Wednesday, February 27, 2013

1000 words


They say a picture is worth 1000 words.

I've noticed lately that I always think I have more pictures of Jer than I actually do. The more time that passes without him and the older my kids get, the more I realize that all the pictures I have are not enough. No amount could have been enough. I was looking through pictures of Faith and thought surely there must have been a more current picture of her and her daddy together. But no, she was 4 when he died...she's about to be 7 in two weeks. Caleb was so tiny, and he's grown leaps and bounds and is the spitting image of his daddy...surely I have some recent evidence of that. They look so little in those pictures, and it always leaves me in shock that Jer hasn't gotten to see them grow since then.

There's no way I don't have pictures of Jeremy and Carter together, is there? I mean, Carter knows him by name and by face. He recognizes any picture of Jeremy...he's just not in any of them. How can there by a whole life breathed without one moment together? It's utterly heartbreaking.

After Jeremy died, I couldn't bring myself to take any pictures for awhile. It was too hard. But now, I understand how special and important they are. Even the most insignificant picture can tell a story that could mean the whole world to the right person. I am so thankful for all the pictures I have of Jeremy and our life together....I bet they're each worth significantly more than 1000 words.

If only 1000 words were enough.

Even Though I'm Mostly Happy ......

...... I'm not magically "all better".
By a long shot.

I bought a Groupon a couple of months ago.  It was for sending in VHS tapes to be converted into DVDs.
A few weeks ago I loaded up a box with about 24 cassettes of our "home movies" and sent them off.
And then promptly forgot about them.
No big surprise there.  I promptly forget almost everything.
Yes, I know that causes much concern and angst for those of you who are behind me on this path and are hoping that your memory returns to normal one day.
But worry not.
I think mine still sucks because I'm old.
But outside of this blog ...... I will continue to blame it on grief ...... and deny with all of the strength I possess, that I said otherwise.
Forever and always, Amen.

But I, as usual, digress.
Where was I?
Oh, yes ...... VHS tapes magically being turned into DVDs.

Yesterday I came home to find a box sitting on my front porch.
And inside it were all of my VHS tapes ...... and 24 DVDs.
(See above picture.  And then you'll definitely know that I'm old.  Stop snickering.  You may be old one day, too).

I took the DVDs out of the box, closed the box back up and set it aside to put it somewhere safe.  Yes, even though I had them converted I'm still not going to throw them out.
Even though I no longer own a VHS player.
Don't judge ...... even though that might classify me as a hoarder.

Today I put the DVDs into a cabinet (after I took the above picture).
And shut the door.
And ...... did not promptly forget about them.
Although I'd like to.
But my mind keeps drifting back to that cabinet.

You see ...... I have not watched any of those recordings in over 5 years.
And aside from buying the Groupon and sending them in, I haven't really thought about them in all of that time, either.
That's probably because I firmly shoved them out of my mind.
Or at least to some unoccupied corner of it.

In the beginning, a friend asked if I had watched any of our tapes.  Specifically the ones that included Jim.
I said no, with firmness and without hesitation.
Indicating that watching those was NOT going to happen any time soon.
She asked "why?"
And all I could come up with was, "Because.  I don't want to."  And though she may have asked "why?" again, that was the end of that.
I have no "Whys" that most un-widowed people would accept.
But I know that you ...... almost all of you ...... get it.
Without asking "Why?"
Thank you for that.

I still don't want to watch them.
I can't watch them.
I can't watch Jim, alive, having fun, laughing,  and loving our children
Not at this time.
Not yet.

I have no doubt that I will one day pop those suckers into a DVD player and watch them.
One at a time.
But today is not that day.
Although, unlike 5 years ago, I can now say that it might be next week.  Or next month.
I don't know exactly when that day will arrive, but it will.
And I'm ok with that.

I'm just not OK with watching them before then.

Or with playing my piano.
Yes, still.
But that story is right over here, if you're interested in reading more about my crazy.  And how it hasn't seemed to go away.

So yes, I really am mostly happy.  But I still have my moments of wave attacks.
And I still have a few, ummmm, insane items, errrrr mentally unbalanced episodes ...... oh, Whatever!!  Yes, I'm happy.  Definitely almost always happy.   But no, I'm not "all better" and I'll take a chance and say that I don't think I will ever again be "ALL BETTER".  But that's not a bad thing.

A little crazy can be a lot of fun.
Or so I've heard.   :)

And a lotta crazy? Well, ...... who knows what can happen when there's a lotta crazy around?!
You tell me.
After you read the Piano Story.
Again ...... don't judge.

And keep breathing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Happy Unbirthday

Not our picnic, but one nearby.

Last  Saturday, we had a picnic for Greg's Should Have Been 50th birthday.

In a miracle of the Climate Gods, the weather was perfect even though it had rained solidly for the weeks beforehand and every day since (and up to 150mm / 6 inches last night alone).

I am glad we did it.

I'd forgotten who I'd invited, so as more and more people turned up, I was genuinely surprised and glad to see them.  Old friends and workmates gathered and remembered in just the sort of relaxed chat-fest that was Greg's style.

I saw some people who came to the funeral and then disappeared so I'm hoping that this has reset their minds so they know they can talk to me. 

The kids had a great time and I enjoyed seeing everyone.

But by the next day I was a wreck....
...and then today I walked downstairs to find my garage and store room sitting in 2 inches of (thankfully clean) water.

and I broke.
I feel like I'm 100 years old, everything is heavy, I am so tired, the kids are moody and I don't feel like doing anything.
...except I have had to throw away waterlogged things and try to move things out of the water.

I want to sleep for a week.

Yep - death week is here :(

... but I know it will pass and while I don't expect things to be "good", I know they will be OK again.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Post Traumatic Growth


One thing that's been hard for me to think about, much less talk about has been the growth I've experienced since Dave died. It seems wrong, somehow that such an awful event would spur me to experience positive emotional growth unlike I've ever before experienced. I suppose I feel some shame about that. Shouldn't someone who's lost her spouse feel that nothing positive came from or after it? (Says the shaming part of my brain.)

I was watching a TED talk today, by Jane McGonigal. In it she explained how she was nearly suicidal after a brain injury had her bedridden for months. Because of her low point, she came up with an idea (an app that helps people develop resilience) that is now helping people everywhere and she explained that some scientists might call this experience of hers post traumatic growth.

