My Family

I’ve spent the last two weekends on wonderful adventures with wonderful people. Two weekends ago I was in Quebec for a snowboarding trip and this past weekend I was up north. Both times I was with a combination of people from both of my families and friends. I feel overwhelmingly grateful for all of these people in my life. I’m grateful that they continue to be a part of my life and evolve with me. I’m grateful that people from both of my families and my friends all get along and hang out together. I’m just grateful.

arnolds1.jpgI’ve heard of other widows who have strained relationships with their in-laws after their husband dies. I am fortunate that my experience has been quite the opposite. If anything, it has made my relationship with them stronger. The way I see it is that I have two families now that are both equally mine. They were of course my family before but they were Mike’s family first whereas now they are just mine. They are amazing people and I don’t think my words can do them justice. I’ve wanted to write about them but the words never seem to be there. They probably still aren’t there but I still need to try to acknowledge them.

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The Many Dances~

I used to dance with my beloved husband…


We danced dreamily, to Clint Black, to Chicago, to Elvis, to whatever tune happened to be playing wherever we were.
Oh, how we danced...his right arm around me, my hand clasped in his.

At the end of the dance, he’d always dip me back in his arms, and then kiss my hand.

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Maturity Rising

`Yesterday, the 26th, was Sarah’s mother’s birthday.  Part of a tradition that she has done over the years is to have a small cake, and a bouquet of flowers, as a way of celebrating her, though she’s no longer here.  It’s a simple gesture that means so much.  She lost her mother when she was only nine years old.  While her siblings were much older, and had much more time with her, Sarah had to “make do” with memories she only had as a little girl, and recollections of her older siblings.  

Shelby, too, lost her mother at a young age.  She was only seven when Megan died.  She remembers quite a bit, but again, she was nowhere near adulthood when any memories she could form ceased.  She relies heavily on myself, grandparents, and her uncle for the stories that she may have been a part of, but still too young to realize they were something to remember.

As we sat down to partake in the yearly birthday cake, I (somewhat in jest) asked Shelby if she remembered Megan’s birthday.  She did not, other than she knew it was in summer (her guess was a month off).  I wasn’t disappointed, for she’s still just a little girl.  It is not like she has a date planner or had any part in actually NEEDING to remember the exact date of her mother’s birth.  

After some good natured ribbing, and finishing our cake, Shelby asked a question to Sarah.

“Did you ever forget your mom’s birthday?”

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Malbec

Since you died I feel like I am masquerading in someone else's life.  The likelihood of outliving you was always in the back of my mind, but it wasn't something that I prepared for because I naively thought we had "the rest of our lives" ahead of us.  I honestly thought that we had at least twenty more years together.  And, because I blindly believed this, I arrived to widowhood completely unsorted.  For the first few months everything was raw and rough.  I was unpracticed at being a widow, so I made homespun, amateur attempts at surviving.  However, with time, my ability to live with grief has become more polished.   Fifteen months later, I do less improvising throughout my day.

I am doing this 'widow thing' . And, from the outside looking in, things appear to be returning to 'normal'.  But, those of us who live this life know full well that we can never return to 'normal' again.  I don't say this looking for sympathy.  I say it because it is the truth.  You know this as well as me.  It just is what it is. This is widowhood.   

As much as I dislike it, living with Grief has become somewhat 'normal' to me.  I don't remember what it feels like not to miss you.  I don't recall living without emptiness inside me.  I don't remember what 'normal' feels like anymore.  I don't remember what it feels like to be an 'ordinary', 'regular' mid-aged woman.  I am forever changed. 

The death of your spouse permanently alters a person, and I am no exception.  Yet, somehow, I am starting to become okay with the changes in me.  Even still, I am not proficient living my changed life.  Most of the time I feel like I am participating in a makeshift existence that was not thoroughly planned out.  I did not rehearse for this; and, honestly, it shows. 

 

loui_hand_on_chin.jpg

Art: Loui Jover

 

Death is a part of life.  We die because we live.  

 

The concept is simple.  It is understood by everyone.  But, the mechanics behind surviving without someone you love are tedious and complicated.  It is relatively simple to comprehend the facts.  They. are. dead.  But, to accept this is not easy.  To live this reality - this -  brings you to your knees. 

It is overwhelming and utterly disorientating to remain alive when the person you love is dead.  Most of us do not prepare ourselves for outliving the ones we love.  Honestly, I know there is no way to "prepare" for death; but, looking back I wish I had put more forethought into it.  Until death intimately affected me, I never seriously entertained the idea of living without him.  So, when he died I was blindsided.  I was lost with no sense of direction. 

 

 

Everything felt surreal.  It still does...

 

 

 

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Coffee with Missing Pieces

4714101112_49b968b236_b.jpgThere I was, at a coffee shop downtown last Wednesday afternoon. I was sitting beside a large window enjoying the rain tapping against the glass as I did some work on my computer, when suddenly my awareness was completely shifted. In that instant, I felt a deep, emptiness that was both piercing and aching at the same time. A screaming hollowness inside me.

What had happened? I overheard a word from one of the two women who sat behind me enjoying lunch together. And that word, was “Mom”.

