Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Small steps

I took this photo on Friday evening.
After sundown.
On the beach.
Just as the moon rose over the island.
Out of my comfort zone ...  and yet feeling perfectly at home.

On Saturday, I did an actual photoshoot for a friend's family.
Like professional photographers do.
Feeling nervous that these people trusted me to capture the essence of their family on film.  Hoping I didn't stuff it up completely.
Out of my comfort zone again.

I am challenging myself to do things out of my comfort zone.  .... in very small steps.

I know I have a long way to go. 

But it feels good to be trying new things.... getting a bit of the old me back.

The old me that Greg fell in love with.....

Maybe, just maybe, I can glean a little confidence from knowing that he would be proud of me....

Monday, April 29, 2013



I've misunderstood courage my whole life until now. I thought courage meant lack of fear. Or at least less fear. I thought that my fears made me weak and that I'd be courageous the day I conquered fear.

I had an image in my mind of an incredibly confident superhero when I thought of courage. Something like Super Woman and Oprah all mixed up into one badass poster woman for "BRAVE" - hands on hips and clear eyes full of confidence and determination. I didn't realize that courage is being terrified and acting anyway.

In fact, courage looks like someone who's sweating, shaking, and gasping through the hardest things life throws her way.
It looks like someone who gets up every morning and makes breakfast for his kid even though he's now alone in raising her and even though he's exhausted.
It looks like someone who's heart has been shattered but opens once again anyway to let someone new inside even though it feels like leaping into the unpredictable currents of the air, hoping to be carried and not dropped.
It's staring someone in the eyes and saying "I love you" even though you might not hear it back and feeling your heart stutter in anticipated terror.

It doesn't feel brave. It feels exhausting, reckless, terrifying and unpredictable. And it's undeniably courage. There's so much everyday courage happening all around us. So many people surviving the death of their spouse, their child, their future. Rebuilding, picking up the pieces, on their knees begging for the next right step. Begging for their pain to ease, to see their loved one in their dreams.

That's courage. 
And if that's courage, then I'm courageous, even though I never feel brave at all. What's also missing from the equation is what I thought went along with courage - exhilaration. I don't feel exhilarated, I feel scared and exhausted. I want to feel the exhilaration of knowing that I've been brave enough to let someone new into my heart. I want to feel the thrill of surviving and finding happiness on the other side of the deep dark valley I was in.
But I'm not quite there yet. I'm still so scared all the time. Guarded and vigilant for more heartbreak coming my way.

I know that that mindset can kill my chances of happiness now and that future tripping* does me no good, but this is what my brain does. I can fight it and I do. But sometimes I just wish I didn't have to fight it so much. I wish I could relax into faith and imagine only great things happening. Or at the very least just stop projecting into the future at all. I wish I could stop scanning for signs that heartbreak is coming my way again.

I wish I could fully believe, as my therapist does, that more good stuff is headed my way because I've suffered enough already.

And then I realize that this is me. This is how my brain works, and rightly so. I have suffered greatly. But, I'm doing my best to not let it guide me. I can have these thoughts but not act on them. I can do what scares me. I can love again. I can have compassion for myself even though I struggle with this fear and this mind-habit of preparing for disaster. I can allow for the idea that I'm worthy and loveable even though this is how my brain works. I can entertain the idea that it's not that I'm inherently leave-able, it's just that the life I've been given has included lots of abandonment by death and that doesn't mean that everyone else I love will leave me.

I can admit that I am courageous, resilient, and worthy.
I can admit that I do deserve good stuff.
I can understand that while the universe takes away, it gives too. It can be incredibly generous.

Maybe it's my turn for some of that generosity.

*What my old therapist used to call worrying about the bad things that might happen.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

6 Month Slump

I have been in a slump.

It started with me catching a cold in October. I had a nasty cold, it didn't matter how much I slept, I was beyond exhausted. I couldn't stay awake for the life of me, even driving the 10 miles to work every day was a little sketchy. I chalked it up to depression, a different kind of depression.. a kind I have not had before. I thought the exhaustion was just depression, even though the depression I had before left me suicidal with no will to live. I had just passed the two year mark, so of course it was depression, why wouldn't it be?

I never really got over that cold. After 2 months of having a never ending sore throat, and sleeping 14 (plus) hours a day, I decided it wasn't just a cold anymore. I went to the doctor and had a full physical. They did full blood work, to check all my vitamin levels, hormones levels, even checked for cancer. When my doctor told me she was going to do a blood panel to test for cancer.. my heart broke all over again. Getting cancer after my husband’s death would be the end. I don’t think I would have the will to go on and fight it. I didn't dare tell my mom about the cancer talk my doctor and I had. I just couldn't do that to my mom.. unless it came back positive. (My mom is now just reading this and learning about this, yes mom.. there was serious talk about cancer. I am sorry I didn't tell you!)

After an anxious wait, my doctor called me with my results. Everything came back normal... 
Except I tested positive for mono.

I took my doctors advice, and whenever sleep came a knocking, I slept. I slept non stop. I called into work several times, just to sleep. I wish you could have heard my bosses’ voice when I would call in and say “I’m too tired to work today.” He was always like… “Err.. ok??” He didn't get it, and that is okay.

This was the beginning of this slump. I have been exhausted since then. I still have had a never ending sore throat. But now my blood work shows I have an “old” infection of mono, not an active infection.

The last 6 months have been pure exhaustion. Every day is a struggle. I haven’t had the energy to do the “normal” things in life, such as cleaning or grocery shopping. In fact, it has been so bad, I would rather just not eat then go to the grocery store or fast food joint because going to get food took far too much energy. Energy I couldn't afford to waste.

I took this exhaustion phase and just accepted it. I decided to “sit” with it. Not fight it. Unlike in the past, I have fought the depression, anxiety and exhaustion, until I crumble under the pressure. So I decided to just be with it. Just allow myself to be exhausted. Allow myself to sleep as much as my body tells me to. Allow my house to be a mess. Allow my life to be a mess. All to take care of myself.

I started thinking I would never get out of this exhaustion. I started wondering how I would manage life when I don’t have the energy for any of it.

I grieved a lot during this. Because I refused to push my body past its limits, I sat with it. I sat with the grief. Sat with the mono. I had 6 months of a lot of sleep and time on my hands. I had some really bad days. Days where I was sick of being sick, sick of the exhaustion, and sick of the grief. Days where I couldn't see an end to it all.

Today, a day after the 33rd month anniversary, I realized I have come around a curve. I have more energy. I want to do the things I enjoy again. I want to be out in the sun. I want to be out and meet new people and try new things.

How did this curve happen so slightly, that I didn't notice at first? Why can’t I take a very sharp turn, look back, and think, HA! I passed a turning point!

I am pulling out of my 6 month slump.

Maybe it was mono. Maybe it was depression. Maybe it was grief. Maybe just pure exhaustion from the busy life we live. Maybe a combination of all of this.

Or maybe it was meant to be. Meant to make me sit still. To sit with grief and life. Maybe it was to make me slow down, rest, and do the bare minimum… for once in my life.

One thing I learned out of my 6 month slump is.. just to sit with it. Accept it. It’s okay to dwell in it. It’s okay to have a pity party. It’s okay to have my house a mess. It’s okay to be lazy. It’s okay to sleep all day long.