She said that some people who have suffered a serious trauma say that it changed them for the better.
The five most common ways they mentioned changing are...
1. My priorities have changed - I'm not afraid to do what makes me happy.
2. I feel closer to my friends and family.
3. I understand myself better, I know who I really am now.
4. I have a new sense of meaning and purpose.
5. I'm better able to focus on my goals and dreams.

When I saw this list, I burst into tears. It was a list I've mentally compiled in the past 20 months for my own growth. It was like seeing a mirror held up to my development. I cried because I was grateful for all five ways I've changed and yet how can I be grateful for it if it came about because the person I loved most in the world died? Holding both of those ideas in my brain hurts.

Then, she said that what's really amazing is that this list is almost exactly the opposites of the top five regrets of the dying, which are...
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I'd stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish I'd let myself be happier.

It's as though for some people, the traumatic event unlocked their ability to live in a way that would reduce regrets.

So, something that I wish hadn't happened and that broke my heart also somehow managed to reset me so that I finally, for the first time in my life, began to live more in line with what REALLY truly matters.

I still worry about what others think of me, work too hard, forget about my purpose and waste my time, hide some of my feelings, and feel like a grumpy jerk off and on, but I can honestly say that since Dave died, I've made growth in all five areas. BIG growth.

And while I'm sure I have a touch of post traumatic stress disorder, too, I think I also have a huge dose of post traumatic growth.

I suppose the reason I struggle to admit this is that a part of me thought that if I loved Dave I wouldn't be able to equate anything positive with his death. But, here's the thing. His death and how it's affected me are two completely separate things. There isn't anything positive about his death (obviously).

It might be similar to the strengthening of your other senses if you lose your sight. Going blind is not good. No one could argue that there's anything positive about the FACT that your eyesight is gone. But, your super human hearing and sense of touch are positive things. They don't make the loss of your eyesight okay. They don't make you glad you lost your sight. They're separate entities.

Dave's death was a terrible traumatic thing that happened to him AND to me, and to so many other people in his life. But what has happened to my emotional landscape since he died has been both bad and good.  I'm traumatized. I'm still exhausted all the time. I miss him. My heart is broken. There are chunks of my brain just missing now, AND I'm noticing how much closer I hold the ones I love. How much more I allow myself to be vulnerable, ask for help, offer my help and just generally open myself up. I don't take things as seriously, complain as much or allow myself to worry endlessly about that which cannot be changed. I don't work quite as hard as I did unless it feels good to work hard. I feel a greater sense of purpose and I have been able to see my worth in ways never before possible. I have begun to care for myself and treat myself lovingly in ways I never before could.

What's really sad is that because I have this shame around admitting any positive changes in me, I don't get to talk about it much (except with my therapist, and now with you). I don't get to revel in it much or be truly proud of it. It makes me cry to talk about it, and not necessarily a happy cry, either. It's linked to his death and that makes it hard to acknowledge. It makes it hard to hear others tell me how well they think I'm doing, or how much I've changed for the better.

But it's undeniably there, and hearing that others have experienced it too makes it easier for me to admit that it's there. And anyway, it's not as though I need to add shame to my list of hardships. The best way to ease shame is to get it out in the open so it can't fester in the dark, so that's what I'm doing. I'm telling you.

Have you noticed any post traumatic growth of your own?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Intensive Care


While at Camp Widow West 2012 I bought I Wasn't Ready To Say Goodbye by Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair, PHD.

I must admit, I have started and stopped reading this book multiple times.

I found that I couldn't get into the book because I can’t relate to a lot of it.

I can’t relate because I should have started reading this book immediately after my husband died instead of 30 months after the fact.

Last week I felt like I was going to to have a nervous breakdown so I started reading it, yet again.
I flipped through a few of the chapters, skipping subjects that I have already been through like wills and financial problems, until I found a subject that I felt I needed help on - understanding the emotional and physical effects of grief (chapter three).

I thought “I’m exhausted, feel like I’m going to completely lose my mind, BUT I should already understand the effects of grief”.

As I was reading I found an analogy that really hit home for me. It says “What has happened here has the same effect on you as if you had gone through major surgery.  Consider yourself in intensive care and treat yourself as if you are in intensive care.” Wow!

I closed the book when I read that, snuggled up in bed and thought "I have gone through major surgery. I have gone through major surgery over and over."

I laid in bed and said it to myself for hours.

What surgery have I gone through?

Well, in theory, I have gone through open heart surgery and brain surgery.

But the doctors messed up the surgeries.

They cut my heart out, then dropped it on the floor. They fumbled around with it, dropping it multiple times, before sticking it back in my chest.  They didn't even wash off the dirt and grime. When they put it back in my chest, it went back upside down and backwards. The doctors thought “Eh, good enough. She will survive.”

Instead of having another open heart surgery I accepted that my heart was never going to be the same.

Brain surgery came next.

I had a large portion of my brain removed. Not due to disease, but simply because my husband died.

The doctors took out the most important parts of my brain. The part of my brain that makes me think rationally, collectively and calm. They also removed a lot of my memories of Seth, and completely removed my memory of the first year of widowhood. They removed much of my short term and long term memory, as well as the part of my brain that gives me balance. I find I have days that I am off balance. I can’t walk straight most days.  I fall down a lot. In fact, I fell twice this week for no good reason, other than part of my brain is gone, and with it, my balance. They removed my patience and understanding for people, and acceptance of people that “don’t get it.”

Once again, the doctors shrugged it off. “She will be fine.”

Yes this is all in theory, but this is what I thought about when I asked myself “what kind of surgery have I been through?”

When I started thinking about my grief this way, it all made sense.

It made me realize I need to start taking better care of my grief. I need to listen to my body and grief a lot closer.

I can’t believe I am 30 months out and am still learning to live with my grief and forever changed body.

Maybe one day I will be able to accept my forever altered heart and brain.

Until then I will continue to treat myself as if I am in intensive care.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


"When we learn what it is our soul needs to learn, the path presents itself."

Over a year ago, I decided to take a new journey in my daily passion.

To create something. For myself. For others.

