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
Saturday marked two years since Megan’s death. I could sit down to write about how it was a horrible weekend, curling into the fetal position and crying more often than not. I could note how the minute I woke up, a tightness seized in my chest and a chill shot through my body. I could give an anecdote about walking through our dining room, where Megan’s ashes rest, and not being able to keep my composure.
Weddings can be a huge trigger for many widow(ers). It makes sense that attending a wedding brings up memories of one’s own wedding day. They emphasize that, at one time, you were married too, but now, your relationship status is somewhat murky, to say the least. Seeing a bride walk down the aisle, with a combination of tears and smiles, and saying “I do” shortly after uttering the words “til death do us part” seems more real when death has done one part.
Everyone has their own coping mechanisms when dealing with loss. Some turn to creative pursuits, creating paintings, books, photos, and sculptures that serve as an outlet for pain and frustration, and a visual representation of hope. Others become quieter people, spending less time socializing with friends and family, and more time socializing with themselves. Many of us turn to others that have experienced a similar loss, attending events like Camp Widow and perhaps preferring to isolate themselves with their “tribe”. There are even those who become self-destructive, turning to the artificial self-medication of the bottle, or worse.
So, you’ve decided to begin dating a widow. You met this person online, in a bar, through a mutual friend, or via an interest group of some sort. You may have met by chance at a convention, or at a singles night nearby. The point is, when you met that person, you didn’t necessarily know them as a widow.
Disclaimer: I met Sarah at Camp Widow, so I was kind of privy to that information beforehand.
Regardless, you’ve shown an interest. You may be just starting to date, or have known this person for years. If said widow also shows an interest, buckle up, because it’s going to be interesting. Here are four things that are somewhat unique to dating or being in a relationship to a widow or widower.Read more