Adrift

When you become a widow everything familiar is suddenly lost. The rituals and routines of your old life no longer mark the way. As a widowed person you are forced to sail into uncharted waters. It is incredibly daunting. But, with time, you get used to it. And, you can even begin to flourish in the open water.

I am different because he died. I am changed in some significant ways because of the devastation that I am living through; but, the price I paid for this growth is too steep. No gain will ever be worth what I've lost. But, there is no changing it. Mike has died. Wishing it was different does nothing to help me and it does not undo his death. I have to stay the course and be grateful for the good things that I still have in my life.

 

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I Didn't Die

So, Sarah wrote last week about my leaving for a work trip.  It was the first time I have done so since we’ve met.  Sure, I’ve left for a day or two here and there to go backpacking, but being required by my job to board a jet to Chicago for three days is, quite obviously, a bit more of a trigger for her.  Especially when it’s a trigger she hasn’t experienced in the seven years since Drew’s death on a work trip.

I get it.  I know it sucked for her for me to be gone (for the record, I’m home safe and sound), but I can never feel what she feels.  She’s in New York, visiting her sister for the past few days. While I miss her, and want to make sure she’s safe, it’s not and never has been a “please don’t die” issue for me.

Here’s the thing.  I didn’t have a sudden loss.  What I had was long expected. Megan’s death took years.  If I was going to have a trigger or anxiety, it would likely be more when Sarah is sick or, god forbid, hospitalized for any reason.  Just a little 6 hour drive to New York? That’s simply not a trigger for me.

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Diagnoses Date

We all know the dreaded dates. The anniversary of their death, birthdays, togetherness anniversaries, holidays but there’s one more on my list that adds another dark mark on my year - His diagnosis date.

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Dear Dead Husband

Dear Dead Husband, 

I will begin by saying that I cant believe thats still a thing. You being dead. Im kind of over it, if you want to know the truth. At this point, I feel I have learned all the life lessons I can possibly learn about death, Ive taken the pain and found the funny, and Ive used my grief to help others. What more do you want from me? Here's the thing. The "you being dead" part of this whole mess, I can live with it, I suppose. It's the whole "forever and ever dead" part that I will always find horrific. 

Today is no sort of special day. Our wedding anniversary is coming up at the end of this month, on October 27th, and that is, of course, on my mind. I do find that our wedding anniversary is by far my hardest and saddest day. Even sadder than the anniversary of the day you died. You are dead every single day, but we only got married on one day. And still, more than eight years after your sudden death, I dont have a clue what to do with that day.

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A Letter To You

My Dearest Alex, 

Today marks 11 months of your passing, and it still feels like it happened yesterday. I miss you greatly my love, but I wanted to write this love letter to thank you for all that you gave me. So I want to start by saying thank you for loving me unconditionally every day of your life. From the moment we met, to the last words you said to me, I always felt just pure love from you. Thank you for that.

Thank you for always making me feel so special, from writing me little notes to celebrating all of my accomplishments. You made me feel beautiful, even when I didn’t feel my best. Thank you for all the times you brought me flowers, made me chicken soup when I was sick, and for picking out the best shows to watch. 

I thank you for holding me up when I felt I couldn’t stand. Thank you for wiping my tears and holding me through all of the peaks and valleys we walked through in the years we were together. Thank you for all the wonderful dinners, and the special things you did for me. Thank you for bringing so much laughter into my life, and for helping see life more beautiful.

I enjoyed all of our conversations whether deep or not and all of the games we played. I miss our late-night snacks, just laying in bed, and watching reruns of Seinfeld. We didn’t get to watch them all like we said we would. But I will finish watching them all for you.

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Magical Music

I am a new guest writer here on Soaring Spirits. I do realise that it’s a site for Widowed people. I am widowed. My husband Mike died of pancreatic cancer on 8th April 2017. He was 53.

It feels like a life time ago.

It feels like yesterday.

It feels unreal.

