Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dad vs. Daddy


The other day, Steve overhead the very thing that most blended family parents hope they never hear from our 7 year old:

“I love my daddy, but I don’t like my dad.”

Ugh. I hate that it was him that overheard it, and not me. She was talking with her cousins, I don’t know what about, but I know how deep those words can cut. Now, I feel ok sharing this because I know that she doesn’t really feel that way. She and Steve have a great relationship and she is always writing him notes or making pictures for him, playing and teasing with him…and one of the last texts she sent to him from her ipod was “you’re a great dad.”

Nonetheless, it hurt my heart. When I addressed it with her, I know she felt terrible, and she did confess that she didn’t really mean that and there was nothing she was upset about….but it got me thinking that perhaps she’s got her daddy on a pedestal. In fact, I think most people do. That’s kind of what happens with the dead – we elevate them to an inflated ideal of who they are, and forget the flaws (as it should be).  So I felt the need to remind her that when her daddy was alive, he did all the same things her dad does (discipline when she’s not acting appropriate, or get frustrated when she misbehaves) not because either of them are mean, but because they love her and want to make sure she grows up to be the best girl she can be. I never want my daughter to see her daddy in a bad light, because he loved her with everything he had, but I also want to remind her once in awhile that he was human. She also needed the reminder that her dad loves her and would do absolutely anything for her. 

There will be days like these. There will be days when my daughter isn't fond of me, either. But a little perspective goes a long way, and I want to make sure she remembers her daddy that same way I do....the good AND the bad. Cause that's the man I loved and the man who loved her dearly.

Then ......

...... and now:

The first picture is of Jim, on our last vacation together ...... 5 months before he died.  We were visiting my brother and his family in Alaska, and we had climbed up one hellacious peak with the three boys.  I just happened to catch him in a quiet moment, looking at the amazing view.
It's one of my favorite pictures of him.

The second pictures is one I took today, of Son #1.  He and I are in Oregon, visiting my father and my sister and her family.  Today the Son and I climbed a peak near here.  All the way to the top.  Which is much easier written, than done.  But we made it.
I had him stand away from me, on a nearby rock, so that I could take his picture with the view in the background.
Before I could even click the button and capture that moment ...... it hit me.
It hit me hard, though I managed to swallow it down and continue with the picture taking.

This picture of Son #1 was taken today ..... pretty much 6 years, almost to the day, that I took that picture of Jim.
The similarity of the scene was not lost on me.
Nor was the similarity between the two men.

I'm trying very hard to not let the dam of tears break as I write this.
Sometimes it so wonderful that each of my children can look so much like Jim.

Other times ...... it breaks my heart.
It's such a fast and difficult trip back through time ...... like being grabbed by the back of the neck and drug through the past 6 years in less than a couple of seconds.
One moment I'm looking at my son ...... a moment later I'm looking at Jim, just as he stood in that exact moment ....... before I was aware that my wonderful life would disintegrate in less than 5 months. Before I ever came to a personal knowledge of the word "widow".
Before I knew that it doesn't matter how good people are ...... bad things will still happen to them. Sometimes very bad things.
Before ...... when I was naive and thought I had my life all figured out.
Before ...... my world, as I knew it, came crashing to a devastating and very quick end.

Funny, as we began climbing this Peak/Butte/Mountain, I didn't even think back to that day in Alaska. At least, not in a way that made me pause ...... and wonder how this might feel once we got to the top.  I did remember that climb back in 2007 and remembered how very difficult it was, and how worried I was that one of the boys would get hurt.
But that was all.

It wasn't until we finally made it to the top of the peak today, and I turned my camera towards Son #1, that I was fully slammed in the gut ...... about how alike these two situations were, and about how alike these 2 men have become.

God, I miss that man so much.
And yes, I still cry every time I type those words.

I miss him with every fiber of my being.  And I always will.
I know that this will never change.
Just as I know that there will always be times when something, or someone (most likely one of my children) will send me reeling back to my "before".
And though there is sometimes pain with that (as there was today, and while I write and re-read this), there is much more comfort now.
Comfort in the warm memories, and comfort in what we had, who he was, and who we were together.

Where there was once always unbearable pain at those thoughts, now there's usually comfort.
Much more comfort than pain.

Just as there will be for those of you on this path.  Especially those who haven't been here very long and can't believe there will ever be comfort in your life again.

I promise that there will.
I don't know when.
I don't know what that will look like for you.
But I promise that it will arrive one day.
Very quietly and unobtrusively.  You won't see it coming.
You'll just feel it one day ...... the comfort instead of the horrifying pain.
And you'll know that you're going to be ok.

The comfort won't be there all at once, suddenly covering up the pain, but it will slowly appear more and more often.  As I said, I think there will always be pain, but one day there will be more comfort than pain.

I pray that each of you has the strength to walk through this valley ..... at whatever pace you walk.
Please know that, while we who are ahead of you can't remove you from it, as much as we'd like to, we have to watch from afar, cheering you on and willing you to feel the encouragement we're sending out to you.
Please know that we are up on the edge of that valley.  We've climbed out.  But we haven't left you behind and alone.  We're still here, up on the edge, waiting for you to climb your way up here and grab on to one of our hands so that we can help pull you up and over the ledge.

You will make it.
We are here.  Waiting.  Praying.  Encouraging.

And knowing that one day you will feel more comfort and less pain.
I promise.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Never the same again

.... and i'm not talking about "widowed life" in the way you might think.

Before Greg died, I was that odd, nerdy, walking factorioum that could remember every appointment I had, every phone number I needed, every card number that I may be asked to use, every birthday, every task, every thing.

In. My. Head.

The events of That Day will never be forgotten, but I have large gaps in memory for weeks and weeks afterwards.

I walked around in a fog for months.  Like I was separated from the world by a hazy curtain that never lifted.  Like I was staring in my own movie.
Clouded. Fuzzy. Detached.

But since That Day, my head has never bean the same again.

