You know what I'm learning lately? New happiness can be a strangely lonely and difficult journey. When I was deeply in my grief, I experienced the other kind of loneliness... the one where no one REALLY wants to know how you are doing. Where they don't see YOU anymore and all they see is the grief. Where you are a constant reminder to others of the loss they will one day experience. Where they just want to believe you are holding it together and are too scared to actually know the reality of your day to day existence. It is a horrible loneliness to endure.
I guess I didn't expect new happiness to also be a very lonely journey, but at times it is. The complexity of it isolates you from many people who don't get it. It brings up new layers of grief that must be worked through – during a time when most people are just taking a huge sigh of relief thinking that your grief is “over” now that someone new is there. They think its all butterflies and rainbows and that “poof!” your pain is over and love has saved the day. It isn't any easier when your new love is 1400 miles away...Read more
If I'm being 100% honest, which I always am in my writing about loss, there are actually two of me. Version One of me was born on September 26, 1971, and she died on July 13, 2011. Version Two of me was born on the same day, within seconds even, of version one's tragic death. Version One never saw it coming. A massive heart-attack took her husband away forever, and in that same instant, Version One of me ceased to exist. A new me was born, and, like an infant, I had to start life all over again.
Everything was different. Every. single. thing. The world smelled and looked and felt different. Inhaling and exhaling had an unfamiliar, labored feeling to it. Speaking a sentence felt like a chore, and I wasn't sure what words to use or where they were coming from. When my husband's heart stopped beating, my new one started it's frightening and insecure rhythm. From that day forward, it would be up to me to figure out this new life without Don, and this new version of myself. Yes, there are still pieces of the old me that remain inside the new me - things that are part of the core of who I am. But even those pieces of me changed - some drastically, and some slightly. But they changed. They had to.
Now, just one week away from being 4 years into this new life, I am still taking baby steps everyday, still navigating the terrain to find my way through the thick and humid mud. I'm getting there, but I probably won't ever really arrive. The death of a spouse or partner literally affects every single part of your life. It does. There is no part of your life that this loss does not touch, from finances to jobs to friendships to living situations to parenting (if you have kids) to dreams of parenting (if you didnt get to have kids) to what you eat to how you shop to what kind of health insurance you have (or the fact that you lose it because you were on your husband's plan and now he's dead) to where you go on a typical Friday night - on and on and on. In this way, the death of a spouse is very different than other kinds of death. It leaves no stone un-turned. Every part of your life is now changed, and you are left starting over, alone, in the middle of a field, standing on a landmine, with nothing but endless terror and a blank canvas. And you don't even know how to paint.Read more
I have gone through a myriad of emotions the past few days. Mike is down this weekend visiting me from Ohio... it is the first time he is meeting my family and a lot of my closest friends. It's one of those big and bittersweet and totally surreal steps forward. Even more so because he is coming for a special event – an annual camping trip that my friends and I have each year in honor of my late-fiance, Drew. It's so surreal to be inviting a new man to this particular event... and to be camping for the first time with someone new too.
