November 19th. It’s “the” date. A week before Thanksgiving, and the start of the holiday season. The weather has turned cold, the leaves are off the trees, halloween is over, My work begins to slow down, as does the seemingly endless string of summer and early fall weekends where we have plans with family and friends.
For all intents and purposes, November was always a “quiet” time of year, when I could sit back and take a breather. I could focus on preparing the house for winter, lazily erect a Christmas tree, and read the newspaper as the first snowfalls and blustery winds crisply blew in. Full blown winter hadn’t arrived yet, and you would not catch me anywhere near a shopping area this time of year. The lawn and any gardens or flowerbeds are dormant, leaves are cleaned up, and there isn’t any real snow to shovel yet.
November was “easy”. Three years ago, that all changed.
I have a lot going on right now and I am feeling extremely stressed out. Life in general is not going well for my youngest daughter, and in order to help her cope I have decided to leave work and stay home with her for her second semester of school this year. Also, I have just found out that I require surgery on Dec 7th which will take me out of commission for awhile (not to mention I am scared shitless of having the surgery), and I am panicked as to how I will prepare for Christmas around this surgery. I just can't seem to get it together, and the looming Christmas season isn't really helping. Christmas #2 without Ben.
In any case, I'm just going to be straight up honest and tell you all that I can't cope with writing a new blog post this week, but I am going to post something that I wrote at the end of November 2015. When Christmas was looming and I was really stressed out. I guess November does that for me. I feel essentially the same today, except Ben was alive back then and I could still see him and touch him and hear him, even if he was mostly sleeping. So life may have actually been better back then.Read more
Since coming back from Camp Widow Toronto, the upcoming holiday season has been on my mind a lot. I met so many new widows in Toronto. So many who are enduring the horror of their first holiday season without their person this year. As I sat down this morning to write, I began thinking, just what could I share that might resonate with anyone out there who is about to endure the kickoff of their first holiday season widowed?
I decided to go back, to my personal blog - Our 1000 Days - where the majority of that first year was written about, before I wrote for Soaring Spirits. I went back to November 26, 2012… just 5 months after his death. It is there that I found this piece, talking about having made it through that first major holiday...
“I survived First Thanksgiving, as I’m calling it, and I learned a thing or two… I learned from writing and talking to other widows that sometimes the time leading up to the holiday is the worst. And sometimes the day of the holiday is the worst. And sometimes, as was the case for me… the actual holiday itself is kind-of not too bad. Hell there was even some really enjoyable times and I was able to share in them and feel all the love. It was easy to feel all the love, I spent the day with Drew’s family. Lots of things to do. Lots of people to be with, lots of love. Lots of joy.
This is the tricky part… this is where your mind wants to believe that maybe you’ll make it entirely through the holidays with that same “this isn’t so bad” feeling...Read more
It’s been a weird week.
It seldom happens to me, not because I think I’m invulnerable to feeling weird or down, but mostly because my mind is too consumed in what I’m doing to pay those emotions any attention.
My mind is a strong one. That’s not me bragging. It’s just true.
But even strong minds have their limits.
This week tested me I suppose. I spent the week observing people, myself included, for the most part.
People are weird. Even other people grieving.
I don’t think that that’s a bad thing, but I think sometimes we forget that at the end of the day, we’re people all the same, with the same character flaws and quirks that we had before we were widowed. Now, we just have an added level of trauma and crazy.
We still take advantage of each other. Use each other for our own personal gain. We lie to each other. We’re capable of disrespect and indifference. We're annoyed by people, even if they’re suffering the same plight we are. We still let each other down.
This past weekend was Camp Widow Toronto.
I went there on a 9 hour car ride from Massachusetts, with me and 3 other people.
We had an unforgettable experience.
We met new friends, and reunited with old ones.
We had moments of healing, and moments of helping heal others.
We ate yummy food.
We laughed without apology.
And cried without shame.
We danced together on the dance floor.