I forget meetings and details.  I forget birthdays.  I forget to return phonecalls and e-mails.  I forget what I went to the shop to buy.  I forget my own phone number.  I forget parties.  I forget family events.  I forget so many things.

....and because I only ever wrote things into a diary or calendar so other people would have a copy of events, I never really got into the habit of using one.  So I forget to write things into my diary.

It sucks. 
I feel so embarrassed when even my fail-safe phone alert for meetings fails and I miss something important.
I hate it when I manage to remember something important for days in advance then forget it at the last minute.  The crucial minute.
I hate it when I have to be reminded of something that seems such a basic thing to remember ... and yet I have forgotten its very existence until that point in time.

People say its "old age" or "it happens to us all" or "you seem fine" or "what are you complaining about - I've always had to write everything down or I forget".

But its not "just" any of those things.  This happened virtually overnight.  ...and over a particular night where my brain was required to process information that it will never be able to make sense of.

My brain changed the way it stores information That Day, and it hasn't recovered. 

....and I wonder if I am the only person who has found this to be true.....

Monday, July 29, 2013

Take Care of Each Other


I had coffee with a widowed woman I met at the workout studio I go to.

It's been four months for her and her pain was tangible. It was all I could do not to follow her home just so I would know that she didn't have to go back to her home alone. Those first few months were brutal and returning to my house all alone after being with people was still a blow every time. His absence was even more glaring when I would return.

She said she'd be working on more paperwork/legal/financial stuff as she was still dealing with all of it. At the reminder of that I cringed. At four months out the paperwork and phone calls would drive me to an almost catatonic haze of exhaustion for the rest of the day. It physically hurt to call and say "I need to close/update/change the account because my husband died". It felt like being punched in the chest to send copies of the death certificate far and wide.

I wanted to take it all away from her and make everything better but I couldn't. I wanted to give her hope that things would get better while being honest about how 2 + years really felt. As I walked home, I could access feelings of contentment while I watched the summer scenery go by and wished desperately that she could fast forward to a time in the future when she could feel any part of that again.

 It's hard to think of those strange, shock-muffled months of the early days of this. There's a part of me that is so relieved to be past it and a part of me that feels bad for leaving it behind only to know that others are experiencing it now.

I don't want to feel that way again, and yet I don't want anyone to be there alone.

To those of you still early in the first year of this, each day will feel like an eternity but somehow the weeks will soar past in a blur.

The shock will buffer you and you'll forget a lot (a blessing). You'll slowly slowly climb out of the depths. It will be hard as hell. It won't be over at a year. Not yet. It won't ever be over, but that horrible, acute, my-life-is-over feeling will eventually recede. Promise. Then you'll be able to rebuild and see a reason to hope again.

Until then let me remind you and hold you up. Let me take just one thing away from your list of worries and hurts.

I wish I could make a few calls for you or take that dreaded death certificate to whatever stupid wait-in-line office it has to go to. I wish I could cook you dinner and do your dishes. I've needed those things along the way (still do from time to time) and I wish there was a convenient way to return the favor right now.

For the millionth time I fantasized today about a communal sort of living arrangement for those of us who've been widowed, where we share the heavy load. Those of us a little farther out can handle the tasks those of us more new to it can't bear.

We share the child care, we share the chores, we share the sadness. We make sure no one is alone unless he/she prefers it.

We take care of each other. It makes sense.

Maybe before our society became so fragmented, we came closer to this arrangement, but we are so isolated these days. When we're suffering we really need each other, especially those of us who've been through it, and yet we pull away and go off to our quiet homes and close the doors. We're afraid to ask for help and afraid to give it.

And yet I can say for sure that small (and huge) kindnesses by others were what made this survivable for me. It's the way through it, to hang on to each other.

I have to remember that and not shy away from helping when I'm strong enough to do so. I also have to keep asking for help when I need it. No one can help me if I can't tell them I need it. On the other hand, my friend today reminded me that, especially early on, even coming up with something TO ask for is challenging. It's probably best just to offer help than to ask "What can I do?".

Just show up and do something. Even if it's just listen. That's what I need to remember. Just show up.

We have to take care of each other.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bring On The Rain

Yesterday was my three year sadiversary.

I woke up yesterday and look outside. Of course it was raining, just like it has on July 27th for the last 4 years.

My brain took me back to July 26th, 2010.

This memory has been forgotten or locked away in my brain, for my own protection.

July 26th, 2010 is the day my husband went missing.

The detectives had called me and told me they had pinged my husband’s cell phone, pulled video surveillance, and knew my husband was up at the top of Snowbird (a local ski resort) somewhere. It was early in the day when they sent out search and rescue.

However, they told me they considered my sweet husband armed and dangerous..
That they could not use normal search and rescue… they had to use SWAT to look for him.

As the day wore on, no news came. I was hoping no news meant good news.

They called me that night around 8pm and told me it was snowing very heavily at Snowbird and they had to call off the search for the night.

I remember going to bed that night thinking about how my husband was in the mountains somewhere… getting snowed on in zero degree weather.. I was especially concerned because I had seen the video surveillance. My husband was wearing a light shirt, shorts and flip flops and was not carrying anything.. I knew he was not prepared for this weather.

I suddenly woke up at midnight. I sat up in bed, and instantly knew my husband was gone.

As weird as it sounds, I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew he wasn't suffering anymore. I was okay with the fact that my husband was gone.. because I had watched him suffer for so long. I felt selfish for asking him to fight for so long.

The next morning around 9am the detectives called me and said they needed to meet me. In my heart I already knew my husband was gone.. but hearing that the detectives needed to meet with me, cemented my gut feeling.

They came to my house and told me they had found his body.

The pain and screams that were released from my body.. scared me.

When the medical examiners report came back they ruled the day and time of my husband’s death midnight on July 27, 2010.

The same date and time I woke up in middle of the night and knew he was gone.

Every year since then it has rained or snowed on July 27th.

When I woke up yesterday and saw it was raining, I couldn't help but think about how ironic it is that it rains every year.

The rain brought back this memory.

Now I look at the rain on July 27th with a sigh of relief.

