Since you died I feel like I am masquerading in someone else's life. The likelihood of outliving you was always in the back of my mind, but it wasn't something that I prepared for because I naively thought we had "the rest of our lives" ahead of us. I honestly thought that we had at least twenty more years together. And, because I blindly believed this, I arrived to widowhood completely unsorted. For the first few months everything was raw and rough. I was unpracticed at being a widow, so I made homespun, amateur attempts at surviving. However, with time, my ability to live with grief has become more polished. Fifteen months later, I do less improvising throughout my day.
I am doing this 'widow thing' . And, from the outside looking in, things appear to be returning to 'normal'. But, those of us who live this life know full well that we can never return to 'normal' again. I don't say this looking for sympathy. I say it because it is the truth. You know this as well as me. It just is what it is. This is widowhood.
As much as I dislike it, living with Grief has become somewhat 'normal' to me. I don't remember what it feels like not to miss you. I don't recall living without emptiness inside me. I don't remember what 'normal' feels like anymore. I don't remember what it feels like to be an 'ordinary', 'regular' mid-aged woman. I am forever changed.
The death of your spouse permanently alters a person, and I am no exception. Yet, somehow, I am starting to become okay with the changes in me. Even still, I am not proficient living my changed life. Most of the time I feel like I am participating in a makeshift existence that was not thoroughly planned out. I did not rehearse for this; and, honestly, it shows.
Art: Loui Jover
Death is a part of life. We die because we live.
The concept is simple. It is understood by everyone. But, the mechanics behind surviving without someone you love are tedious and complicated. It is relatively simple to comprehend the facts. They. are. dead. But, to accept this is not easy. To live this reality - this - brings you to your knees.
It is overwhelming and utterly disorientating to remain alive when the person you love is dead. Most of us do not prepare ourselves for outliving the ones we love. Honestly, I know there is no way to "prepare" for death; but, looking back I wish I had put more forethought into it. Until death intimately affected me, I never seriously entertained the idea of living without him. So, when he died I was blindsided. I was lost with no sense of direction.
Everything felt surreal. It still does...
I’m on the other side of the three year mark at this point. I can watch a movie where an actor is hospitalized, and not have to turn it off. I can hear a song that reminds me of Megan, and get a little choked up, then laugh it off. I can even pull all of our holiday decorations out from storage, observe the ornaments with Megan and I’s names on them, or pictures, or items we purchased together, curl my lip a bit, and remember the happy times we had at Christmas.
I can remember dates. Anniversaries, birthdays, transplant dates, and so on, and know that they’re coming. I can even find a private writing of Megan’s, written long before her passing, cry my eyes out reading it, and go about my day afterwards. A persistent cough that Shelby or Sarah may be experiencing only pales in comparison to the decades of it that Megan experienced, but it still makes me remember just the same.
These are called “triggers”. I know it. We all know it. It’s the songs, sights, events, smells, sounds and memories that don’t really “haunt” us, so much as they are just part of our day to day lives. Time does not make these go away, but rather, softens their outward impact. When that godforsaken “Let Her Go” song, by Passenger, gets randomly played, it has become somewhat humorous (that particular piece of music has followed me around since the day she died), albeit still thought provoking, to say the least.
Homesick. This past week I’ve been so painfully homesick, not only for a place but for the people and community that make me feel home. So much has changed in the past few years, most of the time I think I’m pretty used to just being outside of my comfort zone. But then there are days when I’m so tired from that I guess, that I realize how long its been since I’ve truly been in my comfort zone at all. I don’t know why this past week has felt this way. Sometimes I guess there just aren’t any real reasons at all. I’m blaming it on hormones though, I suppose, as it just so happens it is coinciding with good ole Aunt Flow visiting.
Almost every night this past week, my mind is flooded with memories of places I am now far away from, and the memories and feeling of those places. So much so, that I have dreaded going to bed a bit at night… needing a podcast or the TV on just to try and avoid my thoughts...Read more
I’m writing you this morning from the bed of a roadside motel in West Virginia. The walls inside are all wood, the entire place looking like a big log cabin. It’s cozy feeling, with ruffled curtains, checkered blue and white bedspreads and warm corner lamps. I’ve woken up in a good mood, which I am infinitely grateful for, and hoping I can keep around.
