It’s no secret lately that I share my outlooks, experiences, and emotions with ruthless integrity, perhaps bordering upon over-sharing that information. Private anecdotes become public, once a week, as I write here. The quiet grumbles or “bad moods” that friends and family may see me in become soap-box seminars when it is in digital form on the internet. They morph into baring my very soul for all to see on a blog, when in person, the only indication of stress or deep thought may be the distinct lack of my underlying sillyness.
Suppose that it is the anonymity then, that brings forth this behavior. Barring Sarah, no one hears or sees my “grief” emotions via an attentive look in the eye or a cupped ear. It is only through your screen, dear reader, that I share my life and its many complexities. A simple electronic series of ones and zeros that organize themselves into something that a grieving person may need to read, even if it is only a “me too” thought or a “wow, at least I’m not THAT bad” comparison.
My writing here, initially, was simply allowing a bleeding wound to flow freely. Allowing it to flow into the deepest corners of the room and drip onto anyone nearby. I let the pain out by screaming it to the world. As time has progressed, the bleeding has slowed...the wound of Megan’s actual death is all but closed. Writing has become more of an examination of old scars.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
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
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.
Next week, I’ll be 36 years old. I had my first job at 15 years old, joined the Marine Corps at 17, was discharged at 22, and began working in the civilian world immediately thereafter.
I was married at 24, a father at 26, and a widower at 34. For 21 years, almost two thirds of my life, I’ve been working, playing, learning, and growing. It has been “go, go, go” since before I was able to drive. For the most part, I’ve kept up the pace. Sure, it’s been stressful, but I’ve never felt physically incapable of providing for myself and my family. I’ve never been too tired to take a leisurely drive or cast a fishing pole. Yeah, there are days when we all just want to lie around on the couch and do nothing, but those days have usually been few and far between.
Bills need paid, lawns need mowed, trails need hiked, people need fed, plumbing needs unclogged, books need read, and cars need washed.
If there’s one thing Megan taught me above all other things, it was that you have to live life as much as possible with whatever time you have.Read more
Just last week, I wrote about how, for the most part, random triggers are few and far between for me. Even trying to actively trigger myself has become difficult. Wouldn’t you know it? A day after writing that, an event occurred that randomly brought tears to my eyes for missing Megan.
As silly as it may sound, it was a video game that gave me that moment of pause and reflection.
When Shelby was born, Megan and I thought that it might be a good idea to buy an XBox and a few games. We would be spending much more time at home, with Shelby being a newborn, and Megan not being in the best of health at the time. Prior to her arrival, we were consistently away from home, attending car shows, hiking, travelling, going out with friends, and generally being 24 -year-olds. That would be changing with a daughter, at least in the short term.Read more