Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Death colored glasses

(Interesting tidbit about this photo: Googled it, found this picture, and discovered 
that the source was actually Taryn Davis, from an old Widow's Voice post)

I found an old post I wrote on my personal blog that has given me a lot of new meaning...

Everything is different now.

Everything I do now has a different meaning, a different pain attached to it. Every movie I see and song I hear has a different meaning now - and they all seem aimed at making me miserable and reminding me of what I've lost. Every smile and laugh is masking hurt and despair. Every thought I have has attached to it a dreadful afterthought. Everywhere I go I am marked with a Scarlet letter, only it's a giant W on my forehead for everyone to pity.

Looking at the world through death-colored glasses makes everything dark and gray. It takes so much more effort to see anything, to want to see anything. It makes it hard to find joy in the little things. Instead it makes me want to wallow in my own self-pity. The only problem is, the world won't stop for me to wallow. No matter how much I've begged it to.

I hate this. I deserve a moment to stop and process. A moment to figure things out. Shouldn't everyone know what an incredible man the world has lost? Shouldn't everyone stop what they're doing? Nope. The world keeps moving without me.

I've survived my first Christmas without Jeremy, somehow, without my consent. Even saying that makes his death seem so distant when it was still just weeks ago. I'm not ready to jump all these hurdles so soon. Or at all, really.  I didn't really face it until today how much I am dreading New Years. I knew it would be tough, but I was trying to face Christmas first. Now, I am getting sick to my stomach thinking about it. Facing a year Jeremy will never see, never be a part of, absolutely kills me. The first year memories will be made without him, the year his son will be born without ever meeting him...

The year I am forced to wear these damned glasses everywhere I go.

I'm dreading every second.

As I am quickly approaching the two year mark next week, I found myself reading this a few times, feeling the pain of these words. Obviously, my glasses have turned a rosier shade since then. It's not nearly as raw, however, it's interesting to me how true this post still is. Death has saturated every piece of my life. It's evident in the decisions I make, the traditions I keep, the way I carry myself. 

Only, I don't dread these glasses anymore. In fact, I wear them proudly. These death colored glasses give me a unique perspective that most people will never get to have. They show the true colors of life, they help me see my priorities, and they constantly remind me not to let what I've lost be in vain. Some things are darker, yes...but others things I see more vibrantly and clear. The misery I found in songs and pictures are now tearful smiles, thankful to have the memories at all. I still mask a lot behind a smile, but the smile becomes more genuine every day.

Once you see the world through death colored glasses, you can't go back. And that's ok because there's strength and peace and yes, even joy beyond the horizon. And you get to keep the glasses as a reminder that you loved and were loved and that life can be rosy again.

The Subject That No One ......


...... talks about.

Yes, I read your comments from Monday's post.
And many of you stated that no one talks about ...... well, you know.  That thing no one wants to talk about.
Except for some of you.
Some of you really do want to talk about it.

As one of the writers on this blog ...... I kind of took that as a "dare".  You know, as in "I dare you to write about it".
And unfortunately (or fortunately, for those of you who want to talk about it), I'm the kind of stubborn person who hates to turn down a "dare".

And so here we are.
Getting ready to talk about "it".
Hopefully you'll all jump in and comment ...... and talk about it.

The subject of the day is ..... S.  E.  X.
Or actually, the lack thereof.

Widowhood ...... and the lack of sex.
Not something that most of us thought about in the first few days on this journey.  Or maybe even the first few months.
I didn't.  I don't know why, but it's not something that popped into my head for a while.
It wasn't that sex wasn't a vital part of our marriage.  It was.  Regularly.
(I sincerely hope that none of my children decide to read this post.)
I guess it was just part of the shock of being thrust into this new reality so suddenly.  And maybe it was also due to the fact that I was just trying to make it from one minute to the next, one breath at a time, that I didn't have the energy, time, or capacity to think about sex.
Or the lack thereof.

But one day, I'm not sure exactly when, it did pop into my head.
And I realized that I missed it.
I missed it a lot.

At first, it wasn't actually sex that I missed.  It was just physical touch.
I had never before realized how important touch is.  I know they've done studies of infant orphans
who've been left in their cribs, with very little warm physical touch, for the first year or so of their lives.
The outcome is not good.
Someone should do a study on widowed people and the lack of warm physical touch in their lives.
Except maybe I don't want to know the outcome.

I didn't realized how important touch had been to me, how much it had been a part of my life.
A warm hand holding mine (we held hands all of the time).
A loving touch on the shoulder, back or arm.
A fun pat on the rear (which made any and all of our children recoil in horror, and some utter the words, "Gross!  Get a room!", which of course meant that they secretly were glad that their parents enjoyed each other).
I longed to just be touched.  I needed to be touched.  I missed being touched.

But mostly ...... mostly I missed the hugs.
Oh my word, how I missed being enfolded fully in Jim's arms and hugged.  Hugged hard.
I missed it so much that I even asked some of my girl friends to tell their husbands to hug me whenever they saw me.
Some did.
But I didn't see them all that often.
I still miss those hugs.

One day it wasn't just the hugs that I missed.
And it wasn't what some people call "sex".
I missed making love.
Which is totally different from "sex".
In my opinion.

And it was more than just missing it.
I started to feel like an addict going through withdrawal.
I felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin.
I hope that makes sense.
I don't know how else to describe it.
The need to be that close to someone.
The need to feel like a woman again, not a widow.
A need that was suddenly with me almost all day.
And all night.

Yes, there are ways to work around some needs.
There might be "friends with benefits".
Or occasional "one night stands".
There are "toys" that can be purchased (yes, I saw that episode of "Sex in the City").
But all of those are for the need of sex.
Not for the need of making love.
That's a need that nothing, and no one, can fulfill.
No one except for someone who loves you deeply ...... and whom you love deeply.
In my opinion.