I miss my husband dearly but I do not miss seeing him suffer.

No one should have to suffer that badly.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


“In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! We are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Something happened last weekend that awakened me.

It was an AWP Health and Fitness weekend.

We were ending the evening with reiki sessions.

I'd never done reiki, and since leading it, I hadn't planned or set aside time to do so.

A window opened and one of the practitioners had come down, looking ready to depart, and I figured I'd ask if she had a free 20 minutes so I could at least try it.

She did.

She led me upstairs. I layed down. Closed my eyes. And just kind of waited.

I didn't feel anything. My mind was wandering so I went to meditating.

I could hear her as she progressed from my head to my chest.

A slight touch.

Then she broke the silence.

I don't know what occurred or what she truly is (being a skeptic on so much).

She heard him. She said things only he would know.

At first I kept my eyes closed thinking "This is reiki?!"

Then I went into "What does she know?!"

Then she continued to slam me with facts....court worthy facts that washed away any doubt.

Her hand shook on my arm.

She continued to spit out things that opened the well to my emotions like only Michael could do.

It was my Demi moment. He Swayzee-d her like she was Whoopi.

It was..... I don't know. It was real.

20 minutes turned into over an hour.

She wasn't a medium or clairvoyant, nor sought out.

It was something I'll never forget. It was something that has reaffirmed all the crazy things so few believed. It was him.

All around.

Madly in love.

Guiding me.

And now I sound completely mad ;) but honestly, I feel so drenched in love and assurance that I find it hard to stop smiling.

They're here. Undoubtedly. All around. Listening. Lifting. Loving.

He hears me when I talk to him at night. He's there with Charlie. He wants me to get up off my butt and outside more! He chose to spend his spirit-life as my guide. And we have lived many lifetimes together in the past and will again. Our love transcends time, plains, everything.

This I know.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Of Moving Vans and Big Plans

The last two weeks have zipped by in a blurry whirlwind of packing and tossing.   By staying steadfastly focused on the shiny adventures that I believe are just ahead, I’ve managed to brute force myself through uncountable difficult choices. Take with or store, give away or garbage – eventually the stuff in this big house was reduced to four piles.  While moving stuff around, we uncovered emotional  land mines everywhere.  We all suffered.  But by pushing through, I feel like we’ve all healed just a little bit.

Maggie’s mother and sister played crucial supportive roles in helping me push through this giant chore. Almost every night and both weekends we dug in and, to my amazement, we are almost done.  All that remains in the house now is some final bits still spread among the furniture that will stay for staging.

Maggie’s sister reminded me during my many moments of weakness that an elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time.  At times, it seemed like the elephant we were choking down was liberally seasoned with fresh onions with an occasional surprise habanero.  But we are pushing through.

Elephant: 100
Chris and Company: 101

We are winning both the battle and the war.  The spoils go to the victor.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Two Years

2 years ago today, I held my brother's hand as he took his last coma-induced breath. And I remember the horror of that moment and feeling ever ounce of grief I had ever experienced release from my body in one instance.

2 years doesn't seem like a long time, and yet in some ways feels like an eternity- I am constantly baffled at how much life can change in such a short amount of time. There is almost nothing that is the same in my life as it was 2 years ago. And yet, with every minute/day/week/month that has gone by, I have slowly and agonizingly learned so much about myself, those around me, and life. And with moments like the one I experienced next to my brother 2 years ago, life flips upside down in a way that only life-changing moments can make it do.

Today, I just really wanted to spend reflective time remembering my brother, and the all too short life he lived. To be thankful for the life lessons I've learned from him, to hold my children tighter because he can't anymore, to appreciate every moment I'm given. Easier said than done, I know. To remember and understand that no matter what chaos goes on around me, hang on to the things that really matter, because 2 years can be an agonizingly long time that will flash before your eyes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I'm Hoping ......


...... that the worst is behind me.

I wouldn't put money on that hope, but I'm hoping nonetheless.

I have parented 6 children.  Jim was here to fully parent 3, almost 4, of those children.
All three girls had made it through high school and were firmly ensconced in college (the oldest was doing an internship while waiting to get into grad school).

Our oldest son was half way through his senior year in high school.

The "easiest" kids were pretty much on their own.
The biggest challenges were yet to come.
And boy, they came with a vengeance.

I'm sure that we would have had our challenges, even if Jim had been alive.
But I have no doubt that the challenges that faced me, were much worse because he was not.
There were many times when I doubted that we would all survive their journey to adulthood.
There were some times when I would've told you that one of us would definitely not survive.

But on Saturday, Son #2 turned 21.
He is an adult.
And though he is not at a place in life where I had hoped/dreamed he'd be ...... he's doing ok.
Trust me ...... after 5 1/2 years on this path as an only parent ...... "doing ok" is pretty damn good in my opinion.
Especially after everything he ...... and I ...... have been through.

In less than one month, Son #3 heads off to college.
In spite of all we've been through.
In spite of all he's put me through.
In spite of ...... so much.
And because of ...... so much.

My children are survivors.
I doubt that they look at themselves that way, but I sure see them that way.
They have survived more than any child should have to survive.
They have survived far less than some children have to survive.
They have survived the loss of their father.
And they have survived me.

They have survived losing the mother they knew.
They have survived living with a mother who didn't want to live.
They have survived watching their mom grieve harder than anyone thought possible.
They have survived watching their mom get knocked down, slowly pick herself up, redefine herself, change her priorities ...... and grow stronger than they ever thought possible.

They have survived watching her stumble, make mistakes, and yet keep moving forward.
They've heard her apologize to them, tell them how much she loves them, and admit that she'll always be fallible but that she will always be there for them.

They've watched me grow stronger ...... and they've seen me make decisions that they might not always agree with, but they always support.

The seven of us have grown closer over the last 5 1/2 years.
In spite of so very much.
Because of so very much.

And though parenting never really ends ......
I really am hoping that the worst part of being an only parent to 6 grieving children ...... is behind me.

