Outside the Walls of "Safety"


static1.squarespace.jpgMike left around 3am Saturday morning, headed out to West Virginia. It's his first major solo backpacking trip since we've been together. Three nights out in the mountains alone, with no cell service. Our only form of contact has been a satellite device that lets him send me preset “all is well” messages with his location every few hours (this is proving to be a complete Godsend for quieting my mind, which is trying like crazy to create horrific stories of him breaking a leg or being mauled by a bear while I’m sitting on the couch watching TV).

I don’t have to tell any of you the sort of feeling this trip brings up. Especially if your person died from a sudden loss, while they were away on a trip. This specific trigger is one I have known I would have to face, some day.

The old me would not bat an eye over this sort of event. I am not a needy person, nor have I ever been. I can spend hours and days alone, and enjoy myself so completely in the space of solitude. For me, it is grounding. Drew was often on trips for work, long weekends or week long trips, sometimes out of service for most of the day. So I was used to this sort of thing before. Well, the old me was.

The new me though? She will be holding her breath until he walks through the door. She will be imagining all sorts of things that could go wrong. Because last time my person left for a trip, he never came back…
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Because you Died

32431_506346736051581_1698672327_n.jpgThis week if the first anniversary of Kaiti’s husband John’s death. I am filling in for her this week, and I ask that you send her your virtual love and support as she makes her way through the anniversary of a day that altered her life. Sending much love your way, Kaiti. May John’s love fill your day in unexpectedly beautiful ways. 

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Over the past five years whenever I’ve done something that I believe Phil would have either actively disliked (getting a tattoo) or probably didn't appreciate (leaving his ashes in a locked safe for three years) I have used this phrase, "Well then you shouldn't have died," in a sassy justification of my behavior.

This phrase when looked at from another angle goes something like this, "If you hadn't died__________." Since Phil’s death, there have been hundreds of ways to fill in the blank. Here are a few from the first couple of years: If you hadn't died I wouldn't be harboring evil thoughts for the poor, unsuspecting fence contractor who asked me for a long term life plan, four months after you died. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be standing in the bathtub in my Ugg boots, your boxers, and a sweatshirt stomping my feet to try to convince whatever animal is under the house that he wandered into unfriendly territory and should leave immediately...at one in the morning. If you hadn't died I wouldn't have to work twice as many hours at the same time as I became responsible for twice as many household duties. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be home alone crying into Chinese food for one when the kids go off to their dad's for the weekend. If you hadn't died your shoes wouldn't need a new home, and I wouldn't be wearing both our wedding rings. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be the person who hushes a room every time she walks into it and then spends the rest of the evening wearing her best 'really I am fine' mask.

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Just Today, Not Tomorrow

I have come to a place where I am terrified of the future. 

My future. And THE future. The future of where our country is going, the future of the state of things....

On and on and on. 

I have felt this sense of anxiety and panic and fear, since losing my husband suddenly, over 5 years ago. 

But now .... 

It almost feels worse. 

Lately. 

Maybe its because, each new year, I get older. 

Each year, I feel further away from that life that was. 

And each year, I question more and more, 

How will I do this? How will I make it? How will I keep surviving?

Each year, the answers become less clear. 

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Precious Gifts

One of the most precious gifts from my marriage to Mike is that I have, for the rest of my life, two beautiful stepdaughters. They were grown when I married him, but still very young, 18 and 22. Now, one is mother to three beautiful children and the other just got married this past weekend here in Kona. Let me tell you - I am deeply grateful I was able to be here for that. Caring for my dad the past five weeks in Virginia, with the unexpected turn of events in his condition, had me think I might not be able to leave. I never would have left had we not been able to settle things there so they were manageable, but somehow, his care got arranged, kind of at the last minute.

 

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Swirling in a Universe of Stars~

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The Vastness of the Empty Space~

I wonder at the vastness of this life without him…

This life of widowhood.

How do I live in such a huge space?

How do I locate myself in such a huge space?

Where do I go now, with all the questions

That have no real answers?

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Take me Home, Country Roads

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“I hear her voice in the morning hour, she calls me, the radio reminds me of my home far away.
And driving down the road I get a feeling that I should have been home yesterday, yesterday.
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads.” - John Denver

In the purest, most technical sense, West Virginia has never been my “home”.  I’ve never held residence there, nor anywhere closer than one-and-a-half hours from it’s most northern border.  I’ve passed through it countless times on trips elsewhere, always admiring its mountainous beauty.  

