Bad Things Happening to Other People

Bad things use to be the things that happened to other people. I watched from a distance and thought that it is so unfortunate and poor them. I felt bad for them but I didn’t feel them. I had a sense of pity but I wasn’t empathetic. I wasn’t trying to be cold and I didn’t even think I was doing anything wrong. I just had a distance. It wasn’t happening to me. Other people had serious problems but they weren’t mine. I couldn’t relate.


Fast forward to today and I’m the opposite. I feel everything. I can’t stop myself from feeling. I remember a child crying for their mother the first week of kindergarten last year and instead of wishing they’d stop and enjoy all the fun that was in-front of them I felt a bit of their pain. I didn’t ask them to stop; I just acknowledged that I know that they miss their parents. That is a small example but it was my wake-up to the fact that I couldn’t separate myself from others’ pain anymore. It seemed to become a bit of my own even though I know I am not doing anything or relieving them in any way.



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The Last Dance

Shelby is nearing the end of her 5th grade year.  In just a few more months, she will be off to middle school.  All I have known of her for most of her life is that she is an elementary school student. Through the sickness, health, additional sickness, and death of her mother, she has never skipped a beat, still bringing home 3.0 or higher averages on every single report card.  Her thirst for learning is ever-present, and instead of telling her to put the video games down and do her chores, we have to rip her away from books. She is a very “easy” kid to parent, really.

But there are moments that occur in Shelby and I’s relationship that I know she does not fully grasp the levity of yet.  Moments that we share completely, yet that mean much more to me, as her young, inquisitive mind hasn’t asked the questions yet.  She is still innocent. Even with the loss of Megan, she hasn’t become skeptical or fallen into the sometimes detrimental mindfulness that causes many of we adults to “spiral”.  

So with that, Shelby and I’s last dance at the last father-daughter dance in her last year of elementary school was nothing more than a fun 3 minutes with her old man before moving on to her friends.  To me, it was a huge milestone.

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Joy Seeker

I have always looked for Joy.  I search for it everywhere I go.  Seeking Joy is like a treasure hunt; except, in this case, I don't have a map.  Honestly, I don't mind the lack of navigational tools because I have grown used to hurling myself into the unknown since he died.  With practice, I have become accustom to feeling lost.  Now, I am somewhat comfortable being without direction and guidance because I have lived this way for over 500 days. 

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 'better' 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. 

In a very real way, Mike's death has brought me closest to my true self.  His death is leading me to some place I need to go.  For a long time I believed that I was drifting aimlessly.  I assumed that I was lost, so I desperately searched for direction.  I was tirelessly drafting plans in my mind because I thought I had to "fix" my life.  I felt compelled to correct what had been wronged.  But, now I know that all my efforts were needless. 

There is a plan at work here; and, in order for this plan to be successful, I am not required to "fix" or do anything.  In fact, the best thing that I can do is step aside.  Before I realized all this, I was my biggest obstacle.  I was getting in my own way.  The truth is, I do not need to carefully map out my own journey.  With this realization, I no longer feel the need to control the direction of my sails.  I have stopped flailing in the water because I trust that something bigger than me is at work.  I believe that my best interests are being served.  I do not need to intervene because everything will work out as it is meant to.  In short, I have faith.  I know that I will be okay.   

The reality is, I am exposed as I float out in the open water.  Anything is possible.  I might be a lot of things, but I am not lost.  I am exactly where I am meant to be.  I may feel that I am without direction.  But, I am drifting directly towards my destination.  Everything is as it should be - I can feel it.  I am not required to do anything.  I don't have to steer in the right direction.  In fact, I have to do less, not more.  When Mike was alive he used to say "stay where you're at, I'll come where you are".  And, this is exactly what I need to do now. 

 

If I am drifting in the open sea,

Then, Mike is the water I am floating on. 

I am not drowning like I thought I was. 

He's got me.

I am being supported by the water. 

I am being lead to where I need to be. 

 

 

All I need to do is "stay where (I'm) at,  (because) he will come where I'm am."  I wish I remembered what Mike told me early.  This would have been a whole lot easier.  Nonetheless, I figured it out.  I remembered his promise; and, this has brought me a great deal of peace.  And, it's nice because I haven't felt peaceful in a long, long time...   

 

 

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Sleepless Nights

I don’t have them very often, but last night was a pretty sleepless night. My mind was going. I couldn’t seem to quiet it. Usually I can put on a podcast and be out in ten minutes… but every now and then I find myself listening to an entire podcast, and then another, barely managing to doze off at all...

Even though nowadays, my sleep is pretty much back to how it was before he died, sleepless nights still feel fragile. I guess they bring back the memory… the weight of the sadness through the nights. It reminds me of sleepless nights for an entire year after he died, when I didn’t sleep for more than 3 or 4 hours a night, ever. It reminds me of the heavy dread when I would manage to sleep and then wake, around 3 or 4am, and realize all over again that he was dead and it was in fact not just a bad dream.

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Detachment

I’ve never been so detached as I am currently.

 

Since Linzi’s left, the landscape of the dating world and my approach to it has endured a complete facelift.

 

I’m not sure quite yet if that’s a good or bad thing.

 

Right now, I’m only thinking of myself.