I'm excited to watch them as they encounter their futures.
I'm happy that they've all made it to "adulthood" ....... in spite of everything, and because of everything.

I'm excited to see what the future holds for each of them ...... and for me.
It's been a long time coming.
To say the least.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


....and the sole parent.

I always said that when I was pregnant, it would make evolutionary sense that I also grew an extra set of arms .... I know I could have used an extra pair of hands when my children were small.

....and then this week, I haven't needed more arms, I really need a clone. So many places that my children and I need to be, so few minutes during which to be there.

...and its times like this that I feel overwhelmed by this sole parenting gig*. 

I never planned to do this parenting thing alone.
I never realised how oriented our society is to families with two parents (and apparently, endless other willing aunts, uncles, grandparents who are all fit and healthy and ready to help).
Between school excursions I can't get my child to and am almost begging for someone who can drop them at the meeting point,  to music camps that I have absolutely no hope of ever being on time to collect a child from, I get the tut-tuts of those who say that they are sad that my children are "missing out". (Like I have a choice?  Like they aren't already missing out on having a father? Like I haven't asked for help already?)

When I explain that it Just Me doing everything, nobody gets it.  I've tried variations of the following to try to explain....

Feeling seedy yourself and a child starts vomiting? Guess what, you're up on vomit duty.  All night if needed.
Fighting through a mountain of work and a child is not dealing well with their grief? Guess what, you're up for endless hugs, backrubs, hours of listening and calming and worrying about just how messed up they are.  Your work can just sit there and wait.
Fancying a bit of "me" time with a glass of wine and a good book? Someone is bound to require you to drive them somewhere and you forgot that you promised to drive them.
Too tired to make dinner?  Tough luck, it's you cooking or the kids eat toast for dinner for the third night in the week.
Child needs surgery in hospital and you are falling apart at the thought of it?  Suck it up and be strong, this isn't about you right now.

They nod, look concerned, then offer me no help whatsoever.

So now I think that since I never grew that spare set of arms and I can't convince the local scientific institute to clone me, I guess I am going to have to learn how to juggle.

* - I am not looking for anyone to offer me "solutions" on what I "should" do, I am just sharing in the hope that someone else says "yeah, I get what you are saying.  Sole parenting IS hard".

Monday, July 22, 2013

My Chakras are Messed Up


When I quit my job after Dave died, it was for good reason. I had to move or stay isolated out in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, I didn't have it in me to continue to teach. It was too much for me to both teach and grieve.

Starting from scratch, job-wise, has been a test of my personality for sure. Having a steady job that I'd done for over a decade helped me feel settled and anchored in my life. It gave me an identity.

I've fought this lack of identity off and on in the last two years. A part of me gets that it could actually be seen as exciting that I'm starting over. I can technically do whatever I feel like doing (as long as I can continue to provide for myself). The rest of me longs for the security I used to feel. I thrive on security and routine.

And that's where I start to get in my own way. Instead of feeling okay with seeking out that which I love, doing that, and then seeing where it leads me, I fall back into the concept of "I need a job. Any job" and I begin to panic and then feel paralyzed and do nothing. I've put feelers out for a few part time jobs, but no leads yet and I'm vaguely relieved to not have to go through the interviewing and newbie routine at this time.

I've also played with going back to school over and over again since I resigned. Each time I hold one of these possibilities in my mind to see how they make me feel - I feel nothing but mild dread to numbness. Nothing in me says "YES". Is that fear talking or are all the options I've considered just wrong for me?

I saw an intuitive healer the other day. After she closed her eyes to connect to the divine for about a minute, she opened them and said "There is death all around you." Then she said "Someone died recently. Your mom?" After I corrected her and told her that yes, my mom died, but not recently, she went on to describe my chakras.

The crown chakra at the top of our head is supposed to be the place from which we connect to the divine. She said mine was like a storm, black, chaotic, crackling with lightning. She said "You cannot connect with anything bigger than you because you are in so much pain". She said my third eye chakra was "a flatline", meaning there was no way to get in touch with my intuition right now. Too much healing to do.

I don't have any actual experience with chakras. I can't see them or sense them. I have barely even read about them. I don't even yet know how I feel about intuitives or their powers but I was willing to give it a shot.

What I do know is that if I do have chakras, they probably do look or function as just she described them. I'm not able to connect to my intuition or a higher power because of the pain and grieving I'm still doing. So how the hell do I know what to do next with my life?

I understand that there is so much power in just doing. Taking the next step, even if you don't know what that actually is. That I could find a job, any job, if I tried and that I'm not trying that hard. I know that I'm getting in my own way when it comes to working, or at least believing that I can work again.

On the other hand, there may be a part of me that understands that my whole being - heart, soul, body, ALL of it - is under construction. And until the scaffolding is rebuilt (when will that be?!) I might have to think of THAT as my job. Beating myself up about not being back in the working world is intensifying my pain right now and I don't need that either.

I suppose what's really hardest for me is to feel purposeless and unproductive and to long for an identity again.

I feel like I'm taking the easy way out by not pushing myself to do something.

But I am doing something. I'm taking tiny steps. They're tiny because I'm just learning to walk again. When Dave was alive I could leap forward. Now I shuffle along, making progress too gradual to see in my daily life. There isn't a checklist I can work my way down to get me back to where I was before he died. It won't work that way. I'm not the same person.

I'm going to be okay and I'm going to find the right path, including in my career. I'm more than what I do for a living.

One day when I'm working full time again, who knows. Maybe I'll wish for this kind of freedom again.

Right now though I'm stuck and I feel like I'm blocking my own way. Though, maybe that's for good reason. Something in me knows I need a rest.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Case Of The Bothers


My husband has been gone for 1090 days.

6 days from now I will be walking into the 3 year anniversary.. even though I don’t want to.

It’s insane when I think about it being only 3 years.

It feels like all this happened to me in my last life.

It feels like a horrible nightmare. It doesn't feel real.

I guess I am starting to disconnect from my before life. Or maybe I have disassociated from my husbands suicide.

