I believe that death can be one of life's greatest teachers. Ironically, it is grief itself that will lead us towards life and living. We need to allow ourselves to be still, and sit in the "nothingness" where grief lives.
I have begun to realize that visiting this empty place is necessary. It is here that we will find the answers we seek. This is the place where we will find the blueprints of our Soul. We are re-born from the hollowness and aching within us. I hope my blog inspires you to lean into your pain. To feel it to it's depth. If you do this, I promise that you find your way towards a changed life.
Death creates an empty spot within us; and I have become increasingly drawn towards the ledge of this place because I believe this is where some of the answers are. I think it is here that we will learn to gracefully carry our grief so that we can live again. So, take a breathe, and come with me to the ledge. I know we will both be better for it.
I know you are scared to go to the edge; admittedly, I am too. The uncertainty that follows death is intimidating. But, we have to make ourselves even more uncomfortable. We have to venture from the ledge. I am going to take a leap of faith and build my wings on the way down. Please, come follow me.
Deep down, I know that I do not want to be "saved" from my fiance's death by anyone, but myself. I know that it is necessary for me to do this on my own. No one can rescue me. But, people like you can walk along side me as I navigate my way into a changed life. I am glad you are here with me as I write about moving towards the light. The light within me, and the light outside of me.
I am focused on change. And, I know that if I am going to find my way out of this mess I can not stay comfortable in my grief. I have to move. I have to become off kilter. As I write to you each week, I am becoming more aware of my feelings. I realize that what I fear most about the future is not the risks and uncertainty. What I am afraid of is letting the opportunities for change pass me by. I am scared of settling into an ordinary life when I want an extraordinary life.
It is my potential, my light, my ability to shine that frightens me. I am worried that I will play small, when my potential is big. As I write to you each week I am challenging us both not to shrink. I am keeping us accountable. I do not want either of us to fall back into an easy comfortableness when we can leap forward, towards a bold life. I want you to manifest the best in yourself. Go, create a beautiful life for yourself. I am not far behind you. We can not let life pass us by. Together, we've got this.
From the Ledge with Wings in Hand,
I've had many silent nights since Mike died. Nights where I had nowhere to be. Nights that I had no one to share with. Nights where the only sound in the house was the clock ticking obnoxiously. On these nights, the only place I want to be is back in his arms. I have endlessly wished to go back. Back to a place in time where Mike exists. A place where I can still hear his voice. A place where I can feel his touch. This is what I want for Christmas, to go to this place where Mike is still "real". I desperately want to fall back into him. And, I know that this is not possible - not even on Christmas Day.
When your spouse dies it's an amputation of sorts. There is a relentless missing that is hard to describe. A bottomless emptiness forms inside you that no one can understand; unless, they too, have been forced to out live someone they love. Death creates a separation that is both p-e-r-m-a-n-e-n-t and choiceless. You are severed from one another on a physical level; and, a deep, fierce ache grows inside your Soul. The missing is hard at the best of times; and it can be unbearable on days like today.
Unfortunately, Grief does not observe the holidays by assigning vacation time.
Although well deserved, we won't get any "time off" today.
Grief doesn't come bearing gifts for time served.
Grief won't put a shot of amnesia in your stocking.
Grief isn't going to go out of her way to help you get through the day today.
But, I am going to give it a try...
Today it is thirteen months and 3 days since you died. Some moments, your death still does not feel real to me. And, other times, the realness of your death is so apparent I feel nauseated. This is grief in all it's unapologetic glory.
In the early days when you died I couldn't even breathe. I'd gasp for breathe and I'd rock back and forth, holding my chest, in an effort to encourage the air to move from my lungs into my body. For months I struggled desperately, day and night, to soothe my broken Soul. I remember I'd stand in the kitchen and I'd clutch my chest as I cooked dinner because I thought my heart was going to explode into a million pieces when it broke. I remember thinking that grief was cruel because it forced us to endure and survive this deep aching pain. I knew full well that my heart wasn't going to literally reduce to fragments - even though it felt like it was. Those early days of grief were completely gutting. And, I am glad that the raw intensity of those first four months is behind me. Somehow I survived.
As much as I never want to feel the pain of the early days again, I do wish I could go back and tell my newly widowed self what I have learned about grief. I'd tell her that in order to survive she does not need to do anything - except breathe. (Which, I know, is easier said than done.) I'd let her know that the shock and numbness she feels is there by design; and, I would tell her that she is not to worry about being in a daze. I'd tell her that the laundry and housework are not a priority. I'd wink and let her know that she won't have any memory of these first four months after his death, so she should feel free to let it go. I'd also brief her about the fact that she can't rush through this. I'd say with authority, that there is no way to side step this pain because there is no "cure" for grief. Grief isn't a disease that you are magically healed from. Grief is a journey that lasts your lifetime from what I can tell so far. I'd continue with the advice, knowing full well, my sleep deprived self would not really understand or absorb much of what I was saying because her mind could no longer process anything. She was consumed with trying to make sense of the fact that Mike was dead.
At this point, in my made-up (but all too real) scenario, I'd make us both something to eat because I know that she is on the "widow diet". I know that she has probably only had coffee all day. Once I got her fed, I'd tell her I notice she's lost more than her smile, she's lost weight too. I'd remind her to eat everyday. And, I would tell my freshly widowed self that she needs to start wearing makeup again, and I'd tell her that doing her hair is not as optional as she thinks. And, then, I'd hear her laugh... and it's magic.
As a new widow she needs to know that she should try to lean into the pain and absorb the ache into her DNA. I'd let my frazzled self know that when your person dies you are reduced to a state of infancy. And, I'd smile and I'd gently brush the strands of stray hair from her eyes; then, I'd tell her that she's normal. And, I'd promise her that she's going to be okay. I'd remind myself to tell her that death is a trauma. And, because of the trauma Mike's death caused, she has forgotten how to soothe herself. She will need assistance with the basics: breathing, sleeping and eating. I'd recommend that she surround herself with only compassionate, loving, people who don't try to "fix" her. These people who simply walk along side her as she grieves will become her lifelines. They will carry her on the really hard days in the year ahead. I'd gently tell my newly widowed self to be patient and settle into her feelings. I'd remind her to smile more, even if it's just for a fleeting moment. I'd let her know that, in spite of herself, I heard her laugh today - and it was magical.
And, finally, I'd stop and hold her for longer than most normal hugs last.
And, then, I'd look far past the glazed, "deer in headlights", look in her eyes,
I'd look straight into her Soul and I'd whisper to her "you've got this".
Photo credits: @heidi_the_untold
Somehow I've survived this surreal experience of out living Mike. I have learned that in order to survive his death I had to undergo a sort of re-birth, and this process is still ongoing. I've come undone and I've been unhinged for the better part of this last year. But, alas, I've arrived here, in this moment. I've emerged exhausted and a bit disheveled because...