I am honestly not even certain what this has to do with being widowed, but it sure as hell has to do with death and loss and trauma and fear. Often times, I begin writing not knowing what will come and find that what needed to be cleansed comes to the surface on its own. I suppose, as someone who is learning to mother the child of a widowed person, it may relate for someone out there. I hope so. Either way, it seems this is what my soul needed to say today.
These past 2 years, I’m learning to mother a young girl who lost her mom a few years ago, and all the while I’m working through my own fears and the ghosts of my own past having lost my mother young as well. Maybe this is all coming up because we just had Mother’s Day and Mike wrote this heart-wrenchingly beautiful post last week about my role in Shelby’s life. Either way, I guess this is what needed to come out for me this week...
I had no idea just how much having a child in my life would bring up all of my own unresolved stuff from my childhood. It makes sense now, but I was truly and completely clueless when I first stepped into this shit (I am imagining every parent smiling right now). To say the least, it is both an incredibly healing and immensely painful process of unraveling pieces of my own heart day by day. Pieces that have been dormant for many years. Some of this stuff I didn’t even know was there.
Letting a child in has proven to be the very scariest kind of openhearted vulnerability that I’ve ever attempted. Guys, this shit is HARD. And it isn’t hard because she is a difficult kid. She makes it so easy on me. It’s hard cecause of course, you can’t really get by with being half-connected or faking it. Kids know. And I know deep down, I have to try my hardest to push past my not-so-great coping mechanisms and my own past trauma to be there for her.
Megan loved being a mother. If there was one thing, one goal in life she had, it was to create a little girl like Shelby. For 7 years, she doted on her, relishing taking her to school, feeding her creamed peas, changing diapers, reading to her, and in effect spending every healthy moment she had with her. Even when she was admitted to the hospital, roughly 5 - 8 times a year for three or four weeks at a time, she wanted Shelby there. Nothing would perk her up and make her smile more than to see her peanut waltzing through the hospital room door, saying “hi mommy”.
She was proud beyond words (still is, I imagine) at who Shelby was. I half assume that the only reason she joined the PTA, and chaperoned different school functions was so she could show Shelby off to the other moms. I mean, i sure as hell didn’t have a desire to sell popcorn balls in a school basement to three dozen other mothers as part of a “fundraiser”, but Megan, damn, she would have been leading the endeavor.
Like so many of these posts go, there's a summary of something in my past with Megan, followed by “Then, she died”Read more
(So, I wrote this last year on Mother’s Day. I tried and tried to write this week, and the more i did so, the more it read just like the below. So instead, I’ve decided to re-post it, with an update on what has changed, a year later. A year further from losing Megan, and another year growing with Sarah.
I’ve underlined in parenthesis my updated perspectives and thoughts. It’s an interesting examination of what a year can bring...or not bring)
It’s Saturday night as I write to you all. Today started out rough. The anticipation of Mother’s Day looming always gets to me. It's no surprise - I've been dealing with some of the triggers of this holiday for over 20 years since I lost my mom young. But there are more layers these days, leaving it even tougher at times to navigate. Thoughts of wishing my mom were here to share in my current life. Thoughts of all the other mother figures in my life, who I now live so far away from. Thoughts of Shelby, who seems to breeze through such days with incredible ease, yet still I wonder… is there a moment here and there when she is thinking of and missing her mom? Moments when it’s hard? Or is she like I was, too busy being a kid to really stop and feel all of that at such an age?
There are thoughts of Mike’s wife, Megan, and how much I adore her family and simultaneously feel like she should be here to be celebrated and honored instead of me. There are even passing thoughts of children I might have had with Drew, and what our Mother’s Days would have been like. And of all my widowed friends who did or did not have children that this day is also so hard for. To say the least, it’s a complex day that seems to have a trigger coming at me from every angle.Read more
(Mike and I with Drew's parents)
I didn’t manage to get a post up last week as I was out on a very special trip back home to Texas. One that left my heart overflowing with just how beautiful and surprising life still can be. It isn’t often that we happen to find ourselves in the middle of a truly miraculous celebration of life. I think the last time I was part of something that honored loved ones this beautifully was in Hawaii a few years ago, when I attended their annual Lantern Festival on Memorial Day.
This though, was something else. Something really personal. As I stood there looking out at the smiles and laughter, the banjos and guitars, the softly swaying hay fields and cactus warmed by the sleepy, low-hanging sun… I truly could not believe the moment’s perfection.
Once a year, every year since Drew died, all of my closest friends get together for a long weekend for what we call DrewFest. This was the 5th year, and to my complete surprise, it ended up being a much bigger celebration of him than we ever imagined would happen…Read more
I think grief is an even trickier thing as time goes on. It becomes more infused with your new life and sometimes it’s hard to even know when struggles are related to your grief or to other things. I’ll be honest, I think I’m still holding on to some resentment that this other life I wanted to have will never happen. Even if 99% of me wants everything I have in this new life. Even if I had to choose between these two lives, I truly could not, there will always be that part of me that just wants to know how the other story was going to play out.
I know Mike has this feeling too. We both wish that we could see how those stories would have played out with our first person. Lately, I’ve started to wonder if maybe I’m feeling more resentment over that unfinished story than I knew.