One thing I still struggle with is there will always be a hole in my heart where Seth belongs. It bothers me that I will never “get over it.”

It bothers me that I have another 40-50+ years to live with the pain of losing my husband to suicide.

It bothers me that I suffer because of my husband’s decision.

It bothers me that I know how badly suicide hurts.

It bothers me that every July 27th will be another year that he is gone.

It bothers me that I will never forget.

Knowing and realizing that I will never get over it is unnerving and makes me feel like no matter how hard I try to move forward.. it’s not enough.

I hate that my memory is losing the sound of his voice. I have to try really hard to envision his face.

I hate that when I do try to remember his face, I see him in the coffin.. with the bullet hole..

I hate that I am losing our memories. The good memories. The years and years of memories are slowly being forgotten.

It bothers me that the 3 year anniversary feels more painful than the 1 year anniversary.

It bothers me that it has been 1090 days.

It bothers me that I know how long it’s been.

It bothers me that all of this.. bothers me.

It bothers me that…

I am widowed.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Just Be

“In the West we have a tendency to be profit-oriented, where everything is measured according to the results and we get caught up in being more and more active to generate results. In the East — especially in India — I find that people are more content to just be, to just sit around under a banyan tree for half a day chatting to each other. We Westerners would probably call that wasting time. But there is value to it. Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of results, teaches us about love. The success of love is in the loving — it is not in the result of loving. “-Mother Teresa

After spending time in India, I found this quote to ring so true.

Coming from the US, a place absorbed in social media, monetary and material success, being better than…it was a shock to the system to see the wildness of India, but the calm and warmth underlying every tuktuk that looked as if it were going to hit us head on, every elder slowly working in a field, and as Mother Teresa pointed out, those spending the hours in deep conversation and laughter with a dear friend on the side of a road, under a tree.

“Wasting time” in our country’s terms, ironically enough, is probably one of the best things we can do for ourselves (but one of the most difficult for a time where focus on one thing is considered laziness).
This wasn't always something I realized and applied, especially after becoming widowed, I felt like I was always "Wasting" away life by simply breathing, crying and loathing the fact that the world could turn without Michael on it.

6 years later, I find a rare beauty in refelecting back to the first few raw years of shapr pain and grief. It was uninhibited, unapologetic and just plain organic to that time.

As I grew more into this life, I saw myself reverting at times to the "Western" philosphy of feeling like I wasn't doing enough.

I see that was a lie I had convinced myself for a period to believe.

So as a way for you to see how simple it is (and a reminder for myself, I’ve put together a list of “time wasters” that equate to “life enhancers”.

Start with 5 minutes. Then an hour. And maybe one day….a full afternoon.

You’ll most likely realize two things: 1.) The world didn’t end! 2.) It was pretty damn nice!

So with no further ado. My list of ways to “just be”:
  1. Turn off your phone/computer/radio
  2. Focus on your breath (watch the rise and fall of your belly)
  3. Ride a Bike (streamers, basket and bell recommended)
  4. Write a letter to a friend (With a pencil or pen…no emoticons allowed)
  5. Savor every bite of an amazing meal
  6. Notice Your surroundings. The bird flying over, the pace of the clouds as they pass by, the wind on your cheek.
  7. Go to a Farmer’s Market
  8. Watch the sunrise
  9. Whistle (or learn to whistle)
  10. Go to the park, layout a blanket, and look at what objects the clouds above resemble
  11. Walk the dogs and indulge them in a belly rub.
  12. Sit with a friend and enjoy a glass of wine and conversation (cheese optional)
  13. Watch the sunset
  14. Buy a box of crayons and draw
  15. Compliment a stranger
  16. Catch your reflection in something and smile back (your hot and amazing and deserve it!)
  17. Be awesome
  18. Live on
Being awesome may come a little easier than turning off your phone, but where there is a will, there is a way.
Try one this weekend, or heck, how about 3! Indulge! Just be. And create or add on to what will allow you to not lead a results-driven life, but more so, a life of living in the now.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Sometimes I feel like the Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer of the widowed.

Rudolph was an outcast, with his bright and shiny red nose that everyone made fun of, and he felt lonely and isolated, even amongst other reindeer. His best friend, Herme, was also an outcast. He was an elf that dreamt of being a dentist. All the other elves made fun of him because he didnt want to make toys for Santa. He and Rudolph sang a silly duet in that Christmas cartoon classic that asked the question: Why Am I Such a Misfit?

That is me. A misfit. The widowed community has taken me in and treated me so kindly and warmly - and I love my widowed family that I never wanted or asked for - I truly do. But sometimes, I just feel like I'm .... different. Like I don't actually belong here. Like maybe there was some mistake in the books ...

There are many reasons that I feel this way, many reasons I sense this overwhelming loneliness and isolation, or this feeling of not quite relating to other widowed people's feelings or emotions on things. First off, I do not have children. We wanted them - someday. But we were married merely 4.5 years and in no financial position yet to have them - and then he randomly dropped dead for no reason, and , well - there goes that dream.

 I know there are other widowed people without kids, but a lot of times it doesn't feel that way. It often feels like I spend a good chunk of my time entering rooms (virtual or real) where groups of widowed parents are having some sort of conversation about their kids. Widowed people with kids, when they get together, talk about their kids. A lot. They talk about how 7 year old Johny is doing with the loss, or how 2 year old Sammy won't ever know who her mother is, or how 18 year old Ellen is graduating high-school next week, and doesn't have her daddy there with her. Of course widowed people with kids talk about their kids. I'm certainly not faulting them for this. I'm just tired of feeling like a third wheel with absolutely nothing to add to the conversation except for a well-timed: "I don't have any kids", which usually brings down the room to a lovely shade of awkward.