I am almost at the 5 year mark (a fact that seems unbelievable and almost obscene).
I still miss making love.
I try to not think about it.
It doesn't affect me like it did when it first hit.
It doesn't occupy a lot of my thoughts.
Most of the time.

I seem to go through phases.
A few months may go by and I don't really think about it.
But then another month comes ...... and it becomes a need again.
A need that, at this point in my life, cannot be fulfilled.
Which makes for a very long month.

I hope that I will find love again.
And I hope that it finds me.
I hope that I am loved as deeply and as fully as Jim loved me.
I hope that I will again have a fulfilling sex life.
(I still hope that my kids aren't reading this!)
I hope that my days of making love are not over.
And I hope that I am able to be that close, that intimate, that "as one" with a man again.

But that's all I have.
No guarantees.  No promises.  No one in my sights.
Just hope.

So hope will have to do.
Hope, and staying very busy.
And exercise.  Lots of exercise.
During those months when I think about sex.

Or the lack thereof.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Facing Disasters - widowed but not alone.

Source: Courier Mail

At the time of writing this (late, I know), I am listening to the news reports of Hurricane Sandy half a world away from me.

My thoughts immediately turned to those widows facing this disaster.

In early 2011, less than a year into widowhood, my city flooded. 

My house was relatively unaffected - I was flooded repeatedly, but only by ground water which had been filtered clean by the concrete it had seeped through.  It was more soul-destroying in its regularity than it was scary.  I just had to sweep 3-inch-deep water out the door several times during the day (and night). 

But when the power went out and the main flood surge passed us in the nearby river,  I was scared.

I needed someone here to tell me that it would be OK.  That I was a sensible woman who could cope with this.  That I had prepared well by packing emergency bags and securing the house. 

But mostly what I needed to know was that I was not alone.

....and that was when some neighbours I vaguely know who live a block away, but high up on the hill knocked on my door just to let me know that if the need arose, I was more than welcome to shelter at their house.

Just knowing that these ordinary people who knew my recently widowed situation cared enough to check on me was exactly what I needed.  I knew I was being looked after.  I knew I wasn't alone.

So if there is one thing I want to say tonight, to anyone facing a disaster who thinks they are alone .... I hope that you also are surrounded by kindness by friends and neighbours, and by all the hope and love that the rest of your widowed community can send.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Second One


I keep thinking about the fact that before I met Dave, he was living his life thousands of miles away, day by day making his way toward me. Somehow, amongst all the humans I encountered, I found him. He found me. We were waiting for each other but didn't know it. He was mine and I was his and we didn't even know it.

I think about all the tiny, mundane and huge, crucial decisions I made and he made all those years that made it possible for us to be in the same hallway of the same building of the same university at the same moment, in order to meet each other. And somehow, in all the 15 years we got to be together, we didn't mess up. We stayed together despite the incredibly high divorce rate, the fact that we were together almost every single day, and the fact that we survived many difficult times together.
How is that possible? What are the odds?

Somehow, despite the odds of that happening to me a second time, I have hope that I will love again. I truly do.

I think about the things I want to say to that person who's out there, waiting for me too. I want to say... 

Don't give up hope. I'm here, waiting. I have so much love to give and now truly understand how love is really all we have. Those moments of joy experienced with our loved ones make the inevitable loss of life more bearable. I will be more centered, present and appreciative in our relationship than if I hadn't been widowed. It's not a liability. It's a gift to you.  Yes, my baggage has "widow" stamped on it, but you are the one who will help me carry that bag. You are the one who will want to stick around to help me bear that weight. I know that in searching for you, I will be looking not so much for a list of requirements in a partner, but in a feeling I get when I'm with you. No, not physical attraction. That might tell me that I want a second date with you, but not necessarily that you're the one. No, not the thrill of infatuation. That might make me pursue you, but it's not enough. That feeling I'm searching for? Safety. Safe to be myself. Safe to risk. Safe to tell you what I'm thinking, even if that feeling is emotionally tricky. I will feel as though my heart is safe with you, even when my heart isn't perfect. And then I'll know. I'll know it's you I was looking for all this time. It was you who was waiting for me, knowing you were looking for the same things. We'll recognize each other somehow. 

It seems impossible that we humans find each other in this big world. And yet we do. We do all the time. I think I have two choices. I can either have faith that I'll find it again or not. Neither option guarantees a thing, but at least if I pick the faith option, I won't be acting as if I don't think it will ever happen.

When I taught fourth grade, nothing was more frustrating to me than seeing a capable student give up on a new skill before he started. He believed he couldn't divide, so he didn't even attempt it. His classmates who had faith that they could divide, did. And the more they divided, the better they got. My little faithless student proved himself right. Those kids who had faith were right, too.

If I believe I can find that person, I'll put myself in situations that will make it possible to find him. This is my theory, anyway.

Even if my theory doesn't hold water, it is much more likely to help me expand my life, rather than restrict it and that is reason alone.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

2 year Sadiversary

I passed my 2 year Sadiversary in July.

But my brain, started the 2 year grieving process in June and lasted until the middle of September.

One day in June, out of nowhere, I was in a fog. I was exhausted. Couldn't remember anything. Couldn't carry on a conversation without spacing off or forgetting what I was talking about mid sentence.
I was on a slippery slope of just trying to get through every day. Giving each day the bare minimum, until it was time to go home, rinse and repeat the next day.

I swear the fog effects everything, including my vision. I can't see anything past what's in front of my face. I can't see the sunrise or the flowers. I struggle to even see spreadsheets that I have enlarged on my computer.

Then the fog is gone, and I can see again. I can see past my yard. I can see past my computer.
The fog really is the worst of all my grieving side effects.

I don’t know why I started the 2 year grieving process so soon.

I really wish my grief had a calendar, so I could see it coming, plan for it, and not be completely caught off guard.

Everything else in life has a calendar or a cycle, so why doesn't grief?

Every month, I find myself staring at the calendar. “The 27th, what am I supposed to do?? I know there is something I am supposed to do!”.