Mike, Shelby and I woke up around 2:30am, after I barely got any sleep. I dragged myself into the truck and proceeded to try and sleep during the 5 hour drive here… which was minimal. This is usual for Mike. He likes to drive through the night. I have never experienced this, and can say that it’s far from my favorite way to begin a vacation. I fought tired eyes most of the day yesterday, as well as trying to keep in good spirits. I failed quite a lot.
I have to admit, even as we got into the mountains, no part of me was feeling too excited. All I could think of is everything that wasn’t right… no sleep, it’s too early for there to be leaves on the trees yet so everything is brown. It turned out to be almost 80 out in the afternoon, far warmer than predicted and I had only brought clothes for cooler weather.
Back home, in Texas, it’s green and lush already out. Spring has fully arrived. Here, the trees are just barely beginning to bud out leaves this week. Everything is still brown. The comparison could not be more different. The changing seasons is proving to be one of the hardest new losses of moving so far from the place I’ve called home.Read more
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed the past few weeks. It’s not grief, but life. A lot of life happening. Having an anniversary for the first time with someone new, and Valentine’s Day. My sister coming to visit me, and Mike’s daughter Shelby having her 9th birthday. Meeting a whole bunch of Mike’s cousins, aunts and uncles I’d yet to meet. Hanging in my first art show since moving to Ohio. It has all been good things, but I haven’t escaped the triggers or the frustration of feeling easily overwhelmed.
Widow brain has been back in full action… to the point that I have literally forgotten at least 50 times every day what the plans are, what time things are happening, and what day it even is. It’s scary when this comes back. And it’s hard. I feel like every little thing becomes more difficult and scarier. I feel vulnerable. It reminds me of earlier days when the grief was fresh and my mind couldn’t even manage the simplest tasks. When I felt totally broken.Read more
Sometimes the tears sneak up on you. Sometimes you are just going about your morning, having a cup of coffee, watching the news, having no thoughts in particular to the past or about missing anyone… and suddenly something goes right into that wound and touches it. Touches the loss in a way that makes you erupt in tears.
This very thing happened to me this morning, when reading our Friday Writer and my good friend Kelley’s post here. It was this part, so eloquently written, that got me:
“... And still, at the end of each day, no matter how long it's been, how happy I may be, or how much life keeps spinning - it always comes back to this: You are not here, and I miss you.
Still. Forever. Always.
The missing of you lives inside me, in the same way that stars light up and live in the sky. It's just there, like a baby napping or a child wanting ice-cream. It's there in the same way that all familiar things remain, and yet, it's depth and it's hurt still surprise me every time. For love does not end. It only begins, and then begins again, over and over, taking new and different forms. I love you. I love you today, tomorrow, and for many lifetimes into the future, where I will miss you still.”
I broke into tears when reading this. I’ll admit, it took me by surprise to feel so strongly out of nowhere. No matter how many times it happens, it always surprises me and leaves me amazed I had so much inside that needed to come out. But that’s what triggers do - they touch something deep inside us that likely needed a release. And they always seem to leave us blindsided or, in the least, surprised.
So there I am, crying into my coffee profusely and feeling almost ridiculous given that I was totally fine moments before. Plain and simple, I missed Drew, and her post made me realize it. It did not make me want my current life less. It was just… there.
When Megan died, i went into full sensory deprivation mode. I could no longer see her face, hear her voice, taste her lips, smell her body wash, or touch her skin. When suddenly, all five of my senses were deprived of their primary stimulant, I became numb. I would venture to say that this is the case for most widows and widowers.
Largely, I believe this explains the “fog” that so many of us have and are experiencing. We become lethargic, depressed, stressed, absent-minded, and unaware of our own surroundings. Place anyone in an isolation chamber, widowed or not, and eventually, a similar fog will creep in.
These senses are independent of each other, and each of them are 20% of a whole experience. When all I wished for was to talk to Megan and hear her voice, I honestly would have been just as happy to see her smile or feel her hug. But it’s never enough. I could sit and fantasize about her returning to visit from the other side, all the while knowing that whether she was here for 5 minutes, 5 days, or 5 years, it would never have been enough time or sensory stimulation.
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