After all, worse things have happened then dirty dishes. The dishes will still be there tomorrow, but if I don’t take care of myself today, I might not be here tomorrow.

I have realized life is too short to dwell in having a spot less house and an empty soul. I choose to do what makes me happy, and not do the things I am “supposed” to do.

The dishes will still be there tomorrow, they aren't going anywhere. But will I do them? Probably not. My soul needs to be outside, working in my garden, and not dwelling in dirty dishes. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Taryn is still in India, but you all loved this post of hers so much, I thought I'd repeat for anyone who missed it the first time...Taryn should be back next week! ~Michele

Photo taken by: http://www.m40photography.com

With May marking the 6th year of Micheal's transition, I figured that I'd cover 6 things that I've learned or that still ring true. Some of it may seem monotonous, but it's monotony that seals the cracks to the weak spots in our soul. More than any of the six things below, I want to acknowledge that each and every journey is unique. There is a shit ton more than the ones mentioned, that I've learned, but here are just a few of mine, and mine alone:

1.) I'm still madly in love with the dead dude!:
I tried to run away from my pain after his sudden death. Tried convincing myself of things/falsehoods, that I thought may lessen the pain. They didn't. The pain ate away at every ounce of what I thought was left of me before bringing back to the one truth and constant that was there all along. That our love is eternal. He is in every moment of my happiness and accomplishments, and gently nudging me as I trudge and trudged through the darkest of minutes, months and years. Being in love with someone not physically here has never for a moment equated to me living a less fulfilling, exciting, and amazing life...if anything, after seeing that I could withstand and overcome the grief (and what seemed like it's deathly grip), I was able to feel the very essence of what his love did and does for me continuously. Who he was in his life, guides me after his death. I simply just love the ability to say that I had the privilege to be his wife, and find it an honor to call myself his widow.

2.) The only way I could start becoming me was by doing what I didn't think I could do:

It started with breathing without him. Then it turned into smiling and laughing. Then onto trying new things. Creating new things. Growing. Acknowledging. Embracing. Living. I didn't think it was possible. But with each new step. Each new leap. I remembered who I was before the loss and started creating a me I could fall in love with, again. The more you hesitate, the more the fear will grow in you that you shouldn't or you can't or you won't. So just do it! Shedding the "what could or should have been" is the only way you can evolve.

3.) I hated that it got easier, but it did...it has:

As I started recognizing that I had more good days than bad. The moment that I switched from being able to count the number of days I didn't cry in a year on one hand, to the number of days I cried on one hand, was scary. My grief and pain had become an extension of my life without Michael, but my mind and heart were ready to shed that layer that I felt I needed to hold onto in fear that it would be a shedding of my life with Michael. It wasn't. It isn't. All new things, all things that are worth reaching will face discomfort and our mind telling us not to march forward...but I did, and it was so worth it. It revealed a life that I didn't think was possible to be a part of after he died.

4. )Some people just won't ever get me:

People still try to tell me what I need or should do. Not as many, but they're there. I've welcomed them with open arms, as I know that it is just them not understanding something that I didn't understand until I was in the midst of it. Acknowledging with myself that I got to take the path my heart and soul yearn for, makes it a lot easier to hug and show love to those who feel that it's necessary to share their opinions. As long as you know that they're nothing more than opinions (something we all have a ton of), then it makes those somewhat awkward moments a breeze. And believe it or not, those people make you that much stronger!

5.) I like the me I have become:

I used to yearn to be the person I was when Michael was alive. I seemed so much happier. I was the person he knew before death made me into what i felt was a ghoul. But 6 years later, I don't wish that I could go into the past as much as I wish he could be here to see who I am now. Grief can destroy you or strengthen you...or in my case, do a bit of both. But now I am strengthened more than destroyed. I have made an exerted effort to continuously surprise myself. To challenge myself. To make him proud where he is...and most importantly, to make myself proud, as I'm the person and soul I'm with the most.

6.) I never thought I'd still be here:

In all honesty, I didn't think I'd live a month after Michael's death. There was a part of me hoping that I could physically die of a broken heart. I even remember looking at those who had lived a year after their spouse's death and thinking that they must not love them as much as I love Michael. Well, I was totally wrong.  I couldn't die of a broken heart, but not physically. I could make the choice to die mentally and emotionally and do nothing more than be a shell of a being. I chose that for a while, but realized that I had to at least live for Michael until I could maybe one day choose to live for myself. It was when I did that, that I realized that those that had survived more than a month didn't have less love, but had made the decision to do more than just exist. They were willing to take a path they had no clue in where it would take them. It was an amazing realization. It is a huge reason I am living, not merely existing, today.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hope Comes Alive at "Camp Widow"

Two women are standing alongside the ocean in front of the Marriott Resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They are lingering behind about a hundred or so other widowed people who have started to go back inside – women, men, married, unmarried, engaged, same-sex partners, old, young, international. People of all kinds, from all over, with one very harsh thing in common: the person they intended to spend the rest of their life with is gone. They died.

It is a little after midnight on Saturday, April 20th, and we have just finished a ceremonial “ocean letter release”, where we wrote love notes to our partners, attached them to ribbon and hearts (all biodegredable), and tossed them out to sea. Most have left the beach area by now, but some of us can’t just yet, because the moment is too big and too powerful, and we still aren’t done talking to our husbands. We never will be.

One of these two women happens to be me, and this other woman, maybe about 5 or 10 years older than myself, comes walking up to me with tears in her eyes, and a few glasses of wine in her stomach. It is pitch black outside, and only the stars and the waves washing up on shore act as our light to see one another. “I don’t know who the hell you are, and I don’t really care”, she says to me matter-of-factly. Then she gives me a hug and starts to cry. We stand there together, arm in arm, looking out at the water. There are no other words. No explanations of any kind. There is no need for any of that. Because I already understand. In fact, everyone here understands. Welcome to Camp Widow.

In a lot of ways, it is almost impossible to describe something like Camp Widow in writing. I could go into all the specifics about workshops and other people’s personal stories of loss and all of that, but I wouldnt ever be able to capture the feeling or the tone or the magic of what went on there, inside this blogpiece. It is one of those things in life that is simply an “experience”, and you really need to be there to understand the impact and the power of its existance. However, if you are a widowed person and you are reading this right now, try to picture the following:

Try to picture a place where complete strangers give you a hug or a smile or a comforting look, because they know where you’ve been, and they’ve walked where you’ve walked. A place that holds a formal and elegant Banquet Dinner Reception for it’s “campers”, and where the D.J. is specifically ordered not to play any slow songs the entire night – ever. A place where you can dance freely and openly and have fun, without worrying about how you look to others, or whether people will think that you must be “over it” or “getting better”, simply because you are out and you have dared to laugh or feel joy again. A place where every single person around you understands how you can go from exhausted to angry to elation – all in the course of one hour. A place where you meet men and women whom you have been talking with for weeks or months or years online, and when you see them in person, you feel that instant connection, that bond that brings you closer. A place where they hand out kleenex before Workshops and Seminars, and where people don’t look the other way or act all awkward when you bust out crying or when you mention your loved ones name. A place where you are no longer the misfit, because everyone is the misfit. Everyone is Rudolph, and you all get to hang out on The Island of Misfit Toys. Throw in 2 full days of wonderful speakers, presenters, Workshops, and Round-Table discussions (like a support-group, but with specified topics such as Sudden Death, Widowed Without Kids, Long-Term Illness, Finances and many other subjects), all held at a gorgeous beachfront Marriott hotel with cockail parties and social events put together just for us; and you’ve got yourself a truly unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

None of this would even exist without an absolute Angel named Michele who is walking around earth in a human costume. When her husband Phil went out for his evening bike ride on August 31, 2005, and was hit by a Suburban, her entire world flipped upside down in seconds. Left with their 3 children and a planned future stolen away by death, Michele used her pain and her struggle and her grief to help other people all over the world who were going through something just as lonely and isolating and frightening. She took something that is terrifying on every level, and with it, she created this place of hope and dreams and inspiration. She didn’t have to do that. She didn’t have to do a damn thing, if you really think about it. To me, the very idea that she didnt drown or hide inside of her grief, but chose to reach out with it in the most expanding way possible, while still raising a family alone, makes this woman one of the most heroic people I have ever met.

