“You bathe in these spirit-beams, turning round and round, as if warming at a camp-fire. Presently you lose consciousness of your own separate existence: you blend with the landscape, and become part and parcel of nature.” -John Muir
It is no secret that John Muir inspires me to no end. While my love of nature and being in the wild places has done more to heal and calm my soul than any other aspect of my life, Mister Muir made it his religion. Every time I step into the woods, I lose connectivity with not only my cell service provider, but with the likes of the modern world. What wild refuge would John Muir have found in today’s endless series of hashtags, shopping centers, gluten-free water, and email? What would his sermons be in this year’s existence?
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” - John Muir
I still look for Ben. Yes I do. Not so much in person (although I do that too) but rather, I tend to look for him online. On the internet.
I have read everything that exists online about Ben. In fact, I wrote most of it. But still I look, as though I’m hoping he might post a new picture or write something in a new guitar forum. I continue to read and re-read all the comments in his online obituary, and I continue to regret not having had a guest book at his service. I like to read about him and about how others felt about him. I like to hear his name.Read more
This weekend is the first time Mike has gone out backpacking alone with zero service since we met. On previous trips, he has taken a satellite device that’s let him send me messages that he is ok. However, unfortunately it only seemed to work half the time and ended up being more of a headache than a help. So on this trip, we decided to give it a try… zero contact for over 24 hours.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with my story, my fiance died halfway across the country, while on a trip. He was a helicopter pilot, and was on a ride along with another pilot when they hit a powerline and crashed - killing him instantly.
So… the whole leaving on a trip thing? Only my hugest trigger. The whole having to say goodbye as he gets in the car and drives off thing… not knowing if I’ll ever see him again? Yup, hugest trigger.
And of course I would meet someone new that loves to do just that… go out on trips into the wilderness alone, with absolutely zero contact with the outside world. Yep, because of course. Life has a sense of humor that way.
There’s no lying that is hasn’t been easy. Even though I know all he is effectively doing is walking, eating and sleeping - same as he does at home everyday - my mind knows better now than to just say “Oh nothing will happen! It will be fine!” Because no, I don’t know that it will be fine. I don’t know that he will make it home, or that I’ll ever see him again.
Sometimes no matter what you do, the grief wave just hits you.
You try, and try, and try with all of your might to not let it happen again for whatever reason you give yourself: You’re supposed to be the strong one. You’ve cried enough, it’s time to stop now. You don’t want to feel this anymore.
Love, the real thing, is eternal. People like to pretend that it can be recaptured or replaced, but those people don’t know what love truly is. It perseveres, far beyond our finite limitations.
We are only human after all, but we are capable of inhuman things…such as love. It’s unexplainable. It’s on par with trying to explain the origins of the universe or the meaning of life.
Perhaps we try a bit too hard to escape our grief or cover it up. Perhaps we should be doing more to embrace it and let feelings flow as naturally as water melts from the ice caps and flows into streams that turn into rivers that become lakes that become oceans.
We try so hard to fight against things that so desperately need to happen to make us stronger that we throw ourselves into an endless cycle of pain and discomfort.
It feels good to cry. To release. To let things out that need to come out. It’s volatile to let them fester. To bottle them up. To hold them in.
A caged animal will always be more vicious than one allowed its freedom…because it wasn’t designed to be contained. Neither was grief.
Grief is not an animal to be tamed or conquered.
But if you set it free, and let it run its course, it’s possible it will work with you, for you, and not against you.
Then again…who am I to say?
As a widowed person, I sometimes feel as if I'm been convicted of something.
Perhaps I did something wrong, and I just dont remember.
Being widowed is sort of like having to plead your case,
take the Fifth,
to a Jury of your "peers",
over and over and over
For some reason,
when you become widowed,
people seem to think
that this gives them the right
to give any and all opinions
on your life.
How you should feel.
What you should do.
How you should grieve.
When you should date.
When you should "get rid of" his things.
Take off your wedding ring.
Get over it.
"It's been 3 months. Why arent you dating anyone?"
"It's been 6 years, and you're in LOVE after only knowing someone for a few months? That seems VERY FAST!"
you know what?
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.
I’m on the other side of the three year mark at this point. I can watch a movie where an actor is hospitalized, and not have to turn it off. I can hear a song that reminds me of Megan, and get a little choked up, then laugh it off. I can even pull all of our holiday decorations out from storage, observe the ornaments with Megan and I’s names on them, or pictures, or items we purchased together, curl my lip a bit, and remember the happy times we had at Christmas.
I can remember dates. Anniversaries, birthdays, transplant dates, and so on, and know that they’re coming. I can even find a private writing of Megan’s, written long before her passing, cry my eyes out reading it, and go about my day afterwards. A persistent cough that Shelby or Sarah may be experiencing only pales in comparison to the decades of it that Megan experienced, but it still makes me remember just the same.
These are called “triggers”. I know it. We all know it. It’s the songs, sights, events, smells, sounds and memories that don’t really “haunt” us, so much as they are just part of our day to day lives. Time does not make these go away, but rather, softens their outward impact. When that godforsaken “Let Her Go” song, by Passenger, gets randomly played, it has become somewhat humorous (that particular piece of music has followed me around since the day she died), albeit still thought provoking, to say the least.
Back in my real world, when Ben existed, he managed all the money and did so with quite a bit of success. He was very good at investing and made some smart moves when it came to stock picks (although it was I who insisted on purchasing Lululemon shares and I who insisted on purchasing FB shares). When he was alive I didn’t think he was that great at sticking within a budget, but now that I have to do it I understand that it is not quite as easy as it sounds.
I have also discovered that my main vice / coping mechanism since Ben died is to try to buy myself happy. In my mind I can hear an advertising voice asking the questions:
(Insert deep, rhythmic announcers voice here)
Are you sad because Ben isn’t here to help pull out the Christmas tree? Well why not buy yourself some new shoes that will sit in the closet to help ease that pain?
Are you climbing into bed alone for the six hundred and seventieth night in a row wondering how you will cope when your practically adult children all fly the coop? A little online shopping before falling asleep will probably make you feel better.
Do you find yourself less than inclined to cook because it was your husband’s job and he did it so well? You should just go to a restaurant and buy your dinner.
Are you worried sick about your upcoming surgery and the fact that Christmas is coming but you will be laid up with little time for shopping? Why not just run out and spend copious amounts of money on the kids without thinking about it or looking for a good deal?Read more
Today I’m writing about a different side of grief… about being the one sitting beside someone who is grieving. About those moments watching a partner who is widowed go through their own pain. It’s no secret that Thanksgiving is a hard holiday for Mike. His wife died just a week before this holiday 3 years ago. Hitting the 3 year mark is hard enough without it happening near the holidays.
So there we were, having a very different holiday than they would have ever had before she died. Before he met me. And at some point, it was inevitably going to come crashing down. Which it did. Late the evening after Thanksgiving, we were about to get in the hot tub with everyone when his emotions welled up. He snuck away to one of the bedrooms at my sister’s house and I soon followed. As I sat beside my new best friend, putting my arm around him, I didn’t say anything at all.Read more