For those who don't know, this is my first relationship since my fiance Drew died 3 years ago. Mike and I have been dating long-distance now for several months after meeting at Camp Widow – both of us widowed. We've had a few trips together, one in which my mother-in-law was able to meet and spend a day with him, but this is the first time one of us is entering the other's home turf. IT. IS. STRANGE. And beautiful. And heartbreaking. And surreal. All in the same breath.Read more
I went to the doctor today. I know. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but believe me, in my world, it is. When my husband died suddenly just under 4 years ago, we were living paycheck to paycheck. We shared his beat up old car to get to our jobs, and we had nothing in savings. We lived in a crappy and small apartment in New Jersey, and we were both stressed out and overworked. He was working two jobs to try and get us out of that "struggling" lifestyle, and start bringing us on a road to a better life together. We were working toward something. And then he dropped dead.Read more
There was a time, early on in my loss, where I felt like I was constantly on the search for my husband. Every second of every day was spent , in my mind and heart, trying to locate him somehow. People kept telling me over and over and over that he is always with me, that he is in my heart, and all those other cliche', blah-blah-blah things that people say that make you want to punch them. It meant nothing to me. It meant nothing to me because I couldn't feel any of that. I was not feeling him near me. I was not having dreams of him. I felt like he was here one second with me, and then just gone forever. Sudden, unexpected, shocking death will do that - it will make you feel as if you are going insane every hour of every day. How the hell can someone be here one second, and then just be gone? How can you have gone to bed together the night before, and then wake up to a ringing phone telling you that your life is no longer your life? How can a perfectly healthy 46 year old man just collapse and die? These questions played inside me daily, hourly, for over 2 years. Until one day, they stopped playing.Read more
On July 12th, 2011, during another ordinary day in my previous life, I could have never in a zillion years predicted or seen coming that only hours later, my husband would leave for work and never return again. I could NOT have foreseen that he would be sitting at the computer desk in our bedroom one minute, and the next morning,I would be jarred awake by a ringing phone, and then rushing in a cab to the E.R. to find out that he was dead.
And for those first few months and even year or two after that horrific day, I could not have predicted that I would be able to take my intense and excruciating pain, and create from it a play, a stand-up comedy act presented to other widowed people, a blog, and now a book. I would have never ever known , had you asked me just 8 months ago even, that I would be using this pain and grief to become a grief coach and walk others through their hurt - staying beside them and crawling them through the processing of deep emotions and eventual healing. Had you asked me back then, I would have told you that I would feel this horrific and dark pain forever until the end of time, and that there would never ever be a day where I could see or feel or experience joy again. I truly believed that my life was over. I truly felt that the pain of losing Don and our life and everything inside it - would kill me. I thought that I would surely die from the pain, because how can anyone live in that kind of pain forever?Read more
The stars, the moon, the Universe. Something greater and more powerful than I. This is what I need to grasp and know and hold close because I'm foundering within that very Universe. For 24 years I was so certain of where my feet stood, what my life was, and I lived it with passion, appreciating every day of it with my beloved husband. Now that he's gone, I am untethered and unmoored.Read more
Well, here I am in the caves region of Kentucky. Last week I shared about the trip I would be on with my new guy - seeing each other in person for the first time since we met several months ago. As I write this, we're a few days into our trip. He is lying next to me now, munching away on donuts while I write. I'm finally ready to share a bit more about this person with you all... particularly because you may know him more than you think - or at least his writing. He is our very own Tuesday featured writer on Widow's Voice - Mike.
We met at Camp Widow East back in February. I sat down beside this guy at the meet & greet on Thursday night, and for the entire rest of the weekend we were inseparable. We shared our whole stories with one another and laughed more than either of us had in ages. Something certainly clicked... although I had no clue then that it would end up meaning I would fall for someone new and be sitting here states away on some whole other adventure...
There are many things I'm certain of in and of myself:
I am strong.
I am resilient.
I am confident.
I am driven.
I am passionate.
I am a rebel.
I am a lover.
I am a giver.
I am a life embracer.
But I must be honest.
Last year, I found myself challenged.
Something I’ve begun to distinguish since Dave died is clean pain versus dirty pain. I can’t remember the original source of this idea, though I’ve read about the concept several different times.
Clean pain is the pain we feel when we lose someone or something we love dearly. It’s the pain we naturally feel when we’re ripped from something precious. When we watch our love dying, when we begin to face each day without them, when we find out we have a terrible diagnosis, our child is hurt or dying, or our life simply changes in ways we didn’t anticipate or want. It’s natural grief. It’s suffering, and it’s a response to loss.
Dirty pain, on the other hand, is pain we create in our minds, with or without actual loss. Dirty pain isn’t wrong or right. It’s also natural. It’s just optional. Easier said than done, I know.