Then the 27th rolls around, and I remember what it is I forgot. The day Seth died.

The 2 year anniversary was nice. We had a small get together at my house with my closest friends and family.

I didn't cry all day / night. I enjoyed the night with my friends and family.

Surprisingly, Seth’s name didn't come up much throughout the night.
It was just a bunch of friends, getting together, for good food and drinks.
It was like my friends knew I needed them, but I didn't necessarily need them to talk about Seth.
I just needed them with me. I needed to know that my friends and family love me and support me. No matter what day it is.

This week, I found myself at a widow event - twice.

Looking around at the widows, made me realize how far I have come.
And how far I have yet to go. You mean to tell me in 13 years I will still be grieving??

I look at the faces of the “newly widowed” and my heart just breaks. I remember that first year. I remember not even being able to say Seth’s name without crying. I remember that every little thing reminded me of him. I remember not being able to drive, due to not being able to pay attention long enough to not run a red light. I remember not eating for days, because it made me physically ill to eat.

Being at the widow events, got me thinking about the first year of my widow journey.

I don’t remember very much of it at all.

I remember the detectives coming to my door, and telling me they found my husband deceased. I remember hitting my knees and screaming. 

I remember having the family together, working on Seth’s funeral. I remember Seth’s mom saying “I think the obituary should say Seth blew his head off”. I will never forget that.

I remember Seth’s family being angry at me for sticking to what Seth told me he wanted done for his funeral and with his body. Thank god Seth had told his dad the same things he had told me, so I at least had one person on my side fighting for what Seth wanted.

I remember going in to see Seth’s body, and again, hitting my knees and screaming. My family picked me back up, and held me up as I stood next to Seth’s casket.

I remember the bullet hole. When I see pictures of Seth now, I now see the bullet hole. No matter what picture it is, my brain- puts the bullet hole in the picture.

I remember standing next to Seth’s casket, as Seth’s family blamed me for his suicide.

I will never understand how someone can treat their son’s widow that way.

I remember getting to the funeral, getting out of the car, and the world started spinning quickly around me. I was insanely dizzy, and I was going down. I don’t remember if I actually hit the ground or if someone caught me. I remember trying to catch my breath, as I knew I was going to faint and remember my best friend telling people to leave me alone.  In fact, I think she was physically pushing people away from me (Thanks Jenn, you have no idea what that means to me!)

I remember talking about my last funny memory of Seth, I remember his urn was empty because we did not have his body back yet, and I remember the balloon release.

I remember everyone coming to my house after the funeral; we sat around the fire pit, listened to music, told stories, shared some laughs, and watched the sunrise. Just like Seth would have wanted us to do.

Other than that, that’s all I remember of Seth’s funeral.

That’s all I really remember from the first year, actually.

I remember planning the 1 year memorial party. I pretty much told my mom what I wanted, and she did it all. The 1 year memorial turned out amazing (Thanks mom!), but was insanely hard for me. I cried none stop. I missed Seth. I wish he was here to see what an amazing party we put together for him!

I was going through pictures of Seth, to create a slide show to show at the memorial.
And I came across this picture of Seth.

I took it in February 2010, 6 months before he died.

I forgot I had the picture.

When I pulled the picture up on my computer screen, the world froze. The hair on my arms stood up.

There it was, written “Imagine being alive”.

It was so ironic, because at the time I took the picture, Seth was mentally dead. Now a year later, I was looking at the picture, and he was physically dead.

I wonder if he asked me to take his picture there because of the wording that was there. Maybe as a reminder to himself to “Imagine being alive”.

I now have the picture framed in my bedroom. I look at it every morning.
I tell myself “Imagine being alive”.

Sure, I am alive. My heart beats, I breath, wake up every morning and go to work, carry on the best I can. Sometimes getting a laugh here or there.

But I am yet to be ALIVE.

The “alive” person I was years ago. Before bipolar took my husband’s soul. Before his death.

Every day I tell myself to be alive.

Be present, pleasant, joyful, laugh, and remember there are worst things that happen in life then dirty dishes.
I am still learning to be alive. But as long as my heart is beating, I will try, try, again.

“Hope is the last thing to die”.

PS: Friends, winterize your sprinklers and change your furnace filter. I know, it’s the husband’s job, but someone has to do it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


It's a funny thing.

When Michael first died...I didn't think about anything but how I could possibly die to be with him, or how much I wish time would fly by.

Everything else fell to the wayside and didn't consume too many of my thoughts.

There was a freedom in not thinking about much else.

But there was a moment in the past year where I looked back in retrospect and thought, "What the hell happened?!"

I found that as I became more conscious and willing to live, the more I started overthinking EVERYTHING.

Like everything...

What people were thinking of me and my actions. What I would eat. Where I would go.

And the list goes on and on.

My mind was in overdrive and in unconciously holding me back from living life to the fullest.

I couldn't even tell you if people were ever thinking those things or if the things I personally overthought were necessary or relevant.

But I say this in the most non morbid way that a widow can...It's been nice reverting back to the way my mind was when Michael first died (minus the bad stuff noted above).

I've started thinking less and less and letting more and more.

I think I'm over the over-thinking.....

We tend to overthink. If we could eliminate the “over” and just think, then we could do, too. Only we’d be smarter doers because we’d be thinkers.”
― Sarah Strohmeyer

Friday, October 26, 2012

Unexpected Landmines

It's next week.  The Deathaversary.  The march has been going quite smoothly this year.  As I've said before....after 7 years you'd think I'd be a pro.  Not so fast...

In the life is not fair category this week:  I attended the funeral of a good friend's baby girl.  Two days.  She only got to be with her lovely mommy and daddy for two days.  So not fair.  I can't even describe the awfulness of such a tiny coffin.  So beautiful and so so sad.  I sat in the service, quietly watching the slideshow of her pictures, feeling the sadness and confusion in the air.  How can it be okay for one so small not to make it?  How? 