At Camp Widow, Michele delivers a Key Note Address to all the campers who traveled from all over the country, and the world, to be at this exciting event. In her speech this past weekend, she quoted from the beautiful poem A Summer Day by Mary Oliver, in asking us all this incredible question:

Tell me – what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

It is a loaded question, especially when you are grieving the loss of your life-partner, and just trying to regain your footing. And when a non-widowed person tries to deliver me words of inspiration such as this, or tells me how strong I am, or some other cliche or cheesy thing – it just sounds like pointless words. Like the teacher’s voice from all the Charlie Brown specials, where you just heard that noise coming from the phone or loud-speaker: Waah waah wah wah waaa….

It is not that I dont appreciate friends and family trying to encourage me or believing in me. I do. I really do. However, when someone who hasn’t been through this stands there and tells you that things will get better or that you will be okay or that you will have joy again, it is very tough to believe them. Because truthfully – they just dont know. They havent walked through the fire, so how can they say how much it burns and when it will stop? They havent felt the torture of nails being pounded into their flesh over and over again, so how can they end the bleeding? They haven’t sat all curled up in their beds, with recurring visions of that horrible, traumatic day – flashing before them on an endless loop, asking themselves why they should bother to get up today and continue on with existing, so how can they possibly know about what it means to lose hope, and how scary and awful that feels?

But this woman. This Angel. This woman with the warm and inviting voice - this woman who said a casual goodbye to her husband and then never saw him again - this woman who somehow found the way to rebuild her life – this woman who created and invented a place for people like me to go, where we can feel wanted and loved and not ashamed or shunned by society or forgotten about, even if only for a weekend – this woman who embodies everything good and everything real – when this woman stands up on a stage and tells a crowd of widowed people that hope matters, or that we can still have an amazing life, even if its not the one we wanted or planned – I believe her. I believe her because she did it herself. I believe her because she is standing there in front of me, and she is made up of all her pain and strength and fear and love and grief, and she continues on. I believe her because her life will always be complicated and wonderful and joyful and tinged with sadness and loss, and because she married again, to a man who not only doesnt feel threatened that she will always love her late husband, but who fully supports her calling to help other widowed people throughout the world. I believe her – simply because she is alive.

For those that have been asking what Camp Widow did for me, or if Im “all better” now that I went there – as Ive said many times, there is simply no such thing as being “better”. There just isnt. However, there is such a thing as recreating your life, while always carrying your partner with you, deep inside of your soul. There is such a thing as finding hope where you thought there was none, and light where you saw only darkness, and tomorrow where you couldn’t see past today. There are new relationships and friendships to explore, and people to love, and things to learn, and beauty to see. And there is the fact that even though today I feel hopeful and inspired – tomorrow I will feel different. And then different once again. That’s just grief. And that’s okay.

 And then, of course, there is that lingering and very important question that still needs to be thought about, pondered over, and answered:

What is it I plan to do with my one wild and precious life?

I have no idea. But then again, maybe I do. In a lot of ways, I think I am already doing it.

Soaring Spirits is a non-profit organization helping the widowed worldwide, and celebrating its 5 year anniversary of Camp Widow West (coming up in San Diego, June 28, see you there!!!), and 2 year anniversary of Camp Widow East (last weekend in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.) If you know anyone who is widowed, please tell them about this magical place where they can begin to live their life again, one tiny moment at a time. Please donate to www.sslf.org , and also check out www.micheleneffhernandez.com. Thank you so much.

PICTURES: (in order) Ocean Letter Release. Me with Michele Neff Hernandez. Performing my Stand-Up Comedy Workshop. The beautiful Marriott Hotel on Myrtle Beach. Hope.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It only takes one person


...to make a huge impact.

Coming back from Camp Widow this time felt different than last time, somehow. Maybe I was so nervous about presenting last year and worried about doing a good job that I wasn't able to get outside of myself enough. I was impacted, definitely, but this year I was able to step back and really pay attention.

I was so aware at how one person can make such a big impact on my heart.

This weekend, I was impact by Lisa who reinforced my perspective and inspired me to be a better mom. Janice, who was brave enough to expose her frustrations and lend the deepest hurts out for healing. Diana who made me laugh, Dana who finally shared her story, Leah whose Canadian roots made me feel closer to Jeremy somehow, Connie who listened to my story (twice) and opened up with hers, Kelly who was willing to dig deeper and ask questions, Rachel who invested, made me feel at home, and recharged my desire to finish a book. For all the women at the Sudden Loss session who shared their stories....each one of them became imprinted on my heart and listening to them expose their worst nightmares was an experience I will never forget. And of course, Michele, who constantly inspires and reminds me of why I do this in the first place.

I gathered all these names up (I am actually super terrible at remembering names, there are more that impacted me this weekend) and tried to remind myself that even in the smallest encounter, change can happen. Love can transcend. I take that with me as hope that perhaps I am able to do the same, even just for one person.

Never underestimate the power of one. Especially when we all come together.
Thank you all for blessing me this weekend.

Coming Home ......


...... can be bittersweet.

Especially when you're coming home after attending Camp Widow.

Or sometimes ...... coming home from anywhere.

On the one hand, it's nice to get back to your own bed and belongings.
On the other hand, it's difficult to go back to that very lonely bed.

And while it's nice to come home and go to bed at a decent hour,
it's sometimes very hard to fall asleep at that hour.

Though it's good to come back to your children,
it's harder than hard to pick up that only-parent weight again.

And while it's good to be home again ...... it's hard to be away from the safety of around 100 friends (old and new) who walk the same path, share the same morbid jokes, cry at the same moments, laugh at even more of the same moments ...... and make me feel so accepted, safe and loved.

Coming home ...... is usually a wonderful thing for most people.

But for most of us ...... it's bittersweet.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


 I've got my SASSY pants on
and I'm NOT afraid to 
use them!

I had it Before.
But now? 
Now it is really hard to find without my one-man cheer squad.

I know I am clever.  Really very clever. I mean, I have it certified on multiple pieces of paper fergoodnesssakes.  

I graduated top of my university class for my education qualification; second top of my class for my science qualification.  I was given scholarships to do my PhD.  Which I was granted on the first submission.  My final GPA was 6.7 (out of 7).

....and yet I doubt myself all the time.

Before, I had Greg to talk my ideas through with and in so doing, strengthen my confidence that I did actually have the smarts required for anything.