I decided to start laying the frame-work of what could be. I started finding those that wanted to come, nails in hand, and create it with me.

I jumped in. Day by day, getting closer to this change, this growth.

Now it's here. The dream, not just in sight, but in hand.

The funny thing, though, is that there were a million tiny and large changes...unexpected, unplanned, some unwelcome...that have made this new chapter a glorious one.

Maybe that's life.

We set these goals, these visions, these ideals of what we hope and work towards. Only to realize that it's the in-betweens, the surprises, the new friends and deeper instilled friendships, the introspection, the new-found traditions and the growth that are the real gift.

The bigger the leap, the bigger the return...just with big struggles, big transformations and big changes.

I learned that when I fell in love with Michael. When I married him. When I became his widow.

Since his death, I had just forgotten the feeling of taking the leap willingly. Taking in and absorbing the benefits of a courage you knew would pay off, no matter what obstacles came one's way.

 I remember now.

 I remember and smile...looking forward to the next leap.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Grabbing at Small Things

I’ve not been shy about my February challenges.  Last Thursday was yet another birthday without her.  Next Thursday is our 9th wedding anniversary.  Adding more spice, January this year was filled with its own new craptastic days.  I really feel like I’m due some amazingly great things to balance this all out.  But I suppose that’s the same ridiculous last minute mumble a soon-to-be-broken gambler utters as he slides what’s left of his life savings toward red after twenty bank-breaking ball bounces into black.  Surely, after all this, it’s bound to turn around.

Well, I’m tired of waiting for it to turn around.  I can’t change what happened last month.  I can’t (and wouldn’t) change what happened 9 years ago.  And if I wasn’t born 43 years ago on the 14th then you certainly wouldn’t be reading what I’m typing, for sure!  So, to hell with it all!  So how about some things I’m positive about?

Kali, who lived her entire life in Niko’s (my baby’s) shadow, has been spoiled rotten with love and treats since Niko’s Angel Day.  Much to my surprise, she’s been learning every trick I’ve been teaching her (slowly).  I always thought of her as, well, special in the kind of ride-the-short-bus and please-stop-eating-glue kind of way but maybe I’ve been wrong.  No matter what, we’ve been having a great time bonding, playing Frisbee, learning tricks and just being buds.  Yeah, it’s obvious at times that she misses her sister, just like I do, but we’ve been doing that together, too.

The garden is starting to come alive again. That means it’s time to start planting. Bring on the jalapeños, caladiums, hydrangeas, and lilies!  Of course, there are sprinkler heads to repair and myriad dead plants to cut back, but spring is coming and with a little push it’ll be beautiful.  I love putting down the little springlings and watching them bloom into wonderful plants.  This year, I’m going to put down more flowering plants than I have in years.

Motorcycle weather is almost upon us.  My beautiful beast of a bike has been sitting patiently waiting for some much-deserved attention.  In just a week or two, I’ll be back on two wheels pissing off soccer moms and grumpy old men all over Austin again with my loud pipes.  It’ll be fabulous!  The road is calling me.  There just might be a multi-day trip in my near future.

It’s going to be a good year.  I’m going to make it a good year. You’ll see.


Yeah, I’m reaching.  I’m grabbing at small things and I won’t stop. I know what great is and I’ll be back there again.  I’m not sure when but I can tell you when I won’t give up and that’s today.  Today is a great day, even if it’s just because the garden is growing and Kali and I play Frisbee together and I get to ride my motorcycle.  Tomorrow, hell, I’ll do the same.

It has been almost four years now (four years in May, for those who are counting) and you’d think that by now it’d be like reflecting on when I skinned my knee back in ’09.  At least that’s what people would like it to be.  But it still hurts, although not as much. Now, it’s still a matter of redefining who I am.  I can tell you this for sure: I’m not done yet.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


My mom used to tell me that whenever she saw 7:28 on the clock, she'd make a wish. 7/28 is her birthday, and she thought it was lucky. I thought it was silly until I started paying attention and then I started noticing the time when I saw it on the clock too.

Now, though, I always seem to notice the time at 4:34. I don't know why it became so significant to me, but that's what time I sent Jeremy the last text before he died. I only know that because he sent a text at the same time to his buddy and boss, Mark. Only, I never heard back from him so I know he died within minutes of that time. And now, I see that time on the clock constantly and my heart skips a beat every. single. time. I always wonder....did he get that text from me? Did he read it? And right when all this was going through my head today I looked at the clock only to see it again. 4:34.

When I hit the six month mark and saw this time on my clock, I couldn't hardly stand it. It represented the beginning of the end for me. An unknown moment that will forever plague me. 
The unknown is a horrible place to be. And I think it may haunt me forever. And even when it subsides and I don't think about it as much, every time I see that time on my clock, it will take me there no matter what. 

It's odd that 4:34 is the piece that has manifested itself as a symbol of my grief. Surely this must happen in different ways to different people....but I know I will never again be able to put those numbers together and not think of Jeremy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fighting the Old Fight ......

...... of feeling like a failure.

I have struggled with this battle off and on during the past 5 years.
In the beginning it was a constant feeling.
I was in such shock, depression and deep, deep grief ...... that I could barely function during that first year.
The second year started off with a diagnosis of cancer in January and major surgery in February.  The depression only worsened during that second year, as I spent most of it recovering from that surgery and the pain it left behind.

Add that to the horrendous grief ...... and everything else I kept getting thrown my way ...... and I still didn't function very well.
I felt like I had failed everyone, but most of all, my children.
I still had 3 teenage sons living with me and they were grieving the loss of their father.

Now even on a good day, with no grief to deal with, teenage boys are not known for their eloquent communication skills.
Throw in the death of their father and you can imagine how much less they communicate ...... even with constant encouragement.

There were many days when it felt like I was the only person in my home who was grieving Jim.  And I hated that.
I also hated crying so much and so often during that first year.  I felt badly for the boys, having to see me like that most of the time.
I knew early on, as did they, that they lost both parents that horrible night in December.
But there was nothing I could do to change things.

I tried taking two of them to counselors, but boys will not communicate if they don't want to communicate (nor will anyone).  The good thing that came out of that was that I continued to see the first counselor after she decided it was useless to continue to see him.
So she helped me learn how to deal with him, and how to deal with living through my grief.