Daddy went quietly to the podium and began in a shaky voice to describe his love and his loss and the memories he hopes will one day fill him with joy instead of agony.  Although I wanted to just be present for his pain, I was surprised to find my mind traveling back in time for a moment and I saw myself speak at Daniel's funeral. 

I didn't cry, and I'm not sure how.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it and had asked Daniel's cousin to be my understudy in case I choked.  Instead of feeling sad, in those moments during the funeral I felt driven.  I needed to say how much I loved him, how much I would miss him, and what an amazing man he was.  I needed to hear my own voice say it and I needed to know that our friends and family heard me.  I felt motivated by I'm not sure what, but I wanted to shout from the rooftops "he was mine, he was wonderful, and now he is gone but never forgotten."   When I was done, I wanted to collapse.  I wanted to sit by his coffin and cry until they took him away.  It was awful. 

All of these memories flashed in my mind in the moments that I heard my friend's eulogy for their baby girl.  My flashback was over in a blink and I was back with my friends.  It was heart breaking.   I don't know how they feel exactly.  I don't know what compelled him to speak at such a bleak moment.  The loss of a child seems so terrible I can't quite grasp it.  I see Grayson's face and I go cold.  I can't even imagine it.  More truthfully, I can imagine it.  I try not to, but my mind goes there often.  My worry for Grayson is palpable and something I have to manage on a very regular basis. 

I know death comes whenever it wants and I pray that death passes over me and mine for a very, very long time.  I know I can't control it.  The march reminds me I can't control it.  Life can be so painfully short.  The march reminds me to hug tight those I love and cherish every day. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Running through grief

I have recently taken up running. It started out as a means to weight loss but it has become a means for me to escape, take time for myself, and feel proud of myself for accomplishing something.

But the funny thing is, I hate running.

I am always thankful when I finish, but I never want to get started. It's hard. It hurts. But about halfway through I find my stride, take a deep breath, and smile when I reach the end of my run.

Almost every time I run, I find myself face to face with....myself. No distractions. No excuses. Just me and my thoughts (which can be quite dangerous, let's just be honest). It can be hard to face the day and realize I brought all my distractions, baggage, and mistakes from the day before. I've got to work them out even though I don't always want to. It's quite humbling. And what I find is that 9 times out of 10, it boils down to grief and how has changed me, my relationships, and my life altogether. I don't say that as a cop-out or to blame grief on all my problems, it's just a testament to how life changing grief can be and how it trickles down into every aspect of your life.

Grief is my marathon. I hate lacing up knowing I have to face the road. I procrastinate. It's a long and difficult race, one that threatens to defeat me. But then I remember that there is a finish line, and that I am capable of pressing on. Even when my body starts to give in, even when I want to give up - if I take it slow, just one step at a time, I can get through it. Grief will not defeat me.

And the most beautiful thing of all is knowing that Jeremy will be waiting for me at the finish line.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Need to Make a List ......


...... to keep track of all of the lists around here.

Not my lists.

The man was a notorious list-maker.
He made a list for every occasion, every trip, every goal.

I would often tease him about his lists.
He probably kept a list of every time I did that.

Yesterday I spent most of the day looking through the house for a notebook I needed (I found it today in the most obvious place I could've placed it.  What IS with that?!).
While I was searching the study, I came across a bundle of papers that I had placed/hidden in the bottom of a file drawer.
It was a bundle of lists.
Jim's lists.
His personal lists.

I hadn't read through them at the time I put them away.
I just knew that these were papers I did not want to throw away, purposefully or by mistake.
And so I kind of ...... hid them from myself.
To be found ...... and dealt with at some other time.

I guess that time was today.
(Yes, I found them yesterday, but I knew then that I couldn't deal with them at the time.  I had a meeting to attend and a notebook to find.  I knew that dealing with that bundle would not only set me off course, but it would most likely bring on a gravity-sucking wave that I wasn't prepared to deal with. So I set them on my desk, in plain sight, to be dealt with sooner, rather than later.)

When I got home this afternoon and finished doing all of the tasks that I had in my head to keep me from doing the one task I loathed/longed to do, I went into the study.  I looked at the stack of papers on my desk, sitting where I had left it.  I wanted to turn around and shut the door behind me, without touching the stack.
I wanted to pick up the stack and hungrily devour every word that Jim had written.  
I hadn't even read anything and I already had a love/hate relationship with those papers.

That seems to be par for the course, at least for me.
I have a love/hate relationship with so many things that have to do with Jim now.
Important days ...... well, important to me.  His birthday.  Our anniversary.  The kids' birthdays.
His clothes that we've kept.  Some pictures of us.
His orange extension cord.
(That was just to see if you're paying attention.  :)

His lists.

This stack was made up of his prayer list, his professional goals list, his marriage goals list, his parenting goal list, his physical goal list, and a few others.
(I wasn't kidding when I said he was notorious for these.)

I managed to get through most of the lists without having an emotional meltdown.  I surprised myself.
In fact, I was able to smile at more than one item.
But then ...... then came the item that transported me instantly back into my ocean of grief.  
This item caused me to feel like the sand under my feet was being sucked back into the ocean,  and the shallow water I was standing in was being pulled back along with it.
If you've stood in the shore of an ocean, you know that physical feeling.
You know that the sand and the water gets sucked back from the beach right before a wave comes charging in.

If you're reading this blog, you probably know that emotional feeling as well.
You know that the air and calm get sucked out of your body right before that wave of grief slams into it.

This wave came over the top of me and pulled hard at me, after I read this:

"3.  Write the kids a letter about what is really important"

That was it.
That's all it took.
And that wave has left smaller waves in its path all evening, which have had the ability to leave tears in their wake.

He didn't have that item checked off of his list.
He never wrote those letters.
And my heart broke all over again for all that my children lost that day that changed our lives forever.
And for what they continue to miss.

