It's his birthday this week. March 22nd. On this day, I will always "celebrate" Mike. There will never be a March 22nd that I don't 'spend' with him. On his birthday I purposefully choose to remember the way he lived. I "celebrate" the life and love we shared together. This is how I try to honor him everyday - not just on his birthday. That being the case, I admit that I want to do something more on his special day, but I haven't completely decided what this might be.
In the grief world people do all different types of things to mark birthdays. The way we choose to "celebrate" our person are varied. The only thing constant is that the celebrations are fitting for those who died. I like that. Not one type of birthday "celebration" will do because the people we are honoring are separate, unique individuals. To honor their person, some people release balloons (and the environmentalist scold them), others set off lanterns that are biodegradable - they don't receive any backlash. Some choose to cook their person's favorite meal. Some people gather friends and family together. Some go to the cemetery. Some have cake. Some people spend the day alone - in bed. There really is no correct way to mark a birthday for someone who died, or for someone who is living for that matter.
For me, on significant days, I find that I am less out of sorts if I have a plan of some kind. On the calendar, when special days occur, I prefer to plan something. If I don't organize something, then grief to leads me places I don't want to go. Creating a shape for the day is what works best for me. You might be different. Grief has many commonalities, but each of our experiences is unique. So, I think that we should do whatever is best for us. We should do whatever soothes our Soul.
Because I love to write, it's not surprising that I will write Mike a birthday letter. I will go to the grave and tie a balloon to the shepherd's hook I have lovingly placed behind his headstone. To Mike, there will be a handwritten message on his birthday balloon. I will stand there, on his grave, wishing with all my heart that things were different. I will play him some of our favorite songs, and I will toast him with his favorite wine. And, then I will cry. Before I leave, I will read Mike his birthday letter. And, then, I will cry some more. My graveside visit is very precise and predictable because I have completed this ritual for all our significant dates. I know how it feels. I know what to expect. And, I find it comforting in some strange way. For me, it feels right to honor Mike in this way. My rituals are sacred and intimate for us.
However, I am an overachiever and I outgrow routine quickly; so, this year, I want to do more to mark his birthday. I feel it is necessary. Mike's life was bigger than my ritual of reading him a birthday letter and toasting him with a glass of Malbec. His love for me was deeper than just me, his widow, standing at his graveside offering a balloon to the man she loves. (For those of you who did these exact things please know that your gestures were perfect as they are. Nothing more is needed to honor your loved one's birthday. It's just me. This year, I know that I need to change things up.)
I honor Mike every day - in both big and small ways. Daily, I credit him with the profound impact he has on my life. I think we all do this as widows and widowers. I believe that we naturally "celebrate" our person, in their absence, every day of the year. Yet, for me, my Soul is calling me to do something more on for Mike on his birthday this year, I just haven't figured out what...
I was talking with a friend the other day about new love after being widowed and it got me reflecting on the idea. I ended up describing to her how my fiance and my now boyfriend are like two different colors of love. I really liked this idea the more I thought about it…
There is no color in the spectrum that is better or worse, more or less, than any other. And loving another after loss is just the same. I’ve now been with Mike for a little over 3 years… roughly the same amount of time I had with Drew before he died. Having had about the same amount of time to grow with each of these men, I can say for certain they each have their own distinct color. By that I mean the feeling of them has a color to me. Their personalities and demeanor, while having many similarities, are still quite different.Read more
I don’t wanna spend my nights with you anymore.
I can’t sleep when I sleep with you.
But you won’t leave this bed,
It should’ve been someone else instead
Laying next to me
In ignorant bliss and love that never once strayed from the awestruck wonder of its infancy
I hate my anxiety.
I hate that my husband died,
while I was asleep,
and he had just left for work.
I hate that a ringing phone,
in the early morning hours,
will forever make me panicky,
and give me that feeling,
of knives sitting in my throat.
I hate that he just disappeared,
from my life.
He wasn't sick.
He wasn't ever sick.
just like that,
he was gone.