I think it’s part of the root of my struggle to adjust since moving to Ohio. I will never get to know what my wedding with Drew would have been like. Or if we would have had children. Or where we would have moved to for his flying jobs. I think moving and beginning a life somewhere so new and different with Mike has unknowingly made me even resent that I never got to move with Drew and do all of this.Read more
Mike and Shelby went to the Father-Daughter Dance last night. It’s always a night I love, because it’s so much fun to see him pulling out all the stops to go out with his little girl. With his three piece suit and a tie and pocket square to match her dress… he is always one of the best-dressed dads at the event, and is always out there ready to dance with her. I never got those experiences with my dad growing up, so I suppose I live vicariously through the joy in Shelby’s world now. It overflows me with love to do her hair and makeup and get his suit ironed and ready and take a bunch of pictures of them before I send them off for the evening.
There was one other special part of this evening though. One that hasn’t been there before. After they got home and showed me all the great pictures and funny videos from the dance. After they told me all the stories of the fun moments. And after we were settling in for the night a bit. Mike and I were chatting for a moment in the kitchen, when he picked up the little plastic tiara Shelby had gotten at the dance, and put it on his head to make me laugh. A huge smile grew on my face and then tears started to flow. Suddenly, a moment from my present so completely overlapped with a moment from my past in the most beautiful way…Read more
Hi readers! Mike had some things come up and wasn't able to post today, so I'm dropping in to take his place! He will be back with a new post next Tuesday!
It isn’t so often that I meet people who have been through as much darkness as I have. Although I know there are plenty of people who have, it’s not exactly like there are clubs for us. So yesterday was a bit of a beautiful reprieve, when I spent the afternoon with a new friend here in Ohio.
On our first time meeting each other for coffee last year, we spouted off one thing after another that we had in common. Like me, she is an artist. She also happens to be a transplant from Texas, like me. We have both lost our parents at young ages. We both lost someone else significant in a traumatic way… for me, it was Drew. For her, it was her brother. We both came from families of dysfunction and substance abuse. It was unreal… and I can still remember our eyes widening in surprise as we looked at each other feeling like twins. As we shared our horrible facts nonchalantly, knowing we didn’t have to worry about what the other person thought. It was the biggest “me too” I think I’ve ever had with another person.
Sadly, it’s probably been a year now since that initial coffee date, and we have failed to hang out all that time. Because for people like us - it’s easy to isolate from the world. When you have already had so much loss and trauma, it becomes easier to just not get attached to very many people. You become extra guarded. You have such an acute awareness of people’s mortality and you know, that they are all going to leave you. It makes you a lot choosier about who you let in… sometimes, that’s a good thing. But sometimes it prevents you from letting in the right people too. I have fought with this my whole life. It seems, my friend has too.Read more
If there’s something powerful about telling your own stories, there is something equally profound in hearing someone else tell your story to others. For centuries, we have been telling stories. Well before we could write, the most important and valuable knowledge we had as humans was passed down through stories and spoken word. And although our modern culture has become removed somewhat from traditions of telling stories in the same way, it is no surprise that spoken word seems to touch a very ancient part of our being. A part of us all that remembers our ancestral traditions. Something inside us that knows... stories spoken were stories we valued, ones we wanted our civilization to remember decades to come.
Every time I have had someone else put my story into words, it has changed me. It has changed how I view myself, for the better. It has added another layer of meaning to this horrendous journey of widowhood, too.
I’m going to say that one of the greatest occurrences of this happened just a few days ago. Many of you know our Friday writer, Kelley Lynn, and that she was selected recently to do a TEDx talk on grief and living on. I’ll spare the details, as I am certain she will be eager to tell you all about her own experience of doing this talk, but what I will share is that my story was a part of her story. She chose a few individuals to make examples of to drive her inspiring message home, and one of those examples was from my own life.
I hardly have the words for what this experience was to me. Initially, as I logged in to watch her talk stream live online, I was just excited to see my friend up there, doing her thing so well. I was excited to be a part of it with her. I was excited to think of how meaningful this moment was for her. But I wasn’t prepared for just how it would make me feel when she got to my story...Read more
I had some bad news this past week that has really been on my mind and in my heart for days now. Something that brought back a lot of memories, and a lot of important lessons, for me.
It may be an odd thing to say, but at times there are things that I actually miss about those first few years after Drew’s death. As painful and horrible as that time was, I can’t deny that there were certain gifts that I suppose I always knew would be short-lived. The main one being a perspective shift.
I remember living so vividly those first few years. I remember being so without fear, and so without concern for all the mundane things in life. I was so raw, and essentially giving a big “fuck you” to life by decreeing to live more fully. So it was an odd time - a time of terrible gifts. A time of painful joys.
For someone who has spent a lifetime walling off from people and bogged down by the smallest fears and the biggest self doubts, it felt like a miracle to be leaping over those walls and reaching out to connect with other hearts going through what I was going through. Breaking is breaking open, as they say, and that was certainly true for me.
As I “re-enter” a more normal day to day life now, I can see my perspectives sliding back. I can see myself worrying once more about the small stuff. I can see my self doubt closing in around me more than before. But that perspective his death gave me hasn’t left entirely. It still resides in my heart. Even if often times being back in the day-to-day takes up more of me mind, I can still hear those lessons I learned about having no control, about letting go of fear and worry, about opening my heart more fully to the world.
This week gave me a swift kick into remembering all of those lessons when I got a text from an old friend back in Texas. She said that one of our other friends had died, the day before. While I don’t know for certain the details, it sounds as though he may have taken his own life. And just like that, with a simple text, everything felt different.Read more