Children shouldn't lose their father before they're even out on their own.
Daughters shouldn't lose their father before they've started seriously dating someone.
Sons should not lose their fathers before they start/finish high school.

But they do.
And most probably do without receiving letters telling them what their father thought was really important. 

Yes, I experienced a wave today.
And while it was a large wave, it didn't knock me down.
It shook me and rattled me, but I kept my balance.
I didn't fall beneath the weight of that wave because I also know what's really important and it's this:
My children will always know what was important to their father.  Always.
Even if they didn't have their own memories, they'd have mine.  And they'd have the memories of our families and our friends.

Yes, a letter would've been something special for each of them.  But the memories that they have, that we all have, are priceless.

If they need something more tangible than that ...... they can always read the lists.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Not sweating the small stuff

I am proud of myself.
Today, instead of matching the reaction of someone who somehow mistook an innocuous, playful comment I made on facebook for rudeness, I took the higher ground and didn't sweat the small stuff.

Instead of responding in-kind  to her (mistaken) offence, I chose to hose her over-sensitivity down with a kind reply.   We ended up finishing the conversation with mutual understanding and laughter ... which was my intention in the first place.

I am proud of myself because I chose not to sweat the small stuff.

... because really, after what I've been through ...what  we've all been through,separately, yet collectively...  petty misunderstandings are infinitesimally small in the scheme of life. 

In my old life, I probably would have cut her inflated ego down to size with cutting words and razor wit. .. or told her to unceremoniously  Pull Her Head In because it had swelled to gigantic proportions.

But not today .... today I remembered that old quote about everyone fighting their own epic battle and that her misunderstanding came from someone or something else and not my innocent comment.  ...because, lets face it, when we are already hurting, everything can feel like another attack.

...and through understanding this, I managed to calm the whole situation without further ado.

Life is too short not to show kindness to everyone we meet.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Watch Me


My therapist asked me a question the other day that sent me down a rabbit hole of introspection. She asked me how I maintained hope from the age of 5, after my mom died and my extremely troubled alcoholic father raised me.

My brain went blank. I could only get a fuzzy image of me just numbly soldiering my way through my childhood. I told her I didn't know, that maybe it was just blind determination or the stubborn desire to survive just built into me. But later that day, I finally realized what got me through those years of pain, fear, and loneliness.

I was waiting to feel the way I did when Dave was in my life. I was waiting to find him. No, I didn't know that then. I just knew that the way out of my situation was to find a family of my own choosing, since mine didn't work out so well. I had a vague notion that my chance for happiness and security was out there.

It turned out Dave was the person who could give me that. When I lost him, I lost my family. My only true family. The only person who made me feel as though I'd found my home. Within the circle of safety and love we created, I felt more secure and able to tackle whatever came my way. My grades in college improved, my sleep improved, I felt more brave and focused.

Worse things have happened to better people than me, but holy hell have I lost a lot. I simply can't figure out why this is my path, why I don't get to have a mom, a dad, a husband, a family of my own.

I suppose the why doesn't matter. It just is and it's what I have.  People everywhere go through terrible things. They also experience beautiful things. And so do I.

My test, my challenge, my reason for living, now, is to give myself what Dave used to give me - that stable base from which to function. The security of the knowledge that I matter just because I do. Not because there's someone waiting for me at home. Not because I have someone who wants to be with me above all others. Not because I have a mom who calls to check in or a dad who worries about me and takes care of me, now that Dave can't. Not because I have kids who need me and love me. Just because I exist. Just because I'm me.

Maybe I can accomplish that alone. Maybe I need to feel the belonging of having a "most important person" again in order to fully heal. I'm not sure. I just know that what life has offered me is this. This time in my life when it's just me. Life has forced me to learn how to do this.

It's almost as though life has thrown out this challenge, has said "bet you can't accomplish THIS one!" sounding a lot like the bullies I remember from childhood.

To that I say "WATCH ME, mo fo! Challenge accepted."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Do I belong?


Through out my widow journey, I have had a lot of widows approach me.

Asking me "Do I belong in a suicide group?"
"My husband died from a drug overdose, am I a suicide widow?"

My answer to them is - 
"Do you feel the overdose, car accident, etc, was a accident? Or do you feel it was self inflicted?"

If the answer is yes, then you belong.

See, it doesn't matter what the medical examiner says the cause of death is. 
It doesn't what your family or friends say.
It doesn't matter what the death certificate says.

At the end of the day, if you feel the death was intentional, even if there wasn't a suicide note, then that's all that matters.

It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or says. If you feel it was suicide, then it was suicide.

You have to live with the circumstances surrounding the death..
You have to deal with the stigma.

If you feel it was self inflected and feel that you are a suicide widow, then that's your answer.

A while ago, I started a (private) facebook group for widow(ers) of suicide. 
This question has come up multiple times.

I always tell them the same, if you feel it was suicide, then it was suicide. 

I have a lot of widows in my group that fall in this category. 

But they are welcomed and loved in our suicide group, just like all the other suicides.

I have learned that being a suicide widow is a lot "different" then other widows.
My husband chose to leave.
He chose to die.

When a lot of other husband's were fighting to live.

I have learned that a lot of suicide widows, suffer in silence, because of what society expects of us.

For all the suicide widows out there, or all the widows that wonder if you belong in a suicide group, I welcome you.

Please know you are not alone in this struggle.
You are not alone in these questions.

Feel free to reach out to me on facebook.

Remember, you are right were you are supposed to be.
You belong! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012


5 years.....

In 5 years I've gone from someone that felt I had nothing.

Felt that dying was a better choice then inhaling and exhaling over and over again.

Over time, life crept in. And in a way, I slowly started investing in the day ahead...the week ahead...the month ahead...

I didn't see it as I was doing it, but in retrospect, I finally let the love between Michael and I be an action for life, instead of letting his death be a reason for doing nothing more than existing.

