I have officially hit my first year as a widow and I would like to share some of my experiences and lessons learned during this unimaginable time.
1. You are stronger more than you could have ever imagined. Especially during the times where you feel like your heart is going to stop because it hurts so much and you feel you can’t take another breath. But suddenly that moment passes and you are still breathing. Being strong is about getting up when life has knocked you down to your knees. These wins can include things such as taking a shower, feeding your child, or even going outside of your home. You are strong just for breathing today.
2. It’s YOUR GRIEF. Throughout this year I have learned that people will want you to do things their way, or judge you or even abandon you because of how you are grieving. I want to tell you that this is YOUR GRIEVING PROCESS AND NO ONE ELSE'S. Sometimes people mean well, and sometimes they don’t understand what it is that you are personally going through. But I’ve learned to be gentle with myself, do things that make me happy and things that will help me move forward with my grieving process. I’ve learned to say no to things I don’t want to do, and comfortable enough when others don’t agree. This is your grief journey, do things that will help you and don’t rush the process. Remember, no one else is in your exact shoes!Read more
One of my favourite Mike stories, dating from before I met him, was frequently regaled in family conversations. I am sure that over almost thirty years, the story popped up at least once a year. More often after the kids were born. It made it onto the “Stories of Mike” CD Mike and Trisha recorded in the last weeks of his life while at the hospice in Geneva.
In brief it was about when Mike totaled his mum’s car when a new driver. He’d taken a curve too fast, in the dark. It was a bit skiddy, and he hit the road’s railing and bounced along it until the car came to a standstill. He must have been about 18 or 19 at the time. He managed to get home, albeit shaken.
His mum went ape-shit (in Mike’s words). I realise, being a parent myself, that that anger is all about fear and relief. She didn’t enquire about Mike, but just ranted about the car, her car, “My car!”. Again, fear talking – she could see Mike alive and well in front of her eyes, so transferred all her fear and relief onto the state of the car.
Mike’s dad, however, looked at him calmly, and asked,
“Are you okay?” (Yes)
“Was anyone hurt?” (No)
“Was any other car or person involved?” (No)
“Ok, I’ll make you a cup of tea. Go up to bed, get some rest. You’ll be shaken. We’ll talk about it in the morning. As for the car, it’s just a piece of metal”.Read more
Before I was Mike's widow I did not know the depth and breadth of grief.
I had no idea that grief lasts forever.
I never considered secondary losses.
I did not think about how the dead are missing from our futures.
The day Mike died, I did not know that my grief would stay with me throughout my lifetime.
I just didn't know.
I couldn't know.
Now, I intimately understand that grief profoundly changes who you are and how you see the world. From the outside, people in my proximity, think that I am moving forward and getting my shit together.
Well, I am a work in progress at best. In nineteen days, I will have been widowed for three years. What does that even mean? Am I good at this now? Am I used to living without Mike? Am I thriving in this alternate life? Am I okay?
The truth is, I am not okay. And, I still don't know how to live fully without him. Yes, I survived his death, but am I thriving? Not yet. Maybe not for another year, or two or ten. Who knows. Nothing is simple anymore, even three years later.
Sometimes I am surprised by moments that heal my in ways I never imagined on this journey of loss. I met Mike because I lost Drew. And I met his daughter Shelby because of that too. And because they lost a wife and mother. And here we are, this new little family sort of scrapped together from the pieces of past lives. There are more pieces too… from our childhood quilts as well. For me, the life when my mom was alive. The life when my dad was alive. All of the pieces are sewn together into this new life we’re sharing.
With so many old, tattered pieces, I think it’s easy to wonder if my parts of the quilt are strong enough. If my whole area of our shared quilt will just fall apart at any time. It’s easy for me to doubt my abilities to be a mom for example, because I lost my mom so young that I really feel like I am just flying blind. All I have to go off of is my dad’s parenting, and he wasn’t winning any parent-of-the-year awards, let me tell you!
Every so often though, there comes a moment when I really know, that I am not only rocking at living on as a widowed person - but that I am rocking this mom thing - even if all I have to go on is my own instincts and my dad’s poor parenting.
This past week was one of those moments for me. We had a big Halloween party for Shelby and all her friends. She’s in 7th grade now, and I’m trying to find ways to continue having big, amazing memories around Halloween with her now that she is getting older. Especially because I have heard so many stories from her about how much her mom loved Halloween. From the moment I met her, I knew that we needed to keep that Halloween spirit alive and big. In past years, that meant hand making amazing costumes together and going to a few fun Halloween events. Now that she is older though, I figured a party with her closest friends would be the way to go.Read more
Two weeks traveling abroad in the Brazilian Amazon! How amazing! So exciting! I have never traveled out of the country besides Cancun, Mexico so this was a huge step outside my comfort zone. I haven’t had an actual vacation since Tin passed so this would be a break for me to soak up the experience and take the much earned downtime to recharge.Read more
So, since I have been writing for this blog for a number of years now, which I love doing, there are times when I either:
A: cant really think of anything new to say or write about without sounding like a broken record, or
B: get tired of hearing the sound, or the type, of my own voice and my own story.
