I watched the first episode of a new show on Netflix this morning called Dead to Me. In the episode, two women meet at a grief group, both widows. They end up building a new friendship as late night phone buddies since neither of them are able to sleep. The show goes on to take a lot of unexpected twists and turns (and believe me you should so watch it!), but that one aspect had me remembering the early days of my widowhood… of building friendships with fellow widows in the wee hours of the night.
When I first connected with other widowed people, it was through a private Facebook group. Many of us ended up fairly often online, in the middle of the night. Effectively being late-night “phone” buddies for each other when we could not sleep. There was almost always someone there ready to listen, in the middle of the night or any other time of day that we just needed to feel heard and lay down our guard. And because we got each other, there was just this ease. A kind of comfort no one else could really provide. I ended up making a few of my closest friends from that initial group, people I now travel to see and talk on the phone with often.
I was fortunate to have found groups like that online, and to have since built friendships with people who will actually fulfill the words “Call me ANYTIME”. I have used that lifeline even now, seven years after my fiance died. Because new things do come up. You start dating again. You move in with someone new. You get engaged to someone new. You hit the 5 year mark or the 10 year mark from your person’s death. New stuff always comes.
So yes, I have been very fortunate to find places to spill out all my shit no matter the time of day. But I do remember for about the first 6 months, I didn’t have that.
Being a widow - it gets old really fast.
There are days and weeks and hours where I want to scream out to the universe or whoever cares:
"IM SO OVER THIS!!! WHEN WILL THIS WIDOW THING END???"
But it wont end. He will always be dead, so I will always be his widow.
And truly, it is my honor, because it means we are forever connected.
But living day to day life as a widowed person, trying to fit into a world where I am a total misfit -
its hard. And it gets old really fast.Read more
Holy shit, is it a real thing.
Michele, thankfully, speaks about it each year, prior to Sunday morning breakfast.
Fair warning of gales ahead, campers.
Brace yourselves.Read more
I met Christina Rasmussen, from Second Firsts, early in my widowhood, on her first book tour.
She was in Boston and I was in NH, so I drove to the book store holding the event, and heard her speak for the first time.
It didn't change the emotions of my widowhood, but her words, her philosophy about life after loss touched me deeply.
It was my first true indication that I wasn't alone on this road.Read more
5 years and 9 months into this life without Chuck, I may have,
Gone over the edge.
It's a matter of opinion, I suppose.
Our world that is so critical and judgemental of how we grieve,
Those who tend to be uncomfortable with others who refuse to play the game of life their understood way...
Well, they might think I've gone over the edge.
Which is totally okay and cool with me.
People need to be shaken out of their complacency, in my way of thinking.
And I'm just the one to do it.
How, you ask?
This week I began work on a goal that has taken me a long time to believe I could accomplish. It may seem like something very small to most people, but for me, it has been a hurdle all my life. This week, I have started swim lessons.
Something most people don’t know about me is that I’ve always been uncomfortable in the water. I never took swim lessons and though I can swim, I don’t do it well. I’m about the slowest swimmer there is, I hate the feeling of water in my eyes, I almost always have to hold my nose under water, and treading water is enough to send me into a mild panic and have me swimming for shallow ground. It has always been a frustration for me, and occasionally embarrassing. Worst of all, it’s something I have believed that I can never change about myself. And the root of it comes from not trusting myself to be able to keep myself safe in water.
I have always marveled at people who appear to be completely comfortable in water. Drew was like that, like a fish. And Mike even more-so since he was a diver in school and taught swim lessons. I have watched them both in complete awe.
I’ve believed all my life that I can never have that sort of safe feeling in water. That it’s just not in the cards for me. For years, I’ve wanted to at least try to challenge that belief. So this past week, Mike and I got a membership to an indoor pool for the winter, and he has started working with me.
After just two lessons at the pool with Mike, there I was, just effortlessly treading water like I’ve been doing it forever. Suddenly all the fear went away. All the panic and anxiousness that I have felt my ENTIRE life in deep water… GONE. I couldn’t even believe those feelings could vanish so quickly. And suddenly, for the first time ever, I began to feel some glimmer of that comfortable feeling in water that I have envied in others all these years. Some glimmer of trusting myself in the water. Even more importantly, I challenged a limiting belief about myself, and I decided that I don’t believe it anymore. With his help, I am beginning to trust that I can do this.
One of the things I am most grateful for in this widow journey is the people who have been willing to help me stay afloat...Read more
I remember last year sitting in a small group discussion at Camp Widow Toronto discussing how there can be triggers that connect directly or indirectly to your loss that make you scared and panic for your current life, namely your other loved ones. Then how these triggers and events make you act out of character. Someone mentioned seeing ambulances and wanting check-ins instantly on the people they loved. Someone else mentioned anytime anyone is even remotely late that they want calls so they know everyone is okay. At the time I thought, “Nope, not me. I don’t think or do anything like that.” Now that’s what I think of when I get into my extreme panic mode over people in my life now and can’t get out of it. I guess it just hadn’t started yet.
