Growing up in Virginia my parents always had a lovely garden. They still do, actually. Every year they compost and dig and plant and in the summers appear beautiful tomatoes, beans, eggplants, lettuce and lots of other things. I wasn't much into digging in the dirt when I was a kid though, so when I moved into my first house with Mike in Los Angeles back in 1999 and wanted to start a garden, my parents were a little surprised. But for me, it made it really feel like home. I now had a house and a husband; I felt grounded, and so maybe, the ground called to me.
Mike wasn't much into digging in the dirt either. But he said if I planted hot peppers, which he loved, that he would help me. So we dug out the grass in the back yard and planted all the things we wanted to eat together. I still remember him picking a ripe cherry bomb pepper, taking a bite off the end and declaring it delicious and rather sweet and wouldn't I like to try it; me, not so much. I was afraid of the heat but he insisted it wasn't that hot. Of course the nibble I took also included a few seeds and my mouth exploded into fire! I ran to the garden hose and tried to put it out. He felt bad but we both laughed a long time about that one.
When I found the Soaring Spirits International website, just after I'd finally gone online with my story and shortly before I became one of the seven widow's blogging here at Widow's Voice, I found a deep solace in the smiling faces on the photos of past events at Camp Widow. Here was a group of people dedicated to a beautiful community of support, fellowship, sharing, and friendship. Here was true life, real people...important healing at work.
Here were people devastated like I was, but able to come together, support each other, and find a way to survive.
What a fabulous idea. A place we could all go to meet. To hear each other's stories. To give and receive hugs. To wipe each other's tears. And maybe, even, to laugh together, and create new friendships and memories.Read more
My life feels surreal.
A year and a half ago things were purring along with a familiar rhythm. My days were kind of predictable. I was married. I had a house. Things to do. People to take care of. Routines. I felt in control.
Ha, laughed the universe.
Now I feel like an alien being..like I was transported to some other planet after Mike died.
A stranger in a strange land.
Some days, I just don't recognize my life. I go through the motions but there is always that weird little panic button flashing at the back of my mind. It's not in full alarm mode anymore, but it's still always there. I spend a lot of time trying to find normalcy in my head. Some new sense of familiarity in my life, my surroundings. New routines. It's not always easy. Mike made me feel safe. I always knew everything was going to be ok when he was around. But he's not around anymore.
I hate that question. But it's always going to be there, isn't it? When you meet people, it's one of the standard getting-to-know-you questions and you just can't avoid it.
I guess if I had a "normal" career it would be easy to sidestep the "I'm widowed" answer, which I'll admit, I used a lot in the beginning after Mike died. I didn't really know what else to say, and it had the doubly-useful ingredient that it stopped people from nosing around much more. Then for awhile I tried to say I was a writer, but people would ask what I was writing...well I'm writing about my late husband, and grief...so there it was. I couldn't avoid it.
After years of hopping around various jobs and careers from Washington, DC to Hollywood to Hawaii, I've done so many things it's hard to say, what it is I really do. I do a lot of things. I've done a lot of things.
There is a saying in Zen: Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After Mike died I couldn't function coherently at all for about a week. I couldn't focus on the basic necessities of cooking, cleaning, errands...even driving. I really could not drive for at least a week. Thank goodness my family and friends were around to help. They literally had to do it all those first days. It's why I understand now the Hawaiian tradition of immediately showing up at someone's house after a death, bringing food, and staying around to help out with whatever was needed. Back on the East coast where I grew up people may be more likely to think they should leave you alone to grieve - I don't know, maybe some people might prefer that. But I don't think I would have made it that way. I am so grateful my house was full that first week.Read more
I was driving around town the other day and I suddenly became aware of my thoughts. You know how when you're driving sometimes it's kind of by rote, and you forget how you got where you were going because you're so busy chewing on some memory or idea in your head?
I paused at a stoplight and looked around. I realized I had been thinking about Mike. Nothing too specific, just allowing random memories to float through my mind; remembering what it was like to ride in the car with him, imagining how he would comment on the view, or some annoying driver on the road, or try and get me to stop somewhere for lunch. He loved driving around this island; he loved just going for a ride.
At that moment it wasn't a deeply sad series of thoughts; I wasn't crying - though the idea that he is really gone is still ping-ponging its way around my brain for sure. I was just thinking about him.Read more
My car broke down.
It's been acting up quite a bit lately. I took it in and they said it needed new struts. That wasn't cheap. But it was still making weird noises and behaving strangely. A few weeks ago it didn't want to start...then it finally did, so I immediately drove down and had a new battery put in. Then a few days later it still didn't want to start...when it did finally, again, I drove it back down to the shop. It stayed there all day and the guy tried starting it dozens of times, and it was fine. *snort.* Of course the car behaves for someone else. Then a week or so ago it was like Mt. St. Helens...enter, new radiator. But it still wasn't right. I know my car. Something was wrong.Read more
Most people have heard about the so-called five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - modeled by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. Even then, she clarified that these are not the only emotions felt during the grieving process, nor do they always appear in this order. It is now widely recognized that grief, for any reason - as a result of a death, illness, break-up, etc - is experienced with a wide variety of emotions, depending on the personalities and situations involved.
People were quick to remind me that I shouldn't look for these particular stages of grief after Mike died. And I listened to them. I didn't require anything from myself; I allowed myself to feel what I felt. I was told that everyone grieves differently, and whatever I feel, and whenever I feel it, is ok.
I'm glad for that. But I have to admit that I did, and continue to, experience many of these so-called stages of grief. She wasn't too far off the mark, at least for me, and in fact, reading about them has helped me feel - well, more "normal" for how I've dealt with Mike's death. It's an ongoing process, and I understand it will not be over for a long time - in fact it will never be over on many levels. I will always carry the memory of my marriage to this man in my heart, and I will forever miss his presence in my life.Read more
I could lose my house. In fact, I probably will.
For the first few months after Mike died that thought kept me awake at night. It was the single biggest fear I had in that terrible, dark time. I felt like I was choking on grief, and drowning in panic. I could barely breathe when the waves of fear came over me.
I went through every channel I could find to try and keep it. I was constantly calling the banks and talking to different people. I filled out so many forms and applications my head was spinning. I found a wonderful local nonprofit to mediate for me and pestered my attorney with questions and freaked out every time I got some disturbing letter in the mail. I have a stack of paperwork about two feet high from it all and that is no exaggeration.
Today I changed my relationship status on Facebook from "married" to "widowed". I have been staring at that line on the page for many long months now. For whatever strange reason, it has given me great comfort to see it posted this way. Facebook may be a silly, meaningless network in many respects, but that status was still not something I could give up easily. In my heart, I have felt married to him still, and perhaps in a way, I will always feel married to him; he will always be with me. Giving up that label just seemed so...final. But I realize in this bizarro world of social media that maybe it had become appropriate to make this change. No matter where my life may take me now, I am in fact widowed. That is the simple, heart-breaking truth.
I'm not married anymore, and it was no choice of mine.Read more