I’m a mess lately. Around the start of this past holiday season, I began regressing to a point where I am again a cynical, grumpy, and in general, angry person. It has nothing to do with Sarah, Shelby, work, or even the holidays, really. It truly does have everything to do with the fact that Megan is no longer here.
It’s not her death, specifically though, that caused this descent into a person I once was. It’s the remembrance of where she and I were at this time of year, not long before her death. It's the knowing that there were things that we were “working on” that were quite obviously put on hold when her organ rejection appeared. It’s the sense of any progress we had made being “all for naught” upon her death.Read more
Just two weeks ago, I wrote of a friend that was, at the time, fighting for her life in the ICU, hoping for a lung transplant. She was on death’s door, and no one could guess if she would make it another week, waiting for a donor.
I am happy to say, that, as of yesterday, she received her transplant. A call came in late in the night on Sunday, and by 8:00 AM, she was being wheeled into surgery. That’s all well and good. It’s great news, in fact. It’s one less person that is going to die from Cystic Fibrosis this week. I witnessed Megan’s brother Jason in almost the exact same state, back in 2005. He didn’t make it. I witnessed Megan in almost the exact same state in 2011. She DID make it. It’s always hit or miss, but in this particular case, it was a “hit”.
But. There’s always a “but”.Read more
When you are a widow or widower, and you’re dating, It truthfully doesn’t matter how “good” you think things are going. There will always be some aspect of your new relationship that becomes amplified quite simply BECAUSE you are a widow/er. It may be a perceived slight in comparison to how your pror person treated a situation, or it may be an observation that your “second chapter” (I hate that term, by the way) actually does something better or more desirable than your first. It can be good, or bad; it doesn’t matter, it’s amplified.
Each time one of these moments arises, one can’t help but think “well, it wouldn’t be this way if my first person hadn’t died”. It can bring up emotions that are deep seated, yet hidden. Emotions that you did not know even existed, and perspectives that you had never thought about.
One of these moments occurred between Sarah and I on Sunday night, where we both were trying to explain ourselves clearly and with love, yet emotions only continued to rise.Read more
The other day I received a text message from a friend of mine, who happens to have Cystic Fibrosis herself. This friend was there for Megan and I when Megan was going through her 6 month decline, and I can’t describe enough how she (and her husband) went above and beyond for us.
They would visit at the drop of a hat, when I just needed an hour away from the ICU, and Megan needed an hour away from my ugly mug. They would bring clandestine snacks for Megan when she had cravings, as she almost never had an appetite, but when she did, she needed broccoli and cheese soup (I can no longer stand the smell) or M&Ms RIGHT NOW.
I spoke with her every day during Megan’s hospitalization, giving her status updates, vital statistics, and news. She would get all the gory details, and, if I happened to be running late with the call, I would get a text not long after, asking how Megan was doing. She really did care whole-heartedly.Read more
It’s 2017. This is the 35th time that my body has traveled around the sun on this little rock called earth. In those 35 trips, I’ve been witness and participant to milestones of education and career, love and marriage, childbirth and parenting, sickness, and death. I’ve seen friendships both grow and wither. I’ve evolved from a curious child, to an outgoing teenager, then a determined Marine, followed by a devoted husband and father, on through to a caretaker, and then...a widower. I volunteered my twenties and early thirties to the life of a woman that I knew would not be with me to old age. We created a beautiful child that anyone would be proud to call their own.
Two years ago, on the first day of 2015, that life had abruptly come to an end. I was no longer a husband, but rather, a widower. My years of education and youthful curiosity were far behind me, a relic of my adolescence. I was beyond the pride that came with earning the title of Marine, for my country deemed me too old to serve by that point. My caretaking services, as sharpened and experienced as they were, were no longer needed in the advanced capacities they were capable of.Read more
Without a second thought, I stepped right into the holidays, as I’ve done for all but one year in the last 15 (the year Megan died was a little different). Just after Thanksgiving, we got our Christmas tree, put up lights on the house, decorated indoors, and as a first, we set up my old model train on the dining table, complete with snow, buildings, bridges, and trees.
