Damned Either Way

So I missed a week. I didn’t have a blog post for last week and I felt bad like I had let a bunch of people down in some way. I mean, I know it is a voluntary thing but I don’t like missing deadlines and I don’t like making an excuse. I create pressure that doesn’t exist. The sink is full of dishes. The carpet hasn’t been vacuumed. I almost ran out of gas in my car because I can’t focus on what “a day in the life of” should be.

UGGGHHHHHH!! I hate that phrase! “Don’t make an excuse”. I have been taught my whole life that I can’t make excuses for things but when is it not an excuse and it’s a legitimate reason? Who gets to decide? It always seems like it is the person that has everything going right in their life. I have this voice inside me that keeps telling me that talking about Tin is now just an excuse to not do things. Meanwhile, I will admit that I am hesitating to look at a bookcase of objects in the next room because it hurts.

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Nature is My Church

People often ask me if I believe in God. 

Yes. 

I do believe in God. 

 

But,

my definition of what God is or what God means 

is probably very different than yours. 

Its certainly not traditional, and it doesn't involve going to Sunday School 

or attending church, or not eating meat on Fridays, or reading a Bible or other book of faith, or taking part in religious rules or mindsets or structures. 

 

I have always found religion to be limiting at best, and dividing at worst. 

It is my opinion that religion has caused more problems in the world than it has done good. Wars have been fought due to religious beliefs. People killed for not sharing beliefs of others. People condemned and judged and beaten or harassed or killed because of who they love, how they live their life, who they are. Some people use their God and their religion as justification to hate or to be prejudice or bigoted toward others. I do not find any comfort or peace inside of a church. For me, it is intimidating and feels suffocating and forced. I think that if you are a religious person and going to church helps you, then you should go. I think that people should be able to do whatever best gets them through the day and whatever makes them happiest, as long as they are not harming others with their actions. 

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A Good Day

There was a day last week where I had a really good day.

I woke up early and walked Tango before work. I was able to leave to get there early and there was not much traffic either. I had so much extra time in the morning that I was to finish my personal work for the course I’m taking before anything else. I made applesauce with the kids at school that day and it all went really well. They loved the process, it tasted great, and we had some great learning. Another teacher had extra time and covered my class to give me extra time to do some other work. After work, I went to my tutoring job and that also went really well and the girl I tutor was successful in what we were learning. I got home to a surprise that David had passed by my house between job sites that day. He left a beautiful bouquet of flowers on my kitchen table with a note. I then had time for a hike with Tango in warm weather with pretty, colourful fall leaves. Then I met up with one of my girlfriends at the gym and had a really good workout and talk with her too.

It was a really good day. I was feeling really good.

That’s when 2 things happen.

First, I wonder if it’s too good to be true and start to be extra cautious in anticipation for the “bad” thing that must be around the corner. Second, I feel slightly guilty that maybe I’m *too* happy.

I hate both of these reactions. They try to take away my happiness. I try to take away my own happiness. I self sabotage. I know logically that both are such unnecessary ways of thinking. It does not stop anything bad from happening. Usually, nothing bad happens anyways. And I didn’t do anything wrong that I should feel guilty over.  The thinking just ruins my fun. I ruin my fun.

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As Long As I Don't Do This

I’ve been a recovered alcoholic for 30+ years.

Chuck was a recovered alcoholic, also. He died 5 days shy of his 25th sober anniversary.  The people who came to his bedside in southern California were some of those he’d sponsored. They presented him with his 25-year coin. Which he didn’t want to take, early, but I persuaded him that he needed to, for their sake, if not for his. He’d earned it. He stayed sober through the worst pain cancer can give a person because “I don’t want to pick up a drink again, and have my alcoholism take over and leave an ugly memory of me behind, for you. I don’t want you to be glad that I’m dead, because of the agony I might have caused”.

So. Sobriety.

There are so many times I could have picked up since Chuck died.  Numbed the grief and the soul slicing pain that comes with it.  Gotten fallen down drunk and slept through the days and nights of anguish.

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Overdrive

For those of you not aware of what “overdrive” is in a car, I’ll try to simply explain it.  Overdrive is a gear in the transmission that is less than a 1:1 ratio with the engine. Effectively, the wheels turn faster than the motor.

It's great for cruising at higher speeds.  The engine doesn’t have to work as hard, so it’s a more efficient use of fuel.  There is so much weight and momentum behind the car that it could happily glide along with barely any input, needing only to overcome wind resistance and the occasional uphill segment of highway with a millimeter more depressing of the accelerator pedal.

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Maybe this will Help - What I know about Grief and Support

I wish I had better guidance to give people early on when they tried to help me.

People were making heartfelt efforts to comfort me 
- most armed without experience.

Two years later, these helpers have almost all disappeared. 
And, I understand. 
People have lives of their own 
to live.

