When Mike died, that terrible first day, I remember asking a dear friend, in my stuttering confusion and desperation, to let me know how long that feeling was going to last. You know the one. The shock and horror of finding that your beloved husband had unexpectedly died during the night.
Yeah. That feeling.
That feeling when the ground beneath you is wobbly and the sky is crumbling around you. Everything is altered, like some horrible gone-wrong LSD trip, the world unfamiliar, your skin prickly, your tongue unable to form words properly.
My friend, to her credit, did some research and found some interesting information about grief and mourning from a few different cultures. Not ours, of course. Not Western Selfishness. We have no culture of grief. Only self. So when Mike died, I was navigating uncharted waters. No one had ever explained grief to me, what to expect when a loved one does, how to treat people who have lost loved ones, or even how to fend off the insensitive comments a grieving person might hear.Read more
Most times I have no idea what I'll write for this blog, ahead of time. Sometimes I swear that I have nothing to say and no ideas and I think I just have to give up writing here. I have no more thoughts about widdahood.
But I've also realized that ideas come from the most unexpected places. I can be out and about and hear a phrase from strangers conversing. Or I notice how someone is dressed on a particular day. Or how their hair falls a certain way. Words beget ideas for me, and that's how today's blog happened.
I was out with my grand-goddesses, who are 4 and 2 years old, respectively. We're in Arizona, so we went for a walk to the park. The sun was out, they were wearing lightweight jackets, because 60* is cold to us here...as I hear all of you from everywhere else in the country groaning and wishing for that, as you freeze your patooties off in subzero temps.
The 4 year old was skipping along, and called my attention to her shadow, that was moving with her, of course.
New year, new you!
(Scene: Black and white video of someone crying)
Do you suffer from grief? Tired of going through life thinking about your dead loved one? When you go to the grocery store, do you see a favorite food of your late loved one, and immediately make your way to the wine and tissue aisle?
(Scene: Cut to oversaturated video of a person playing with kittens and eating ice cream, while riding in a boat, or better yet, a scene OF kittens eating ice cream in a tiny, adorable boat)
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Call now! The first 19 orders will receive a second bottle, absolutely free!Read more
Ringing in the new year without you is something I never want to do. This year, or ever. No matter how much time passes, no matter how my life changes; and no matter where I am standing on New Year's Eve, I know that I will always pause and think of you. I will always want you to still be alive, here with me. And, always, I will want to kiss you at midnight.
I can not find it in me to 'celebrate' another year that you will be missing from my life. New beginnings are bittersweet for me now because part of me always wants to go back to the time when we shared our life together. Moving forward is hard for all people, and it's especially difficult for widowed people. I resist celebrating New Year's day because in my mind it puts more 'distance' between us. The time when you were alive gets further away from me and I feel desperate to somehow return to the life I used to have. When I get nostalgic I feel like my memories are more alive than me. This mindset is dangerous because when you live in the past, you are not present and you are not living the life in front of you. So, today, when you visit the past, go there and remember that:
The life you lived together is still there somewhere, suspended in time, untouched, and unchanged.
What you were to one another, you STILL ARE.
Know that the love you share doesn't disappear just because you can't see them anymore.
In the words of Rumi,
"Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes.
Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation"
I am learning that the past doesn't need me to stay there and be a permanent caretaker. It's not going anywhere. I do not need to stay there and tend to it. The past is always there untouched and unaltered. It is there whenever you need it. I visit my past life all the time; but I know that I can not stay there forever. I can not rebuild my life there. That life is over. Maybe if I say it again and again and again I will finally accept it...
I know logically that Mike isn't somewhere hidden in the past; but, still, thirteen and a half months later, I can't stop myself from endlessly searching for him. As I wander looking for him, I know that he won't be found anywhere but in my memory.
I know that Mike is actually here, in the present, "with" me as I move through my life. But, honesty, it feels empty, even when I believe what Rumi says about there being no separation. For me, it is not always enough to have Mike "with" me without his physical presence. I feel badly admitting this because I feel like I'm letting Mike, Rumi and myself down somehow. But, it's the truth... I still desperately wish that Mike could take my hand and lead the way again...
Today we are forced to consider the year ahead; and as difficult as this is, it is necessary.
As you say goodbye to 2017,
Stand still, and listen to the sound of the sun going down.
In that moment hear what is in your heart.
Take your own hand and lead the way...
New Year's Day is a time to reflect on the year that passed; and, more importantly look forward to the possibilities ahead.
Last New Year's Eve was particularly punishing for me because I did not want to say goodbye to the best year of my life. I will always think of 2016 as our vintage year. The year of us. This was the year Mike asked me to be his Wife. We had an accepted offer on our beautiful new house and we were so excited to live together under one roof as husband and wife. The boys were beginning to feel excited about our new life; and, the girls and I were planning weekly family dinners. We were busy creating new traditions that never got a chance to be. We thought we had the rest of our lives ahead of us; then Mike died, and our future died with him.