One time, a few months after my husband died, I decided to attend a Support Group out on Long Island. I was still living in New Jersey at the time, in our old apartment, and I had Don's old, beat up car. So I had to drive over 90 minutes just to attend this meeting, but I was that desperate to talk to other people who understood this life. When I got there, everyone went around and talked about their story, and then the group leader, who has 2 children, brought up something about her kids. Before I knew it, everyone was having a conversation about their children, and how they are coping with the loss. They didn't even notice I was in the room, honestly. We sat there for almost 2 hours, and they managed to not only discuss various kid-related topics, but also plan a future widowed-people "play date" at a nearby park so that all their kids could meet one another and enjoy the day. How lovely for them. But what about me? When I go home, I am truly, 100% alone. Just me and my thoughts. I really needed to talk that night, yet nobody in that room even saw me.

 I walked out of that room feeling ten times worse than when I walked in, because now, I was faced with not only the loss of my husband, but the loss of our dreams of a family - the family I will never have. I'm 41, and I was widowed at 39. The odds aren't looking too good on me ever being a mother, considering the facts that I'm still living on "Broke-ass Back Mountain", and I have NO desire to date, yet no desire to raise a child by myself either. I'm doing my best to accept that those dreams are dead, but it's not fun when it's constantly being shoved in your face. It just seems like it is automatically "assumed" by the widowed community, that everyone has children. I often hear other widowed people say things like: "Well, we must do it for our children", or, my favorite: "If I didn't have my children, I wouldn't get out of bed in the morning." Well, thanks for pushing that stake into my heart a little further, by reminding me once again that I have no real reason to keep existing, no child to take care of, no face to look into and see Don's blue eyes and beautiful soul. .

As if not having kids doesn't make me feel like enough of a misfit, there is also the whole God thing. I am not religious. At all. I wouldn't go as far as to call myself an atheist, because I do believe there is some sort of higher power. I just don't pretend to know what it is, and I certainly do NOT believe that "everything happens for a reason", or that my husband's death was part of "God's Plan", or that "trusting in the Lord" will get me through this nightmare. So, hearing these comments from the non-widowed is one thing, but to hear them from other widowed people who are very religious, is very hard. These comments are not only unhelpful to me, but I find them slightly offensive. Why do people assume everyone is religious? Why do people feed you cliches as if they are effective ways to respond to someone's pain? And where on earth do people like me go to get some words of comfort that don't include "God will carry you?" People should believe whatever it is that brings them comfort along this muddy road. I just sometimes feel like I'm all alone in not believing much of anything.

I am not a good widow. I swear. I curse. I make crazy and inappropriate jokes that sometimes offend others. I'm a comedian, which, in itself is weird and strange in this widowed world. I was not the type of person who dreamt of her wedding day as a little girl. No. I was and AM fiercely independant, and only dreamt of my wedding and my marriage after meeting the man I knew I'd spent my life with. But that life only ended up being four and a half years, and now I'm too old to be young, and too young to be old. Too tired to start over, too stubborn to give up.

 Often times, I hear other widowed people talking about "finding themselves" after the loss of their partners. That's something else I cannot relate to. I have always known exactly who I am, what I want, and where I want to be in life. My husband was my biggest supporter, and he would be proud as hell of everything I am doing now. His greatest joy was in watching me succeed. So, I know that I will survive and I will make something and create something and mold something out of this new, unwanted life. I know that I will, and I know that he will be in my soul always. I just miss him like hell, and it took me forever to find him, and then he was just gone. And I'm not sure that I know how to ever be okay with that.

We lived together on the same Island of Misfit Toys. We fit together so perfectly. Now I am stuck here on this island, and I am all alone. There are just some days where it feels like the only person in this world who truly understood me - is no longer here.

I want him back. He was my misfit, and we were misfits together in life. Without that, nothing seems to make much sense.

pictures: Rudolph and Hermey. Me and my Misfit, on our Cape Cod honeymoon. Eating at Burger King. Cuz thats what misfits do on their honeymoon.

Thursday, July 18, 2013



Last night, I was reading the wonderful article a lot of us have been passing around by the lovely Carole Brody Fleet called The Reality of Remarriage After Widowhood (no really, you should check it out) and loved the phrase she used with her title....Forget-me-never.

I won't try to recap what she so eloquently describes about life and love after losing a spouse. But it did make think about another related topic that seems to also need attention brought to it. It's not just the forgetting of the deceased spouse, but forgetting the widow.

One thing I've come to notice is once I got remarried, not only did people assume that I was free and clear of grief and must not think about Jeremy anymore, but also they I was no longer needing support, encouragement, or friendships for that matter. I watched a lot of relationships dissolve around me perhaps not on purpose, but probably under the assumption that I was now being taken care of. No one asks me about Jeremy anymore. No one calls to check in, offer their help, or invite me out. Most of the time, it's not necessary because I am aware that in some senses things have changed. But every once in awhile, the sting is pretty strong.

Maybe it's an egotistical desire. Never did I want all attention to be brought on me, and it happened in the worst way imaginable. But suddenly, when everyone forgot, I became mysteriously offended. At the heart of hearts, my truest desire is to know that people will never forget my Jer and to know that people understand I will never forget him. But somewhere in the back of my brain, there's a selfish little voice yelling, "Don't forget me either."

Carole said it best. Remarriage does not equal forgetting. In any sense of the word. Don't forget our loved ones.

And don't forget us either.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tears and Fears ......


...... are something I've had more than my share of during these last 5 years ...... and something I've experienced zero of.

I've had more than my share of tears.
I think we can all agree that the human body is capable of shedding more water than it seems able to hold.  There were several times during those first two years when I wondered how it was possible to not die of dehydration because of all of the tears I shed.
I still wonder how it's possible to survive that ...... and wonder if I will soon reach my lifetime allotment of tears ...... and then never be able to shed another one.
I'm not sure how I'd feel about that.

As for fear ...... when I was told that Jim had died during surgery ...... and when I saw his body ...... what was left of him, but wasn't really him ...... I lost all sense of fear.  Truly.
I didn't fear a future without him.
I couldn't see a future without him.
There was nothing to fear because all I saw in front of me was cold, inky, blackness.  No hope.  No smiles.  No happiness.  Nothing.
And when there is nothing ...... there's nothing to fear.

