Yesterday was one of the most beautiful and hope-filled days I have been a part of since I began this entire widowed journey. We were in the woods, standing tall in the trees, three widowed people and a little girl who lost her mother. The setting itself was magic, and made even more-so when we heard of the significance of that place. For our friend, who lost her husband 5 years ago, was marrying her husband’s best friend in the place they used to go walking after he died… in those early raw months, they stood side by side, taking one step at a time down a path that he no longer could. Together, side by side, they began a walk into the future, not even knowing that it would lead to a different kind of side-by-side one day.
It was personally significant to me in a few ways that no one else knew until I mentioned it… but this is the first wedding I have been to in 4 years. I’ve been invited to many weddings, and refused to go to any of them until I felt able. And this one, finally, I felt not only able but excited for. Excited. What? How is that even possible? In fact, I didn’t have an ounce of fear in me about the triggers it would bring up. To my total surprise, I found myself completely lost in the moment.Read more
(Above) A traditional cemetery celebration on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
This time of year reminds me of just how important magic is. While life holds it's own magic, death certainly holds an even more inexplicable magic all it's own. Not in the sense of tricks and jokes, but in the sense of wonder and possibility. Now, I know not everyone cares as much about Halloween as I do, but it has always held a special place in my heart. It’s a time of year when society accepts both kids and adults acting like children: decorating our houses with creepy spider webs and skeletons, dressing up in silly costumes, carving pumpkins with fun or scary faces. It helps all of us, should we partake, to be invigorated with a sense of wonder and magic... something we so easily forget in our day to day lives. And I find it no coincidence that the holiday that does this the most for so many, is so heavily focused on death.
It’s also a time of year when I feel closest to my mother and my other loved ones that have died. She loved the fall. That first cold front that came in each year invigorated her, and though I can’t remember much from the 9 years I had her, I do remember the essence of that feeling. I remember the feeling of her excitement. I remember a feeling of magic and warmth and creativity and possibility.
My mother’s death day happens to be the day before Halloween. And my dad, who is also passed, has his birthday the 29th, the day before that. And the third, Drew, loved Halloween as much as I. So there have always been personal losses that connect this time to death for me in a big way. In an odd way, it is wonderful, because it feels like so many others are celebrating their own loved ones around this time with their own customs such as All Soul’s Day and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and it has given me new ways to celebrate my dead.Read more
How did he pass away? It’s a question I have hated answering. Up until now I’ve avoided that question out of fear of being judged. I recently read an inspiring article by Elizabeth Ann titled “Dear Judgy Lady on Facebook”. It bought tears to my eyes and made me look at myself and think, where is my backbone! Elizabeth gave me the courage to face one of my fears, judgement.
Definition of the word Junkie
– A person with a compulsive habit or dependency on something.
The truth is I am a junkie, totally and completely addicted to John and to our love and our life. I had been addicted to him and infatuated with him since I first laid eyes on him at thirteen years old. He was the boy who at thirteen was the handsome, sporty and popular surfer guy. But whose heart was larger than a stereotype so he chose his circle of friends based not on their looks but on how they treated others. He was the boy who always stood up for the underdog, who fought for kindness and simplicity. Who chose not to be a sheep, because he knew he was a wolf. The boy who at thirteen was more of a man than most forty year olds. Who stood his ground on his beliefs always. The boy who was riddled with an anxiety disorder, but masked it perfectly to the world with a front of fearless confidence.
Despite his demons, he was a man I am proud of. He worked as a concreter six days a week in blistering heat despite having herniated disks in his back that caused extreme physical pain. Pain for which he required pain killers, that he tried desperately to abstain from, because yes he was as our perfect society calls it a junkie. To me though, to his family and friends he was so much more.Read more
This past week was my birthday. I turned 34. It might be the first time in my life I don’t really seem to have any particular feeling about turning an age. Usually I have a feeling of either excitement or resentment towards a new age. When I hit 30, I was so gloriously ready to leave my 20’s behind because they were, with the exception of meeting Drew, quite hard years. I had an abusive boyfriend, two jobs, and too many classes to count in my early twenties. I had a fear of relationships and complete breakdown and entered therapy in my mid twenties. Not to mention an alcoholic dad creating occasional chaos throughout all of that. I spent the better half of that decade fighting so hard to survive… with the odds of a dysfunctional childhood rearing at every turn. My twenties were filled with many adventures, but also much pain. Particularly when Drew died, just 3 months shy of my 30th birthday.
The best years, were from 26 to 29. My years with Drew. They were the first carefree years of my life. The first years where I finally understood what it felt like to exhale fully. Those were the birthdays I didn’t want to end. The celebrations that would span a whole week, just because this one person enjoyed celebrating me that much. Both of my parents were dead already, but his overflowing love combined with that of our amazing friends made it much harder to feel the pain. I remember in fact just enjoying my birthdays, fully, without the bittersweet feelings. Instead with only a passing thought to my parents.
Since he died, birthdays have yet again returned to that sort of “hurry up and get it over with” feeling. And I hate it. I hate that I fought so hard for so long in my twenties to finally have peaceful, joyful birthdays only to have them stolen away again. And it isn’t like I don’t try. It certainly isn’t like Mike doesn’t try. Having someone new in your life doesn’t take away the pain or the longing for your other person though. And I’ve learned over time that some years are just harder than others.