I hate that I was sleeping,
while my husband was collapsing,
on a floor,
inside a store,
I have gone through the necessary therapy,
processing through these emotions,
letting them shift to somewhere different,
and it has helped,
I will always, always
feel a sense of helplessness,
and unbelievable terror,
when its morning-time,
and I haven't heard from my love.Read more
When I started this journey as a young widow I felt extremely alone. I didn’t know anyone anywhere near my age that had been through anything close to what I was experiencing. I didn’t know if what I was feeling was normal or insane. I kept a lot to myself. I started researching books and reading about others’ experiences. That was so very helpful but I still needed more. I wanted people currently experiencing the balance of death and life. I eventually found people online (e.g., Instagram, Facebook groups) and I can’t explain to you the difference it made connecting with people. Many times it really wasn’t connecting; it was reading other people’s posts and not having the courage, words, or energy to respond. It still helped me though. To know that other people right here and right now were experiencing something similar to what I was experiencing made me feel less crazy and less alone.
Eventually, just over a year ago I decided that I wanted to contribute to this community. I felt like I was in a space that I could start to give back, even just a little bit, to maybe help even just one person. I started my personal blog not knowing where it would go. I wasn’t afraid of failure but I was afraid of opening up and letting others see and respond to my thoughts and feelings that I protected so closely inside of me. Maybe you wouldn’t know it from my writing but I’m actually a very private person. I’ve always kept a lot to myself; so guarded that sometimes I think I was so good at it that I was able to hide my feelings and thoughts from myself as well. My mind started to protect myself from myself. Moving from that mindset to share my thoughts with others was scary. Still, I knew I wanted to do it and I wanted to find the courage to be be in touch with my thoughts and share them. I had gained so much from others who shared their innermost thinking and I wanted to do the same.Read more
As 5 years without you, edges its' way ever nearer to me, and as my heart and soul hear the shuffle of time coming closer, creeping past, zooming closer, flying past..
As these ten thousand years have passed, since his death, as each nanosecond passes in the here and now, I remember how he loved me, how I loved him.
I remember his calm spirit and his groan-worthy jokes. I remember his dedication to the military and how glad he was to retire, having done his time. His quiet rebellions that grew from holding his own counsel and just going about business in the way he knew he needed to do. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, he told me many times, and that thought carried him through his military service. I remember how he not only read the Big Book of AA but read what it all meant, and the history of it; he gave context to AA and the 12 Steps and Tradition, and living a life of sobriety. Chuck lived his sobriety as honestly as he could, every day. Not perfectly, but as well as he could, and he earned the respect of many because of it.
His promise wasn’t given lightly, and I could count on his promises being kept. His promises were his word, given as a gentleman of old times would give his word. It was his honor, and he held true to it, whether that promise was made to me or one of our kids or a friend or anyone else.
Half a lifetime ago, it was esprit de corps. It was smoking breakfast, sleeping through lunch, and drinking dinner. It was hard working weekdays, and lazy weekends. It was little pay and long hours, and not caring about either.
Half a lifetime ago, days went by as years. The soundtrack was Blink-182 and Korn. The beer was warm and cheap, and almost all “home-cooked meals” consisted of some form of noodles or junk food. The only feelings were that of morning humidity and skinned knuckles. My brothers and sisters “in-arms” all shared in this routine eagerly. We’d all been through the same things, in the same places, around the same time.
Half a lifetime ago, 15 people would pile into 3 cars on a Saturday drive to the beach. Seven would return in a state best described not as “wasted”, but “happy”. The remaining eight would have stories to tell. There were no real bills and our biggest concerns were being on time and in uniform for Monday morning’s 5 mile run.
It was, simply put, fun. I miss it. Those were some of the best days of my life. Before I was a widower. Before I was a father. Before I had even met Megan, or even cared about meeting anyone. It was carefree routine, peppered with deployments to some far off land for a few months, again with the same brothers and sisters. Sure, there were arguments. There were times when we had to suffer through trying to sleep in 100+ degree desert heat, because we pulled the night shift. There were times when we had to wait for hours in line at the base barber shop, because every single Marine gets a haircut, every Sunday. There were times when we blew our car payment money on that cheap beer, and the Monday morning run was done with a hangover. But it was all worth it.