There was a time when I felt horrible for how hard I had grieved, and how much I had not done for my children.  I apologized to each of them, more than once, for that.  I also told them that if I had it all to do over again ...... I would most likely do it exactly the same.
I lost my best friend, my husband, my lover, my protector, my confidante, my partner, the father of my children, the first and only man I'd ever loved and the love of my life.  We loved each other "hard".  And very, very much. And we liked each other a lot.  Not every couple can say that.  Heck, I don't think even 50% of couples can say that.
Unfortunately.  That alone depresses me and makes me sad for them.

We were just approaching the time in life when we could do more things with each other ...... and plan trips we wanted to take after the kids were "out".  The future looked wonderful.
And then there was no future.
At all.

But sometime last year I stopped feeling guilty.  I stopped feeling like a failure.  I refused to let myself go there because I knew that I had not failed and that I was not guilty of anything ...... except loving Jim with all of my heart.  And showing our 6 children what it takes to have a great marriage.  Not a perfect one, by far, but still ...... a great one.

So I stopped apologizing and told them, again, I had done the best I could with what I had.  And just the fact that I'm not dead right now is proof of that.
The seven of us have survived ...... in spite of how each of us grieved.  Or maybe because of it.
I'm not a failure.  Even if a so called "friend" told me that I was.
Fortunately by the time I heard those words I knew better.  And didn't own them, but completely rejected them.  And her.

But this past week I felt Guilt trying to rear its ugly head again.
I was involved in a study that talked about how hugely important "the family meal" is.  And how fast the practice of families gathering at the same table for meals is being lost.
And how that correlates with the rise in problems our young people are having.  Fewer and fewer families spend time together at the dinner table ...... or anywhere.

I thought about how firmly Jim and I believed in the family eating together.  He wasn't always able to make it home in time for dinner, due to the demands of his job, but he always made it home every Wednesday night in time.  Everyone who worked with him knew that.  They knew they couldn't schedule meetings late on Wednesdays, or he'd be absent.
He made it home for other nights, too, but Wednesday was set in stone.

And then he died.
And the family dinners have been few and far between.  Granted, it's mostly been just 2 of us here.  And one of us is in school full time, has a part time job after school and on the weekends, and also has a decent social life.
In case you're wondering ...... that would not be me.

So I went to this Son last week and sat next to him to ask him a question.
"You remember the family meals we had when Dad was alive, right?"  Of course he did.  Why did I ask?
"I just wanted to make sure you remembered.  And that you remembered how important it was ...... and that you'll remember how important it is when you have a family."
These last two sentences were said with tears running down my face.  I'm sure he thought I was losing it ...... yet again.
He assured me that he not only remembered, but did indeed plan to make sure his family ate together.
Which made me feel much, much better.

So even though guilt and failure tried to worm their way back into my head ...... I kept the door firmly shut.  And then locked it.

I did the very best I could.  It may not have been much, but it was all I had.
I had no handbook.
I had no warning.
I had no clue.

And I have no guilt.
If you do, please try to let it go.  Don't take ownership of that horrible feeling.  You don't deserve it.
You're doing the best you can ...... with what you have ...... and who you lost.
Keep breathing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Am I done yet?

This week, bang in the middle of death-march month, has seen me BEG Greg to come back more than once.
Many times in fact.

Seriously, I have coped with this shizzle for almost 3 years.
I have worked, I have kept the kids on an even keel, I have hit rock bottom on more than one occasion and I have stood up again.
Can I have my medal now?

I am tired of grief.
I am tired of being alone in THIS month .... the month that contains the 20th anniversary of that birthday party where we first met.
That first date.
Valentines Day (and the single time Greg bought me flowers without laughing that you'd swung by the 7-11 on the way home.
His birthday.
....and finally, his death day.

I just want to be done with this and go back to how life was Before.
.....but I can't go back.

I must go forward, even though I hate every year that passes without Greg in it.
I have to ensure I experience joy each day so that yawning black hole of grief is held at bay.
I will move forward in a ways I have never dreamed of.
Grief will not define me.
I will rise again.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Rope Ladder


I've struggled to explain how it feels to be a widow of 19 months. Describing it tests my verbal abilities. I imagine anyone who hasn't experienced it must wonder what it's like.

It was never simple to put to words, but now it seems even harder. To an outsider I go about my business, I'm sure, in a way that wouldn't alert anyone to the pain inside. I smile without reservation (most days), carry on conversations, eat, sleep, laugh, work, and play. My inner landscape, though, is much more complex and harder to explain, especially because it's not out there for everyone to see.

I have always loved analogies for explaining difficult concepts and while driving home the other night, I thought of an analogy that could help describe my current existence.

The analogy starts with water, like so many of my thoughts and dreams do.

My life now feels like I'm treading water in the ocean. Death by drowning or hypothermia or shark munching is not a pressing concern. I'm holding my own while I'm treading, but I'm SO DAMN TIRED because I've been treading for a long time now. Ages.

I'm very aware that no one is going to come by and scoop me out of the water, wrap me up in a warm blanket and speed boat me back to the shore.

I do, however have a rope ladder dangling in front of me. I can climb out of the water, one rung at a time, but I'm already tired and weak. On the other hand, climbing the ladder seems marginally better than treading water, so I try.

Each rung I grasp is something worth living for. My loving friends, my choir, animals, Camp Widow, hope, travel, learning, meeting new people, lessons learned that have made me stronger, smarter, better, my cats, the promise of good things to come.

As I grab onto one and puuuuuullll myself up, I feel a momentary jolt of victory. "I'm going to be okay!" I think. But then my arm muscles turn to mush and I run out of power. My legs weigh a thousand pounds and I slip down a notch or two.

The heaviness pulling me back toward the water is the pain...the idea of Dave in the hospital room without me as he died, the guilt that I get to live and he doesn't, the horror of the sound of the doctor saying "We did all we could...", the unbelievable force of missing him, the impossibility of his "gone-ness", the end of a life we'd planned on, the sight and sound of an ambulance shrieking by, the idea of possibly losing like this again one day.

Sometimes I get up pretty high and I look down and think that I'm pretty bad-ass. I feel lighter and I dry out in the sun just a little. I just start to warm up and then the weight overtakes me again, and I slip down a few notches. Sometimes I slip down far enough that I have to tread water once again.