We said the phrase that you hear more than any other at camp:
"Yeah. Me too."Read more
The big news is, we found a place to rent here in Kona that has agreed to the dogs. It’s only up the block, so moving should be relatively easy. It’s expensive…but thankfully my boyfriend is with us for all the support both emotional and financial that it will entail.
It has not come easy. It took weeks for the owner to come around to us (apparently, two dogs are better than a group of young single people or a family of 10). We had to endure a long, detailed financial application and background check. And the hardest, for me, has been the emotion of it all.
My stay at the house my beautiful late husband and I shared is coming to an end.
I will leave part of me behind here. My heart, or most of it, it feels like.
I finally had a moment to watch Michele’s keynote address from Toronto this week. As always, it touched me to my bones. It made me stop and consider, in my own life…what dreams did Chuck and I have? Have I continued his dream? Have I dreamed my own dreams?
And, as I considered, my hand drifted down to my right leg, where, on the outside part below the knee, I had a tattoo inscribed my second year of widowhood.
I was at the Sturgis Bike Rally in South Dakota in 2014, the year after Chuck’s death. Our daughter was with me on this stint of my Odyssey of Love and we stumbled into the rally accidentally. Since we were there, we decided to amble around and people watch and while doing so, we came across a tattoo shop. I’d known for a while that I wanted another tattoo, but was uncertain, until that moment we passed it, what I wanted on my leg.Read more
“I dream of wandering”
That was the simple, unpolished statement written upon my paper heart at Camp Widow. Sarah and I were a large part of the message release there...constructing the large heart, cutting out all of the smaller ones, mounting it in the banquet area, and being the first two to place our torn dreams in front of the rest of the campers. I knew what was to be asked by Michele, well in advance, and so when the time came, I had my answer swiftly.
I enjoy “wandering”. I love finding new places, whether on the road, or trudging through knee-deep mud. Very often, I will pick a dot on the map, and head “that direction” in the most wandering way possible. For me, the journey is truly part of the adventure.
My youngest daughter is 16. She was 13 years old when she found out her Dad was dying. She was 14 when he actually died. I’m sure it goes without saying that every moment of her life since the day she found out he was sick has been a challenge. A challenge that most adults would be unable to manage, and yet this girl manages. She is resilient, for sure.
I could tell you all sorts of horror stories that happened to her in the months since her Dad became sick and in the months since he died, but there are just too many. So here are the highlights in a nutshell:
She didn't know how to cope. She became very angry. From her perspective there was really no one here for her. She felt like she was being treated like a baby. She felt lied to and betrayed and she became even angrier. And while it is so easy (for adults) to understand why my daughter would be so angry, unfortunately her friends did not.Read more
I'm writing this a bit late today, but for a very good reason. As I type this, Mike and I are driving back from Toronto. For the past few days, we've been enjoying the company of so many beautiful, brave people here at Camp Widow Toronto... some of who may be reading these words.
If you've never been, I can assure you, this gathering of love and healing put on three times a year by Soaring Spirits is one that is lifechanging. I can still remember my first Camp. I was so cynical about going. It honestly sounded stupid – mainly because I was afraid of opening my heart. Cynicism is great for avoiding openness.
By the end of that first camp, I was changed. My heart was opened up, my cynicism gone. I didn't cry in front of people embarrassingly. Instead, we cried together. I made new friends who got all of it. I laughed probably harder than I had since my fiance died, too. I left feeling proud that the word “widow” was a part of me, because I'd spent the weekend surrounded by some of the bravest, most authentic, most loving souls I had ever met. I left that first camp no longer hating the word “widow”. I left feeling proud to belong to this club that no one wants to belong to, and have been proud ever since.
Fast forward a few years to today and now I am experiencing a new perspective. This time, I wasn't coming back because I was in that broken place and in search of how the hell to keep living and breathing each day. I wasn't coming with a cynical mindset about my grief. This time, I was here to give back, like so many had done for me, by teaching a workshop.Read more