But Greg boosted my confidence in other ways as well.....

Knowing that he thought I was beautiful and sexy did wonders for my confidence.

When I was a blimp on legs, pregnant with our big almost-10-pound baby boy, he constantly let me know that I was not the whale I thought I was, but a beautiful, pregnant mama.

When I was given the worst hair-cut of my life (the silly hairdresser put LAYERS in my naturally-curly hair and gave me a mop) he laughed at my high-humidity-frizz-induced tantrum and said "with boobs like yours, nobody is looking at your hair".  (....and nobody but him would get away with saying that).

When I was timidly starting out with my new camera, he complimented my "eye" for a shot. 

He'd hear me sing in the shower and applaud.

When I tried a new recipe, he'd clean the plate.

When I tried any new thing, he'd tell me I could Do it.

My one-man cheer-squad.

....and now I find my confidence slipping in all things.  I doubt my decisions on almost everything.  I have no confidence in my looks or sex-appeal so I don't even bother trying to find anyone new.  I frequently bore myself and wonder that I don't bore my friends to death.  I cook the same meals, over and over.  I rarely sing in the shower (songs have been replaced with tears).  I look at my photography and suspect that the other photographers I know just say kind things about my photos because they feel sorry for me.

I don't feel this way all the time (I do not suffer from depression), and I never feel insecure about ALL of  things at once ... but sometimes,  more than one of the above affects the way I think about myself. 

.....and I wish my personal cheerleader was here to remind me that I am OK.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Shielding Myself

I've been attempting to shield myself from the recent tragedies. I already avoid the news completely. If it weren't for Facebook and Saturday Night Live, I'd never know what was going on. And that's a choice. I just happened to hear about the bombings in Boston because I accidentally heard the radio for a few minutes shortly after it all happened.

On one hand I feel guilty about this. It's a head-in-the sand attitude. I don't want to know and that makes me a bit...selfish, I guess? Uncaring? The other part of me is protective of my selfishness. I've reached a limit for the sadness my heart can contain. Or maybe it just affects me more now so I can't tolerate it like I used to.

Every bit of suffering I hear about weighs so heavily. I can't hear about a tragedy without thinking of those left behind. I can't even see an ambulance shriek by without feeling my knees go weak, imagining the possible horror that people are experiencing right that moment.

Before Dave died, I didn't quite think that way. I had already experienced my share of death and I logically knew that when someone died, people were left behind to grieve, but now I know intimately what that is like and I imagine those souls simultaneously feeling a lot like I did in the hours, days and weeks after Dave died. I know what it's like to survive the worst that can happen.

I relive and I mourn again. I also feel so helpless. Though I can donate money and time to help somehow, what I can't do is make the years and years of pain go away for those who've lost their love and their lives as they knew them. That's a road we all essentially have to travel alone. And that makes me crazy.

So I avoid the news, the truth. I simply can't take it. Even the good parts, the parts about good outweighing evil, the stories of the way the tragedy brought people together, the parts about healing. They only make it marginally easier to hear. I'm done with misery. I've had enough of my own and everyone else's. I want some time to feel free of the weight of sadness. I want things to be easy.
I want to pretend, just for a few days in a row, that everything is okay. Everywhere. It's completely unrealistic, but it's true. I want to be in denial.

So much so, that I've been filling my brain with the exact opposite of harsh reality. I've been watching The Pioneer Woman cooking show on Food Network. The Pioneer Woman is Ree Drummand, who started out as a food blogger. Eventually, she got this gig with Food Network. She and her husband and four kids live in rural Oklahoma on a cattle ranch with dogs, cats and extended family. The show is, of course, a sparkly, pretty, happy version of the truth, not real life. It's an image, polished up and molded for TV, as all shows are.

But it's how I want to pretend life really works right now, instead of families torn apart, missing their loved ones and trying to understand the unfathomable.

In the alternate reality of The Pioneer Woman, both parents are well and happy, the kids are healthy  and rosy-cheeked, there's always home cooking, love and laughs and friends and family gathering around. Even both sets of grandparents are alive.  It's a little pocket of life created by a TV network, safe from all harm in the bubble of life we see after editing.

It both soothes and irritates me and I can't stop watching it.
I want to move in.
I want to cook for my family, like Ree does.
I want to do all the boring domestic things that I imagine a family would do.
And then I'm reminded of a couple of things before I tumble down the dark tunnel of "woe is me".

First, everyone has sorrows and problems and pain, even Ree. We just can't always see them and none of us are immune. To live is to feel pain. It's doing me no good to compare what I have with what others have. There will always be someone worse off than me.

And second, it's the loss I've experienced that has allowed me to appreciate what I do have so much more. And I hope that if I'm lucky enough to have a family of my own to cook for, I'll be less likely to take it for granted. I will hold my loved ones closer and hug them more often.

Or, maybe I'll be lucky enough one day to even get to the point where cooking for my family becomes mundane. Where I have moments when I think "I'd kill to have some alone time!" or "I have to cook for you AGAIN?!" I think I'd even appreciate that. Or at least I'd appreciate the chance to feel that way.

Sometimes, people who have intact families make me want to sit them down and tell them how lucky they are. Regardless of how hard it is to parent, to be married, to be a sister, a mother, a wife, a father, a daughter, a son, a brother. Regardless of how mundane their lives feel sometimes. I want to tell them to imagine a time when those loved ones no longer exist and how much they'd wish they had all that mundane, annoying, day-to-day domestic drudgery back. How much they'd miss every second of it.

If these horrific tragedies have to happen to us, I hope they at least remind us of what we have to be grateful for. I hope it reminds us all to tell our people how much they're loved, and how they make life worthwhile.

 I hope we take each other for granted a little less often.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Small Spaces


Yesterday I was driving with it in the car.

It being the death certificate.

I was closing the last account that was in Seth’s name. Our internet service.

When I was talking to our not so friendly internet provider, they told me they needed to see the death certificate. My heart started pounding.

That meant I had to go there. Into our locked safe, into the envelope, the holds the pieces of paper that were the start and end of our life together.

After talking to the internet company, I was frazzled. I was sweating, panicky, and nervous. I put off going there. I put off handling the piece of paper. I put it off, until I couldn't anymore.

I hate going there. For that one piece of paper. I hate that piece of paper.

Manner of Death: Suicide
How injury occurred: Shot self with blah caliber pistol.

Why does one piece of paper, send me into a tail spin? I am fully aware my husband ended his life, but that piece of paper is a huge grief trigger.

It seems so permanent and so… cold. Too insanely blunt. Could they not have put that he fell and died from a boo boo on his head? Could they not sugar coat this for me? Maybe give me a real death certificate and a sugar coated death certificate, so I could choose which certificate I was willing to deal with that day?

As I was driving to the internet provider’s store, I looked over at the passenger seat. The envelope that held our whole life was just sitting there, mocking me. I couldn't help but think about… how can 10 years together, be printed on two pieces of paper, and fit so easily into one envelope?

I started thinking about how our 10 years together now fits into several small spaces. His urn. His whole body, placed in one little urn. His belongings, fitting easily in my old steamer trunk. And our marriage and his death, all in one envelope.

How is it that when he was alive, his life and stuff filled every room and space in my house and heart? Now, 32 months later, it all fits nicely in three tiny places?