I can say that the thought of my future has lightened significantly over the past 5 years.  It's no longer a cold, inky, blackness.  It's slowly turned from that ...... to grey, to brown, to a kind of khaki color, to a dark green ...... and now it's slowly fading into a lovely blue color.
Yes, it may seem weird that I describe my future, and my grief, in terms of color, but it's been that way from the beginning.
I'm glad that the blackness is gone.  I'm happy with the new blue that's before me.  For however long it lasts.

But no matter the color, it was not something that I feared.
Five and a half years ago I experienced the worst thing that could ever happen to me.
And I survived.
That was questionable some days, but here I stand.  Today.  A survivor.
And I never felt one moment of fear.

Until last night.
Let me preface this by saying that this has been a week from hell.
It has sucked ...... both in its happenings and in the energy it has drained from me.
My step-dad went in for surgery last Wednesday.
And everything started slowly sliding down hill.

I have spent 8 days with my mom, who has been staying with me because the hospital is in Houston, closer to my home than to hers.
We spent most of Wednesday at the hospital.  Up at 5:00 a.m., surgery at 8:30 a.m., out of surgery at 1:30 p.m. (2 hours later than expected), in post op for 20 minutes, back in the waiting room for 2 hours, and then finally in a private room with him until that evening.

The next time we saw him he had been moved to a different floor and had a room mate.
And had gone from having a pain block in his right leg (he had a total knee replacement) and a morphine drip ...... to no pain meds ...... and no iv.

And so the week has gone.
Then, during the last 2 nights, he has called my mother in the middle of the night and in the not-so-middle-of-the-night and has been totally out of his mind.  Not knowing what day it is or what time it is, or why he's where he is.
I have only been the listener to one side of these phone calls.  But that was enough to scare the crap out of me ...... because I could see, and hear, the fear in my mom's face and voice.
This was not the husband she knew.
This is not the strong, stubborn, sometimes-frutratingly-unmoveable man that she shared  a life with.
And the future she had always assumed would be there ...... seemed to be evaporating during those phone calls.

I felt her fear, and I feared for her.
For the first time in over 5 years I feared what "might happen".
Because I know what "could happen".

Thankfully, we figured out what was really happening ...... and were able to get things sorted out today.
Let's just say that a combination of strong pain meds and strong sleeping meds does not always (ever?) lead to a good outcome.
We are relieved that that's all it was.
And that what "could happen" ...... didn't.
This time, anyway.

You and I both know that ultimately ...... what "could happen" ...... will happen.  To someone.
To everyone.

And that thought scares the hell out of me.

I don't want anyone I know and love/like/tolerate/can't stand ...... to have to go through what I've gone through.
What you've gone through.
But I am ...... as are you ...... powerless to stop it.

This time we experienced relief, rather than grief.
All is well and he's getting out of the hospital tomorrow.

And I'm heading to NY tomorrow, where I can hopefully hole myself up in my room and cry long and hard, releasing the tears that have been building up, and slowly leaking out, all week.
I just need a few hours.
And then I'll be ok.

This time.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A grief of my own....

For my friend, and first class shenanigator, H.  Love you.

In terms of my own personal journey of widowhood, I'm what you'd call a sudden death widow.  Greg was killed instantly in that car crash (as I've been reliably told by all and sundry who were there). 
The fact that I didn't get to say goodbye (I was repeatedly told NOT to view the body and I listened - I kinda wish I hadn't)  - this fact has caused major suckage.
The fact that I was unaware for over 5 hours is also a source of major suckage.
The fact that the shock of his death has permanently affected my ability to remember things is another PITA.  I could go on but you get the idea....

I've never compared my pain to that of widows who had to watch the life force of their beloved ebb away through the cruel twists of disease or chronic injury.  
I've never seen the point of a comparison.
To me, its just different rooms in hell.
That and we can only know so much of another's pain; even though we may have suffered the loss of a spouse, because we are not privy to the innermost feelings of others.  I only know how *I* feel about the loss of my husband.  I know much of what I feel is similar to many others here, but every person's grief is different.

Which brings me to long, slow, painful, drawn out deaths.

I've watched both my husband's parents go through agonising deaths from cancer ... but on some level, it fit the order of things in that we expect our elders to die.
We don't however, expect young, fit, vibrant, healthy people to die while they are in the midst of living.

On Saturday, I received the news that my oldest friend's little sister was diagnosed with incurable cancer just hours earlier: she began chemo yesterday morning.  She should have started it on Sunday morning, but her blood pressure was too low.

She is the same age I was when Greg died.

I am having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that this girl who I've known for most of my life.... this funny, ridiculous, shenanigator fighting the battle of her life.  The battle for her life.  The battle which she has been told she has no chance of winning.  The battle which has stolen her hope, but not her spirit, nor her insanely filthy sense of humour which we, her friends and family,  all know and love.

....and I am devastated.  I am devastated for her, for my friend, for their other sister and their mother.  I am devastated for her nieces, for her uncles and aunties, for her cousins and for her friends.

As much as I know grief and how it feels, I only really know my own and I am lost as to how to tell this family how much love I have for them (I've said it, but it doesn't seem enough).  

But I know I can be there. 
I know I can pump out the stupidly upbeat, funny, crazy e-mails that lift my friend's spirits and make her laugh. 
I know I can offer family portraits (because I know how important each and every photo becomes when you can no longer take any more).

I might not know their exact grief, but I know how to abide with them while it unfolds.

Monday, July 15, 2013



You should be grateful. You got to have love.
All the gratitude in the world wouldn't take away the pain. This pain. It doesn't go away. It doesn't get fixed by gratitude. It's because I was grateful that I feel this pain. It's because I loved that I feel this pain.

Don't worry. 
As though I can stop. As though I wouldn't have already stopped if this were a possibility. This new life is full of worry. Worry that doesn't listen to logic, or commands to stop. Worry that wraps my brain in a hot, vibrating blanket of buzzing bees, tormenting me.