When that happens, which is the case tody, I prefer to focus on all of you instead.
I think it would be kind of fun to ask you all some informal questions, to my widowed community, so other fellow widowed peeps can see your replies in the comments and we can all get to know each other a little bit more. I have been asked by adminstration to please remind you that when you post comments and replies on this blog, your comments are not anonymous and they are public. So if you dont want your words posted public, I will not be offended if you choose not to participate. Its all up to you, 100%. Also, if you dont feel like addressing all of these widow-related topics below, feel free to only answer five, or two, or none! Ive done a lot of writing in this blog over the years, and I just thought it might be kind of fun to hear more of your stories, from your words.
So, lets have a conversation:
I look forward to your replies.Read more
I want you to know that I accept the fact that you couldn’t stay
Even though my heart, keeps breaking every single day
I feel your loss in everything that I am, and in everything that I do
Losing you was the hardest thing I have ever had to do
My grief is great because my love for you is deep
The deeper the love, the harder you grieve
I know you wouldn’t have been able to be the same
And that would have killed you in every wayRead more
Your blue eyes are entrancing...
You say to me.
I love casting my blue eyes across a room and catching your green-eyed glance.
You are the Love of my life, Sunshine...
You write to me on a card tucked into the flowers you gift me.
I shine so brightly for you.
You are always in my heart and I love you with all that I am...
Your words on a card from many years ago.
And I find that poem in your wallet after you die.
I read it at your memorial service.
The words echo strongly in my heart and keep it beating in this life after.Read more
21st October 2019 – today would be 32 years since my first date with Mike.
This is the second time I have written a blogpost with the exact same title. Hence the _v2. The first was on my work website and was written on 7th June 2014. I had just completed a 32 km mountain trail run in our local hills, a “warm-up” for a bigger event later that summer.
June 2014. A lifetime ago. Before my life had been blasted with significant, out of order losses. Back when I wrote about simple, innocent pleasures such as running (chugging) through the hills and mountains. Back when simple pleasures were not wrapped tightly in messy, sticky, complex grief.
Back in June 2014, “even” Don was alive. He wasn’t “even” ill – to anyone’s knowledge. It was two days before Christmas later that year that I got a message from him saying he had stage 4 colon cancer. He lived another 8 ½ months. More losses followed fast and furiously. Edward. Mike. Julia.
I just re-read the original blogpost. I like it. I like what I wrote. I like that version of Emma. I can still see her, just about. Her lightness, her sense of fun and community. Her thrill at being alive in nature.Read more
In less than one month it will be three years since Mike died. With time and a lot of processing, the truth of his death has slowly leached into every cell of my body. And, despite my initial rebellion against his death, my heart is finally no longer resisting what my mind understands. Mike is gone. He died.
Even now, it is unthinkable that I will never share another moment with him, but this is a fact whether I like it or not. Early on, every fibre of my being fought to survive without him. Still, despite my efforts, a part of me died with him. But, further, a big part of me also survived Mike's death. And, it is this part of me who is fighting to live forward.
I have come to realize that it is Mike's death. Not mine. I did not die.
In the early months I thought I might die from sadness. But, I didn't, and neither will you. For the last 2.11 years, I have chosen to focus on the living part of me. The part of me that was not buried with Mike. Sure, absolutely, I miss the person I used to be, but the life in which that woman existed died with him. It's over. It is gone. All of it - everything we were together - simply vanished when Mike died. Our life was built on solid ground, but when he died, everything imploded and what was once solid quickly turned into a quagmire of uncertainty. I lost Mike and my identity. Everything that I thought was certain disappeared. My life was no longer recognizable to me. And, in truth, it still isn’t nearly three years later.
I lost my footing when Mike died and I have been fighting to recover it ever since. Every day, I struggle to stay grounded here in this reality. It remains my instinct to retreat to a place in my mind where I keep Mike alive. But, my sensibilities urge me to live forward without the man I love. So, for nearly three long years, I have worked to find order among the wreckage of my life.
Without him, my axis is off kilter. I feel like I am spinning and without a sense of direction. It’s been a long, long road - and this is understating it. Grief has been my constant companion since the moment I heard “he’s dead”. Those two small words changed my life completely. However, I try hard not to focus on Mike’s deadness, Instead I try to be grateful for his life. A life he chose to share part of with me. For me, there is no point in perseverating about what has been lost. It’s gone. Nothing can reverse any of it. He is dead. He is gone and I am left here without him. Blunt. Maybe. But, what other way is there to describe the situation?