We attended plays, went for drives to look at lights, and listened to Christmas songs on the radio everywhere else we went. We baked gingerbread cookies, wearing silly elf hats, and hiked in what little snow we’ve received so far this winter.
I try to make this season happy and memorable for everyone around me, especially Shelby. Ensuring that she has good experiences is of the utmost importance to me. I love that I can now do the same for Sarah. This was the first Christmas she’s spent with us, travelling to my parents’ on Christmas eve, and Megan’s parents on Christmas day, as has been tradition for a decade.Read more
Just before Christmas, in 2002, Megan and I met. A few weeks later, and I was already invited to her family’s home for Christmas dinner and gifts. I was accepted into their clan with open arms, and I’ve been a part of their family ever since. I’ve been at Christmas dinner in 2005, not long after Megan’s brother died. I was there in 2010, a week before Megan got her lung transplant, where we weren’t sure if she would be there for 2011. I was there in 2014, a month after Megan died, followed a few weeks later by both her grandmother and great-grandmother.
I was there last year, where it seemed there were more people missing from the family than were present. By Christmas this year, Megan’s grandfather has also passed.
One would think that this holiday would become more and more somber each year. The family is seemingly shrinking, if one looks only at those that are no longer here.Read more
As I wrote last week, I had made plans to go to a place called the Dolly Sods wilderness for a weekend of backpacking. I’d been planning for months, to return to this place that I was so familiar and comfortable with. A place that felt like home to me. As fate would have it, a fire ban was instituted in the area, which quickly put this trip into an unsafe endeavor. Being wet and cold at 4000+ feet in December is not something one just says “oh well” to.
“I hear her voice in the morning hour, she calls me, the radio reminds me of my home far away.
And driving down the road I get a feeling that I should have been home yesterday, yesterday.
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads.” - John Denver
However, I’ve spent many-a-night under the dark skies of the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia. I’ve walked every inch of trail on that plateau, at 4000 feet, the highest in the east. It was the first place I backpacked as a civilian, apprehensively leaving Megan at home, alone, for a long weekend.
Two years after her death, and I had finally mustered up the motivation and fortitude to wander off into that windswept spruce forest again. For a few months now, I’ve been planning this trip, fantasizing about going back to the place I belong. Winding up the dirt road leading to the trailheads on the eastern continental divide, where boulders and stunted spruce trees greet the sky. Disappearing from civilization for even a few days, where i’m not a widower, caretaker, husband, father, or employee. That scene was to happen this Friday, December 2nd.
It was to be my first “real” backpacking trip since Megan’s death, and it’s been crushed, as am I.Read more
As much as I try to escape it, that day has been on replay in my mind for the past few weeks. The lead up to the one year mark of the day life changed.
Terrified at the thought of what emotions this day will bring me. Angry that this day has a place in my life at all. And an overshadowing sadness that engulfs and strangles me with the thought that this is real. That it has almost been a full year since I last held him, spoke to him and kissed his warm lips. As much as I try nothing can prepare me for what this day will bring. A huge part of me wants to spend this day alone in my sorrow, hoping for my life to end. I don’t want anyone to witness what may unfold on this day. Then the other part of me screams, get out and live for him! Breathe for him, like you promised you would. He wants you to smile, but even writing about this day brings me to tears because sometimes it just hurts too much to smile.
I wrote him a letter last night in hope that it would help release some of this pain but with each day that brings me closer to one year without him, well the pain cuts deeper. And although this is my new normal life, I am angry that this is normal now. It shouldn’t be normal that every aspect of my life is affected by grief!
It’s unfair and I would give anything to have the normal that I knew before. The death of a spouse is rated the number one most difficult, stressful, life changing event a person can go through. No shit! It’s never ending and unfair is an understatement.
With this journey I have had the fortunate, yet unfortunate privilege to make many new friends in grief. These women will be lifelong friends. Some of which I speak to every day. We laugh and cry and vent our anger. And share the dry and messed up humour that comes with this grief. We share with one another what we cannot share with anyone else. We understand each other. So for this post of what a widows grief is like I will share from not just my own grief, but theirs also. In the effort and hope that it helps other women like us to express this grief.
At 357 days this is how my grief feels… and how it feels for so many others.Read more