 

Casual sex has never been a concept to me. It is now.

 

I’ve always been the monogamous hopeless romantic who pursued a woman with the entirety of my soul and being, upholding the utmost of chivalry and gentlemanly mannerisms.

 

That version of me is missing. I’m not sure if I miss it...although it concerns if it should never return again.

 

Where is the me of yesteryear? Did he die with Linzi? Perhaps.

 

A new man has come forth, an odd mixture of the husband Linzi knew and an unrecognizable concoction of a man she never knew.

 

Whether or not the outcome of his actions will prove to be for better or for worse...only time will tell.

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My Husband Died and All I Got Was This Lousy Book

In July of 2011, my husband died, and I died too. Well, that version of me died.

About an hour after his death, after I had made the phone calls to immediate family and a few close friends – from a random bathroom inside the ER part of the hospital, sitting on the toilet after having just thrown up from shock – I sent my first Facebook status update about my husband being dead. I wrote it in words, so that everyone would know. I wrote about it in a brutally honest way. My post said “I don’t know what to do next.“

From there, Facebook posts became something of a comfort to me. My only way to reach out to lots of people all at once, and say how horrible this all was. I didn’t have a widowed community back then. I didn’t know what the hell that even was. I was 39 years old, and my world was gone.

Sometime around early 2012, my Facebook posts became a blog (ripthelifeiknew.com). People started saying I should write a book about the brutal realities of grief, the dark humors of it, and about my story in the aftermath. So at some point that year, I started writing and slowly shaping my book. I wanted to give him a legacy. I wanted to help people who are going through this. I wanted to share all the things that I learned the hard way while grieving – all the things nobody told me.

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Mike's Birthday

April 6. Tomorrow. It’s Mike’s birthday. It would have been his 30th birthday. Instead, it is his 2nd birthday without him here. How is that possible? How is he not here to celebrate turning 30? Nevermind celebrating, how is he not here to turn 30 at all? He only lived to be 28 years old. It’s really not fair at all. Turning 30 years old seems like a given in life. It’s not like it’s something you ‘oooo’ and ‘ahhh’ over like turning 100. It just happens. Many of my friends, myself included, are doing it this year. Yet somehow, he is not. And he never will. It feels like a punch in the stomach. 

My family and his have always been big birthday people. Birthdays call for parties and celebrations. It is wonderful but now it is also difficult. Birthdays have so many memories attached to them. When the person is alive you’re looking forward to the year ahead but what happens when it doesn’t come? Then what?

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AND. Not Or~

We all know the power of words, especially in widowhood.

Words stream at us in loving support, with awkwardness, clumsy grace, and, unfortunately, in judgement.

We hear these words and phrases and they make us stronger or they make us want to hide.

We begin, as time passes, to hide ourselves. To isolate ourselves.

We present artificial selves to protect ourselves from judgements and maintain our daily lives, while our hearts and souls go underground.

Early on, in what I will presume was good intent, a friend told me to just fake it til you make it.

Instinctively, I knew that wasn’t an option for me. It felt like an unhealthy response to a genuinely traumatizing event.

As these few years have passed, I’ve spoken about life without my beloved husband, and the struggles of widowhood, in as real and authentic a way as possible.

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Happy Belated

Hey man,

 

Sorry I didn’t write you sooner.  As fate would have it, your birthday was last Wednesday, and this just happens to be the best forum for me to do this, albeit only on Tuesdays.  Sue me.

Anyway, this is the third year in a row that I’ve given you a birthday letter.  Last year, it was about cake and bacon beer (of which I did NOT get to partake in this year...you’re slacking, although, I did make a cake that was pretty damned good).  The year before, it was simply a personal thing, telling you about all the new things I was learning about being not only a widower, but dating a widow.

Mostly though, the song remains the same.  I still would have liked to know you personally, even though it would have absolutley sucked to see you gone.  There had to be something interesting about you that brought such a unique group of friends together. Friends who continue to remember your birthday every year.  Friends who still hate this day, because it reminds them ever more so that you’re not there wearing a purple tiara and having a beer with them.

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Hollow

In every store you visit the shelves are lined with colorful, foil wrapped chocolate bunnies.  They stand neatly organized in the aisles, adorned with ribbons and bows.  At first glance, these holiday treats catch your eye because they look shiny and decadent.  But, things aren't as they appear.  We know the bunnies are hollow inside even though they look substantial.  I am a lot like these chocolate Easter bunnies.  I appear to have my life together.  I look solid.  But, the reality is that inside I feel empty.

This may come off as slightly dramatic, but it is the truth.  After over 16 months, my life looks shiny and newly restored.  Outwardly, things have remained stable and solid.  In many ways I am a vision of widowed success.  I returned to a good career, I still have the house, the car, and the kids.  On the outside, the condition of my life looks good.  Aside from Mike's death, my life may even be enviable to some; but things are not as they appear.  Like the aesthetically pleasing chocolate bunnies, I look to be well dressed and professionally presented; but, inside me there is something lacking.   Inside of me, in my Soul, the landscape is sterile.  I am hollow inside like the foil bunnies.  On the inside of me there is 'nothing'.  Where there used to be unbridled joy there is now emptiness. 

 

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