Or was it?Read more
Most of the time I feel empty inside. The landscape of my Soul is barren since he died. However, most people can only see the vibrant life I have. At first glance, my life appears fairly enviable. With the exception of Mike's death, I have all the trappings of a good life. I have the kids, the house, the car, and the career. I have managed to achieve a lot of success in Suburbia. The boxes are checked. My life does not appear to be barren. Not surprisingly, for those looking from the outside in, it is not comprehensible that I still feel empty. To them everything looks like it is returning back to "normal" without Mike. They think I am "strong". They tell me that I am "the strongest person they know". They tell me that they "can't imagine" how I do it. When my ears hear their statements I just kind of stare at them and watch their lips move. I don't say much in response because I know the truth. Yes, I am 'strong', because I do not have a choice. I have to stay the course for my kids, and for myself.
I do not feel bitter towards people who make these proclamations about me and my life. They simply do not understand the depth and breadth of my loss. I understand that they can not understand. And, I know that they are so lucky that they "can't imagine" my situation. I think that people need to believe that things return to normal after a person dies. They need to believe that I am okay now because if I am okay, that means - if and when this happens to them - they will recover and be okay too. But, as people who have outlived our spouses, we know differently. We are aware that there is nothing normal about our changed lives. We know that there is no backing up. We can not return to days gone by no matter how desperately we want to. There is nothing to return to. Our lives can not be as they were before. That life is over. It's gone. It's done. Period. And, yeah, we are 'strong' despite our blunt reality.
To me, the phrase "new normal" is ridiculous.
I HATE that idiom.
There is nothing normal about my new life.
It is the exact opposite of what I am used to.
I am different since Mike died, and - this is normal.
The hollowness and emptiness that I feel - is normal.
My grief - is normal.
My life is not normal anymore.
I spend a lot of time feeling disconnected from the world and from those around me. It feels like my thoughts are wrapped in cotton candy. My deepest thoughts are tightly spun like the sugar crystals that become the dense pink candy fluff. Most days, I can barely make sense of what I feel because my thoughts are hidden from me. I don't always know them, but, I feel my thoughts. My deepest thoughts live inside my heart, not my head. Everything is buried far away inside my Soul. Since Mike died, I feel like I am hidden in wad of airy blue fluff. All of me is insulated in this bulky, baby blue cotton candy cocoon because I need to be swaddled. I need time. I need things to be quiet while I come undone...
I’ve written about it quite a few times these past few years, but moving across the country really did a number on me. I don’t think - scratch that - I KNOW I was in no way prepared for how difficult it would be to leave Texas. I have a love affair with my state that runs very deep. I have gone through some of the hardest but most meaningful experiences in my life in that state. As well as some of the most beautiful.
The resting places for both of my parents and Drew are there. The friends that became family to me after Drew died, are mostly scattered all around that beautiful state. And the culture… once you’ve fallen in love with the Texas hill country culture, there is really no way to ever separate it from your heart. And no reason you’d ever want to.
So when I decided to take a chance on new love, and do this super brave thing like uprooting my life to Ohio, I really had no idea the level of new grief I was signing up for. Everything up north is very different. The houses. The yards. The language. The attitude. The lack of chicken fried steaks. The accents. Hell even the Dairy Queens... (they do not have steak fingers - and don't get me started on that!)
I guess I didn’t expect a new place to feel SO different. Or for change to feel so hard. Clearly I did not realize, I lived in TEXAS of all places - which is pretty different in its own right from a lot of the country. Most of all, I didn’t realize - as it common with loss - what I had until it was gone. Or until I was gone...Read more
Next week is March Break for me. I’m going on a cruise with a good friend. I know, I am fortunate to be able to go on a cruise. I’ll be in the sun and heat and it will be fun. I am excited! I am also not though. It seems that I can’t just experience the normal one emotion of excitement for a trip. That in itself is frustrating. There always has to be something else mixed in there complicating things for me. A little bit of nervousness, memories, sadness, and guilt complicate my happiness.Read more