My memories of Mike echo off the walls of the house, yet the silence in my home is deafening. Everything is quiet now. Death makes your whole world go silent. I think this is by design. We need this noiseless environment and solitude to contemplate how we will re-create ourselves. As we do the work of re-defining our identity we need to concentrate intensely. Death can create isolation, but maybe this detachment is necessary as we prepare to reinvent ourselves. Maybe we are required to withdraw so that we can be born anew.
Daily, I am surrounded by the hum of life, but since Mike died I don't hear the sounds of joy anymore. My heart doesn't feel the beauty of an ordinary moment like it used to when he was alive. My eyes don't clearly see opportunities before me. I feel it, I am allowing my life to pass me by because I have momentarily lost my enthusiasm. No one can change this but me. I know this, but finding the motivation to re-engage in life without him eludes me.
I need to be encouraged to embrace life, take risks and find out what I am made of; but, my biggest champion is dead. Now, I have to motive and inspire myself. I am not used to being my own encourager. Since I was 17 years old I have always been part of a couple; and, I was never solely in charge of coaching myself. I always had a companion to hold a mirror up to me. To reflect with. I had a voice, other than my own, telling me to "take it day by day, everything will work out". For me, being alone feels scary and I desperately want to be rescued.
I feel inadequate when I admit to myself that I'm scared to "do life on my own". I continuously remind myself that I am a divorced woman; and, once upon a time I left something familiar and chose to move towards the unknown. I've dealt with uncertainty before. I tell myself that "I've got this" because I'm no stranger to adversity. I tell myself that I'm strong... and I'm capable. But, Mike's death is different. His death knocked me to the ground and all my dormant insecurities have re-emerged.
In the early days after Mike died, I thought that I should be able to navigate my way through his death. I felt like there was something wrong with the way I was grieving because I was so completely immobilized with sadness. Thankfully, over this last year, I have come to realize that there is nothing to actually get "through" here. Grief isn't a disease that you need to be healed from. There is no end game because grief isn't something you complete. Grief is something that becomes a part of who you are. When your person dies you continuously absorb their absence into your Soul.
I will confess that absorbing the death of your person is ridiculously hard. I still have not accepted his death and I don't know if I ever will. I mean, logically, I know Mike is dead. I've stood at his grave. And, countless times, I've traced my fingers along the letters of his name that are etched on his headstone. I've taken wine to the grave on many a Saturday night because, well, I wanted to be with my best friend. I've written heartfelt messages on red heart shaped balloons and I've tied them to a shepherds hook I put behind his headstone because, well, I miss him.
I know Mike is dead.
His headstone tells me he died November 15, 2016.
But, in my mind he's still very much alive.
And, in my heart, I'm still very much in love with him.
I know you "get it". And, I also know that you hate that your person died too. It is the permanence of the situation that sucks. But, it is what it is. We can't back up. So, we resign ourselves to breathe and somehow continue living. On the days when I have the patience to do "nothing", I sit with my grief. I invite Grief in and I just wait until Grief speaks. Let me tell you what Grief has said (it' pretty awesome) ...
Five years ago this week, I turned 30. My fiance had died just 3 months before, suddenly, and I was a field of shrapnel spread out for miles upon miles.
That week five years ago, I decided not to give up my 30th birthday. I decided instead to honor it, because I would only turn 30 one time and I still deserved honoring. With that, Drew’s mom and I hopped on a plane and headed West for the Grand Canyon. I decided if I was going to sit around and cry on my birthday, I was at least going to do it looking at something incredible that I’d never seen before.
It turned out to be the perfect and most sacred place I could imagine being that day. It was hard, no doubt, but it taught me something important. I made that choice not in spite of Drew’s death but because of it. I cast all practicality aside, and I followed my heart leading me to somewhere incredible. And there, on the edge of great canyon cliffs, watching the sun setting the sky on fire as it went down, I learned that I can use his death to lead my life better. I can harness that into experiences I would have never otherwise had. It was the beginning of learning to see purpose in things… perhaps a glimmer into lessons about love that I am starting to see in a deeper way now five years later...Read more
For the first few years after Drew died, I lived in between lives. Back then, I remember distinctly feeling that way. Many of the photographs I took spoke to this. I wasn’t in my old life, nor was I in what I would define as a new life.
I recall wondering what it would be like to one day live in a new life, instead of the in-between. Back then, I couldn’t even fathom that idea… and largely, I didn’t want to. I had found an odd comfort in my in-between world. It’s the place that first began to rebuild myself - this new self. I actually didn’t even know how that new self would be able to enter into a new life. I didn’t know what a new life would look like.
I also remember those first glimpses into a new life… it was an internal feeling inside me. A feeling I don’t know how to explain, other than it being a shift that I didn’t consciously make myself. It was as if my soul, or the universe, or something began to whisper to me, saying that it was time… that change was on the horizon. I could feel it in my bones, even before meeting Mike - which I would define as the catalyst that throttled me into new life.
I was in no way prepared for my “re-entry” into life. I had grown so comfortable in the space of my grief, to the point that we became friends. I didn’t really want to leave that space, though I knew I would one day have to. I had spent years exploring in my own emotions and soul… through words and photographs and paintings and such. Creating from my grief became such a part of me, that I didn’t know how to keep creating as I re-entered life. I really still don’t know how, to be honest...Read more
The crocus is a flower that blooms in early spring here in Ohio. So early in fact that it’s one of the first glimpses of spring you will see peeking through the colorless shell of winter. Year after year, these vibrant beauties bring with them the first moments of hope towards spring coming. Today as I am reflecting back, and as the seasons are yet again shifting, I’m finding much meaning in their metaphor.
