We each define this widowed walk for ourselves, of course.
The grief we carry is as individual as a thumb print, we're told.
Which makes sense, of course.
For myself, I've never used the word lost to describe this grief.
Being lost implies to me that I have a destination in mind.
An end point.
And I don't.Read more
After Mike died – indeed before he died, when he was ill – I know I set a clear intention to carry on living fully afterwards. In truth I never questioned whether or not I’d want to carry on living. For the last many decades, for as long as I can consciously remember being aware of such things as “choice”, “intention”, “the miracle of life” (by which I mean the chances of that particular sperm meeting that particular egg at that particular time and becoming me), etc…, I have had a passion for life, for living life fully, and maximising the miraculous chance I have been given.
Of course I wobbled when Mike got ill. I definitely questioned my will when he died. More than once I remember looking into a fast-running icy stream and just wondering if it would be an easy way to make it all go away. Choosing to live doesn’t mean there isn’t also excruciating pain, deep sadness, questioning, regrets, wonderings. And losing Julia has fanned flames of anxiety within me that I never knew existed. I get so scared now of something happening to me before Ben and Megan are “properly on their feet”. I am petrified of anything awful happening to Ben or Megan. I know I cannot take another loss. I am in anticipatory grief of my parents dying – which they will, of course, because they are 80 and 81.
And I feel that when Black the dog dies, which he will, that my fragile world will unravel again. The dog. Who represents the hearth and the heart of the house in ways that only people with a dog might understand. The dog Mike chose. The dog who Julia, of all the kids, had an uncanny way with, despite her weighing only half his weight when we first got him.
The dog who outlived Mike and Julia.Read more
Today I'm exhausted for good reasons, and thinking back to all the many times I have been exhausted for reasons I didn't want to be. Exhausted from crying so much, or from trying to figure out my life again, or from just trying to do the myriad of ordinary things in life as a widow like buying groceries, going to the doctor or making new friends. I had years of being exhausted for reasons I didn't like, and sometimes those days still come. But today, this tired feeling comes not because of my grief, but out of my grief. Out of the ashes of the hardest and scariest loss in my life, seven years later I am still standing and am now able to hold space for others who are still in that fresh hell of early grief.
As Mike and I drive wearily home from Toronto's incredible Camp Widow event, it is a kind of tired that we want to have. The kind of tired that means we are still living and still trying to do meaningful things with what has happened to us and what we have left.
My last post was about my first year as a widow and some of the lessons I learned throughout that year. I wanted to do the second part of that post. I want to share with you some of the things that were said to me during that year that made me think, “You have to be kidding me.”
Things you shouldn’t say to a widow-
1. “You need to get over it!” (My thought was REALLY? Do I tell you to get over your family? NO! Dead or Alive they are still your family). If you are reading this and you haven’t lost the love of your life through death, please be MINDFUL of this comment.
2. “You are young and pretty, you can remarry.” I know people mean well when they say this, but that is insensitive to say to someone who lost their soulmate. Being with someone is a personal choice, and sometimes some of us don’t want to do this again, and that is PERFECTLY OK.
3. “Your house is not as clean as it used to be.” No shit Sherlock! I have a whole new set of responsibilities I need to attend too, including trying to keep myself alive today!
4. “You need to sensor the time that your child spends with Grandma because it’s hindering the bond of my child with Grandma.” Well, that sent me overboard! My child has a beautiful and special relationship with her Grandmother, and she lets other kids play with her too. But every time she sees her, she wants to feel her love and be next to her. I feel she feels her father through her. People can be very selfish, even to a fatherless child. Please people count your blessings!Read more
This blog is a question for the Universe, I suppose.
Because I don't believe that there is a human alive, who has gone through this widowed life, who would have a ready answer for me.
I've stood in the middle of nowhere and cast my eyes up into azure blue skies...
I've stood outside on the darkest of dark nights with no light pollution around and let my eyes drift from one star to another...
I've stood in the midst of a crowd of people, all who love me...
I've stood with strangers...
I've been busy, I've distracted myself, I've practiced being in the moment, being still...
I've criss-crossed the country 8 times in these 6 1/2 years since Chuck's death...
I've workamped at an opera camp...
I've greeted thousands of guests as I worked the front gate of a Renaissance Faire...
