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.
It has now been 6 years since my husband’s sudden and life-altering death. The book has changed shape and purpose many times. It has gone through transformations. There have been times – months and months even – when I couldn’t work on it at all. I couldn’t write. There were times I hated the book and wanted to give up on it. There were times I was too busy working 2 and 3 jobs to try and survive, and had no writing creativity in me to work on it. There were times I was too exhausted, or it hurt too much to write about the pain I was already inside of. Or it hurt to write about our love story, days and moments that would now only exist on these pages and in my heart, but knowing no more moments would ever be created or lived.
Writing a book like this steals your whole soul. It steals your time and your energy, and it takes everything inside of you to do it the way you want it to be done. And truthfully, I will probably still not be 100% happy with how it comes out. That’s just me. I'm my biggest critic, and I feel like even if I were to write 10,000 pages about Don Shepherd and how his life and death changed me forever, it still wouldn’t be enough to properly explain.
It is now 2018, and my book is almost finished. I will be spending the next three days writing, about 8 hours each day, and same thing next weekend. And then I will have a first draft, ready to hand over to my editor, who will look it over for grammar and wording and content issues, etc. My goal is to have it ready for self-publishing and release for July 13th, which will be the 7 year anniversary of Don’s death. It will also be the 10 year anniversary of Soaring Spirits, and it will be Camp Widow weekend in San Diego. I am hoping to be there with my book, on sale at the Camp Widow bookstore.
As I finish up the last 50 pages or so of the book, and create the ending that I am envisioning, so many thoughts run through my heart and mind each night. I'm having trouble sleeping lately, or focusing on much of anything, except this book. I forgot to write in Widows Voice AGAIN last week, and probably the week before that. (I cant believe I haven’t been fired yet from being a widow. I'm a bad widow.) I'm anxious. I'm proud. I know that Don is proud too. I'm excited to have these words out there to the public, for them to know how amazing this man was, and to know the truth about how brutal grief can be, and how hard it is to claim back your life, and create a new one, when your old one is stolen by death. I can imagine the moment when my books arrive in a box, and I see them in physical form. I think I might cry. I think I might scream. I will be so very happy, and accomplished. And proud.
But there is more than that.
There is a loneliness, and an alone-ness, in receiving a book in the mail that I wrote, about my husband, who is now dead. There is a profound sadness in holding a book about my husband, instead of holding my husband. There is an emptiness I can't describe, in touching the pages of a book I created, instead of creating a life and a future with the man I married. Just talking about it right now, and typing these words, the tears are already flowing silently down my cheeks.
I can have a beautiful life. I can have new joy. I can have more love.
None of that will ever take away the pain of death. None of that will ever make it okay with me, that the person I love died, and that he doesn’t get to be here to experience life and love and music and art and family and laughter and every other thing. The level to which I know this, every second that I'm alive, is profound. It is what helps me to live life in a big way. This knowing, that in the end, he got 46 years of life, and I got a book. I'd much rather have him here any day of the week, and I'd much rather that he get to live more life. But that’s not reality. That’s never going to happen. So I will keep him alive in all the ways that I know how, forever, and that will just have to be enough.
Even though some days, it just isn’t.
Not even close.