Sometimes I'm just clinging in between, straining to maintain the height I've earned, but not yet able to relax and feel light again. Even when I'm up high I can still see the water below and I know that I'll be back down there again, treading, at some point.  The exhaustion never fully goes away because even when I'm resting I'm still clinging to that ladder.

None of that sounds especially reassuring, but there is good news. I swear there's good news!

The times spent treading are fewer and shorter. I'm developing stronger climbing muscles so the climb back out again isn't as laborious and those hard-earned muscles make me proud. I'm so much more empathetic to anyone else who might also be climbing up out of the sea, now that I know how it feels. Those rungs keep appearing, too, as long as I keep looking for them. I can much more easily focus on the rungs now, so I spend less time staring at the dark and treacherous waters below. Because I've been down there, I appreciate NOT being down there so much more. I take advantage of every moment I spend up in the air and sun.

Yes, I'd love to be done climbing. I'd love to let go of that rope ladder, and be able to fully relax, but that is not my fate now. Maybe one day. Maybe one day I'll be so strong that I'll be able to climb right back out of the waves without a second thought and I'll climb so high no one will be able to keep up. I'll be a goddamn gold metal rope-ladder-climbing champion. Maybe then I'll be able to really, really rest. 

Right now, though, this is what it feels like to be me.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


I sometimes forget that I am not the same person that I was “before”.

I have over done it. Stretched myself to thin, and have crashed.

In my before life, I could handle a lot of stress, a lot of multi tasking, with little sleep and little frustration.

I no longer can do it.

I forget how much I have changed, and with that change, brings things I am not proud of.

For example, I have been extremely busy and stressed at work.

The old me would be able to work 10 hours a day, go home, cook, clean, go out with friends, sleep very little, and be able to manage just fine.

The new me, can only handle going to work right now.

I have nothing left to give to any other part of my life, other than work and sleep.

There are times through my grieving process that I think I am doing fine. I put too much on myself. Then bam! I crash. All my commitments and responsibilities crash at my feet, because I just can’t give any more energy away.

I don’t know what happened.
Actually, I know what happened - My husband died.

With that I changed. I am now extremely impatient. I can’t handle much stress or much responsibility. I have become selfish, in making sure I am ok before making someone else is ok.

The littlest thing can send me in a tail spin of panic and exhaustion.

The last two weeks, all I have been able to manage is work.

Work, sleep, rinse, repeat. And I am exhausted.

I am hard on myself, and tell myself “You need to try harder. There are people that are struggling far more then you are, yet they cope just fine.”

I beat myself up and curse at myself.

This week, I shattered. I knew I wasn't coping well. I knew I was pushing myself too far. But I kept at it, because after all, it was just work. I was working all day, and resting at night, making sure I wasn't putting anything else on myself. So I should have been fine, right?


I have fallen on my face in anxiety, frustration and exhaustion.

Grief never takes a break. Life doesn't stop because I am struggling.

I feel like all the cracks in my soul are now gaping holes. All the glue I have used to repair those cracks has come undone.

I think of myself as humpty dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again

I fell. Or possibly failed. And there is no one to put me back together again.

I am reminding myself that it’s ok for me to be weak. It’s ok for me to be exhausted. And sometimes my best isn't enough for the world around me. I have to remind myself that my best, has to be enough for myself. That I have allow myself to be exhausted, rest, and not take on anymore responsibilities.

This week, I am taking time off work.

During this time, I will buy new glue, and start repairing my cracks.

If all the king's horses and all the king's men can’t put me back together, then I will do it myself. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013


The 20th Feast Menu, signed and hanging among my favorite things! 
The 20th Feast Menu, signed and hanging among my favorite things!

“Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart”- Henry Clay

This week was one that reminded me how blessed and grateful I am for the millions of tiny things that always come to a head and reveal that they were huge things.

For me, this week's realization consisted of a movie theater, 20 feasts, Valentine's Day and the fact that an action 5 years ago would change my life in so many ways. I don't want to live knowing that others impact is acknowledged.

The letter is a bit lengthy, but I wanted to share what a wrote, but preface it with saying that the love and kindness shown to me at my 20th feast, left me in tears and utterly grateful for people who may be strangers but have made a lasting impact on my life forever. Thank you, Alamo Drafthouse Theatre...and Don, for telling me about them! (They even had the chef come out and presented me with a signed menu (see pic above)!).

Now, the letter:
Dear Alamo,

I’ve never been one too privy at making a long story short...but I’m going to do my best and ask that you forgive me if I completely fail. To start, this email is in regards to the “Before Sunrise” Valentine’s Day Feast. Now the story:

My husband and I have always been huge movie buffs. From foreign to horror to the utterly complicated. My husband was in the US Army and when he wasn’t training, there was nothing we enjoyed more on the weekends when he was home, than an amazing meal followed by some film that most people hadn’t heard of.

He deployed in October 2006 and would always surprise me with the “already released” films in Iraq that I hadn’t seen. Or my personal favorite, “The Complete Joaquin Phoenix Movie Collection” in languages I can’t even pronounce.

Movies were and have always been a huge part of our love story (we even had our first kiss while watching “American Beauty”).

That couldn’t have been solidified even more than after May 21, 2007. I came home to find two men there to notify me that Michael had been killed by explosives just an hour after we said “I’m so in love with you”, for what I never knew would have been the last time.

I died that night on the front porch.

I remember, days before his service, just lying around and watching one of his favorite movies over and over, as a way to just feel the way I did when he was alive, the way I did when we could lay there together.
For the sleepless months that followed, movies were the only way I could feel connected to anything or anyone. (I can’t tell you how many times I watched “Top Gun” just to see how Goose’s wife reacted...which is totally unrealistic in retrospect...but still, it helped :) ).

Weeks later I went on to start filming a documentary with a friend in the film industry that knew my love for movies and had heard the memories of our dinner and movie nights. He told me I should look into going to the Alamo. He explained how it worked and how I could overcome two big obstacles since Michael’s death; Going to the movies and enjoying an amazing dinner solo.