I've done everything I could think of...
I've pushed into all that was in front of me...
And now I stand still and wonder...Read more
One of the patterns I have noticed in friends’ responses to whatever I happen to post on social media is that, when I post some good news, “happy photos”, or an achievement, I get 3 or 4 times as many “likes”, comments, and whoopy doos, than if I post something hard, messy, painful and tough. There the sorrow just hangs out its forlorn head alone, unnoticed.
I know there are a gazillion algorithms deep at work in the bowels of (for example) Facebook’s functioning, and when one person “likes” or comments on something, a whole host of their own friends will see it too. Especially if there is a connection to me. A snowballing of likes and comments ensues.
Some “likes” are more powerful than other “likes”. I am sure I could rank order my friends in terms of the impact of their likes. But I won’t. I am not particularly interested in Facebook’s bowel-y algorithms. I am sure they are functioning healthily.
What I find somewhat more fascinating is the underlying tendency for there to be more responses and comments when things are “good” than when things are “bad”. When I am “happy” than when I am “sad”.
Good news is rewarded. Cheered. Celebrated. Raved. Hearted and clapped and liked.
Sad, tough, lonely news is barely acknowledged.
Is it even seen? I don’t know. I think it is. I suspect that some friends see every single thing I write. That I am “tagged” in some way. Tracked, like an inmate with dodgy behaviour patterns.Read more
Soon I will have been your Widow for three years.
Should I be good at widowing now? Should this feel "normal" to me now?
No one gave me a manual when you died.
So, I am going by feel.
I fumble forward on instinct.
I hate your death date. November 15th, 2016 - you took your last breath and I fought to catch mine.
You died on a Tuesday. For over a year, I hated Tuesdays. Then, after a while, I stopped raging against Tuesday; but, I continued to cringe on the 15th of every month. Now, nearly three years later, the 15th of the month doesn't sting the way it used to. I guess this is progress.
It has been almost three years since I last spoke to you. Three years since I have heard your voice. Three years since I kissed your lips. Three years since I held your hand. Three years since I felt your physical body next to mine. Three long years. And, as I am typing this, I see three roses from your funeral. These red roses are frozen in a frame, casually displayed in my living room. How ironic that these particular roses are on display in my "living" room. *Sigh...
What is a girl to do with any of this?Read more
I’ve always felt that, 5 years after Megan’s death, I wouldn’t feel like a widow anymore. Not counting those first few months, when I swore up and down that my life was over and that I would never, ever move forward or be able to love again, I consider myself very realistic. I have a stable career. Shelby is and always has been well-adjusted, smart, and healthy. I’m not under mountains of crushing debt, or struggling to make ends meet.
By 3 months, my focus had already shifted from being “lost” to being “off track”, if that means anything different.
Most of the time, my premonition rings true. I don’t focus on the fact that Megan is dead on my day to day life. I do not identify myself as a widower anymore than I identify myself as a Marine, network engineer, or high school graduate. The titles are no more than a minor addition to the whole sum that is “me”.
Then again, with my sixth Camp Widow attendance, in Toronto next weekend, the title of “widower” gains greater significance. It becomes “who I am” for a few weeks.Read more
Holidays are hard for me now since Tin and my father are gone. They passed away 10 months apart and it is very clear that so much has gone on that I can’t process some situations better than I thought I would. Round 2 of the holidays coming and I’m worse than last year. I guess it makes sense. That whole first year is a blur trying to manage what was going on inside with what had to go on outside and nothing meeting in the middle. I swear it was just the start of the summer and now Halloween has passed and I feel the heavy.Read more
Next week I will be attending Camp Widow in Toronto, Canada.
I will be presenting two workshops there. One is my usual "My Husband Is Not a Rainbow" comedic presentation about grief and loss.
The other is called "Widowed Improv." Basically, we will be playing fun improvisation theatre games. With widowed people.
This will be the 3rd or 4th time Ive attended and presented in Toronto (lost track), and probably over the 20th time in total presenting at all 3 camp locations.
(Toronto, Tampa, San Diego)
I love going to Camp Widow.
It has become part of my life.
YOU have all become part of my life.
Life after loss.
Widowed people befriending other widowed people.
It is a beautiful thing.Read more