These little places and little pieces of paper are a land mine of grief and a life lost.

At least this trigger can be put back where it belongs, locked away in the safe, folded nicely in a little envelope. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013



“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” ~Dr. Anthony Robins

Michael was blown up.

Blown up by a man in a field who waited for the perfect moment to detonate thousands of pounds of explosives underneath him.

And yet, with such a heinous and deliberate act, I have no doubt in my heart, that he died in peace. He died with no anger.

After I was notified, I found myself not angered by the stranger who pressed down on the detonator. Or the military. Or the men who were with him. Or really anyone here on earth.

As the days and months passed I saw what it was to be blamed for his death by others (yes, even in grief, and in Texas, I was blamed). But I never took it personally, knowing that it was there way of displacing the pain they didn't know how to handle (I personally preferred to displace it on a bottle of wine....but we're all different).

And it's happened more since his death. Blame. Anger. Hatred. And in all honesty, I always took it because it never absorbed, and I know we all react in different ways.

But it wasn't until 4 years after his death. 4 years of learning to live. 4 years to teach myself how to inhale and exhale in a world without him. 4 years to remember who I was before the loss and merge it with who I had become.

4 years till it hit me.

And in all places, an Indian sweat-lodge.

It hit me in the vulnerability of the heat, strangers and darkness, that I realized something that I never even knew existed.

Up until that evening, I had prided myself on never blaming. I was pretty good at taking the blame. But I always felt I took ownership for my actions. It seemed easy.

But it hit me.

I had been blaming someone for something since his death.

Blaming a god/higher being for Michael's death.

It had been so easy to live a life free of blame when I had put it on someone I do not know and cannot see.

It hit my heart that night, and I had to say it. I had to verbalize something that I had been unconsciously hiding in my heart for so long.

I did.

And it changed my life.

It changed my life in allowing me to take away the blame and let be.

It allowed me to jump over the invisible stone wall that was still surrounding and cloaking every action and aspect of my life....without me even knowing it.

For it was after that moment. When I stepped out of the lodge, that found myself living a blame free life.

Blame free for me and towards any and all things.

A life that had patiently waited until the right moment to let me walk into the surprise party of awesome-ness that I didn't even know I was invited to.

I've even stopped blaming myself for not recognizing it until that moment.

For it was then that I knew that the ability to embrace change and the changes to come, far outweighs the heavy weight of the blame we create in our hearts and minds.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Reflecting and Persevering and Pushing

"You have one, maybe two weeks left," the doctor at MD Anderson told Maggie exactly four years ago today as I held Maggie’s hand. Such a statement, after all we had been through, was not a surprise to either of us. That moment will sit forever in my gut like a block of emotional lead. If you are reading my words today, I suspect you’ve felt that same feeling in some fashion, the feeling of your blood running cold. I hope neither you nor I ever feel that again.

As Maggie’s Angel Day approaches, I’ve been trying to live my life, to not reflect back, to not deeply ponder – or dare I say even savor – those last few days. I feel like I should in some way hold those painful memories close but then I feel like I’m doing exactly what some of my “friends” have accused me of – milking this situation or not moving on or choosing to being dramatic. Thus, I tell no one about my trips back to those poignant moments only four years ago, except you. I know you know and understand and don’t find fault in my continued sadness. Yes, I miss my sweet wife. Yes, after nearly four years I still carry a torch. Neither my tears nor the judgmental spit from others have managed to extinguish that flame. Damn it. Why does this still have to be so difficult? Haven’t I paid my dues?

Not helping my sanity is the unpleasant surge in difficult situations. I have three friends right now dying slowly of the same disease; two are married while one is sad she’s not. Another very dear friend of mine lost her dear friend suddenly last week; he was only 37. Then there’s the nightmarish mess in Boston last Monday and Wednesday’s tragedy down the street in West, Texas. Even tonight as I type, an MIT guard has been killed. Death, it seems, has become strikingly obtrusive. I can’t help but wonder how many of us they leave behind.

I’ve been told that I should feel invincible since I’ve lived through the unimaginable. Then riddle me this, Batman: Why do I feel so miserable… still? Is it because I’m watching many of Maggie and my friends get divorced? Or is it because I’m a sideliner to many of our friends sharing the joy of parenthood? Or is it because Maggie and I were just never given a chance? For whatever reason, being widowed is hard in ways that others can’t possibly understand, despite their wild, judging imagination. This widowed journey is only for those who aren’t living the life they dreamed with their loved one because their loved one died. It’s semantically obvious but simply incomprehensible.

I’ll keep trucking on, trying to figure out what to do with my life now. I don’t have any answers and, frankly, I feel stuck. Four years is a long time to be stuck. Maybe it’s time for one of my big pushes. It’s been a while since I’ve made a big ol’ painful push.

Hmmm….. Damn. There goes the weekend.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013



Tragedy has been close to my heart this week.

Monday, as I watched the horror unfold during the Boston marathon, I was once again in awe of how quickly life can go so wrong. How swiftly and senselessly life can end.

My two year old happened to be sitting next to me while I watched some coverage on Hulu, and he would not stop asking questions. "What happened Mommy?" He wanted me to talk him through every scene. Then he asked to watch it four more times - he wanted to watch "the boy hurting show." He kept repeating "people got hurt," or "dat's sad," or "dat's a big boom."

I was a little disturbed that my toddler was so fascinated with this footage of people suffering. And just when I thought perhaps I had a twisted mind on my hands, I watched a lightbulb go off in his head.

"Daddy died Momma. Dat's sad."

Ah, there it is. For his entire life, I've tried to explain who Daddy is and where he is and what happened in the simplest of terms for my sweet boy who never got to meet him face to face. But it was like he understood suddenly in his own way what tragedy was and how devastating it is.

Since then, he's been talking about Daddy a lot. Trying to sort things out, I think. Asking to read his picture book of Daddy, and reminding me after every page turn that Daddy died. It can be gut wrenching to watch his small mind put things together.

It can be hard to constantly be reminded of grief. Sure, it follows me around every single day in different ways, but to overtly bring it to my face and deal with it over and over can get overwhelming.

As Camp Widow East sets to gear up tomorrow, I can't help but have grief in my face again. But as heavy as it can be, I welcome it. I welcome the reminder that I was well loved the pain that still follows me is not just a figment of my imagination. I welcome the opportunity to search my heart deeper for healing, to open myself up to others who are walking this same unintended path. To share my story in hopes that someone out there might have a different lightbulb go off: a lightbulb of hope.

I think some worry that being in an environment surrounded by other widow/widowers somehow "exposes" you to grief you don't necessarily want to share. It reminds you of what a dark world we can live in and perhaps dwelling in that atmosphere seems overwhelming.

But on the contrary, when we ban together to share our hearts and our stories, a little piece of light gets let back in. Yes, the world can be a tough place, but we all know that first hand. But when we break down the walls we've each put up by connecting with others who 'get it', suddenly we see there can be more to life than just merely existing. There can be more to life than just tragedy.

That's the light I keep coming back for more of.
Looking forward to meeting some of you this weekend.

By The Time Most of You Read This ......

...... I'll either be winging my way towards S. Carolina and Camp Widow East, or I'll already be there.
We have work to do before you get there.

I look forward to meeting those of you will be coming to Camp.  I wish you could all come, but I know, as do all of you, that wishes don't always come true.