As I continued to listen in on their conversation, the hole in my heart grew bigger and bigger. The daughter looked to be my age, and here they were, just having an ordinary lunch together. Like this is a thing they do every week. She must have fired off the word “mom” twenty more times as I listened. There was such an ease in their voices. Such a comfortable knowingness of each other. Something I have never experienced as an adult. I teared up, and actually stopped working to grab my journal and write my emotions out….

“I feel it so acutely right now. This hole in me. This lack of security. I wonder if I should go back to counseling. I wonder if I will always have trouble with avoiding things. I wonder if I will always get in my own way, and if somehow all of it is because of this hole. Because of this lack of security deep down in me. I just miss my mom.”

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Nothing is Necessary

Depression is a tricky thing.

 

You never really know when it will happen. It just creeps up on you. At least, that’s what it did to me this week.

 

I miss my wife, but that wasn’t the catalyst this time. Or maybe it was. I’m not sure.

 

All I know is that I was down. For whatever reason. Unmotivated to do anything.

 

Existing monotonously to anyone and everyone around me, even myself.

 

I’ve made attempts to tame the beast, but the beast is me...and me is a person that I’ve never truly been able to control, at least not fully.

 

I sit in silence most days, hoping my thoughts will break the silence with something profound and inspiring. This week: nothing.

 

Sometimes, however, nothing is necessary.

 

It puts in perspective the somethings that exist in your life. That’s not even a profound thought. It’s just an observation.

 

Perhaps next week will be better.

 

We will see.

 

Stay tuned.

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Resentment and PTSD

There is so much going on in my head right now. Its hard to think straight. 

I forgot to write in here last week. 

Im a bad, bad widow. 

Im so sorry. 

I forgot to write because I was away in Maine, with my new love,

celebrating our 8 month anniversary, and Valentines Day. 

It was my first really good Valentines Day since Don died, 6 years ago.

And yes, because Im a widow to sudden death, Im now the type of person who likes to honor 

and celebrate my anniversary monthly. 

Because who the hell knows which one might be our last.

Who the hell knows when I might wake up one morning,

and he's just not here anymore. 

Or maybe Im the one who wont wake up. 

This is how my brain works now. 

I have these type of thoughts often. 

It sucks.

I resent it. 

I resent thinking that because Im in Maine and having an awesome time and forgetting for two seconds that Im a widow and that my husband and the life i knew died, that this means I am maybe now somehow OKAY and I dont need to write about my emotions anymore. Im fine. Im over this. Im happy now. 

Thats bullshit. 

And its dangerous thinking. 

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Why I Smile

I often get told, “you’re always smiling” or “you smile a lot.” It’s meant in a positive way of course but I can’t help but reflect on it. A year ago, I might have felt guilty for being told I’m smiling. I had questioned whether I was allowed to feel happy after such a loss and if I was happy, just how happy I was allowed to be. I wanted to look up in a rule book: how often is a “good” widow supposed to smile or feel happy? I didn’t want to be disrespectful to Mike or for others to think I wasn’t sad anymore. I was sad but there was room for happiness too.

I don’t feel that way anymore about smiling. Part of it is I really don’t care what others think of me and my happy/sad balance. The bigger part and more important realization is that it is only because I have been so incredibly sad that I can genuinely appreciate when I feel happy.  You see, when I smile and laugh I am so aware of it. I’m so conscious of feeling happy. I don’t think there has been a time since Mike died that I smiled or felt happy for a prolonged period of time without internally acknowledging that, “hey, I’m feeling happy right now and this is really nice.”

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I Must Write of This, Because~

I must write about Love, because I will go fucking insane if I write of the painful past, I will go fucking insane from..I don't know...rage? World stopping anxiety? Despair? 

It goes by many names, this feeling that is the experience I shared with Chuck in his hospice time. In the cancer time. In his death and dying time.

How I torture myself by reading the blogs I wrote on my private page, of those times. 

The horrifying morning where I drove Chuck to the ER because this man who had a massively high pain threshold could no longer absorb the pain of the cancer that returned and ate his ribs, and made it difficult to walk.

The determination of me, of our kids, to make his hospice time one of Love, not instead of fear, but as a cup for the fear.

The horror of realizing that my beloved husband was dying and I couldn't stop it.

And the sharp in breath I took when I recognized, somehow, that the breath he was taking at that moment, would be his last breath.

The...everything...as I put my hand on his heart and knew that he was gone.

And that my entire life was somehow, also...gone.

My god, the dread, the panic, the purity of that moment of sheer Hiroshima level shock...

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Number Eleven

Four years have come and gone since the last time Megan was present for Shelby’s birthday.  By February 17, 2014, Megan had already been diagnosed with rejection, although she hadn’t been admitted to the hospital as of yet.  Shelby was turning seven, and four days prior, Megan and I received the results from her bronchoscopy.

We rented out one of those “inflatable gym” spaces for Shelby, and invited all of her friends to join.  It was a madhouse, to say the least...screaming, jumping, running around, laughing, and smiles from ear to ear.  I distinctly remember the both of us having nervous thoughts in the back of our minds about Megan’s health, but suppressing all of them in order to give Shelby the birthday she wanted.  She would have no clue, no inkling of something amiss on this day.

Going through some old texts and emails last week, I came across a conversation that Megan and I had just a day or two before the party…

 

Megan: Should we talk to Shelby about it?

Mike: Yeah, but let’s do it together.  I don’t know how to start the convo with her, but we need to anyway.

Megan: Yeah.  I don’t like this.

Mike: Me either.

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