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.
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
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
Its sixteen months into this new life and like all others on this journey I’ve taken many steps forward and many steps back. A couple of months ago making the decision that I would prepare myself to put John’s clothes away. I decided to give myself a timeline of two months to do this.
During this two month timeline there were days that I felt so confidant to do it and then there were days that I broke into tears at just the thought of it.
But I made this plan and I bought in my closest friends to help me go through with it.
The day I had dreaded arrived and I pretended as though I’d forgotten what I had planned to do this day. I allowed my phone to ring out, the first time that my friend began to call. I knew why she was calling and what was instore for the evening, but I wanted to ignore the idea of it. When she called for the second time I answered and exclaimed with sarcastic excitement “it’s a wine night, I’m excited”. By 8pm we had enjoyed a candle lit dinner on my balcony and each of us were on our 3rd glass of cheap wine. I sat with a smile on my face at 10pm with the thought, the girls have forgotten about the plan I had made. Though they hadn’t.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
"Sometimes I feel like there’s a hole inside of me, an emptiness that at times seems to burn. I think if you lifted my heart to your ear, you could probably hear the ocean….I have this dream of being whole. Of not going to sleep each night, wanting. But still, sometimes, when the wind is warm or the crickets sing…I dream of a Love that even Time will lie down and be still for. I just want someone to Love me. I want to be seen. I don’t know. Maybe I had my happiness. I don’t want to believe it, but…"Read more
Being that both Mike and I are both writers here, we do try to talk about our relationship as two widowed people, to share how this whole “chapter 2” thing can work. There are plenty of times this is awesome to write about - when we have things to share that show you how beautiful loving again can be. How beautiful it can be when two people honor their dead loved ones, welcoming them with open arms into this new, loving space. Times when we can share how incredible it is to be on a new journey of love, and feeling like your other person is getting to come along with you for the ride. So many times I have truly felt Drew’s joy in my own heart during moments with Mike. So many times have I felt like when I am laughing, Drew is too. They’re a part of it all. And we should never expect any less of our new person than to want them to be a part of it all. Mike even wears some of Drew’s old dress shirts now. And I use Megan’s old backpacking gear when we go out for trips. They’re always with us.
But there’s another side to that too. What if things weren’t all roses and rainbows when your person died? What if your last words were words of anger? What if there was a lot of unresolved stuff going on that you never got to address? What if, like Mike and Megan’s story, you were only just beginning to resolve things? What if your widowed story, or even your story outside of being widowed, comes with some muck?
For the first few years after Drew died, I lived in between lives. Back then, I remember distinctly feeling that way. Many of the photographs I took spoke to this. I wasn’t in my old life, nor was I in what I would define as a new life.
I recall wondering what it would be like to one day live in a new life, instead of the in-between. Back then, I couldn’t even fathom that idea… and largely, I didn’t want to. I had found an odd comfort in my in-between world. It’s the place that first began to rebuild myself - this new self. I actually didn’t even know how that new self would be able to enter into a new life. I didn’t know what a new life would look like.
I also remember those first glimpses into a new life… it was an internal feeling inside me. A feeling I don’t know how to explain, other than it being a shift that I didn’t consciously make myself. It was as if my soul, or the universe, or something began to whisper to me, saying that it was time… that change was on the horizon. I could feel it in my bones, even before meeting Mike - which I would define as the catalyst that throttled me into new life.
I was in no way prepared for my “re-entry” into life. I had grown so comfortable in the space of my grief, to the point that we became friends. I didn’t really want to leave that space, though I knew I would one day have to. I had spent years exploring in my own emotions and soul… through words and photographs and paintings and such. Creating from my grief became such a part of me, that I didn’t know how to keep creating as I re-entered life. I really still don’t know how, to be honest...Read more