I went online and saw that there was an Alfred Hitchcock's 'Birds' feast. I purchased it and tried to talk myself out of it too many times to count. I even had a friend meet up with me before hand to give me that extra push the day of the feast. I sat near the front to “keep a seat” for Michael, and ended up having one of the best moments and nights since his death. I remember driving home and feeling my heart feel the same way it had before Michael died.

I was hooked! The feasts let me have a part of me and Michael that I thought had died forever, come back alive in the midst of amazing meals and wonderful films! To put it not so lightly, I became a Alamo Drafthouse Feast fanatic!

“Groundhog Day”, “La Dolce Vita”,“Lord of the Rings Trilogy Feast”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, “Casablanca” ,“Indiana Jones”, “Back to the Future”, “The Big Night”, “Chocolat”, and the list goes on to why I am writing today.

It’s been 5 years since my first feast and five and half since Michael passed away, but the reason I’m writing is that this Valentine’s Day feast will mark my 20th feast at the Alamo (I made sure and counted the 3 trilogy feasts as one a piece instead of 9 to make it a real landmark)!

So my request is simple, is there anyway y’all could have the menu signed by the Chef heading up this particular feast?

And lastly, and mainly a huge reason for the beyond lengthy email, I wanted to write and thank you all at the Alamo for giving me a place to feel my husband’s spirit, to feel the love we will eternally share, and for allowing me to see in a simple way, that there is still so much beauty and amazing life to experience after the worst of tragedies.

Thanks, guys!

Proud Military Widow of Cpl Michael Davis

Friday, February 15, 2013

Widow - Party of One

This week, I was hit with a triple whammy of "suckage." (Is that a real word? If not, I just made it up. ) February 13th marked exactly 19 months since my husband's sudden death, and it also fell on a Wednesday, which was the day of the week he went into work and never came home. And then, to put a big 'ole ginormous cherry on this awfulness of a sundae, today was Valentine's Day.

My plan to protect myself was simple enough - go to work, stay away from all couples and happy people in love, and have dinner at my best friend Sarah's house; where the sarcasm, hilarity, and banter between us are served up right alongside the always delicious gourmet food.

Well, as I have been made harshly aware by the universe, plans do not always go the way we hoped. Dinner at my friend's place was great, but everything leading up to it was borderline ridiculous. Here's the problem: Im an Adjunct Professor at a University. Universities are filled with teenagers and super young people who are super enthusiastic about every little thing - especially Valentine's Day. Before my first class even began, as I sat in a perfectly innocent lounge-area, to, ya know, lounge .... a large gaggle of giggling girls appeared out of nowhere, like a nightmare, carrying red and pink balloons and hugging and falling into each other while squeeling in a sing-songy voice: "Oh My Godddd!!! Happy Valentine's Dayyyy!!!!!" "Oh My God! You too!"

Oh My God! Get me outta here!

Not being able to handle this Ode to St. Valentine display, I took my bags and walked over to the campus cafeteria to grab a quick breakfast. As I waited for my food, this horrific dialogue took place between me and the worker behind the counter:

Him: Happy Valentines Day to you! You have plans with your husband tonight?

Me: Nope. (no idea why he assumed that I was even married, but he refused to stop talking about it.)

Him: No plans? You no do anything with your husband? Does he work tonight?

Me: Nope. (in my head, Im thinking "Please please please stop saying the word husband. Please stop!!!)

Him: That's not good. Your husband needs to treat you nice today. Maybe you do something on the weekend, you and your husband? You go out on the weekend?


Of course, I didnt say any of this, because there was a huge line of people behind me and my face was turning beat-red, and I was seconds away from sobbing right there in the middle of the University Center. I also knew that this man wasnt trying to be rude, and he obviously had no idea that my husband is dead. And the last thing I wanted to do was embarass him and make him feel terrible when he was just making small-talk. Granted, it was the worst small-talk in the history of small-talk, but still .....

By the time the end of the day came around, I was so beyond ready to go home and sit with our two adopted kitties and just stare at the wall all night. And that's pretty much what I did tonight. Stared at the wall. But before I did that, I did this. I hope you enjoy it:

 Top 5 Ways to Annoy People In Love on Valentine's Day:

1. Stand in the cheap-candy aisle at a drugstore and approach all the guys about to buy awful Whitman's Samplers with: "Seriously? This is what you're going with? Dont even bother with the tacky bear holding a balloon on a stick thing. Now you're just being insulting."

2. Stand at the grocery store or gas-station, where men go to buy last-minute flowers, and yell out from a bullhorn: "Guys who dont give a crap - buy these! Tell your girl to ignore that weird, musty smell coming from the bouquet - we dont know what it is either! She can water these, but it wont help! These flowers will die suddenly and without warning - just like my husband!"

3. Go to a restaurant and give them the name "Widow", so that when your table is ready, they have to announce: "Widow - party of one. Widow???" Get a table alone, in the center of the room. Once the place is filled with happy couples, begin talking and giggling loudly as if another person is with you. Pull a rose out and present it to yourself, and say: "Oh baby! You shouldnt have! You're such a naughty boy! Let's go home!" Exit restaurant laughing up a storm with your imaginary partner, leaving everyone completely baffled.

4. Start your own line of Conversation Hearts and sneak them into the bags of normal ones in stores. Come up with classic messages such as: "Alone", "Everyone Will Die", "Be My Widow", "Be Mine - Until I Die Unexpectedly", "There's a Good Chance One of Us Will Die Soon", and "Will You Be My Valentine ... Cat?"

5. Attack Hallmark stores armed with a magic-marker. Draw sad faces, moustaches, and giant penises all over the Valentines cards. Hide behind display and laugh.

Or, just do what I did tonight, and sit in your dead husband's favorite old recliner chair, staring at the wall. I will try this whole "life" thing again tomorrow.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Would I still be your Valentine?


Jeremy was never big on Valentine's day.

He didn't hate it. We didn't ban it. He just wasn't overly romantic. He tried to be, and did some very sweet things, but most of the time we were too broke to really do anything anyway. And yet, on this Hallmark holiday celebrating love, it brings those little moments rushing back as if it were a big deal. Cause he was a big deal to me. 