And like any investment....the stocks will rise and fall...there will be times you want to pull out because the future is to uncertain and your head starts telling you it won't get better....but something in me told me to hold on....let his love me what was possible for my own life.

5 years ago I took a risk....I took the risk to invest the love he had left me with into an uncertain life....

There are certainly going to be moments in the future where I will doubt that decision....but I know the investment will always turn out in my favor...turn out to show me that his love for myself and the life I had before...but more importantly the life I have worth it...

He bought into me when he let me love him...I bought into him when he allowed me to love him...and I still love him...and I feel in my soul the eternal love we still share....and that investment was and is worth every second of every day....crashes...rises....recessions...and all....

Love is worth the investment....but even is worth it....

Friday, October 19, 2012

I'm So Tired

This image seems so familiar...

I’m tired - surprisingly tired.  My determined effort to make progress on the things that need to change in this big house continues.  But even the most minor movements forward are exhausting.

I remember this type of tired.  It’s not the “I haven’t slept for 10 days” tired.  It’s not even a “I’ve been re-roofing my house” tired.  It’s different but familiar.  I haven’t felt it since, well, Maggie was with me to lift me through the exhaustion with her smile.  Now, I have no reward.  I have no sweet angel's smile to push me forward.  Even progress is no reward.  I only have what It Is.

It Is me sorting through books wondering if she read them, when she read them or why the heck she read them.  It Is me flipping through the pages of the books and finding purchase receipts or random notes used as bookmarks, looking at the dates on the receipts and trying REALLY HARD not to go down that If I Only Would Have path to Crazy Town.

It Is me sorting through the silverware wondering what the heck this particular serving spoon was used for or if this thingy was expensive or if this what-the-hell was a gift someone gave us that I should be remember and maybe offer back as a memorial.

It Is me wondering why the heck we have so many wine glasses…. And then choosing to separate those down to only the matching sets even though I don’t drink (and have never drank) wine.

It Is me doing every possible thing I can do to stay committed while I push with every ounce of strength I can summon as I stumble clumsily yet with surprising clarity through this insanity. Yup.  That's what It Is.


Last Wednesday and Thursday I took pictures off the walls.  (Yes, it literally took two days.)  Saturday, slowly and with many, many tears, I took the pictures out of the frames and placed them on the coffee table.  Sunday…. Oh, lord, Sunday, I put the pictures away in a box.

I’m so tired.

I will not stop.  I will honor my wife, my love, my Maggie by completing this task.  One life was lost despite every desperate effort we made otherwise.  I refuse to allow one lost life devolve into two.  It's now my job to look after the one she cared the most about.  Thus, to honor her, I will exert every effort I have left in my soul to find my new life.  I will not fail.  I have little to lose because I have so little left. But that's more than Maggie has and, for her, I will not stop.

But I’m so tired.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Slipping pieces

This past weekend, we finally made a trip up to Canada to see Jeremy's completed grave stone (I may blog more about this later). It's been done for a month and a half now and we haven't been able to get up there before now and it's been tearing at me. I'm so glad we finally got to go see it. It doesn't feel right for something to be done for/about/in honor of him and not be a part of it, because he's a part of me.

I'm always so glad to get up there. Not just to Jeremy's grave (although I strangely look forward to going, perhaps because I know I can't just go anytime and I feel Jer there) but I really ache when I'm away too long. I miss Jeremy's family. My family. I miss his presence that's always in the midst of whatever we're doing there. I miss the familiar smells, faces, and places that are just him. They are not associated with anyone else.

I noticed something happening this trip though. It's happened once or twice before, randomly, but it always catches me off guard and leaves me frustrated and on the verge of tears.

I started to forget.

It's small things. This weekend, while sitting around during our ritual late night conversation filled with inappropriate jokes and bodily sounds (very Jeremy-esque), I suddenly heard in my head the sound of Jeremy burping. Ya know, that manly burp that's loud and obnoxious - he was always so proud of it. Well, he used to try to burp the alphabet and see how far he could get, or more often, he would burp "Ralph Forfar" - don't ask me why. But for a split second, I couldn't remember that name. His sisters had to help me remember, while I choked back tears for forgetting.

It seems trivial and silly, but anyone who has lost someone close understands how scary it can be when pieces of the ones you love start slipping. You suddenly forget the feeling of them next to you, just for a moment, and it scares you half to death. Or you can't remember the name of that one place you went to together, or exactly what started that inside joke. Or for me, not remembering the exact phrase that Jeremy used to repeat all the time from a french cartoon he watched as a kid. It was the only french he could remember and he recalled it anytime someone asked him if knew French (cause apparently all Canadians are supposed to). I can hear the inflection in my head. I can see his facial expressions. But the piece left me for awhile and made me angry with tears every time I tried to remember it.

It taps into my biggest fear: people forgetting Jeremy. If I can't remember a detail about Jeremy and I was closest person to him, who's to say others won't forget things too? Obvious, that's an irrational thought, but grief is not rational. It plays with your every emotion, every insecurity, every fear. It sneaks up and rearranges every puzzle piece you've tried to put back together in your life only to change the picture that was on the puzzle to begin with. The pieces never fit back together like they used to and when the pieces you've held onto the tightest start slipping, it threatens the very breath and life of you.

My only comfort in these moments are focusing on the things I do remember. The things I will NEVER forget. And the things that are only mine. Ours. I'll carry those with me in my heart wherever I go til the day I die.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Scarred For Life ......


...... and yet blessed for life, too.

Our oldest son graduated from college this past May.  Before he graduated he was offered a job with a very large firm that sells life insurance and does wealth management.

He came home this past weekend so that he and I could discuss long term health care insurance (even though I refused to discuss it with him when he first broached the subject ...... other than to tell him that I was nowhere near 90 years old!).
But I did finally tell him that we could talk about it and he could give me his view on it.

I had also decided that I wanted to take out life insurance policies on my six kids.

Not for them.
Not for me.
But for their future spouses.