However, I’ve spent many-a-night under the dark skies of the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia.  I’ve walked every inch of trail on that plateau, at 4000 feet, the highest in the east.  It was the first place I backpacked as a civilian, apprehensively leaving Megan at home, alone, for a long weekend.  

Two years after her death, and I had finally mustered up the motivation and fortitude to wander off into that windswept spruce forest again.  For a few months now, I’ve been planning this trip, fantasizing about going back to the place I belong.  Winding up the dirt road leading to the trailheads on the eastern continental divide, where boulders and stunted spruce trees greet the sky.  Disappearing from civilization for even a few days, where i’m not a widower, caretaker, husband, father, or employee.  That scene was to happen this Friday, December 2nd.

It was to be my first “real” backpacking trip since Megan’s death, and it’s been crushed, as am I.

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A good week

IMG_1333.JPGWhen I sit down to write I allow myself to be honest and have emotions that I normally hold in come out. That’s no different this week, but I have decided to bring some light this time. I had a normal week four kids, work, and doctors’ appointments. I have my break downs that happen out of nowhere still. The weirdest things will trigger them. I cry it out and keep moving. But I also had a really good week. I laughed with my family, I watched videos of Joey with the kids and we all just smiled and talked about him. I went to a concert with friends and sang my heart out.

I look back at what a life I had, so secure (or so I thought). And now I have this life that is so uncertain I have no idea where I will be a year from now. I am honestly faking the calmness, my head is chaos. Half the time I am completely terrified. I always worry what if I fail, I can’t fail these kids. I have to come out on top for them. I have to succeed for myself and for Joey. 

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Holidays and How our Stories Unfold

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There were two really meaningful things about Thanksgiving for me this year. Firstly, I was at my sister’s house in upstate New York. For the first time in our adult lives, we now live close enough to each other that we can do the holidays together. This is an enormous deal for me… one that makes me wish our mom was alive to be a part of it all. God, she would be so happy to see it all.

The other really meaningful thing was taking Mike and Shelby with me. On the few occasions I have gone to visit any of my family over the holidays in the past, I have always gone alone for one reason or another. Usually to save money. But now, we are just a 6 hour drive away from my sister, and even closer to my aunts and uncles in Indiana. Now, new things are possible. Now, my family finally gets to be part of the rotating holiday schedule. I’ve always wished for that...
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357 Days of a Widows Grief

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As much as I try to escape it, that day has been on replay in my mind for the past few weeks. The lead up to the one year mark of the day life changed.

Terrified at the thought of what emotions this day will bring me. Angry that this day has a place in my life at all. And an overshadowing sadness that engulfs and strangles me with the thought that this is real. That it has almost been a full year since I last held him, spoke to him and kissed his warm lips. As much as I try nothing can prepare me for what this day will bring. A huge part of me wants to spend this day alone in my sorrow, hoping for my life to end. I don’t want anyone to witness what may unfold on this day. Then the other part of me screams, get out and live for him! Breathe for him, like you promised you would. He wants you to smile, but even writing about this day brings me to tears because sometimes it just hurts too much to smile.

 

I wrote him a letter last night in hope that it would help release some of this pain but with each day that brings me closer to one year without him, well the pain cuts deeper. And although this is my new normal life, I am angry that this is normal now. It shouldn’t be normal that every aspect of my life is affected by grief!

It’s unfair and I would give anything to have the normal that I knew before. The death of a spouse is rated the number one most difficult, stressful, life changing event a person can go through. No shit! It’s never ending and unfair is an understatement.

 

With this journey I have had the fortunate, yet unfortunate privilege to make many new friends in grief. These women will be lifelong friends. Some of which I speak to every day. We laugh and cry and vent our anger. And share the dry and messed up humour that comes with this grief. We share with one another what we cannot share with anyone else. We understand each other. So for this post of what a widows grief is like I will share from not just my own grief, but theirs also. In the effort and hope that it helps other women like us to express this grief.     

At 357 days this is how my grief feels… and how it feels for so many others.

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