For me it has somehow translated to mostly related to phone calls and texts. The morning Mike died he was (obviously) not responding to my texts. I texted him a few times. I then called him. The first few times I called him it rang all the way to voicemail. Then it started to go straight to voicemail. I know now that the police would have turned it off. At the time, I tried to convince myself that he was just late from work and his phone died. He wasn’t and it didn’t.Read more
This past weekend Mike and I attended Camp Widow Toronto. We helped out with a lot of things this year, from leading panel discussions and groups, to building the enormous sign of HOPE for the banquet and working with Michele to plan the message release around it. I also hosted my creative workshop again, for the second year, which was an absolutely incredible experience.
There was so much to do before ever getting to camp… we have been working tirelessly for the past month or two to get ready. It has meant long nights and very busy weekends planning, dreaming, building, painting, budgeting, and hoping it will all go as well as we imagine. I stepped out of my own comfort zone in many ways. Not only in what we physically created in the huge sign of HOPE, which Mike wrote more about last week in his post. Also though, in deciding to commit myself so fully to focusing not one what I needed this year, but on what I had to give.
I can’t help but wonder, just how did I get here? Me… who just six years ago was so broken that I feared I'd never be able to put the pieces back together. Me… who couldn't even feed myself for 2 weeks after his death. Who couldn't even buy dental floss at the grocery store or remember to pay my credit card bill for 6 months. Who woke every morning for so long in a horror, wishing with all my heart that it was all just a nightmare. On top of all that, I have spent a lifetime fighting deep-rooted self doubt. Fighting to believe that I have anything of value to give to others. Just how did I get here then, shining a light for others along the path?Read more
This past weekend, Sarah and I traveled to Toronto to attend our third Camp Widow there. We’ve both realized that Camp Widow recharges us. Though we may not be in the active throes of grief on a daily basis, with Megan’s death four years ago, and Drew’s six, there is something about telling our stories, and hearing others’ that brings a warmth that we didn’t realize we were lacking.
This year though, it was so much more. I assisted with two of the focus groups on Friday, one for those that lost their partners less than a year ago, and one for widowers. I was given the opportunity and honor of introducing Michele Neff Hernandez for her final keynote address. I helped Sarah setup for her intensive workshop on Saturday, “Rebuilding our Hearts”, and took my leave to let her shine. Those stories are for a different time though. I will certainly be expanding upon my “introduction speech” soon, because ten minutes is certainly not enough time to convey how much my story has been influenced by Michele.
A few months before Camp, Michele contacted Sarah, and proposed an idea for the message release that is conducted at each and every Saturday banquet at Camp. It was to be a large sign, displaying the word “Hope”, with a similar look and feel to the large “Toronto” sign just across the street from the hotel. Since we can easily drive to Toronto from Ohio, and I have a pickup truck, logistically, it was easier (and obviously more cost effective) for us to create something and deliver it across the border than it would be to ship something from California.
We worked for weeks creating this. Purchasing supplies, calculating, measuring, cutting materials, sanding, painting, gluing, and lighting these letters. As late as the Wednesday night before camp, we were cutting out small cork “bricks” and tying a string to over 200 of them.
It was a lot of work, to say the least, but the reception we received to it was far and away more than we could have ever imagined.Read more
In the morning, I am getting up at an ungodly hour (4am) to wait for my friends who are picking me up and then we are driving the 9 hour road trip to Toronto Canada for Camp Widow. We did this same thing last year, and we had fun on our car ride together. And of course, after arriving, the weekend was filled with healing, laughter, grief tools, honoring love, and friendship. I expect nothing less to be true this time around.
It is the 10 year anniversary of Soaring Spirits International, and the founder, Michele Neff Hernandez, has decided to step down from doing her "Key Note Address", which she has done at every single Camp Widow since the event began. At each camp event, she creates a themed talk , always with a beautiful and poignant and different message, and she delivers it on the big stage on the Saturday morning at 9 am of the Camp Widow weekend. Her Key Note has always been my very favorite part of camp, and I can already feel myself getting emotional as I think about never hearing her words of comfort and wisdom again on that stage. I wonder who else will do the Key Notes, and will I be moved by their message? I'm not the greatest when it comes to change, and right now, I'm still in the deep mourning phase of my acceptance of this reality.
The other thing going on for me is that this year, I am in a beautiful relationship with my next great love story. And although I love going to Camp Widow and always will, I don't want to leave him behind right now, for reasons I cant get into here, but I just wish we could be together at this time. He cant come with me because of work and other commitments and money, so we will part for 4 days and miss each other and talk every day and all of that.Read more