None of them are near getting married at this point in time.
But that doesn't matter to me.
Because I've been scarred for life.

Yes, Jim's death has left me forever scarred.
But his provision and security for me and our children has left me forever blessed, too.
He planned for the day that we hoped would never come.
At least not for about 40 or 50 more years.

But come it did.
And much, much sooner than either of us expected.
And I was scarred.
Not only by his death, but by the knowledge that I later gained.  The knowledge that most of the married couples I know do not have life insurance.
Or wills.

Most of the husbands I know have not taken action to keep their wives and children secure, in case that day comes too early for them, too.
Even knowing Jim and our family.
Even seeing what can happen.
Even seeing how much Jim loved and cared for his family.

And that infuriates me.
And leaves scars on more people than just me.

There is no excuse.
Especially when you know someone who's died young and left a family behind.

Please know that I am not pointing fingers at any of you here, or your spouse.
I'm talking about people I know ...... who now know better.
And still have done nothing.

I've talked to some of them until I'm blue in the face.
I can only do so much.  Then it's up to them.
And it's between them.

But I can do something.
I can make sure that if something happens to one of my children, and he/she becomes seriously ill or injured, their spouse will have enough support to get the help that is needed.
I can make sure that if one of my children dies way before their time, their spouse will receive some financial support to continue caring for their children and themselves.
At least I can do that.

I can make sure that the love and support Jim had for us and for our future, is carried on to them and their families.
I can make sure that my future son/daughter in laws are not left with a burden.

I wish I could do the same for my friends.
And for some of my family.
So that they will be forever blessed.
And not forever scarred.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Can I play my immunity card now please?

I don't quite know why I haven't worked this out yet, but being a widow does not mean I am protected from Life parking its enormous derrière over my head and emptying its dysenteric bowels.

If life was remotely fair, it should protect me from further heartbreak.  
It should also deliver me a million dollars, a permanent job, a full home renovation, an overseas holiday, and after a time, a hot, intelligent man who can look at me and all my baggage and still say "Phwoar, what a woman!" 
....and yet none of that has happened.

I find myself back in a place of uncertainty.
The hole that I have been trying to climb out of since Greg died and left me on this shaky, moving earth without a still-point, a protector, a person to say "Everything will be OK." 

So much of my current angst comes from not having job security and having a misguided right-wing State government who is hell-bent on austerity measures that include sacking a whole heap of public servants ... and I expect that they will then poke about in the left-wing Federal government's unemployment figures and decry their terrible management of the country's economy and jobless rate.

Surely there's got to be some law of nature that protects widows  from further harm??  Some sort of immunity card that I can play when Life insists on throwing curve-balls.

Except there is not, nor has there ever been. 

So I guess it is up to me to rescue myself......  Which I'd gladly do if only I knew how.
I am trying to be my own hero.  I am proactive at looking for work.  I strive to make a better life for my children. Perhaps I have given up on the hot bloke with the big brain ... for now .... but I haven't given up completely.

...and short of finding some armour and a unicorn, I shall just have to keep trying everything I know to get The Universe to shift its great posterior to another location. (In other words- I shall have to suck it up and plod on). least plodding is moving right?

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Power of We

My New We

Today is Blog Action Day 2012. The theme this year is "The Power of We".

Thinking about the word we brought back a vivid memory of the first few weeks after my husband Dave's death. I remember suddenly noticing how often I still said we.

I had many visitors in those first few weeks. I would hear myself telling them "We are getting new siding," or "We grew corn this summer but not last summer," or "We were going to go to Italy again," and the word we would punch me in the stomach, leaving me winded and nauseous.

My we had turned to me in an instant and my heart and mind hadn't had a chance to understand. The power of the loss of my we was immense and crushing. Almost a year and a half later and I'm still trying to understand it.

My we used to consist of Dave and me.  He was my family, my husband, my best friend, my biggest fan and the person I trusted most in this world. And then I became just me. Overnight.

Everything was still there. His shoes, his wallet, his phone, his email account. But he was missing and so was the me I had been when he'd been here on this earth.

He had been dead for less than 3 months when I went to San Diego for Camp Widow. I was 35 years old and was completely consumed with the need to find my new we.

I vividly remember the feeling I had as the escalator at that Marriott brought me to the second floor where Camp Widow check in was taking place. I looked around at all the people milling about and thought "They're all like me," and I swear I took a deep breath for the first time in 3 months.

I was comforted just by the knowledge that I was surrounded by my new we. It wasn't anything like my old we and it couldn't replace my old we.

It didn't make the pain of his loss any less devastating, but it was power in numbers, and I didn't feel alone anymore. That first camp was the beginning of my re-entry into life.

When I returned home, I would picture all of those people I'd met, doing incredible things, like Michele Neff Hernandez, starting the foundation that allowed me to find my new we in the wreckage of Dave's death, and Matt Logelin, finding strength in his daughter and getting his beautiful love story to her and her mom out into the world and I borrowed their light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn't see mine yet, so I used theirs.

When I was sure I couldn't withstand the pain of grieving the loss of my old we, I would call someone I met at Camp, and even from several states (and a country) away they would extend a strong hand through the dark and pull me out into the light, reminding me that we were in this together at least for that moment.

When I'd do the same for them, I felt a connection almost as strong as any I'd felt before. It was as though I could suddenly feel the invisible cords from my heart to theirs, extending hundreds of miles, allowing strength to surge back and forth between us, as needed.

My identity from my before-life was gone, but my new identity was a WE again. A different we.

We widowed people are warriors.
We are heroes, the kind of people who have power from the depths they've clawed their way out of to find the light.
We are a force to be reckoned with.
We know intimately the true value of love and the impermanence of life.

I don't know if I'd truly understand that if it weren't for SSLF and Camp Widow.

Just the simple but incredible act of communicating online with widows from all over the world through this blog is a we that spans the globe and includes millions of people in its web of connections.

