So much of our lives are built upon expectations. We plan our higher education based on the expectation that we can have a career doing what we love. We raise children on the expectation that they will succeed even beyond what we ourselves as parents have achieved. We marry, with the expectation that our partner will be there by our side until one or the other has met their end.
On the simpler side of things, we expect to be scared, emotional, or laugh when we go to a movie. We expect hunger to be sated by dinner, and we expect to have thrills and fun at an amusement park.
We expect to be entertained at a concert, enjoying an artist or band plying their trade in front of us. Then...the unexpected happens.
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
After a long day at work yesterday, teaching Theatre and Comedy courses at the University I work at and have worked at for 15 years, I came home to find out about the awful, horrific shooting at Oregon's Umpqua College. I had sat down and put my TV on in order to feel relaxed after a tiring day, and instead, I found myself feeling once again exhausted, anxiety-ridden, and filled with fear. These shootings are becoming commonplace in this country, and it's pretty much the saddest thing in the world to me. And please, I am BEGGING you, the person who is reading this - I do not want to use this blog piece to get into a huge and pointless debate about gun laws or politics or anything else that will only stress me out even further - I just need to use this space today to express my frustrations with the repetitiveness of what is happening in our world, and how MY world is so much more frightening without my husband in it to make me feel safe.Read more
On July 12th, 2011, during another ordinary day in my previous life, I could have never in a zillion years predicted or seen coming that only hours later, my husband would leave for work and never return again. I could NOT have foreseen that he would be sitting at the computer desk in our bedroom one minute, and the next morning,I would be jarred awake by a ringing phone, and then rushing in a cab to the E.R. to find out that he was dead.
And for those first few months and even year or two after that horrific day, I could not have predicted that I would be able to take my intense and excruciating pain, and create from it a play, a stand-up comedy act presented to other widowed people, a blog, and now a book. I would have never ever known , had you asked me just 8 months ago even, that I would be using this pain and grief to become a grief coach and walk others through their hurt - staying beside them and crawling them through the processing of deep emotions and eventual healing. Had you asked me back then, I would have told you that I would feel this horrific and dark pain forever until the end of time, and that there would never ever be a day where I could see or feel or experience joy again. I truly believed that my life was over. I truly felt that the pain of losing Don and our life and everything inside it - would kill me. I thought that I would surely die from the pain, because how can anyone live in that kind of pain forever?Read more
It is now 3 years and almost 11 months (next week)since my beautiful husband left for work and never came home. In that time, I have (and still do) been to grief counseling weekly, tried many different widowed support groups, become a member of several online and in-person groups for widowed people, found support through Soaring Spirits and have given my comedic presentation at Camp Widow 6 times, written and performed a one-act, one-woman show about my husband's death, and - oh yeah - I'm still smack in the middle of writing a book. I have found many, many ways to grieve and process and begin the path to healing. On most typical days, I have the knowledge and feeling that although this is devastating and life-altering and the hardest thing I have ever been through, I will be okay. In the beginning, I did not believe this. I could not see that I would be okay, for a very long time. Until one day, I could. It will never be okay with me that he died, but I will be okay.
And so that leaves me with a very new kind of grief. It is a feeling I have felt before, many times actually. But it's stronger now. Lately, it is stronger, because my own grief is weakening and making room for other things. And right now, the main thing I keep asking myself is this: What about him? What about Don?Read more
When you lose your beautiful husband to sudden and shocking death at age 39, just four years into your happy and flourishing marriage, one of the biggest things you are left with is something that I call "the knowing." What is the knowing? It is having the knowledge about a whole host of things regarding life and death, that your previous self had no clue about. Sure, you can read books on these things or witness them through watching people close to you go through something, but until you experience the violent assault of sudden death pushing it's way into your life, you really just don't know. And then, one day, you do.Read more
Why do I keep expecting to be someone who hasn't been through what I have? Why do I have these ridiculous expectations? Why do I feel less than because I'm so changed?
Maybe it's because I don't want to be disabled by this tragedy, but I am anyway.
I try not to use it as an excuse for my failures, but sometimes I forget that I am not as I used to be.
I am still in need of more rest than I was before. I get overloaded and overwhelmed so easily still.
I am more reactive to many triggers. Anything coming close to thinking about losing people I love makes me feel weak in the knees and helpless. I cling a little superstitiously to home base, fearing that the rest of what I have will be taken from me. My health, my cats, my home. If my PERSON could be utterly gone, GONE, in a millisecond, what else could disappear right in front of me?
Something I’ve begun to distinguish since Dave died is clean pain versus dirty pain. I can’t remember the original source of this idea, though I’ve read about the concept several different times.
Clean pain is the pain we feel when we lose someone or something we love dearly. It’s the pain we naturally feel when we’re ripped from something precious. When we watch our love dying, when we begin to face each day without them, when we find out we have a terrible diagnosis, our child is hurt or dying, or our life simply changes in ways we didn’t anticipate or want. It’s natural grief. It’s suffering, and it’s a response to loss.
Dirty pain, on the other hand, is pain we create in our minds, with or without actual loss. Dirty pain isn’t wrong or right. It’s also natural. It’s just optional. Easier said than done, I know.
A lot of us talk about various times during this horrible journey where a shift begins to happen. It's nothing concrete or tangible, it may not even be something we can easily define… all we know is that something has changed in us and the way we view what has happened to us. That is the shift.Read more
Last night just before going to bed, for some reason I felt called to go back through some really old journal entries from the years leading up to when I met Drew. I don't always pay attention to those little cues, but last night for whatever reason I did.
I smiled to read some of the entries about our first days together... about how safe and natural and trusting it all felt. How much fun we had together. The adventures we went on, like sky diving and hot air ballooning. But where I ended up reading more - and where my truth really was - was a bit different.