Life after the death of the person you love demands that you ask yourself BIG questions. Ironically, the questions are often about life and living. I have asked myself over and over again, Who am I now that Mike has died? Maybe part of the answer lies in Who I was before I met him. Who I was before he died. I think a lot about Who I was when I was Mike's fiancee. And, I ask myself again and again, Who I want to be now that I am his Widow.
Admittedly, these are questions to which I don't have the answers; but, I'm working on it. These questions challenge me and scare me because of their enormity and because I feel the potential here. I still have choices in my changed life. I have the opportunity to re-create myself, and you do too. I know how overwhelming this is; but I believe that if we allow ourselves to be off kilter we will find ourselves in the process.
In the last year, I have spent a fair bit of time on my knees scrounging for direction and answers. I have spent many a night on the floor crying, begging Mike to come back. I've dance under the stars with my dead fiance; desperately wanting his touch, longing for the days when his arms were wrapped around my life. Many times, I have wandered through the day completely absent with thoughts of him endlessly ruminating in my mind. Grief is gutting. I know how hard it is for you to live with the relentless heaviness and ache in your chest. If I am awake I'm likely on the verge of tears at any given moment, I get it. I have noticed, with time, the ache in my heart is softening a little and my tears don't last as long anymore. But, still, the emptiness is there. And, maybe in some weird way, that's okay. Maybe we are meant to use this emptiness and rootlessness as our foundation. Maybe we need to feel the emptiness and absorb all this "missingness" into every cell of our body. If we feel it and lean into our grief we will learn something about ourselves. I think there in the empty silence - is where the answers are for all of us. I've decided that if I am going to survive Mike's sudden death I have to build a purposeful life around the emptiness inside me.
So, I haven't told you Who I am. Well, for starters...
Mike is everywhere, and nowhere. I feel him in my bones, like a part of my own body. He haunts my every waking hour. I never forget. It never slips my mind that my husband is dead. I can’t stop the memories that flood in. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing. Shopping, celebrating a holiday, watching his birthday come and go, sorting through his old things, touching a spoon he used, looking out over the same view he loved.
He’s always there.
And yet he is not here. I can’t hear his voice reply to me. He can’t reach out and touch me. I can’t ride passenger in his truck. I can’t make plans with him, cook with him, or call for him on the phone. I can’t sit next to him on the couch. I can’t touch his lips.
Tomorrow marks the first day of the summer session for my eCourse that I am teaching now for the 3rd time. I create this class last year as a way to share much of what I had learned in my own grieving process about creativity. For four weeks, my students will be diving into lessons and creative prompts in writing, photography, and painting, with the purpose of expressing their grief and honoring their story and their loved ones.
Teaching is not a natural role for me, in fact it still makes me quite uncomfortable. I’m a writer, and that is where I feel most at home in sharing ideas. And while my course is mostly written, it does require interacting in a Facebook group and some video recordings. In other words - it requires me to be vulnerable too. Ugh!
So far, each time I run this course, there is a part of me that resists the call to be vulnerable. Maybe it’s that part of me that wishes she didn’t have all these lessons to share. The part of me that wants to just be “normal” and be doing work that is in no way related to grief. The part of me that is always a little bit scared to connect to others at first.
But then I get emails from women who want to sign up, but are nervous and need a little encouragement. Or from women who are in a bad spot financially and wondering if there is some way they can take the course still. Or women who have had major losses that were not loved ones, and wonder if the course will apply to them. They share a little of their stories with me before even beginning the class… and I am reminded of what an honor it is to be in the space of those who are grieving. I am reminded of how incredibly brave these people are - how much courage and strength and energy it takes to say “yes” to something like an eCourse when you are deep in your own pain. I am reminded that they are willing to be vulnerable with me… and suddenly I realize I have no choice but to be vulnerable with them too. Suddenly I am reminded of how precious it is to share that kind of true vulnerability with another person. Most of all, it reminds me of all the women I met the first time I went to Camp Widow - the ones that showed me the way and gave me hope. The ones that held a lantern along the dark and terrifying path of grief for me, so that I did not have to walk completely alone in the dark...Read more
I derive a lot of inspiration reading the other writers here at Widow's Voice. They are all strong, beautiful people with individual stories of tragedy and living this life. I feel honored to be listed on the same page as they are.
