Ahhh yes...the holidays. It is a constant ride of ups and downs, like the world’s most depressing roller coaster. Kicking off with Thanksgiving. Spending time with friends and family, circled around a hearty dinner and laughter, I get to remember that Megan died just a week before that day. I don’t get to remember the 33 prior enjoyable Thanksgiving dinners. It doesn’t work. All I can recall is sitting in my parents’ dining room, crying, and having to leave the room in the middle of dinner.
Then, following that Thursday comes the epitome of consumerism...Black Friday. I avoid anyplace that may sell something like the plague that day. “You’re not going to con me into buying your baubles, Mr. Scrooge!” as I shake my fist in the air. But it’s fruitless. Inevitably, I'll need to fuel up my car, and Christmas music will be playing everywhere, even at the gas station. Sure enough, “Blue Christmas”, or “I’ll be home for Christmas” will softly emanate from a tinny speaker somewhere. Done. You’ve succeeded, Ebeneezer, in depressing me.
Life after the death of the person you love demands that you ask yourself BIG questions. Ironically, the questions are often about life and living. I have asked myself over and over again, Who am I now that Mike has died? Maybe part of the answer lies in Who I was before I met him. Who I was before he died. I think a lot about Who I was when I was Mike's fiancee. And, I ask myself again and again, Who I want to be now that I am his Widow.
Admittedly, these are questions to which I don't have the answers; but, I'm working on it. These questions challenge me and scare me because of their enormity and because I feel the potential here. I still have choices in my changed life. I have the opportunity to re-create myself, and you do too. I know how overwhelming this is; but I believe that if we allow ourselves to be off kilter we will find ourselves in the process.
In the last year, I have spent a fair bit of time on my knees scrounging for direction and answers. I have spent many a night on the floor crying, begging Mike to come back. I've dance under the stars with my dead fiance; desperately wanting his touch, longing for the days when his arms were wrapped around my life. Many times, I have wandered through the day completely absent with thoughts of him endlessly ruminating in my mind. Grief is gutting. I know how hard it is for you to live with the relentless heaviness and ache in your chest. If I am awake I'm likely on the verge of tears at any given moment, I get it. I have noticed, with time, the ache in my heart is softening a little and my tears don't last as long anymore. But, still, the emptiness is there. And, maybe in some weird way, that's okay. Maybe we are meant to use this emptiness and rootlessness as our foundation. Maybe we need to feel the emptiness and absorb all this "missingness" into every cell of our body. If we feel it and lean into our grief we will learn something about ourselves. I think there in the empty silence - is where the answers are for all of us. I've decided that if I am going to survive Mike's sudden death I have to build a purposeful life around the emptiness inside me.
So, I haven't told you Who I am. Well, for starters...
Five and a half years later
There are days when I just want to disappear
To run away from everything
All the materialism of Christmas especially
Because no matter how hard I try
No matter how many lights are on the house
No matter how many ornaments are on the tree
No matter how many Christmas songs are played
So much is missing too...
It's been one of those weeks.
My anxiety is through the roof,
and Im not sure why.
Well, thats not entirely true.
I always know why.
I'm a sudden death widow.
My husband, at age 46, young and healthy and never sick a day in his life (literally - the man called out once from work in all the years I knew him, and it was so he could lie in bed and cry and grieve his cat Isabelle, when she died), left for work one morning, and never came home.
As long as I live on this earth, his death will never make sense in my brain.
I can "accept" that it happened, because I have no choice.
I live with his death every day.
But it will never make sense logically.
In my brain.
Or in my heart.
There will never be a "why" for that question.
It just hangs there.
My husband left for work that day at 5am or so, not waking me.
I was jarred awake by a ringing phone, over and over.
Around 6:30 am.
It was the call of death.
The call that said "the life you knew is gone."
I literally woke up to a brand new Hell.
Another sleepless night. Eyes wide open, I finally get up.
I pace through the house, small as it is, investigating this or that I think I will or will not take to the new place, for the millionth time. Thinking about all the things I have already taken to the new place, for the millionth time. Our new place, my boyfriend’s and mine.
February will mark five years without Mike. I can hardly believe that. And here I am, the loss of the house finally imminent, the auction date a few weeks away, a new lease already signed.
This is it. There is no pretending Mike might still walk in the door any minute. After 16 years in this house, I’m leaving. We’re leaving, my dogs and me, and this guy who has been here for me for about four of these last five years. This guy who has made it possible for me to stay with my dogs, who has found a role in a season of my life I never saw coming…and yet has no real role in my grief.
