water.

And then the water started calming down.  The waves still came, but they were a bit further apart.  Some days I was able to get to my feet ...... and even stay standing through a wave.  Not always, but some days.
And then more days.

I grew stronger with the passage of time.  I stood easier.  The waves still came, but they were rarely able to knock me down.
They'd knock me off balance, to be sure, and they'd threaten to pull me under with their force and pull, but I managed to stay on my feet.

Strength takes time.
It cannot be rushed.
It cannot be purchased.
It cannot be borrowed.
It has to be earned.

We are each earning strength with every day that passes ...... and finds us still here.
When we notice that we're stronger and that the waves are less frequent, we think that we're on the mend (so to speak).  We think that we'll start feeling better and better.
And maybe, at close to a year,  we may start to believe that the waves have gone.

But, contrary to popular thought, grief does not disappear on the day you hit the one year mark.
The tears do not automatically dry up because of the passage of 365 days.
The pain does not fade out after 52 weeks.
A broken heart doesn't heal in 12 months' time.

In fact, for many people, the pain gets worse after a year.
The depression gets darker.
The tears flow quickly.

I wish I had known that.
I wish someone had told me that the shock that numbs you during the first year (to some extent) is the thing that disappears at one year.  The numbness that most likely helped you survive, leaves your heart unprotected and exposed to the pain of the holidays and special days.

I wish I had known.
I wouldn't have thought that there was something wrong with me.
I wouldn't have thought that I'd feel that way forever.
I wouldn't have wanted to die so very much (a little, probably, but not as much as I did).

One day, at around 17 months,  I walked into my therapist's office.  I broke down and asked her what the hell was wrong with me.  I was at one and a half years, why didn't I feel ANY better?  Why was I still depressed and sad and not "better"?
She got up, looked through her files and then pulled out this sheet and handed it to me:

And I felt like I had been understood by someone ....... by whoever made this graph.  I felt validated and I knew, in that moment, that there was nothing wrong with me.  I knew that, without a doubt, I was normal.
And that felt great.

Look at that graph.  The bottom line represent the passage of time.  The line on the left side represents the intensity of grief upon the loss of a spouse (or maybe anyone, though I think it's really for a spouse).

It starts on the day your spouse died.  See how high the intensity is?  And how high it stays?  Yes, it goes up and down, but not very much.  The grief is intense, but then at around the 10 month mark or so, it gets less intense.  Not a lot, but a bit.

And then ...... here's the part that made me feel like a huge weight had been lifted from me ...... look at the 15-18 month mark.  Check out how high the intensity level spikes on the graph.  It goes up higher than it's ever been before ..... even in the first days.  It takes a huge spike.  And the grief hurts ...... a lot.
But ...... here's the part that made me feel hopeful:  it spikes to its highest point, yes ...... but then it drops almost as quickly as it spiked.  And it drops a lot.  It goes far lower than its ever been since that day.  And then it stays down.
Yes, it spikes at some times, but those spikes are nothing compared to the ones that came before.
It's at that point that you know you will survive.

And it's at that point that you'll realize ...... that the water is a bit safer than it was before.

But until then, those of you who are still in the toss and the pulling of the relentless waves ...... know that we are here.  And that we've been there.  I want to take your hand and hold you up, above the waves.
I want to give you my strength, but I can't.  You have to live through this, and so earn your strength.  But I'm still here, as are the rest who've made it further on this road.  And we are cheering you on. You are loved.  You matter.  And you will survive ...... even on the days you don't want to.

It won't be long ...... before you'll know that it's safe to go back in the water.
I'll see you there.