Don Shepherd likes to send me great, big, obvious signs. I never question that it's him. I just know. One of the signs he sends over and over, is the big yellow Penske moving truck.
On Superbowl Sunday, 2005, Don pulled up in a big yellow Penske truck, with his car attached and his cat in his lap, after driving 24 hours to New Jersey from Florida - and we began our new adventure together. He moved into my apartment and turned it from a place to live, into a home. He would ask me to be his wife 10 months later, and we would be married 4 years and 9 months before his sudden death. The Penske truck, to me, represents new beginnings. I usually see it a lot this time of year - and I usually see it right after I was thinking about or talking about Don. When he is coming in strongest, I will see lots of them right in a row, while driving. Or one will be parked somewhere significant, on a milestone kind of day. Whenever I see one, I say " Hi, Don." It's become part of my vocabulary and a normal part of life.Read more
I sometimes feel like I have 2 identities: the me before and the me after my husband, Mike, died. I was originally going to introduce myself by introducing the me before I became a widow but that wasn’t sitting well with me as a first impression. It’s not really who I am today. It is still important to how my current identity developed but it is not all of it. Who I am today is more relevant because it is me in this moment. However, unlike the Before Me who knew who she was and can be described pretty clearly, the Now Me is still a work in progress and therefore harder to explain.
Some parts of me are still straightforward though. I’m 29 years old. I feel like possibly going on 80 sometimes, but nope, just 29. I am a grade 1/2 teacher in Ontario, Canada. I have a dog named Tango who has to listen to me when I share about my day. He’s pretty good at it and he doesn’t interrupt except to give me kisses, which is also acceptable. I love the outdoors and being active. I go for a lot of hikes with my dog and take him cross-country skiing (skijorning) in the winter. I also like mountain biking, snowboarding, running, travelling, cottaging and working out. I don’t particularly love to cook but I love to eat so I’m a pretty decent cook. I do love to bake. And read and write. I have amazing friends and family who I also enjoy spending time with. I’d appreciate adding a few hours in the day so I have time for all the things I want to do. See, I can do “normal.Read more
What I have come to understand about grief and widowhood and the struggles that come with it.
Except that it has the power to eat you up and spit you out, sweating and breathing hard on the other side. When you get to the other side, and it’s anybody’s guess as to when that might happen. There is no timeline for any of this, as I’ve heard repeatedly over the 4 years and 10 months since Chuck’s death.
Three years is not an insignificant amount of time to be in a relationship with someone.
Three years is how long Megan and I dated before we were married.
Three years is how long Megan was “healthy” during our relationship.
Three years is how old Shelby was when her mother was carted away in an ambulance, on her way to an unknown future.
Three years is how long Sarah and Drew were together before his death.
Three years ago, Sarah and I met.Read more
Photo credit: opticalillusionphotos.blogspot.ca
It's been almost fifteen months since Mike died and people around me presume that I am adjusting to life without him. With no experience to draw on, most people believed that the bereaved heal with time. As you know, this is not completely correct. Grief is an active process. With every breathe we take, we work towards finding peace and purpose in our new, changed lives. I believe that grief requires us to actively participate in our own re-birth.
The truth is, I have not "adjusted" to Mike's death. At this time, I exist in a life that I barely recognize. It feels like my old life was hijacked. And, now, I feel removed from my own existence. I sense that I am being forced to live a new life; and compared to my old life, this new existence is lack lustre. Most days, it feels like I am masquerading in someone else's life. I do not want to live this facade. I miss Mike and I want my former life back.
At this point, I can not accept that Mike is gone from the physical dimension where I exist. The permanence of his absence is overwhelming and it nauseates me. Mike's death is not something that I will easily get used to. Mike wasn't a gold fish. I can't just flush the toilet, forget about him and carry on. It is going to take a hell of a lot longer than fifteen months for me to adapt to Mike dying.
Acquaintances in my life see me working, raising kids, and socializing. They believe the illusion that I'm "getting on with my life". They think I've got this. I wish they were right. But,
Life is a merry-go-round.
I’m just riding it until I fall down.
I’ve learned that widowed status does not create saints or good people.
Good people aren’t created from loss. They can be, but the choice is always available every second of every day. It’s not loss that makes us good or bad people. It’s our choices.
We can use that to support and love others, or we can use that to tear others down and become a destructive force that hinders others from healing, but most especially including ourselves.
Plato said it best, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
We are battling, and we are all fighting a hard battle, whether that be widowhood or the frustrations of life in general.
Be kind. To others. But especially to yourself.
Id like to write today about the concept of being or feeling “blessed” or “lucky”, what these terms mean to me personally, and how people’s views about faith directly affect their grief thoughts.
I know and I respect that each of us has varying and different views on faith, God, and religion. Generally speaking, I think that people should believe whatever it is that helps them get through the day and get through life with the least amount of horrifying pain, and they should practice or not practice whatever belief system or guide brings them the most peaceful existence. I also strongly believe that people’s feelings about something are rarely “wrong.” They are your feelings and emotions, so how can that be wrong? I think its important and vital that we validate the person who believes in nothing, in the same way that we tend to do so with those who are religious.Read more
One of the things I’ve learned - one of the great many things I’ve learned since becoming a widow is that life is change. All things shift, turn on their heads, ebb and flow, and come to an end. We can’t stop it though we may try.
I might have thought I understood that before Mike died, but now I really get it. Because something has happened inside of me since that moment: I gave up control. I first did it with that feeling of absolute futility the moment you discover your husband is dead. I didn’t care about anything anymore anyway. But as time went on, I never picked it back up again. I never had it in the first place, and all the illusion of control ever did was mess me up.
Life is change. It is love too, which itself changes us, and our lives, in ways we cannot imagine. So to flow with the love that is life that is change, I had to release.
Fucking life without him
Fucking memories of you dying
Fucking bed sores
Fucking hole in the base of your spine where the tumor ate through your body
Fucking having to live without you every damn day
Through our twenties, Megan and I (well, mostly me) got into a mountain of debt. Cars, trips, entertainment, and just plain “things” were being spent upon all the time. There were quite a few medical costs sprinkled in there too. By the time we hit 30 years old, we were at our wit’s end with bills. Megan’s disability prevented her from working, and besides that, she had her hands full with a toddler either way.
It had become so stressful to manage money. It was beyond overwhelming to sit down and process numbers and balances and interest rates and minimum payments. I had relied upon Megan to do most of this for quite awhile, but it came to a point when it overwhelmed her as well. Some bills slipped through the cracks, late charges piled up, credit card bills became ridiculous (to be fair, mostly by my own doing), and there was even a moment where we feared our electricity would be turned off.Read more