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
You don’t realize how important the little things are until you don’t have them. It could be something as simple as sitting on the couch, watching TV until you fall asleep with your partner, and it is taken for granted. Then you lose that person.
I’ll admit that I was eased into some of the more technical aspects of the widower role, being that Megan had spent so much time in the hospital over the years. There were plenty of times where I was a temporarily single father. Making sure Shelby got to school and was fed and clothed was never something I struggled intensely with after Megan died.
Even so, there were plenty of things I still took for granted when Megan was here, and some of those things are surfacing over the past few weeks.
So this is my first Valentine’s Day since Drew died that I am celebrating with a man. That’s big. It’s been 3 years now. In those years since he died, I have celebrated with my best friend. Each year, I drove up to Dallas and we would go out somewhere nice, me and her, and sometimes her Mom and another girlfriend or two. Together we would experience a different kind of special day to celebrate love. The love of friendship and womanhood. I wrote about one of those on my blog here. It’s hard this year to be so far away from her. To break our tradition. To know that she may be the one having a harder Valentine’s Day this year than me, and I can’t be there.
I will always cherish the years where we have celebrated our friendship on this day, and the amazing bond of women in general. It brought so much love into my world and it taught me that this day really shouldn’t be about romantic love, but just about love.
So today, as I am embracing love not with my women friends but with Mike, I am reflecting back quite a bit.Read more
Megan’s priority in life was Shelby. The fact that it is so unlikely that a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer can even have a child naturally made Shelby that much more valuable to both of us. Her “peanut”, as we call her, completed Megan.
During her hospitalization, Megan and I had to have “the talk”. We knew the odds of her coming home, and we were smart enough to talk over her wishes should she not be around. Sure enough, her most important wish was for Shelby to be happy, healthy, and smart. We had also talked of me moving forward, and that she wouldn’t want me to be alone. Putting two and two together, I read this as her wishing me to be with someone that was good for Shelby.
Little did I know (and surely wasn’t looking for) that a few months after her passing, a few women would sit down beside me at Camp Widow. One of those women would move her life 1400 miles to be with me. It’s been a year since Sarah sat down at that table in the hotel bar and grille. There hasn’t been a single day we have not talked in some form since then.
"Surely now he's the one giving light to the stars"
As I sit here this morning, with a cup of coffee and the sounds of a familiar person milling around the house, I’m reflecting on some big things. This is a pretty significant weekend. A year ago, I arrived from Texas at a hotel in Tampa without any idea that I would meet a guy from Ohio that would change the course of things. Only 8 months after that weekend, I moved my entire life to Ohio to be near him and his daughter and give new love a chance. It’s completely surreal that it has already been a year since that day we met, at Camp Widow.
Ever since Drew died, I have always believed that I would meet someone new… someone who would be as wonderful as he was. I also believed it would be a long while before that would happen. Before I was ready. Sometime in that first year, I gave myself the timeline of 2 ½-3 years before I would even try dating. Somehow, this timeframe just felt right for me, personally. I felt it was enough time to honor my grief and also to honor Drew in such a way that I wouldn’t have to feel guilty or answer to anyone else for moving forward with someone new. Mike came along just under the 3 year mark, interestingly enough.
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.
The other day I was filling out a workbook that I have done several times in January… called Unraveling the Year Ahead. It’s a wonderful workbook created by author, photographer and teacher Susannah Conway. This little booklet is filled with solid questions to get you to write down your reflections on the past year - release what you want to, keep what you like, and then write down your goals and aspirations for the year ahead.
It is the first year I have done this since Drew died. The first year I have felt like caring about a new year. After his death, New Year’s never really felt like New Year’s anymore. For these last three years, June 12th has been my year marker. I have measured every bit of progress, every moment of growth, and ounce of healing all based on the day he died. Dec 31st was no longer the end of my year, June 11th was.
Last night, as I finished up the part of the workbook about looking back on the past year, I realized that January - for the first time in 4 years - felt like a new year again. I am back to being able to measure my own growth as a person by looking back all the way to the previous January. And somehow… it just happened. All on it’s own… naturally. It isn’t something I forced, or something I tried to make happen. It isn’t even something I noticed that happened until weeks later.
"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek" - Joseph Campbell
I am starting to have a realization that my choice to restart pretty much ALL areas of my life since Drew died means that there is still a hell of a lot to rebuild and build anew. Probably way more than I even can understand right now. When he died, I quit my job and moved out of the city we called home to live with family for support. Not only did my heart have a major change, but my city, and home, and support system changed too. Looking back, it is astonishing how much change I endured all at once. No wonder it seemed like I was floundering for at least a year or two.
Even during those first few years of aimlessness - which I think are vital after a major trauma like this - I was always trying to create a new direction for my “after” life. Though most of that ended up in my hopping around from one thing to another or just wandering about. I learned that, though I felt like I had no sense of direction, there was in fact a direction slowly taking hold.
Over time, one failed direction after another, I kept trying to find a new direction I could to pour my heart and soul and guts and sweat into that would one day hopefully, be able to sustain me financially too. A direction that - even though he was not standing beside me for - he would somehow be the core of. That was it. Something that would give purpose and meaning to his death happening.Read more
I generally try to write my posts in advance, which gives me a bit of time to pore over them and change things up here and there before it goes public. This week, I did just that, writing a post about the five year anniversary of Megan’s lung transplant, which is Wednesday, the 6th, and what it meant to me.
Then, at the eleventh hour, I decided that I didn’t want to write about grief, or changes, or missing or mourning Megan. I didn’t want to spit out emotions and metaphors about losing her. I want to write about something happy, hopeful, and fun. Lord knows that we can’t just sit and mire in our grief forever.
On New Year’s eve, 2014, I was deep within the pit of grief. Megan had just died a month and a half before. Shelby was at my grandparents, and I sat alone, on my couch. It was a horrible, lonely night, I cried myself to sleep, and that’s all there is to say about it.
One year ago, everything was new. I was newly widowed, and a new single parent. There were new emotions, new challenges, and new triggers around every corner.
I had heard about Camp Widow, and I had a new idea. I would peek out of my armored shell of grief, and go against the grain of my own personality. I would force myself to be a new person, even for just a few days. My new year’s resolution was to stand up, wipe the snot off of my nose, and just do something new.
I never was much of a social person. Megan always had to drag me out of the house to be around other people, and even when she succeeded, I was usually grumpy and unsociable. Who knows what lit this new fire in me, but I resolved to put myself in what was sure to be a complete train wreck of a weekend, validating my outlook that it was better and safer to be a loner.