Who loves me and supports me and yet may never truly understand what it is I have gone through; that strange and horrific grief path I continue to tread.
No one can. Our grief journeys are solo gigs. And he gets that, as a musician, I think.
It’s a loaded word, isn’t it?
I use the word in reference to both women and men, or I write the word widow and just add a slash and an er at the end.
Because I’m a bottom line type of person, I appreciated best the definition from Thesaurus.com. Noun: woman with dead husband. That definition suits me primarily because it isn’t dressed up. You can’t soften this blow for me, so please tell it like it is, with all the harshness that the word implies.
It horrified me, when Chuck died, to realize that I was a widow. Using that term in reference to myself was shocking. The implications of those 5 letters, emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually…shattering. It meant I was now alone. That I’d never see him again. Done. Finito. Gone.Read more
“You bathe in these spirit-beams, turning round and round, as if warming at a camp-fire. Presently you lose consciousness of your own separate existence: you blend with the landscape, and become part and parcel of nature.” -John Muir
It is no secret that John Muir inspires me to no end. While my love of nature and being in the wild places has done more to heal and calm my soul than any other aspect of my life, Mister Muir made it his religion. Every time I step into the woods, I lose connectivity with not only my cell service provider, but with the likes of the modern world. What wild refuge would John Muir have found in today’s endless series of hashtags, shopping centers, gluten-free water, and email? What would his sermons be in this year’s existence?
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” - John Muir
I still look for Ben. Yes I do. Not so much in person (although I do that too) but rather, I tend to look for him online. On the internet.
I have read everything that exists online about Ben. In fact, I wrote most of it. But still I look, as though I’m hoping he might post a new picture or write something in a new guitar forum. I continue to read and re-read all the comments in his online obituary, and I continue to regret not having had a guest book at his service. I like to read about him and about how others felt about him. I like to hear his name.Read more
This weekend is the first time Mike has gone out backpacking alone with zero service since we met. On previous trips, he has taken a satellite device that’s let him send me messages that he is ok. However, unfortunately it only seemed to work half the time and ended up being more of a headache than a help. So on this trip, we decided to give it a try… zero contact for over 24 hours.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with my story, my fiance died halfway across the country, while on a trip. He was a helicopter pilot, and was on a ride along with another pilot when they hit a powerline and crashed - killing him instantly.
So… the whole leaving on a trip thing? Only my hugest trigger. The whole having to say goodbye as he gets in the car and drives off thing… not knowing if I’ll ever see him again? Yup, hugest trigger.
And of course I would meet someone new that loves to do just that… go out on trips into the wilderness alone, with absolutely zero contact with the outside world. Yep, because of course. Life has a sense of humor that way.
There’s no lying that is hasn’t been easy. Even though I know all he is effectively doing is walking, eating and sleeping - same as he does at home everyday - my mind knows better now than to just say “Oh nothing will happen! It will be fine!” Because no, I don’t know that it will be fine. I don’t know that he will make it home, or that I’ll ever see him again.
Sometimes no matter what you do, the grief wave just hits you.
You try, and try, and try with all of your might to not let it happen again for whatever reason you give yourself: You’re supposed to be the strong one. You’ve cried enough, it’s time to stop now. You don’t want to feel this anymore.
Love, the real thing, is eternal. People like to pretend that it can be recaptured or replaced, but those people don’t know what love truly is. It perseveres, far beyond our finite limitations.
We are only human after all, but we are capable of inhuman things…such as love. It’s unexplainable. It’s on par with trying to explain the origins of the universe or the meaning of life.
Perhaps we try a bit too hard to escape our grief or cover it up. Perhaps we should be doing more to embrace it and let feelings flow as naturally as water melts from the ice caps and flows into streams that turn into rivers that become lakes that become oceans.
We try so hard to fight against things that so desperately need to happen to make us stronger that we throw ourselves into an endless cycle of pain and discomfort.
It feels good to cry. To release. To let things out that need to come out. It’s volatile to let them fester. To bottle them up. To hold them in.
A caged animal will always be more vicious than one allowed its freedom…because it wasn’t designed to be contained. Neither was grief.
Grief is not an animal to be tamed or conquered.
But if you set it free, and let it run its course, it’s possible it will work with you, for you, and not against you.
Then again…who am I to say?