Four years, 3 months, and two days after you died, I walked under a blanket of oak and beech trees. The air was cool and crisp, the leaves still shining from a gentle rain… holding drips ransom until the wind blows them loose with a whisper. We were in the city, he and I, but all the world around us was quiet up on that wooded hill. As we explored this newfound paradise, there was a wonder present… the kind of childlike feeling that was always around with you. Slowly a sadness crept into me. It was so gentle I don’t think I even noticed it for a time. Then suddenly, as we began to make our way down the hill, and back to the car, I felt it keenly. It seemed so odd to me to be sad while exploring nature, one of my favorite things to do.
And then I realized, and asked aloud to him, “Do you ever just get sad out of nowhere that they can’t experience any of this anymore?” He confirmed my wondering. Which of course, I know, anyone who has lost someone sometimes gets sad about that. Only thing is, it’s been a long while for me. Or at least, since I actually realized that’s why I was sad.
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
This image perfectly sums up my post for today. There are times in our life when our path to somewhere ends, and from that moment on, we have to begin making decisions for another journey. We have to decide to stay on the shore, at the end of that life, or wade out into the unknown and swim toward some unknown future, trusting we will be able to make it to a new and beautiful shore.
Last week I had a really bad day. I don’t know if it was just a buildup of emotions because I’ve been so busy lately, or if hormones were just doing their thing randomly, or I was trying really hard to just not feel some stuff, but wow. I went over to my place to pack some more things to bring over to Mike’s place… and I just lost my shit. I cried, and I cried, and I cried some more. I felt so completely sad to be moving. For a lot of reasons... but mostly, I am figuring out, because I'm feeling thrown back into the currents a bit again. And every time I feel that way, I am reminded that my life is currently a "plan-B". That the path I was on ended one day, and I just had to get out there and swim...Read more
My sister came to visit last weekend, and we went out for a girls night to see that movie Bad Moms. It’s the first time in my life I could relate to such a movie… and to parts of my sister’s life, having raised three children herself. The movie was hilarious, we laughed so hard, and it felt so good to finally just have some girl time together.
At the end of the movie, the actresses sat down with their own moms to do little outtakes. Sharing old funny stories and memories of motherhood. Laughing and crying and bonding together. And of course, here we are, two sisters without a mom, watching all we have missed out on with our own mother being gone 25 years now. Insert ticking time bomb of grief here.
I sucked it up that night, trying not to here the tick, tick, ticking. "Eh, it's nothing new, just let it slide off your back" I said to myself. Sure. Because that works.
Mike asked a few times in the days following if everything was okay, because I was noticeably a bit bitchy. I shrugged it all off, thinking I am just overly tired. But I wasn’t just overly tired. I had a time bomb of grief inside me. For my mom. And for every single moment of the day that I want to be able to call her and vent, or ask her advice about mom stuff, or just share and feel “normal”.
When I finally unloaded to Mike, the tears welling up in my eyes, he acknowledged that it must be really really hard to be helping to raise a child without your own mom’s guidance. Time bomb activated! I burst into tears. I try my hardest on a daily basis to just not feel this truth, because it sucks, and it isn't going to change. But there are new layers now, that I never was challenged with before. Like the feeling that I am somehow less capable of mothering because I lost my mom so young. That somehow her death has created a deficit for me.
Here I am, 33 years old, with an instant 9 year old to care for, no mom, and no clue what I am doing. And this shit sucks. Because now I am grieving for my mom all over again, and also trying to parent. And I just do not know... how the hell do you grieve and parent all at the same time?
I sat in the car alone, across the street from the vacant house we once called home. The house was the only one in the street without lights on. I hoped none of the neighbours would notice me parked and no one did. I sat in silence reminiscing on sweet memories of us taking evening walks under the stars. I imagined we were teenagers again, lying on the trampoline in the back yard while the rest of the street was asleep.
That evening the rest of the homes were all awake with life. Families cooking dinner and reading bedtime stories to their children. But our home sat lifeless and empty. I wondered where John and I would be living if he were here, what adventures we would be planning. I envied the families who were living out their happy lives. It isn’t fair! I cried as I sat alone grieving the happy life we lived so completely.Read more
I hit a wall yesterday. Majorly. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve gotten serious anxiety to the point that I could barely hold it together. In fact, the last time I can remember having this feeling was that rainy night - which I wrote about here - when Mike and I drove the moving truck across the Texas state line on our way to Ohio… the threshold of leaving the home I’d lived all my life in, and the place I shared a life with Drew. It’s been almost a year then, since that day. I suppose I am grateful that it’s been that long since I’ve had this kind of anxiety hit me. There was a time when it was a daily battle. But it’s still just as hard when it hits.
There have been a lot of stressful things going on lately. Moving is always stressful, especially when you’re trying to merge two complete households. When you pile grief into the equation, it’s also bittersweet and full of a huge mix of excitement, and sadness all at once. Having never gotten to live with Drew, each and every time I go over to my place to collect a car load of things to take to Mike’s, (we’ve got a few months, and are doing it gradually) it’s a reminder. Even if I don’t always feel aware of it, those emotions are riding under the surface, in the corners of my mind that are still confused about how I got here. There is a sadness permeating everything lately, and I’ll admit, I’m tired of it.Read more