I understand.
I understand that they simply can not understand my life.

I recognize that visiting me, while I sift through the wreckage of what was, is not overly enticing. 
Truth be told, I don’t want to live here among the debris of my old life either. 
I understand their absence.
I understand the difficult position we are all in.

I know that those who have not lost their Soul’s mate can not possibly know what to say to me.
In the beginning of this mess, I was not adequately equipped to educate anyone about what they should and could do. 
I apologize. 
I wish I could have helped you help me.

I want to thank you for being with me when I was brought to my knees.
I know that you did not know what to do.
I didn’t know what to do either.
But, I know that both of us had the best of intentions.

 

When Mike died I was not given a manual to follow.  There were no instructions.  No roadmap has been created for grief because it takes us along different paths.  Yes, there are shared attractions and similar views along the way, but the road we travel is unique for all of us.  When your spouse dies, you must go where you have not gone before.  You are forced onto a road that is not well marked.  There are countless ruts along the way.  Some parts are bumpy and make for difficult travel.  Other times, the road is smooth and there is blue sky overhead.  Then, around the corner, the sky turns dark and it becomes hard to see where you are going.  During these stretches, you may bump into things.  On this journey, you will become lost.  It's unavoidable.  Along the way, you will be re-routed and sometimes you will travel down dead ends.  And, through it all, you will learn.  You will learn to rely on your instincts.  You will learn to believe in yourself - in a way you never have before.  Solo travel isn't easy, but it changes you in a lot of good ways.

At the start, even if I possessed all this knowledge about grief, I still would not have been able to teach you how to better handle me.  Widowhood has to be lived to be understood.  In the days and months following his death, I was completely disoriented.  I was unable to guide you as you tried to help me.  I wish I could have succinctly told what I needed.  And, really, the only thing I needed was him.  I needed him not to die.  But, he did.  And, his death is permanent.  There is nothing anyone can do to make this better for me.  It is what it is.

As the days turned into months, I learned to sit still in the horrific aching.  I learned to lean into the ugliness of it.  I learned to cry until I gasped for breath.  I learned to pick myself up from the floor after I thought I would die from missing him.  I learned that Grief is presumptuous and demands attention.  And, I have learned to give Grief the attention it screams for.

Grief is brazen, dauntless and in your face.  Grief pronounces everything in heavy, smashed strokes.  Grief threw me into an out of body experience.  And, I've learned that Grief rarely shows any mercy.  Grief deprived me of many things I once took for granted.
I had to relearn basic things like breath and sleep. 
For many months both eluded me. 
Sometimes they still do.

Early on I could not communicate without confusion. 
I could hear conversations around me, but the words did not make any sense to me because I had begun speaking in another dialect.

My heart was learning the language of grief. 
I am now fluent in it.

With time, many people have drifted away from me because we no longer speak the same language.
I understand. 
There is nothing that needs to be said.

For the past two years I have been physically present, 
but my mind is far away from here.
I have been unravelled.
I have come undone at the seams of my Soul.

Mike’s death has affected me to the depths of my psyche.
But, thankfully, with time, 
I am making a slow, steady comeback. 
In truth, comeback isn’t the correct word.

Death is a trauma. 
And, after outliving your spouse,
You do not and can not come back to who you once were.
There is no returning.

I can not come back to what was. 
Whatever “it” was, 
It is all over.
I apologize if this sounds overly dramatic to ears that have not lived in the silence 
I have existed in for nearly two years.
None of what I am saying is intended to be dramatic, 
it is just the truth.

I am forever changed because he died. 
But, even more, 
I am a better woman because he lived.

Slowly, I am finding ways to adapt to my changed life.
Daily, I drape myself in Hope.
I want to do more than survive his death. 
I want to live a full, happy life 
- somehow.

Since Mike died I have spent hours lost in my thoughts.
I continually revisit the past.
I endlessly mourn the future we imagined.
And, I desperately hope to become present in the moment.

As surreal as it remains,
I know that he does not exist here anymore.
And, therefore,
I accept that I must begin anew.

Mike’s death has forced me to be reborn.
And, though a piece of me will always wish for the life we shared and planned,
I am grateful for my chance at a new life.

Gratitude for what was, 
And, what will be, 
Has allowed me to survive without him.

My simple message below is intended to help everyone involved in this mess.
I only wish I had these words for you earlier when we both stood before grief without any guidance.
~Staci

 

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Remembering to Live

Everyone has a favorite holiday. Mine is Halloween. I decorate the house inside and out. I spend tireless hours on costumes. I await my first haunted house of the season with eager anticipation. I’ve always liked this holiday, but it wasn’t until after Drew died that it became something I appreciated more deeply.