My neighbor, two doors down, just lost his wife to cancer and in my condolence card to him, I included one of the SSLF outreach cards I carry around. So, I've cast the net over him, too, including him in this we. Hopefully, he will not feel as alone just knowing that there's a we out there for him, too, whenever he needs it.

SSLF allowed me to have a we again, during a phase in my life that could have been isolating and horrifically lonely.

The power of we, indeed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Who am I?

Me at Camp Widow West 2012

Who am I?
How did I get here?
Where am I going?
What has my husband’s death taught me?

These are questions I struggle with everyday.

After spending 10 years with Seth, it’s hard to figure who I am without him.
We started dating when I was 21 years old; my whole “adult” life was with Seth.

Figuring out who I am is a constant struggle.

Through the 3 years of Seth being sick, I learned how deep our wedding vows go.
“Through sickness and health, tell death do us part”.

Sure, I could have given up on him. I could have left him. I could have kicked him while he was down.
But I made a promise to him the day we got married. Little did I know death would be so soon, and I didn't know that death does not end my love and commitment to Seth. Tell death do us part, does not stop YOUR love.

I love Seth more every day.

I have dealt with depression, PTSD, insomnia and anxiety.
I have fallen into stages of depression that no one should ever have to experience.

I have loved again, and had my heart broken.

I have gone through the anger stage more times than I can count.
I have screamed at god. I have screamed at Seth.
My neighbors probably think I’m nuts.

I struggle daily with the embarrassment that my husband committed suicide.
It embarrasses me because I think it makes me look like a failure.
If I was a good enough wife and friend, he wouldn't have killed himself.
Which I know (now) is not true, but I still feel like a failure.

I have had people look me in the face and tell me my husband’s suicide is my fault.

I have experienced heart break so intense that I don’t know how I lived.

I have experienced forcing myself into counseling, grief support groups, supporting suicide widows, writing for Widows voice. I have pushed myself out of my grief comfort zone, and put my story out for the world to read.

Writing about my story has been a struggle for me. It feels so exposed and public. But I know there are a lot of widows in my same situation, and I know I can help at least one person.
And for my own sake, my story needs to be released out of my soul.
I have kept my story locked up in my soul for two years too long.

I push myself to do things I sometimes feel I can’t achieve. Such as trying to have the law on FMLA changed to cover the death of a spouse. (See my petition here).

I have taken peoples criticism, such as I’m not trying hard enough to get over “it”.

I have cut toxic people out of my life. There are just some people I can never satisfy, and at this point in my journey, my happiness and comfort is what matters most.

I have learned how much my family and friends really do love me. Far more then I realize. Far more then I will ever understand.

I have realized my parents lost their son the day Seth died (This realization just happened a couple of weeks ago).

I have learned to ask for help.
And asking for help doesn't make me a weak person.

I have learned the world doesn't stop, when it should.
It doesn't stop and let me catch my breathe, or let me get back on my feet.
The world keeps turning.
Tomorrow always comes.

I have learned to pat myself on the back, when my only accomplishment for the day is getting out of bed and going to work.

I have learned to congratulate myself with each passing death anniversary, wedding anniversary and birthdays. After all, I made it through those.

I have learned to be proud of where I am in my journey. Even when I feel like I should be further ahead.
I have learned I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my grief.
And I can't rush through it, even though I try.

I have learned to say no.

I have learned that sometimes staying in bed really is the best decision for a certain day.

I have learned to be selfish.

I have learned - I am my own worst critic.
There are a lot of dreams and goals I want to reach, but I always tell myself I can’t do it.
I’m working on this! I have realized there is never a good time to go back to school. There is never a good time to start a new relationship. That life is never “right” and I have to just jump, even if I am scared to death. After all, the worst has already happen. I know how to pick myself up, dust myself off, and move forward.

I am still learning to not look at the word “widow” as a bad thing.

I remember I was flying to camp widow west 2012, I was sitting and looking out the window of the airplane. I was thinking of my upcoming adventures at camp widow, and I thought “how in the hell did I get here?? How am I a WIDOW??”

I told myself widow is a horrible word, and I need to come up with a new word to describe my marital status.

I was thinking my marital status should be along the lines of awesome with a splash of glitter.

I struggled with this “widow” word the whole weekend at camp widow.
I was at a WIDOW event. What was wrong with me??

Then Michele got up on stage. She was talking about how we hate the word widow. She brought up that our best friends are widows. And we love them (and know them) because they are widows. We do not hate the widow inside our friends, so why do we hate the widow inside of us?

It dawned on me that “widow” isn't bad.

It stands for a lot of things that "normal" people don't understand. 
Commitment, dedication, courage, strength, and most of all, love.

We are who we are because we are widows.

We love, and know what can be lost, deep into our souls.

I personally think I am a better person, better friend, and eventually a better wife, because I have been widowed.

I know I am a survivor. Even on days that I fail.
I push through and tell myself I can do this.
I know I will keep growing and moving forward.

Today is 810 days since Seth left this world.
But I refuse to let the death of Seth be the death of my soul, dreams and goals.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sea, Sand, Wind

This is life.

I felt like this while walking through Spain. I wanted to touch, smell, hear everything to it maximum capacity. I was taking notes in my head to give Michael, experiences that I wanted to share with him. It sucks on those days when I don't get to have those notes to give him, but the days when I do, the days when I feel I have lived, those are the ones which are bound and printed in my memory for him.
Have a great Week!

Love Sonnet LXXXIX by Pablo Neruda

When I die, I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me once more:
I want to feel the softness that changed my destiny.

I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep.
I want your ears still to hear the wind, I want you
to sniff the sea's aroma that we loved together,
to continue to walk on the sand we walk on.

I want what I love to continue to live
and you, whom I love and sang above everything else
to continue to flourish, full-flowered:

so that you can teach everything my love directs you to,
so that my shadow can travel alone in your hair,
so that everything can learn the reason for my song.