Grief Mistakes

Soon after the sudden death of my husband, almost 8 years ago now, I began trying to navigate my new reality and world that I never asked for or wanted.

I didnt know what the hell I was doing. 

There are no guidelines or handbook for how to "widow" properly. I hadn't even put away all of our dishes and kitchen items and gifts from a few years prior, when we got married. Things were still in boxes. We were talking about having a family, moving out of Jersey, things that married people talk about in the first few years of their marriage. I hadnt even begun to figure out the rest of our life together, and now, I was left to figure out how to cope with my husband and my world and my future being dead? 

I didnt know how to do that. 

Looking back now, I see that I made a lot of mistakes. 

I made a lot of mistakes that I will now call "grief mistakes." 

I am probably still making them, but hopefully way less often. 

Sharing a few of these mistakes and lessons with my grief community may be helpful or beneficial for some to read. 

 

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Why me? Why not ‘‘‘me?

     After our income fell drastically, we moved into a one-bedroom apartment at a great location; it’s only a 20 minute walk to Anisha’s school.  However, it is not a big, character home like the ones her two best friends live in.  Recently she said, “I wish we lived in a big house like my friends.”  I can’t describe how hard the reduced income has been on me.  For me it’s a lot harder than for my daughter because she doesn’t know any better since she doesn’t recall our previous home.  I know I should not compare families.  Various parent friends have told me, “Nothing good comes from comparing your family to other families.  I know all of this, yet I still get frustrate when I see, or at least I think I see, other people enjoying easier lives.

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6 Years. 6 Centuries~

This Sunday it will be 6 years since Chuck died.

Just writing that number leaves me breathless, and not in a good way.

Jesus.

How can it be 6 years?

Though it might as well be 6 centuries. That's how it feels.

So, my thoughts on this fractured time as they meander through my mind...

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Three Dots

As you may have read, Sarah got a “tattoo” on Saturday.  It’s a simple henna tattoo, with a complex and meaningful backstory.  A sun, symbolizing her dad, a moon, symbolizing her mother, and seven stars, symbolizing Drew.  These three celestial objects imprinted on her forearm remind her of a connection to those she’s lost.

While not permanent, it will last at least a week or two...kind of like a prototype for the real thing.  She will see it every day, and be reminded of those three losses. She’ll also be reminded of the people they symbolize, and the life she experienced with them.

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The Dress

I bought a dress.  In and of itself this isn’t some big deal.  But, in my situation, this ordinary task is monumental and significant.  I bought a dress because it caught me eye.  I liked it.  It is simple and classy.  It is white with small black polka dots.  In my mind, it seems like something I would like to wear in Paris.

 

I am visiting Europe this summer.  In the past, I  imagined going there with Mike.  But, Mike died; and now this will never happen.  Sure, people tell me he will “be” with me when I am there.  And, yes, in Spirit, he will be.  But, it is not the same.  I feel awful saying this because I know Mike wishes it was different just as much as I do.  But, his invisible “presence” is not enough.  It is not as good as having him physically in my life.  And, trust me, I have tried making it enough.  It falls short and it always will.

 

I bought this simple summer dress knowing that he would never physically see me wearing it. 

I bought this dress knowing that I will stand without him in a country that I’ve never been to wearing it. 

I bought this dress knowing that as I am wearing it I will miss him. 

I bought this dress for myself because there is no one else who will appreciate it on me anymore. 

I bought this dress and it didn’t make me feel good.  It didn’t make me feel bad either.  But, like everything in my life, it was bittersweet. 

 

 

 

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Written in Ink

Last night, I went to a party at a friend’s house and she had a woman doing henna tattoos there. It’s been ages since I’ve had one, probably 15 years ago in college. As I thumbed through the many designs in her notebook, one caught my eye of a sun and moon. I had her do that design, and add stars. As she worked on painting the delicate lines on my arm, I shared that they were each symbolic of the people I love who I have lost. The sun for my dad, the moon for my mom, and the stars for Drew.

For the rest of the evening, I looked down at my arm constantly. I’ve never had a real tattoo, but I couldn’t deny that there was some feeling of rightness about this symbol on my arm. This symbol that told a piece of my story, about some of the most important people in my life who have made me who I am today. To wear my story on my arm, where the world can see it, but only I really know the meaning of it… there was a rightness to it. It made me think how much I’d like to look down at my arm and have these symbols for these people there forever. And it made me wonder why on earth I’ve still not gotten a permanent tattoo like this.

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Talking to Others

I am so f-in tired tire of being apologetic, or maybe, “pre-emptively apologetic” is a better word.  It is the act of defending your views before anyone has even tried to refute them.  To be pre-emptively apologetic means that I talk about my wife carefully because I fear the comments of others.  With Natasha, there was no fear, I could just talk, and talk, and talk.

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Closer

Lately, Im feeling a strangeness that is stranger than my normal daily strange. 

I keep finding ways to make you feel closer. 

Its like, I cant seem to find a way for you to feel close to me, nearby, present, in the way that I want. 

Maybe it's because Im in a happy and loving relationship, and Im feeling delayed thoughts of guilt for that. 

Or sadness, that you and I never got to this place. 

This place of planning out a place to live together (you moved right into my apartment, and you died before we could ever move anywhere else.)

This place of coming into our older years, and thinking about things such as retirement and our long-term futures. Saving money so we will be okay. 

I don't know what it is, honestly. 

But lately, I feel this overwhelming and heavy sadness, that you are not here. 

And Im finding it harder to feel you here, in the ways in which I normally DO feel you here. 

What was once natural, now feels like a struggle, lately. 

To conjure you up in my heart, and feel that  few moments of comfort from the knowing that you still exist somehow. 

I still know it. 

But I am having trouble connecting to it, feeling it. 

Is this what happens when too much time goes by? 

Is this distance going to get further and further away? 

I sure hope not. 

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Numbers and Changing Lives~

Chuck and I sold our home in NJ in May 2009 to go out on the road and travel our country together. 

No more rat race for us. 

Just time together.

We had just shy of 4 years on the road together.

He died April 21, 2013.

11:21 pm is when he took his last breath.

In so many ways, I did too.

Take my last breath, I mean.

My breathing hasn't been the same since the hands of the clock ticked to 11:21 and froze.

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Heads or Tails

It is easy enough for most of us to identify with our own, “widowed” side of the story.  We’re the ones left behind when our partner dies. We are all suddenly single parents, sole breadwinners, alone, scared, and confused.  It doesn’t matter if we’ve had years to accept the impending death, or minutes.

But, what if we were on the other side of that coin?  What if we knew we were the ones leaving others behind?  If we knew that our children, partner, friends and family were going to have to be without us?  What if we had to trust...REALLY trust that when we were gone, it would be horrible for our loved ones, but everything would be alright?  

Even more risky, what if the riskiest thing we had to do was the one thing that kept us around longer?

This is what I’m thinking about this morning, after talking with an old friend yesterday.

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