Just 4 months after he died, my first Halloween without him arrived. I had no energy for costumes or decorating. I was still a complete wreck. But I did do one thing still - I went to a haunted house with one of my oldest friends. It was the first time to do anything of tradition without him.

When my friend and I entered the world of this dark and creepy place… something really incredible happened for me. For the 20 minutes or so we were inside, I was not a widow. I was just... me. Running scared and laughing with my friend through a house of horrors. Yep. Laughing! And feeling deeply alive. As we came bolting out the exit, the euphoric adrenaline was unforgettable. It was one of the first things that gave me proof that I indeed could still FEEL all these wonderful things. Because trust me, I was so broken that I was honestly scared to death that I would never be able to feel true joy ever again. I had a very literal fear of this. And that night as I came out of the haunted house, I realized I could indeed still laugh and still feel joy - even doing things I loved with him. It was a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could make it through this. Just maybe, I would be okay.

My new partner Mike and I went to a haunted house last night, and as it always does, it took me back in time and had me reflecting back...

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The Silent Missing

Oh, the sadness of October. 

My wedding anniversary. 

Followed by our honeymoon anniversary,

just days later, 

and then Don's birthday, just days into that. 

 

October 27th we married. 

In 2006. 

Its toward the end of the month,

and its true what they say.

The build-up to these milestone days,

is often worse than the actual day itself.

 

But then again, 

the actual day itself 

is , for me, just heart-wrenchingly sad. 

There are no triggers. No panic. No anger or hysterical sobs.

Just intense and very real sadness. 

The kind of sadness that sits in silence by the ocean,

listening quietly to the waves, as they swish by one by one by one. 

 

It's the kind of sadness that not many understand. 

It has no drama, and would be boring to describe in a movie about grief. 

This sadness makes me feel the need to put a pause on life ,

just for a little while. A few hours. A day or two maybe. If possible. 

I need to just sit with the idea that my husband is no longer my husband,

but a cherished time and memory. An inspiring thought. A dream unrealized or

interrupted. 

He is the man who loved me first, and who changed me forever. 

He died loving me, and I will have his whole heart forever. 

There is a sad comfort that lives in that knowledge.

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Widow at Weddings

I’ve attended three weddings this year. I’ve heard of many widows who hate or avoid going to weddings but I don’t really feel that way. That’s not a new development for me; I attended 3 of my best friends’ weddings (within my self-set boundaries) and was a bridesmaid in my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in the three to six months after Mike died because I wanted to be there and be a witness and part of their joy (they would all have all graciously excused me).  However, it is certainly not the same experience that it use to be for me and I have a different attitude and perspective attending than I once had.

I think the expression of love at weddings is beautiful and I’m so happy I got to experience that with Mike. I feel lucky for that. I’m glad when I go to weddings that the people get to experience that too. Obviously, my love story with Mike after our wedding was not what I expected and that’s where the “different” experience comes in.

The vows the bride and groom say to one another is the part that stands out to me the most now. It also is the part that makes me a bit uneasy. The weight and promise of those words is so enormous. I reflect on my own promise I made, what I think of it now, and my future moving forward.  

I understand the thinking behind the “until death do us part” promise but I just don’t find it actually works that way. When someone dies, you don’t feel like you’re not married to them anymore. It’s not a clean break. It’s not a breakup or divorce. I still felt very much married. Death doesn’t make you stop loving them. It is just no longer reciprocated.   

Beyond “until death do us part,” I think it makes more sense when brides and grooms also often say that they will love and honour their spouse for all the days of their life. It’s an individual choice as opposed to a joint one. It is carried out regardless of the other person. I think that is really sweet and also very true. I will love and honour Mike for all of my life. It’s a beautiful, huge promise.

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To My Beloved Husband

To my beloved husband, Chuck D, as we approach the 6th anniversary of your memorial service, which we held 6 months out from your death…

I know I did everything as perfectly as I could in those few short weeks between finding the cancer, our hospice time, and your death.

I know this more than I know anything else in my life.

And yet…

Doubt lingers in the corners of my mind and pops out in my most vulnerable moments, such as now. Such as everyday of living without you.

Just one doubt.

Was I at your side enough in our hospice time?  Should I have moved into that hospice room with you and not moved until I had to? Did I err in going, every so often, back to our rented condo, to sleep…even though I never slept when I was there.  Shadows of your impending death were ever on my mind. I knew I was a widow in waiting, no matter where I was. I didn’t need to hear a clock ticking away the time: my heart was more of a reminder than any clock.

I didn’t stay with you every night, and that thought has more power over me than I want it to.

There were many nights that I did, and I was there every day, but I wasn’t there every minute, even though I wanted to be.  What I wanted was to lay down beside you and never move. Hold onto you for every breath. Breathe with you and for you. Take your place in that bed, with cancer attacking my body relentlessly.

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