Life’s been happening at warp speed for the past year it seems. The seasons here change so much faster than in Texas, where - although we have a very short spring and fall, our summer stretches on long and wide as the land itself. Not in Ohio. Here they are spread more evenly, and just as it seems you are settling into one, it begins to shift into the next. Suddenly, when I stop to really look back, my life has felt that way, as if the seasons are now changing faster. I can still remember this time of year three years ago, when my life was quite different. I had not even been on a date yet since losing Drew two and a half years before. But I still remember how the seasons of my heart began to change then. And I wanted, for the first time since his death, to have a new partner.
Somehow I could feel in my bones that the things were changing. It was like that first warm front coming into my heart after a long, cold winter. The kind where the sun begins to warm your blood and the wind starts to stir things up inside you. And you know, somehow, without anything concrete telling you so, that the seasons are changing inside you.
That’s a bit what it felt like when I first began wanting a new relationship… like a slow awakening of spring inside me. If that is the case, Mike was certainly the first major thaw of my heart since losing Drew...Read more
My marriage to Mike wasn’t perfect. I mean come on…there is usually at least some issue that arises even in the happiest of partnerships. And we had plenty. Most of our concerns stemmed from his unhealthy eating habits and the results of that but we had other little annoying problems and arguments too. On the whole, though, we were happy. We both felt deeply that we were meant for each other, that we were each other’s true soul mates, and so we worked through all the other issues as best we could. There was never a question that we wouldn’t stay together. I really meant my vows…til death do us part…I just never imagined it would really come to that. At least so soon.
The past few weeks I feel as if my life is flowing forward full throttle. This week was the 3 1/2 year mark of Mike’s death, on the 17th, and I can honestly say it has taken this long for me to be able to handle this kind of momentum and change. But I can also say that somehow, in some way, I feel more than ready for it, suddenly.
A friend died this week - far too soon. A very dear, sisterly, special person I had known and loved for many years. Our friendship had suffered since Mike died…for a lot of reasons…they are personal and not for public airing. But there is no blame to pass around. Relationships can be complicated. And they can be further complicated when someone we love dies. She definitely suffered after losing her Dad, whom she was very close with, and then Mike, within months of each other. My husband had been an important brother/teacher/counselor/mentor figure to her, as he had been to so many others. She was just never the same after that. I will always believe, regardless of the medical reasons why her body shut down, that her life was, quite simply, cut short by grief.
"Surely now he's the one giving light to the stars"
As I sit here this morning, with a cup of coffee and the sounds of a familiar person milling around the house, I’m reflecting on some big things. This is a pretty significant weekend. A year ago, I arrived from Texas at a hotel in Tampa without any idea that I would meet a guy from Ohio that would change the course of things. Only 8 months after that weekend, I moved my entire life to Ohio to be near him and his daughter and give new love a chance. It’s completely surreal that it has already been a year since that day we met, at Camp Widow.
Ever since Drew died, I have always believed that I would meet someone new… someone who would be as wonderful as he was. I also believed it would be a long while before that would happen. Before I was ready. Sometime in that first year, I gave myself the timeline of 2 ½-3 years before I would even try dating. Somehow, this timeframe just felt right for me, personally. I felt it was enough time to honor my grief and also to honor Drew in such a way that I wouldn’t have to feel guilty or answer to anyone else for moving forward with someone new. Mike came along just under the 3 year mark, interestingly enough.
I am sitting upstairs in the bedroom... the morning light streaming through the window. Only today, I'm not upstairs in my own room, but at Mike's place. He's downstairs getting the morning started while I get my post done. I got in last night, and it's the first morning here. The first time I have ever been here. I'm a little overwhelmed, I'll admit.
It is immediately surreal to walk in the house as we came in. I halfway expected his wife Megan to be here. And in a way, she is. In every paint color on the walls and every picture and little embroidered wall hanging. In every small and sweet touch throughout their cozy home, she is here. And her love is here. I'd be lying if I didn't say I felt like I wasn't supposed to be here. Like in a strange way I wished it all back to how it used to be... for her to still be here with her daughter and her husband. For me to still be back in Texas with Drew. For a moment in time, I think it all felt so horribly wrong...Read more
I had an all-out breakdown a few days ago. The kind I haven't had in at least a year. I am chocking it up partly to hormones and the damned full moon, but also to everything else going on.
Nothing is settled in my life. Most of the time I am used to this, and I ride the waves well. But sometimes it piles up. My career as an artist is sort of like hanging off a cliff on one finger right now. Every now and then I get a better grip, a few more fingers on the ledge, but yeah... this whole entreprenuer thing feels trecherous. All the time. I constantly have no clue what I am doing. And just keep trying my hardest to hold onto the ledge of blind faith sometimes faith is all I've got
Next week, Mike and I will have known each other for 6 months. He and his daughter Shelby will be coming down to visit for a long weekend in just a few more days. We've spent countless hours on Skype, but this is the first time I will be meeting her in person. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit nervous about that. I'd be lying if I said it didn't begin to trigger all kinds of future thoughts.
Suddenly here I am, in the midst of so much change I barely know what happened. This time, it's good change, but that doesn't mean grief isn't still part of it or that it isn't still scary and hard...