Last night, Mike and I went to a concert. It was a surprise I gave him, to see one of his favorite bands. The entire night was incredible… one of those magical nights you remember forever. The joy in Mike’s eyes was palpable. No one had ever surprised him with such a wonderful gift before he said, and you could just feel the joy and love radiating from him all night. It was a beautiful evening. We had lawn seats at this outdoor arena. Not only was every song amazing and the energy of the crowd amazing, but there were songs from this band that I’d never heard before that slammed into my heart with such deep emotion. They went right to the core of me and touched something so very deep...Read more
Tomorrow marks the first day of the summer session for my eCourse that I am teaching now for the 3rd time. I create this class last year as a way to share much of what I had learned in my own grieving process about creativity. For four weeks, my students will be diving into lessons and creative prompts in writing, photography, and painting, with the purpose of expressing their grief and honoring their story and their loved ones.
Teaching is not a natural role for me, in fact it still makes me quite uncomfortable. I’m a writer, and that is where I feel most at home in sharing ideas. And while my course is mostly written, it does require interacting in a Facebook group and some video recordings. In other words - it requires me to be vulnerable too. Ugh!
So far, each time I run this course, there is a part of me that resists the call to be vulnerable. Maybe it’s that part of me that wishes she didn’t have all these lessons to share. The part of me that wants to just be “normal” and be doing work that is in no way related to grief. The part of me that is always a little bit scared to connect to others at first.
But then I get emails from women who want to sign up, but are nervous and need a little encouragement. Or from women who are in a bad spot financially and wondering if there is some way they can take the course still. Or women who have had major losses that were not loved ones, and wonder if the course will apply to them. They share a little of their stories with me before even beginning the class… and I am reminded of what an honor it is to be in the space of those who are grieving. I am reminded of how incredibly brave these people are - how much courage and strength and energy it takes to say “yes” to something like an eCourse when you are deep in your own pain. I am reminded that they are willing to be vulnerable with me… and suddenly I realize I have no choice but to be vulnerable with them too. Suddenly I am reminded of how precious it is to share that kind of true vulnerability with another person. Most of all, it reminds me of all the women I met the first time I went to Camp Widow - the ones that showed me the way and gave me hope. The ones that held a lantern along the dark and terrifying path of grief for me, so that I did not have to walk completely alone in the dark...Read more
I won't lie, I've cried quite a lot the past few days. It may just be that time of the month making me extra emotional… but it’s also a lot more. It will be my anniversary in a few days… eight years ago next week is when I went on my first date with Drew. The following week, just seven days later, will be the 5th anniversary of his death.
It’s hard to imagine he has been gone 5 years, but surprisingly, this fact isn’t the one getting to me. Perhaps because I spent the first few months of this year already processing the “5 year mark” being here, I almost feel as if that has already passed. The one that is getting me though, is the other milestone.
We would have been together for 8 years now. Instead, we only got three. THREE. And I know, no time is ever enough. Not three, or ten, or fifty. But I do feel like there is a specific kind of heartbreak for young couples that had so very much unfinished life to live. We hadn’t even moved in together yet, much less gotten married or started a family. And so much of that was slated to unfold in that very year when he died. So much was already in the plans to be happening. It will haunt me forever, the unfinished stuff, I know that. And I know it’s normal for it to be worse as I get closer to this day. It just sucks I guess, there’s not much else to say there.Read more
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