Five and a half years later
There are days when I just want to disappear
To run away from everything
All the materialism of Christmas especially
Because no matter how hard I try
No matter how many lights are on the house
No matter how many ornaments are on the tree
No matter how many Christmas songs are played
So much is missing too...
The excitement of new.
The knowing of strife.
The frustration of sickness.
The commitment for life.
The determination to protect.
The joy of more days.
The newness of health.
The fear it won’t stay.
The sliver of hope.
The knowledge of none.
The witnessing a demise.
The grief that begun.
Early this morning, I woke up to the bed being empty next to me. It's an ordinary Saturday, and I can hear Mike downstairs, tinkering around, packing up for a short backpacking trip. Eventually, I hear the stairs creak as he comes back up to the bedroom kiss me goodbye. These moments are always sensitive for me, since Drew left on a trip and never came back. But this isn't some 3 month long work trip like Drew's... Mike will be back tomorrow. Or will he? Because of course, now, I never really know that anymore.
All morning now, the thought of him not coming back has been with me. I’ve not cried or even been upset over it… it’s just…. There. Haunting me at low volume. As I make my morning coffee, I have to go through three cups before I can drink it. The first is one of my favorite mugs, with skulls on it. I decide not to drink from a skull cup while he is out. “If he dies and you drank out of a skull cup that day, it will feel like a creepy omen”. So I pour my joe into his favorite coffee cup, one with a woodland scene that says “The Good Life” on it. I decide that one makes for an equally bad omen - as I never use his favorite coffee cup, and it’d be horribly ironic if he died while I was drinking from the "Good Life” cup. I finally settle on a random cup with no irony apparent and am able to let it go for a moment.
There were half a dozen other situations just like this for the next hour. Putting on his hoodie - which I wear around the house almost daily... "What if he dies today and I am wearing his hoodie?!". The little surprise love note he tucked into my laptop, so that I would find it after he left "Oh my God, what if he dies today and this is the LAST LOVE NOTE I EVER GET?!" Worrying about ice on the roads, cars flipping, him slipping on ice with a heavy pack on his back in the woods alone... it goes on and on of course. Even writing these words, sends chillful thoughts of "What if he dies and THAT is what my post next week is about?!" It's scary. And tiring. All of this because of “the knowing”...
Being that both Mike and I are both writers here, we do try to talk about our relationship as two widowed people, to share how this whole “chapter 2” thing can work. There are plenty of times this is awesome to write about - when we have things to share that show you how beautiful loving again can be. How beautiful it can be when two people honor their dead loved ones, welcoming them with open arms into this new, loving space. Times when we can share how incredible it is to be on a new journey of love, and feeling like your other person is getting to come along with you for the ride. So many times I have truly felt Drew’s joy in my own heart during moments with Mike. So many times have I felt like when I am laughing, Drew is too. They’re a part of it all. And we should never expect any less of our new person than to want them to be a part of it all. Mike even wears some of Drew’s old dress shirts now. And I use Megan’s old backpacking gear when we go out for trips. They’re always with us.
But there’s another side to that too. What if things weren’t all roses and rainbows when your person died? What if your last words were words of anger? What if there was a lot of unresolved stuff going on that you never got to address? What if, like Mike and Megan’s story, you were only just beginning to resolve things? What if your widowed story, or even your story outside of being widowed, comes with some muck?
Mike 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.
I’ve had a couple of really beautiful, full-circle moments recently. The sort that have reminded me in such sweet ways how totally interconnected my old life and my life now still and always are.
This past week, we finally got my couch moved into Mike’s house from the garage. And by my couch, I really mean Drew’s. I have been dragging this thing around ever since he died… an enormous olive green couch. It is really the only piece of furniture of his I have. Since we didn’t live together, much of his bigger stuff ended up being given away or taken to Goodwill when he died, as there was no place to put it. But this couch, I was not letting go of it. It sat in a storage unit for 3 years after he died, before finally making the journey north with me from Texas to Ohio last fall.
So we finally get this thing moved into Mike’s basement, where we have made a cozy den next to my art studio area. Over the course of a few days, I watched as something really heartwarming took place.
Hey readers! I’m filling in for Mike today, as he had something come up and was unable to write. He’ll be back with us next Tuesday, so until then, I’m here to wander through some of my own thoughts of late and see what bubbles up...
Mike and I have spent the past few months moving all my things to his place, as many of you know. After a decade of living alone, finally, I’ve taken the plunge into this next level of partnership. A level in fact that I never even made it to with Drew, my late-fiance, because he died before we were able to get there.
We would have moved in together that same year he died, and married the next. But neither of those things happened. Instead, I gained new fears which have come with me into my relationship with Mike. Although there is no serious talk of it yet, we do have plans and hopes to get married one day. As this commitment begins to enter my mind more, new fears arise. Fears about being on the cusp of a new beginning and having it all taken away. Fears of moving in together and marrying because “what if he dies before we ever get there. Or the day after. Or three months into marriage...” What if, what if, what if. As I face these phases of my life for the first time since Drew and I were in a similar place, I find the fears quite loud.Read more
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
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
I found Soaring Spirits the day after my husband died from depression. I googled the term 'suicide widow' - reeling from shock that these strange words were now something I needed to make sense of.
One of the links that I clicked contained the heart-felt words from a young widow named Melinda who had also lost her darling husband Sean to depression and was sharing her story to help others, like me.
Melinda's words connected me to a community that would save me from losing my mind. I sat for hours, reading back through her past entires, devouring the words that I so needed to hear.
Every night, for well over a year, I would read this daily blog before going to bed, to remind myself that I wasn't alone. There were other brave men and women who had walked this path before me and, like them, I too would find my way. One day, the relentless ache would ease. The sadness that sat in my stomach would lift and I'd start to enjoy living again, rather than feeling lost in the fog of grief.