Last year as the clock struck midnight, I stood alone on a friend's balcony,
I was broken and bewildered.
I looked up at the stars and wondered how the hell the best year of my life had come and gone.
This wasn't real, it didn't feel like this could be true, except it was.
As I began my life without Mike, I felt like I just landed in a foreign country and I could not speak the language. I stood at the baggage claims area and I didn't know where to go from there. I wanted to ask someone for directions. I needed help. But, I was not sure how anyone could help me. Mike was dead, no one could fix that. So, I stood frozen in place for a long time.
Now, just over a year later, I'm standing here alone. I've got my baggage sorted out, but I am still aimless. I still don't really know my destination. Where am I supposed to go? Where the hell do I want to go? Someone, give me directions, please. I don't want to follow the crowds so I guess I will have to figure this out myself. Really, there should be a traveler's guide for widowhood, or an App because nothing prepares you for this new life. Initially, I ...
Nearing New Year’s, of course we’re all looking back. Or maybe some of us aren’t because we don’t want to - or we just can’t. I imagine a lot of us are ready to leave 2017 in the dust. I certainly am. Not perhaps in the same way I was ready to leave 2012 in the dust… that was more about running away from my reality and my pain. This is more a feeling of being ready for what’s next. A feeling of accomplishment for making it through a year filled with all kinds of new challenges I’d never faced before.
This year I also hit a major grief milestone - the 5 year mark. I remember having so much fear about one day being FIVE ENTIRE YEARS away from the last day I saw him or heard his voice. For a long time, that number scared me a lot. Then it just became hard to imagine. It’s still hard to imagine even though it’s now here. Now approaching 5 ½ years as I write this and somehow it hasn’t been so traumatic after all. There have been painful moments yes, but not as I had imagined it would be. It was a softer and more gentle pain, if that makes sense. Still there is a longing for a time that once was. For a life I loved. A person I still love. For the person I used to be that I will never be again. But it doesn’t feel like I’d thought it would.Read more
The world is changing.
Perspectives are changing.
And they will continue to, so long as we journey forward and make attempts, not to be heard, but to hear.
This weekend I dived just a little further down the rabbit hole.
Grief is a funny thing. It is a powerful and undeniable force, and many are trying their best to either suppress it, forget it, or overcome it.
What I’ve learned in a short time, however, is grief is not some obstacle to be overcome. It is a part of us. It will always be a part of us. I am a father. I am a brother. I am a son. I am a widower. Those are all roles I have but they do not define who I am or what I do.
There is a beauty in coming to terms with that, at least for myself there has been. It’s powerful to take control back from things we’ve felt we’ve had no control over. To harness what comes with that and to use it to not only empower but encourage others to forge their own paths and do the same.
I’m not sure where all of this is leading, but one day very soon, I believe I’ll be on the cusp of an answer.
The archaic methods of one-size-fits-all grief are in dire need of a facelift. We are unique individuals, each with unique experiences and stories, and those conditions should be treated as such.
I’m embracing it. My love for Linzi never died and it will never go away. In fact, I may love her even more now than I did then.
This isn’t the end. Not yet.
So today is Michele's birthday. Who is Michele? Well, if youre a reader of this blog, you probably already know the answer to that question. And if this amazing woman has affected your life in any of the incredible and many ways she has affected mine, than you are a very fortunate person. But, just in case you are living under a rock and have no idea who she is, I will tell you. She is the founder and Executive Director of Soaring Spirits International. She created a village of widowed people. Camp Widow, this blog, Widowed Village, all of it - started with her. This is a piece I wrote about Michele, with one L - about 2 years ago, when I was asked to give the intro speech for her Key Note Address in Toronto, Canada .....Read more
My fingers know the letters. I can type as fast as most people can talk. But what to say…what to tell, this day in the middle of all the holiday madness.
I can’t write about this. I can’t write about that.
But my life is what it is.Read more
I’m so fucking relieved to say goodbye to 2017.
Our daughter told me that 2017 was as hard for her, harder in some ways, than the year right after her dad died.
It was harder for me, too, not for any one reason in particular, really. Maybe because our entire world seems on edge.
I’ve always told our kids that, no matter the state of the world, life has always managed to continue on, and improve in some ways. I can’t say that as easily any longer. Life feels very threatening in every way this past year.
When I spoke to our oldest son about this, he agreed and said well, we might not have to even think about any of this anymore in the new year because North Korea might bomb us and the world will end anyways.
Why do I find that strangely comforting?Read more
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...