For those of you who are coming, I truly hope that you'll take the time to come up to me and say hi.  Even if you only ever comment as Anonymous.  Or ...... even if you never comment.

Each of you mean more to me than you know.  You are my passion.
Hopefully that didn't just scare you all away.

Encouraging you, letting you know that you're a little less alone ...... and whole lot less crazy than you thought you were ...... is my passion.

This is not what I thought I'd be doing at this point in my life.
But I also never thought I'd be widowed at this point in my life.
Thankfully, I never saw any of this coming.

But here I am ...... widowed.
And here I am ...... using what I've experienced on this road to reach out to others who are here.
And in reaching out to you ...... I feel as though I'm reaching out to my future, my continued healing, and my hope.
As well as reaching out to new friends.

So thank you for coming here.
Thank you for continuing to encourage me.
And thank you for helping me to feel ...... a little less alone.
And a whole lot less crazy than I think I am.

You see, that's one of the good things about being in this "club".  We never talk about the good things, because, of course, we didn't choose to be here and would NEVER have chosen to be here.
But here is where we are.
And so let's remind ourselves of the positive.
Which is this:  the people in this "club" reach out to each other.  We help each other stand.  We help each other take the next step.
And we give each other hope.

As much as I want to be here for each of you ...... I want to thank you for being here for me.

Even though we never saw ourselves ...... being here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


So my new bed arrived on Saturday (and I LOVE it).

....and being a wanna-be photographer, I dutifully  took some photos and shared them on my 365Project.
...and being a little bit clueless, I also shared my WV post (text, not link) about buying a new bed with the photo (changed somewhat to reflect the emotional aspect of buying a new bed, mostly to distract all my facebook friends from immediately saying "ooohahhh, lucky you, I wish *I* could afford a new bed" (and I'd then have to refrain from pointing out that if they didn't need the overseas holiday every year and the new car, they too probably could have a new bed to).
I forgot how many of my friends and family lurk there to see my photos.....

Anyhooo...... it was a good lesson to me as to why I don't share my writing here with my non-widowed friends and family......

I can't tell you the number of concerned messages I have had by well-meaning friends and family worried about the state of my mental health because I actually expressed  the things I freely express here on this blog. 
Basically, my emotional response in seeing my old bed taken away was a bit too scary for some of my dear friends to cope with: they worried about me.

I tried to reassure them that they don't need to worry about me.  I miss Greg All The Time and this was just another thing that was part of letting go. 
I was repeatedly e-mailed a variation on the theme that "Greg is around me and a piece of furniture doesn't matter". 
Well obviously I know that he was so much more than a bed, but I just can't seem to explain to them that its not the bed.... its the closeness.... the memories of being in that bed that nobody else knows about and it was sad to see it go.  It still went though .... I knew I couldn't keep it, just as I know it is just a bed.

I know my friends and family are just showing their concern for me, but it does tend to feel like I am a child being placated.  The concern is real, and I know they don't know what to say, but I find that they really don't understand. 
It confirms my decision not to share my WV posts with my non-widowed friends: they just don't know how to react to my feelings.  Much as I know its what they all want for me, I am not "all better now", nor will I ever be.  ...and explaining that I will never be "over" my husband's death is tiring. ...and its sad to tell them that while I appreciate everything they do for me, they can't fix me, nor do I expect them to.

So thank you all for the opportunity you give me each week to pour out my thoughts and feelings freely, without worry that my emotions are too much, or that I need to be fixed, or reminded that Greg still loves me. 
I thank you for the cheap therapy you provide me in being able to share my pain with you without fear of scaring you with the enormity of it all.
Most of all, I thank you for just understanding. 
....and for reminding me that I am not alone.

Monday, April 15, 2013


What widowhood has taught me so far…

Waterproof mascara not only withstands a little crying, but it thickens, holds curl and doesn’t flake/smear like regular mascara does. Okay, now for the real ones...

It is okay to ask for and accept help. You are not a burden because something terrible happened to you and you need help to get through it. If anything, the people who really matter are just hoping you’ll give them something to do to help. It’s just your turn to be helped.

There’s no right time. Timelines don’t exist. Don’t listen to someone else tell you that you should or shouldn’t. Don’t make any big decisions in the first year is bullshit. Most of us will HAVE to make big decisions. Some of us will want to. Do what you feel in your gut is going to help you in the long run. Then kindly (maybe silently, maybe not) tell anyone who disagrees to fuck off.

Exercise is medicine. Grieving is incredibly hard on your body. Exercise will help you sleep, eat and relax. It will also boost your immune system. You don’t need to have poor health on top of all the other problems. Also, I found that a strenuous workout was one of the few times when my brain would settle down. Physically challenging myself makes my emotional brain shut off temporarily and it’s almost the only thing that does.

Whatever it is you love to do, be it knitting, hanging out with animals, hiking, singing, walking in the woods, painting…do it. Do what used to make your heart sing. It might not feel the same at first, but you will eventually feel it again.

Don’t agree to do stuff you truly don’t want to do. Life is too short to do stuff you don’t want to do.

It’s okay if it feels like there’s nothing you want anymore. I think that will come back eventually. It’ll be scary when it does come back because it’ll feel like you have something to lose again and that’s terrifying. But that fear means you are alive and feeling. That’s good. And scary.

Humor is medicine. Don’t try to read or watch sad, dramatic or traumatizing stuff unless you really want to. Read David Sedaris or Tina Fey or Mindy Kaling, or watch SNL, 30 Rock or Arrested Development. Even if you’re too sad to laugh, at least your brain will get a break from the darkness for a few moments.

Seek out others who “get” you and support you. They will sustain you and vice versa. You need each other.

Disclaimer: Most of these are in my “easier said than done” category and I struggle with them daily, but I still believe them.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Suicide Note

I have struggled off and on with the fact that my husband did not leave me a suicide note.

I am once again struggling with this. I have been for weeks now.

Through talking to other suicide widows, I know that the suicide note doesn't always bring comfort. It often times places blame, doesn't make any sense, or just flat out, doesn't bring ENOUGH love and affection to such a horrible situation.

But there are times like now, that I wish I could pull out the note, and read it. Maybe to be reminded of what a dire state my husband was in. That death was his only option. Or just to see “I love you” one more time.

While I have been battling with this for weeks, it dawned on me that I did in fact get a suicide note. 

However it wasn't the suicide attempt that ended his life. It was his first suicide attempt (I wrote about it here).

For some reason I forgot about this note. I couldn't remember what it said. I forgot where it even was. Did I even keep it?

Through sheer fear that I didn't keep it, I opened the old steamer trunk I keep most of his belongings in. It’s one of those things I rarely open, let alone dig through. It sits at the end of my bed, looking pretty, but hidden inside is a life lost to suicide. A lifetime, a marriage, a friendship and companionship that is lost.

My hidden treasure.

When I opened the trunk, I bent down.. and lost it. I just sat and cried. I sat and breathed in the smell of the trunk. I carefully looked through some items. Carefully as I didn't want to damage anything inside, but also being cautious as I knew I was walking into a land mine that could take me weeks to recover from.

Carefully guarding my heart, I searched. There hidden away is pictures, cards, things that were in his pockets when his body was found (still in the sealed bio-hazard bags).