Reading Michelle's post this week, Runner Up, made me stop and think. I don't write much about my boyfriend here. A few widowed friends of mine have commented on that fact. They notice. I told them, as I have been telling myself, that this blog is not about him. It's about Mike. Mike and me. Mike's death, and my journey through my grief.Read more
It’s incredible what a song can do. I was driving home tonight, emotions already welling up in me. Moving in with Mike is probably one of the most bittersweet things to happen in my life since Drew died. And I hate that.
I was over at my place picking up a few things, walking around outside for a moment in the quiet of the evening, and a great melancholy came over me. A sadness for this little house I am saying goodbye to, after hardly having much time to even be there. Knowing that it will be quite a while before I’ll have the chance to live in a space so full of countryside again. A lot of things. But none of those were the real reason behind this melancholy feeling. No, it was one thing in particular… or rather, one person.
I never got this far with Drew. We never made it to merging our stuff together and stressing about how to fit it all into one space. We never got to decide on paint colors together or who’s bed or pots or dishes to use.
As I drove to what will be my new home, with Mike and Shelby, there was a whisper in my mind to play a particular song. It was an old folk song that I heard one day on my way to the cemetery several years ago. One of those songs that stops you in your tracks. I played that song every single time I went to the cemetery for years after that… sometimes on repeat a dozen times or more. It hypnotized me, and it so fully matched what I felt inside. That hollow melancholy. As soon as the first notes hit my ears tonight, I was taken right back to the cemetery, during that first horrible year… at sunset, in the quiet of the Texas countryside...Read more
Ever since that horrible day 4 years ago, I have been shoved into every imaginable situation of discomfort. Just like all of you. I’ve been thrust into an oblivion… a war zone of emotions… trying to fight my way through without even knowing which direction I am fighting towards. Fighting in the dark. Wandering. Scared. Trying to survive. Trying to figure out just what it is that I am actually fighting for. Trying to understand what is even worth it in this life, so that I can want to still be here.
The thing about all this, is that it changed me. All this struggle, all this fight to find reasons to be here, to still find the beauty in life, has changed me.
I’ve said it before, but his death taught me that fear is not a good enough reason anymore. He died in order to live his dreams as a helicopter pilot. He knew the risks, we both did… and he chose it anyway. You would think I would be mad about that (and I certainly went through a period of being really pissed that he didn’t have a more boring “safe” job). Instead, it is like his forever reminder to me to not let my fear get in the way.
If he could be willing to risk his life for what he loved doing, than I choose to honor him by trying to always do the same. So while my fears may still be there, I keep choosing to step outside my comfort zones and walk through the uncomfortable spaces. I’ve started to see that beauty and wonder are always just on the other side of fear. A recent experience has reminded me of that...
I have decided something huge in the past few weeks. Something I have been working to make space for in my heart for about the past 3 or 4 months. It’s time, much sooner than I’d planned (story of my life)... I am moving in with my new love, Mike.
As I spend most of my time at his house, it is getting harder and harder to live out of two different places. I’m constantly in search of various things, and they are usually at the other house when I need them. That and the now seven kids that live next door to me… and working for my landlord in place of a rent discount is getting to be very draining too. While I love my little house, and especially my art studio room, I’ve come to the conclusion that holding onto it is starting to add more stress than good now. Which means, it’s time to let go.
Are you kidding me? ANOTHER time of letting go and learning to grow? It seems that is all I have done these past few years. And it seems to always be in warp speed, dammit. I mean, I just moved my entire life across the country nine months ago, and now I have to box it all up and move again? *sigh* No matter how many times I go through a period of letting go, it never seems to get easier. It always feels like losing a piece of me. Moving in with Mike feels no different. It has nothing to do with my love for him, and everything to do with the countless losses I’ve had in my life. Loss hurts, whether it’s a person, your home, or a job you love… losing anything we love hurts.
It’s been a tough few days, hasn’t it?
For our country, I mean.
If you’re already grieving, seeing the ugliness that seems to suddenly be everywhere…even if you refuse to watch the news…it can easily exacerbate what is already in your heart.Read more
I’m certain that I’m not alone when I describe the confusion of widowhood. Not that many others in life don’t feel similar uncertainties as life changes happen. I guess it’s just that we, as widow/ers, have this sickening, stomach lurching rollercoaster thrown into the mix of our hearts and minds and souls as we face life alone.
The we we were before death.
The we we are after death.
And the confusing brain fuck of it all.Read more
It goes on, doesn’t it? Whether we wish it or not, whether we have the energy for it, or not. Life goes on after our husbands and wives and lovers and partners die.
It just goes on.Read more