In addition, I have lost an amazing and one and only best platonic male friend, Don (11 September 2015) to colon cancer; a beautiful younger brother, Edward (10 January 2016) to glioblastoma; and a gorgeously beautiful, clever, funny, artistic, creative, talented youngest child, Julia (30 June 2019. Yes, 2019) to suicide.

All in the past four years. Devastation on top of wreckage after bomb blast after tsunami.

Julia took her life after deciding, 2 years and 2 ½ months after her dad’s death, that life without him was not worth living. 

That was the night of 30 June/1 July this year. It’s recent. Very recent.

Yesterday. Today. And every tomorrow.

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Meaningless

This November it will be three years that I have been Mike's widow.  Three years is a decent amount of time to have spent in the quagmire that is grief.  I have a fairly significant amount of experience as a widow, but I still feel inadequate in my new life.  No matter what I do, nothing fills my Soul.  Everything is lacklustre and meaningless.  Nothing.  Not one thing seems to matter the way it should since he died.

 

In September, I started back to work and the familiar routine of school and work is taking hold of my life again.  And, now that I am immersed in the daily grind, I want to run away from here more than ever.  I like my job and my coworkers.  My career isn't the problem.  It is suburbia itself.  All of it feels hollow without him.  I do not fit in here anymore.

I am sitting in a coffee shop writing my blog.  In my old life I would be with him.  We might have gone camping this weekend, or maybe we would have done yard work and had people over for dinner.  Anyhow, none of that matters anymore, because that life was buried with Mike.  It is over.  All of it lost.  It is just me now; and, presently, I am here in a coffee shop with my music blaring in my ears while I type this.  I am attempting to drown out reality.  I came here because my house is suffocating without him; but it isn't any better here.  I am homesick for a man who died wherever I am.  Nothing can change this.

 

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Leaving on a Jet Plane... Don't Die

It seems like there is always something in grief you are experiencing for the first time. After seven years as a widow, I would have thought that I had already gone through almost every “first”. This week though, I discovered another first I had yet to go through, and it’s had my emotions all over the place. 

Tomorrow, my new partner Mike will be flying out to Chicago for a few days for a work trip. This might not initially seem like a big deal - Chicago isn’t even an hour away by plane. And at first I didn’t really think of it as a big deal. He has left to go backpacking for a weekend several times, and that was fine. But this is something different. It is the first time since we met that he is traveling for work specifically. Which initially didn’t feel like a big deal… Until the other part of me remembered… 

Seven years ago, someone else left for a work trip, and never came home. Someone else traveled for a job and died far away from me, in a horrific crash. It always feels like that part of me still doesn’t really understand what happened, where he went, or why I am now in an entirely different life. And I’ve accepted the fact that this part of me will just never understand - I suppose you could call it the trauma part. So I guess it makes sense that when Mike was telling me about this work trip over the phone last week, that trauma part of me suddenly woke up and began so sound alarm bells.

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The Wings of the Widowed

I can easily say that I do not reach out to Tin’s mother and family as much as I should. I want to speak with them but it’s hard for me and I feel like I am the immediate reminder, that I trigger all of the grief for them. These widowed weights on my shoulders press down hard at times. It’s a double-edged burden. I want to speak with them but I don’t want to upset them. So conversations don’t happen as often as they maybe should.

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Birthdays

Birthdays, after loss, are emotional, difficult, challenging, complicated, heavy, layered events. His birthday. My birthday. Each year they come around, there is an inner sadness feeling that is simply there, the same way that air exists in the universe. It is there, and so I carry it.

Last night I spent my birthday having dinner with a table filled with fellow widowed people. Our Soaring Spirits International social support group that meets 2x per month for lunches and coffees and dinners and incredible understanding, met last evening. At one point, I joked to the table that when I was 39 years old, which would be my last birthday that my husband Don Shepherd was alive, I would have never in a million years predicted that on my 48th birthday, I'd be sharing dinner with 8 other widowed people at Longhorn Steakhouse. Back then, the word or the thought of being "widowed" would have never entered my mind. But things are different now, and here we are ...

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