I looked at his wallet. Still full of pictures of us, his credit cards, drivers license, and money. Money I refuse to spend no matter how bad things get. I looked at his glasses, and remembered how handsome he always looked in them. Looked at the only piece of his clothing that I kept, his favorite red hoodie (All his other clothes were made into a quilt, matching pillows, and a couple of throws). I was a little shocked that the smell of cedar from the trunk, now reminds me of my husband. How can the smell of an old steamer trunk, now remind me of my husband? I haven’t opened the trunk in probably a year. 

I can’t even remember what all is in there. I didn't stay in the moment long enough to go through and remember what is inside.

I however did find the suicide note he sent me.

I remember getting the post card. My husband was in a physic ward after spending some time in intensive care. I opened the mail box, and my heart shattered. There on top of all the junk mail and bills, was a picture of Delicate Arch in Arches national park. The same park my husband was found in after his attempt.

I thought reaching into the mailbox and pulling out the post card was going to kill me.

This post card has long been forgotten. Shoved into the trunk with the rest of his life.

Finding this (and realizing it wasn't lost forever) brought me some comfort. There in his own writing, a small glimpse of his pain and “Love you with all my heart.” Signed - Husband. The nickname I called him for years.
In case you can't read it, it says - I don't know what else to say but how sorry I am for your pain. No one has any idea how it is to be me. Love you with all my heart. Love you, Husband

It was a reminder of how much pain he was in. Brought back memories of his suicide attempts and memories of his last attempt. His final attempt.  I think the post card was a way for me to find his body. A not so obvious map, so I could have lead detectives in the right direction.

But more than anything, it was also a reminder that in his last moments he thought of me. Loved me.  And was sorry for the pain he was about to put me through.

I don’t think I ever spoke to Seth about the post card. I remember hiding it away in a file in my office shortly after I got it. At some point I must have moved it to the old steamer trunk. 

Now that I remember I did in fact get a suicide note, and my husband did in fact say one last “I love you” I think I can finally put this struggle behind me.

And put the post card back in the trunk, where it will always be.. just in case I need to be reminded again. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013



“We grow neither better nor worse as we get old, but more like ourselves” May Lamberton Becker

Life after death is a funny thing.

It starts with the aching wanting to die.

Equates, in some cases, to accepting that you won't right away, but you accept that you will do nothing more than merely exist.

Then it may warp into you getting a taste of life through the eyes a friend or fellow widow, through a laugh or a twinkle you see that you thought would never return.

Then you start to step into the world of the living.

Then you step out.

Then you say fuck it and find that you can be happy, again.

You can stop cursing the gods for leaving you in a world without your love,

And start thanking them for giving you the ability to live and flourish after such pain.

But after you decide to live, you start to think what the heck is next.

And you realize that it's not so much that it is difficult to figure out, as it is to imagine.

Fear can jump in. Doubt. All of those buddies that were MIA in the first months of your loss, but came to say hello when they saw you decided to join the human race.

But I've realized that if you wave hello as you walk by those evil little buddies, and walk towards what could be...it becomes a pretty awesome journey.

Freedom. Not giving a heck. The ability to create your future instead of letting others (and their opinions) feel the need to create your blue print....and I could go on.

Basically, the ability to grow up through one's grief.

To learn, make mistakes, get back on the bike, feel lost, but ultimately know that it's all going to be pretty darn awesome.

Maybe it's not growing up through the premature birth of grief that entered unwillingly. Maybe it's becoming the us that we were meant to be all along that just had a long and shitty detour before it's destination.

Friday, April 12, 2013

What Remains ....

I am not really sure where my husband went off to. He died. Yes. But it never feels that way. It feels as if he were part of some horrible magic trick in some terrible, cheesy Vegas act. One second – here. The next second –POOF!!  All gone! Magic!
It feels as though I took a nap, and then woke up and he went missing, never to be seen again. He died while I was asleep. Asleep. Im not sure that I will ever know how to process that. Im not sure that I want to. I am sure that there is no such thing as “closure.”
I am not really sure where I went off to. I’m alive. Yes. But it never feels that way. It feels as if I am part of some horrific magic trick in some awful, cheesy cruiseship act. That same hack trick where they pretend to cut the woman in half, as she lay inside the box. Except it’s not a trick at all. Every second that I’m here, living in this world, I am being severed in half. Over and over and over again. He died while I was asleep, and when I woke up, he was dead. He was already dead. Im not sure that I will ever know how to process that. Im not sure that I want to. I am sure that there is no such thing as “better.”

Where is that girl? That girl that my husband fell in love with. That girl that he believed in. That girl that he kissed for the first time on that NYC ferryboat, when our smiles for each other lit up the nightsky, when our futures were dancing with promise. I once knew that girl who was hopeful and dreamy, quirky and warm, energetic and fun. She laughed with abandon. She loved her birthday. She lived for Christmas, and all things family, and dinner-parties and music and baseball. She had dreams, and after years of heartbreak, she had finally found love. The true, amazing, rare, once-in-a-lifetime kind of love.

But we didnt get the lifetime, and so that girl lost her hope and her dreams. She isnt really much fun anymore. She tries, but she is very tired, because this new life is exhausting and hard and long. Her big brown eyes feel gray and colorless. She feels guilty on her birthday, lonely and empty on Christmas, and baseball games don’t seem to have the same impact without hearing her husband’s ongoing commentary. That girl went to sleep one night, just like any other night. Except it wasn’t. Because on that night, that girl went to sleep, and woke up dead.

Im not really sure where my husband’s remains are, or what remains of my husband. In that gray-looking canister they gave me, all filled with dirt? In the sand and in the water, where I tossed some of him on those meaningful days? In my heart – the way everyone is always telling me? In the universe, the clouds, the air? In the harmonies of a song so beautiful, you can hear your heart skipping? Maybe. But it never feels that way. People will feed you meals made up of the phrase: “He is always with you”, but actually knowing his touch is like trying to hug a butterfly.

Im not really sure where my remains are, or what remains of me. The pieces that were severed, came off little by little, second by second, hurt by mindnumbing hurt. Maybe I lost an arm while running into the ER that morning. Maybe a leg was chopped off when the nurses surrounded me and said “massive heart-attack. He didnt make it.” Maybe my soul disappeared while staring into that casket at my husband’s eyes that were no longer his eyes, or his face that was no longer his face. Perhaps my heart leapt out of my body and fell onto the wet ground, when I got that autopsy report in the mail. When I saw his name on that death certificate. When my 6 foot 4 husband, was handed to me, in a can. Remains.

So what remains of that girl, who died that day, on that day that she woke up? Many things, and nothing at all really. Everything that she was – she is not. Everything that she is – she was not. Her laugh is broken. Her smile is weak. She has no time for petty shit. She feels compassion for those in pain. She feels connected to those who hurt. She feels jealous of those with long lives and long marriages, and angry at the ones who dont ever seem to appreciate what they have. She panics easily, cries effortlessly, and feels deep emotion with abandon. She doesnt sleep enough, she writes too much, and she eats too much. She doesnt know yet how to take care of herself. She doesnt know yet how to care. About life. About being alive. She doesnt understand this new life – this weird future without her husband. This universe where she doesn’t grow old with him or spend decades with him or have children with him or retire with him. She doesnt understand yet, all that there is to understand.

Not yet. Not ever. Not yet.