Our first Valentine's, while we were still dating, I cut up hundreds of hearts and wrote different reasons why I loved him on each one. Every year after that, I re-used them in different ways, and would add more reasons why I loved him in the mix. I was thinking today that I'm not sure what I would add this year, because he's not evolving or changing anymore, I love him for all the same reasons. He is and forever will be the 31 year old, handsome and strong husband and father in my eyes. But then it also made me realize how much I have evolved and changed since then, and pieces of me that Jeremy will never get to see. And it made me wonder if he would love the girl I am now.

I don't love the way I used to. I'm more careful with it, but I also cherish it so much more. I'm more comfortable in my own skin. I actually enjoy cooking (who would have thought?!), and I know how to maintain a household pretty well on my own. I'm scared of things I didn't used to be scared of, and unafraid of things that used to terrify me. My support system has changed, my friends aren't the same. My priorities have shifted. My dreams and goals have evolved. Would you still love this version of me that has been beaten, broken down, and built back together?

Of course, I know the answer. Even though I'm not the same girl I was before he died, I know that essentially, emerging from grief has forced me to be a better version of myself....probably the version that Jeremy always saw in me. And even though I've grown for the better, I'm still me. I'm still the girl who has to sleep on the left side of the bed, who tries to please people too much, who quotes Friends in my head on a daily basis and then hears his laughter in the back of my head affirming how funny I am. I'm still the girl who wants Faith and Caleb to love the things their daddy loved, who cries at nearly every movie, and who holds onto all the precious and unforgettable quirks that he had. I'm still the girl terrified of fish, loves all things cotton candy, rollercoasters, pink, and slurpees. I'm still the girl that wants to tell our story. I'll always be that girl.

Yes, I am still convinced that no matter how much time separates us, no matter how much change comes between us, I would still be your Valentine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

There Have Been More Good ......

...... people in my life since Jim died than not-so-good people.

I hope that's true for all of us.

In the days following his death, my brother in law told me something that I've always remembered, and passed on to others.
"This (Jim's death) will bring out the worst in some people, and the best in others."
I have seen the very worst in a few people.  But only a few.

All of the other people in my life, which number too many to count, have been nothing but wonderful.  I have been grateful for their love and support and help since Day 1.
I would not be here without them.

And yes, life keeps moving forward and that means that even the people who love us ...... have to move forward, too.  They have to get back to their families and find their "normal" again.  Or maybe, like us, they find their "new normal".  Because the death of our loved ones affected more people than we know.  Deeply.

It's difficult to get used to our "new normal" by ourselves.  Even five years later it has its painful moments.
But sometimes ...... some very special times ...... it has moments of wonderfulness.

I found these on my doorstep today:

Someone snuck up to my door, having just barely missed me getting my mail.  They also just missed the guys picking up our trash.
And, most amazingly, they snuck in and out without setting my two large dogs off into a barking frenzy.
I still don't know how that was accomplished, let alone how I didn't notice anyone when I went out only moments before the flowers arrived.

I was very surprised.
To put it mildly.

This was with the flowers:

No signature was added.  No signed card was left.  No one rang the door bell.

But here's what this person did do:  she made my day (no, I don't know for certain that it was a she, but I'd be willing to place a rather large bet on that assumption).
She made my week.
Heck, she made my month.

I've always had wonderful people in my life.
And I still do.

In spite of the past 5 years ...... or maybe because of them ......
I am blessed.

And ...... I feel blessed.

And for the first time in five years, I don't feel sad or even angry that Valentine's Day is tomorrow.  Yes, I wish my Valentine were here.  I know we all do.  But for the first time, I feel glad for all of those who do have their loved one.  I hope they take the time to tell them how loved, appreciated and "not taken for granted" they are.  I hope they make the most of every minute with each other.

These flowers didn't make my feelings change about this holiday.  I had already realized that I didn't feel the same way this year.
But the flowers, and more importantly, the person who brought them ...... reinforced my wishes for other couples.
Besides that ...... she made me smile.
All day long.

So thank you ...... whoever you are (I have my suspicions:)
Thank you for thinking of me.

Actually ...... thank you for remembering me.
It means more than you know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Grief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Gutted is how I feel.
I literally feel as though I have a blunt knife slowly eviscerating me.
I mentally feel like I've been knocked down again to a new level in this horrible death-march month.
I physically feel sick with that low, visceral pain that you feel when you first hear those words "I'm sorry, but he did not survive".

You see, just after I wrote last week's post, I found out that the "fatal car accident" that I kept hearing about on the radio news was my friend's husband.

Another husband and father cut down, smashed, taken in the prime of his life.

Another wife and mother who has to feel like I feel.

Another woman who will lie awake at night and rail at how this could have possibly happened to her family.

Two more children who will ask what Daddy sounded like or how his skin felt or what he smelled like.

Mutual friends have phoned me to ask what they can do.
I don't have a lot of advice.  ... as we all know, there is no quick fix.  There is no book that can adequately explain to a 6-year-old that Daddy is dead and won't ever come back.  There is no grief potion that will alleviate the symptoms in 24-48 hours.

So I say what I always say - just keep talking to her.  Don't run away from the pain.  Be there.  Talk. Hug.

.....and that there are an army of other widows and widowers here who are always ready to talk and to listen.
Who know  what it feels like.
Who help by talking about the pain.
Who hope when all hope seems lost.
....even at 2 am.  

So I will point her here, and I will talk with her, and I will sit with her, and I will share my tiny sliver of hope with her until she can find her own glistening shard to cling to.

Hope matters.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

C Dave

Add caption
This is the license plate I see frequently when I walk a client's dog.

I might not get visits from his actual ghostly spirit, but I see reminders of him everywhere. Every single one stabs at my heart. That's a cliche way to say it, but it feels like a blow to my actual, physical heart. It knocks the wind out of me for just a second and I wince from the impact.

The worst is reminders of our "things". Shows we used to watch, foods we used to make into rituals, our nightly "feed the cats their special treats" routine that I do alone now, moments I can't BELIEVE he's missing.

Today I discovered that I'd have a chance to accompany wildlife biologists on some field work for which I'd need waders and boots. I realized I'd have to borrow a pair from some friends.

Dave was a fisherman extraordinaire. We had 2 fishing boats, multiples pairs of waders, both chest and hip, boots, several tackle boxes, countless fishing rods and reels, nets, float tubes...

I sold it all.