Get out! Have fun! Live!
Every day I try. Every. Day. Living fully after losing him is the hardest thing I've ever done. I'm pulled back to the space inside a protective shell every time I think of him. His last moments, lying on that gurney, his last words, my last words, the way his beard felt against my cheek, the way his voice sounded, the way he looked at me and conveyed whole thoughts with his eyes.

You should organize a memorial celebration for him. Make something meaningful out of his death.
How? How can I organize anything? I can't organize my own thoughts.

You should get a job. Stay busy!
I am busy. Busy trying to reassemble a heart and soul that has been blown apart. Trying to navigate a new world. Trying to heal. If I worked at a job all day, I'd still be facing this pain. How do I function in a world that seems to move on without acknowledging what's missing? How do I put my pain aside? How do I find my motivation again?

How long is this going to last? After two years aren't you better?
It's not easier, I'm just getting more accustomed to carrying it around. I've mostly forgotten what it feels like to live without this weight on my chest, without constant exhaustion, and without anxiety and worrying.

Just because bad things have happened to you, doesn't mean more bad things will happen. 
Do you remember learning about probability in school? If you roll a die 10 times, and you roll a 1 every single time, on the 11th roll there's still the exact same chance of rolling a one again. All the ones that came before don't predispose the die to finally land on another number. I think this applies to the universe too because I don't believe there is mercy in fate. I don't think someone is keeping score for me and saying "Okay, she's had enough. Let's let her live in peace for a while". It also means, though, that there's the same chance for good to happen, too. I just no longer think that I have earned a free ride from here on out. I fight the fear of the other shoe dropping every day. I cling to what's left like it will soon be taken from me too. When I leave my house for the day, there's a part of me wondering if it will still be there for me when I get home. I know this doesn't serve me. I know this makes it harder for me to enjoy the present. I don't want to think this way and I fight it. But it is there anyway.

He'd want you to be happy.
But he's not here and he's not living this life. I'd want him to be happy too, if I'd left first, but now that I'm living it, I can see how hard it is to be happy when you're heart has been torn out of your body, jaggedly reassembled and shoved back in to your chest where it flutters half-hardheartedly.

I'm doing this and I'm strong and it's hard for me to admit just how hard it is. But it is. It is the hardest thing I've ever done and I'm so very tired. There is nothing more I want or need than to be cradled like a baby and sung to, and tucked into bed and reassured. I've worked so hard to be independent and strong and positive and it's left me tired to my bones. And it's STILL up to me, as an adult without parents of my own, to perform the self-love and self-care I need when I really don't have the energy to do that all the time.

Care for me, cradle me, love me, give me a rest from doing this on my own, I beg.

But, the reality is, the people I beg this of are gone from this earth and even if they were here, I'd still have to face my demons alone. With help, but still essentially alone. We all do.  I suppose it's making me stronger than I can imagine is possible, even though I feel so weak all the time. I suppose one day I'll be able to see what a warrior I was. Am.

Now I'm just so damn tired.

Sunday, July 14, 2013



I am starting to find joy with the small things again. I can actually (finally) sit back, laugh my guts out, have an amazing time, without feeling like I’m pulling my own teeth and have “he’s dead” constantly repeat in my head.

For years everything has been.. dull and painful. Everything has been a struggle. A struggle to drag myself out to do things that are supposed to be fun, when all I want to do is climb into bed. Very few things have brought me joy. There was very few times I could forget about the past and be present in the now.

I am now finding joy in concerts, dancing the night away with my friends, going to the movies, and I am thoroughly enjoying trying new restaurants and new foods.

It’s interesting how grief can sneak in and attempt to steal my joy. I can be at a concert and think wow, Seth would love this! Then comes the he’s still dead, remember?

I've learned that when I’m enjoying myself and the death sneaks into my mind.. to sit with it. To let the music fill my ears, the death consume my brain, but also just accept that my husband isn't here to enjoy it.

I have gotten to where I refuse to let the he’s dead thoughts destroy my joy. Yes when it pops into my head, it kills me piece by piece.  But I have learned to tell myself I’ll deal with this pain later. Right now I’m at a concert and enjoying myself. 

My husband’s death will just have to.. wait.

His death will have to wait until I am done enjoying myself. It will have to wait until I climb into bed or a hot bubble bath.

My husband died because he found no joy in this life anymore.

I refuse to let his death steal my joy. I still have a whole lot of living to do and I can’t live in the he’s dead world anymore.

Joy is all I will let in my life now., because my husband had no joy, I will have joy for both of us.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bucket List

"What else is on your bucket list?" the stranger asked me.

It was over a call in which I received the news that something Michael and I had planned to do, but never had the opportunity to, was coming to fruition.

I sat there. Thinking.

"What else is on my bucket?!"

If I were to refer to my list after Michael's death and where my life is now, the answer was simple.

I had done nearly everything that we ever wanted to do together. Either while he was alive or after.

I found true love.

I found my passion.

I've been able to travel all over the world.

I'm able to get up and love what I do every day.

I have amazing family and friends that continue to push me to evolve and grow.

And now....I had the knowledge that one of the last activities we spoke about doing together was going to happen.

So as I sat there, contemplating my response,  it hit me, "I think that the one thing I had left on my bucket list, that I loathingly added in the very first months of Micheal's death, was to actually want to live not open my eyes each morning with not just feel the need to live for him, because he couldn't, but to want to live for myself. That really was the biggest thing left on my ever-changing and expanding list...and I've done it. It's checked off."

Of course, I'd love to see and experience every thing this beautiful world has to offer, but at that moment, and at this moment, I have done more than I ever dreamed possible, loved more deeply than the deepest abyss, experienced more than I could have ever fathomed. There may be more in the future, for whatever length that is, but in the present, I can happily say that my original list has been (or will be by August), completed. My bucket list before his death.

And now, I've chosen to not create one for my life after his death. Not for fear of the unknown, but for bliss in the unknown...the unpredictable...the things that make life the amazing ride it has been. The bliss that has made every moment of everyday an unfolding bucket list I didn't even know I wanted, but so happily check off.