So much was lost. So much is gone. He is gone. I am gone. Some things stay, but they dont look the same. They arent the same. But they stay anyway. Our love stays. The grief stays. Today stays. All of that stays, and it makes a great big pile of clusterfuck, in the wreckage. The pieces that lie there in that dirt, will somehow form a life. If I keep trying to figure it out, how they all go together, they will mold into my tomorrow. And all of the hope and the loss and the love and the fight and the hurt and the pain and the light – they will crash into one another, if I let them, and they will be the tools that I use to create, whatever the something is that I create.

What remains, is what I create. And what I create, is what remains ….

Wednesday, April 10, 2013



Last night, we got a crazy thunderstorm.

I can't remember the last time we had one like that. I didn't realize how long it had been until Faith came down stairs 30 minutes after her bedtime terrified of the storm like she had never heard one before.

Of course we had heard thunderstorms before...but I had never seen her react like that to it. Over the last 2 1/2 years, we have listened to the storms together and to help calm them down, we used to pretend that God and Daddy were bowling together and we'd cheer when we heard a strike (oh, the ridiculous things we come up with to comfort our children). But Faith had obviously outgrown that theory and she was too scared to go back to bed alone.

So, up I went to lay down with her for a few minutes. It's been too long since we've just laid together and talked one-on-one, at least about life issues. While we tried to tune out the thunderstorm, I got to have a precious conversation with her about her daddy. It went a little something like this:

Me: "What do you miss about your daddy?"
Faith: "Wrestling with him."
Me: "Of course you do, you two loved to wrestle together. What else do you remember about daddy?"
Faith: "Yeah, remember that time daddy got up early with me when I was sick and laid on the couch and gave me an ice pack - it was one of those blue ones - and wrapped it up in a cloth and watched TV with me?"

This simple conversation struck me for a number of reasons. First of all, it was another testament to the wonderful father Jeremy was. He would drop everything to lay with his babies if they were sick. The second thing that struck me was Faith's impeccable memory of her daddy, which I have always been grateful for. She was probably 2 or 3 when this occurred. I only know this because I remember that day...I had to go to work, so Jer stayed home with her and sent me pictures of her pathetic little face and a cloth wrapped ice pack on her forehead. So it wasn't one of her more recent memories of him...how does she remember that stuff?

Even when they can't always put it into words, it's never ceases to amaze me how love transcends through childrens' hearts even in the most abstract of ways. Through memories, through feelings, through art, through behavior....even through thunderstorms. I'm so thankful that love wins, and love defeats death.

I'm also thankful I got to hold her sweet little hand while she fell asleep during the thunderstorm and I prayed she would never lose that wonderful gift.

It Wasn't Just My Life ......


(This is a post that I've been reflecting on for a while now.  It's not in response to any post or any comment that's ever been written here.  It's just my thoughts.  Honestly.)

...... and the lives of my children that changed when Jim died.
His death affected more than our families and closest friends.

It affected everyone who knew him ...... everyone who knew me ...... and everyone who knew us.

It's difficult, if not impossible, to see that when you're in the midst of the deepest, darkest days of grief.
It's difficult to see that when you're just trying to make it through each minute of each hour of every day.

But at some point, when you finally feel like you can breathe without sobbing, you're able to look around ...... and see how much of an impact the death of your loved one made.

Jim was the first person in our wide circle of friends and co-workers to die.  Some of our friends had lost a parent during those last few years ...... that's the stage of life which we were approaching in our mid-40's.
That was a fact that we hated, but to which we were slowly growing accustomed.
People expect to one day lose their parents.

No one expects a friend/co-worker to die suddenly, un-expectedly, shockingly ...... in their 40's.
No one expects their life to suddenly change overnight.
No one expects that last "care-free" weekend ...... to really be the last one like that ...... for a very, very long time.

Our friends will never be the same.
I find it difficult to put into words, but it's like our "innocence" was lost that Monday night/Tuesday morning.
For many of us, it was the first time we really lived the phrase, "when bad things happen to good people" (which is also the title of a very good book).
Our worlds, not just mine ...... not just my children's ...... were turned upside down, torn asunder.  Changed forever.

I would guess that my friends held their husbands tighter that night, while feeling guilty that they could.
I would guess that each of them felt some sort of shift in their relationship ...... in their home.
And I would guess that no one had a guide book about dealing with the sudden loss of a friend.
We were all living one breath at a time.
For a while.

Why am I writing this?
Why am I posting this here?
I guess, in a way, I'm acknowledging my friends ...... and the change they each felt in their own life.
And ...... I'm reminding all of us on this path ...... that not only are we not alone here ...... but that we're not alone in having our lives changed with our loss.

No, our friends, co-workers and relatives may not always "get it" ...... but I don't think we always get their grief either.
Or at least I didn't.

And no, there's no comparison of losing my husband with losing a friend.
But someone was still lost.

And it wasn't just me who lost him.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Inner Circle....

I came across this article today: How Not to Say the Wrong Thing.   The premise is that when someone is at the centre of a life-altering crisis, they are the inner circle and each concentric cirlce around them is a step down from the crisis.... they provided this diagram which explains it better than I can:

The rules of kvetching

While it is based on instances where someone is dying from terminal illness, I think it still works for those of us dealing with the after-effects of death.

Interestingly, the comments on the article (you have to click through to read them) that take issue with the order of rings seems to come from those who are technically in rings 3 or 4.

I've been in those rings before and really did feel aggrieved that information wasn't being shared with me... but thank goodness I was able to pour comfort inwards rather than the fear and desperation I was feeling.  .....
Both my inlaws died from cancer just before Greg died (Greg's mother a year to the day before him).  I was gutted when we discovered she had breast cancer and I think I prayed to every deity I could to spare her and allow the doctors to brilliantly halt her cancer.  After all, we'd just lost Greg's dad 2 years previously to an aggressive cancer.  I remember being desperate for information and frozen with fear.  I hated not hearing updates as soon as they were available from the doctors.  I just thank whatever deity it was that I prayed to that I was able to keep my feelings in check and just *be there* for Greg as he lost his mother.

But now that I am firmly in ring 1, I look out at those in the outer circles and thing "yes - I really don't need you to dump your feelings on me, for whatever you are feeling, it is exponentially larger for me.  You may not see it in me because I am so good at putting on this "coping face", but trust me when I say it is worse for those of us in the inner circle".
I never realised this until AFTER I became a widow ....

But now... now I know how surreal it can be when I find myself comforting others because my husband's death is too hard for them to accept. 
They tell me I am strong because I don't dissolve into tears every time I think of him because they do every time his name is mentionedThey never see the oceans of tears I cry at home away from those "looky-loos". ....and I don't just remember him when his name is mentioned .... I remember him with every part of me all the time.  All. The. Time.

So yes, I really do think it is those of us who are faced with the empty chair at the dinner table, the ache that can only be relieved by arms that would hold us just so, the secret smile that has disappeared, the scent, the sound of his voice, the taste of his lips, the personal sounding-board and one man cheer-squad ...... and the empty side of the bed,  Every Single Day who are in the inner circle.   ....and I for one, don't need extra angst coming from the outer circles.....

Comfort inwards: Angst outwards.  

I like this idea.

....(but I also like the idea that those in the inner circles can do BOTH comfort and angst to those in the centre of other circles).