And now I need a pair of waders and boots. I wanted to tell him how ridiculous that was. It was easy to imagine him teasing me for selling all his things. I couldn't believe, even after 19 months of living with the fact of his death, that I couldn't tell him that I'd be experiencing this now. I couldn't believe that he wouldn't get a chance to do it with me.

At some point this will finally stop surprising me, right? One day I won't shake my head in stunned disbelief when I see the box his ashes are in, sitting next to my jeans in my closet. One day I won't hear the words "my husband died" come out of my mouth and feel so surreal that I almost split into two - one me who goes numb and carries on and another inner me who crumples to the ground screaming a frustrated silent scream. I can't remain surprised by this forever. Right?

The other day I organized and cleaned out my closet. As I was pulling a messy pile of jeans off a high shelf to refold, a social security card drifted out of the folds of denim and fluttered to the floor. Before it landed, I knew it was Dave's. I reached down and flipped it over and looked at it.

His sweet, young boy, left-handed scrawl of a signature.

The stab to the heart, the woosh of my breath as I gasped, the shock that even though the feeling is now familiar, it doesn't seem to lessen. The disturbing way I have to just continue with my silly daily activities while carrying this giant gaping absence around with me.

I don't have a good explanation for how his social security card ended up in my jeans. I don't understand it all. I also don't understand how it can take the human brain so long to fully grasp a fact as blindingly obvious as "he's gone". I don't understand how I just keep going on with things as though I'm not breaking apart.

But, the thing is, I do keep going on. Sometimes it feels like I'm swimming smoothly through the seas, with an awareness of which direction to head. Sometimes it feels like I'm drowning. Sometimes I just tread water, completely lost. For some reason, though, I'm here now. I'm supposed to be, though I don't know why.

I can't see the bigger picture because I'm too close to it. I'll only see it when I can look at it from the distance of time passed. Which is annoying, but unavoidably true.

I think a part of me has been waiting for his approval of how I'm living my life now. I keep asking him if I'm doing okay. AND HE DOESN'T ANSWER. I don't see him or hear him. Which means that I have only myself to answer to and that might be the hardest thing to come to terms with. I think I've been lost from time to time because I've been waiting for his guidance. If I'm going to sail off into my own life, I'm going to have to stop waiting for that, as much as it breaks my heart.

My own guidance is worthy. Whew, it was hard to admit that, but now that it's out there, I can feel it.

I can handle this. I have been and I will continue to. I will make mistakes but I will handle this, even if I can't see Dave.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Suicide Search


Someone found my blog by searching the internet with “Every day I wake up thinking of suicide.”

When I started this blog I knew that someone in despair might find it. That someone, somewhere would feel the need to type those words into a search engine.  

My brain knew this would happen eventually, but my heart never let me believe it.  

Finding out that someone read my blog by searching the word "suicide” has left me shattered.

It scares me. It leaves me feeling that someone out there thinks suicide is the only answer.

It pains me to know there is someone out there that needs help, but I can't help since I have no way of knowing who this person is.

Through my pain I want to share what suicide has done to my life. So if someone searches “Every day I wake up thinking of suicide” they will hopefully find this blog, or find me.

I lost my life to suicide.

I did not lose my physical life or body to suicide. I lost something worse than that.

I lost my best friend, companion, soul mate, and reason for living.

I lost my husband to suicide.

The one thing I never thought I would lose.

My husband’s suicide ended his mental suffering (or so I assume), but it did not end his pain. Instead, his suicide pushed his pain onto everyone who loved him.  I can’t count how many people now suffer from the pain of his suicide.

I know my husband could not see any other option. He had reached the end of his rope with doctors and treatment.

But I firmly believe my husband had no idea how badly he was going to hurt me. Maybe he couldn't see past his pain to think about the pain he was going to cause others. But I know for a fact if my husband knew how devastated I would be, and still am, he would not have killed himself.

His suicide tore me to shreds. His suicide tore my soul out of my body. It shattered my life. It shattered my family and his family. It shattered his friends and my friends.

Suicide shattered our hopes and dreams.

It took away my reason for living. I almost paid the ultimate price for my husband’s suicide. I considered taking my own life.

I gave up on living. The only way I could think of moving on from this horrendous pain was suicide.

But, because I saw what my husband’s suicide did to my family I realized I could never do that to them. My only choice was to keep living. Well, not just live, but be alive and fight the urge to die.  To move on without my husband the best I can.

To the person that found my blog I have this to say - I wish you would have reached out to me. I wish I could have told you how completely devastating suicide has been to me.

I wish I could have begged you to get help. I wish I could have told you that it does get better. Sure, maybe you need some treatment, more than I can give you, but you can get better.

You are not alone.

Your suicide will shatter and devastate more people than you will ever understand. You do not leave this world alone. You might be alone physically when you choose to end your life but you will take your friends and family with you. 

We don't know what happens to us after this life. Sure, we have religion and our beliefs, which give us hope there is more after this life.  But we don’t truly know what happens.

How do you know suicide will end your pain? How do you know you won’t continue to feel the pain after you kill yourself? Then what?

How do we know we are not stuck between heaven and earth?  Or sent back to earth to learn this lesson over? How do you know that you are not forced to see the pain of your friends and family for all eternity?

How do you know your suicide will not cause more suicides because those who were closest to you can’t deal with their loss?

I've heard a lot of people say “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” My husband’s problem was not temporary. But neither was his death. His problem lasted three years before it took his life. 

But his life is over now. There is no going back.  My husband died at 31 years old.

He will never see another rainbow. He will never hit the slopes on his snowboard. He will never go camping, jet-skiing, work or have a hot meal with me after a long day. He will never sit on the beach with me. We can never jump on a plane and go play somewhere tropical. He can't watch me grow and change, and he can't be there in my last days on this earth. He can't hold my hand as I grow old and frail. He can't have children and watch them grow. He will not see his parents age, and he will never feel the warmth of the sun.

He is forever gone. There is no do-over. There is no reset button. There is just death.

So for the person that stumbled onto my blog, I pray you are still out there. I pray you read this blog, and I pray you realize your pain is not yours alone.

I pray you ask for help.

Asking for help does not make you weak. It means you are courageous.  And through that courage you can find the help and desire to live.