It is Thursday evening, and in the morning, around 7:30am, my boyfriend of almost one year, will be having surgery. It's not life-threatening surgery or anything, (hernia operation) but my "sudden death widow anxiety brain" is screaming at me otherwise. I have been thinking about all of the things that could go wrong, thinking about sudden death, thinking about all of it. He will probably and most likely be fine and okay and life will go on. But I am a widow of sudden death, and so my knowing that someone can be taken from you in an instant, when you least expect it, is impossible to un-know.
On top of that, I have the story of my own sudden death loss, but also all the many widowed friends I have met over the years, and all THEIR stories of minor surgeries gone wrong, freak accidents, doctors making mistakes, on and on and on. I will be driving him to the hospital in the morning, staying there by his side , waiting in the waiting room while he has the procedure, and getting him back home whenever they release him. He also gave me the numbers for all his family members and people close to him, for me to text and call and let them all know the updates. I am the "point person", and I will do it gladly, because I love him, and he is my person.Read more
So, after about 3 and a half years or so of writing and not writing and then writing again, and then the last 6 months or so of REALLY doing a TON of writing and not being able to look at computer screens anymore because my eyes hurt so bad - I am finally finished writing my book. It is FINISHED!!!!
I handed it over to my editor 2 days ago, and now he will edit and make suggestions on things like grammar, structure, spelling, and a little bit of content. And then it will be ready for uploading and publishing and that whole process by early June, so that it will be 100% OUT and available for purchase and shipping etc., in time for July 13th. That weekend is Camp Widow in San Diego. My great hope is that I will be there as a presenter, this time with my book on sale at the Camp Widow bookstore, for the first time. More importantly, July 13th will be the 7 year anniversary of Don's death, so it's really important to me to be able to honor and recognize that day, with this book finally being out there for the public. I hope like hell that it helps people; brings them comfort, hope, or a few moments of knowing someone else understands.Read more
Death has been on my mind a lot the past week, and I don’t even know why. There haven’t been any major milestones or triggers. No birthdays of people who are dead. No death anniversaries. No real explanation, yet I’ve been unable to shake these shadowy figures in my mind. The haunting things I know will one day happen to more people I love. And to me. And it just plain sucks.
It could be something as small as not getting good sleep lately, or the muscle strain I’ve had in my neck for the past 3 weeks that won’t seem to subside… or even just the lingering winter weather that will not seem to go away here in Ohio.
I suppose the one thing that has been a trigger was an email from my aunt - giving me some old lab results about cancers my aunt and grandmother had. It's information I needed for sure, but still hard to swallow. They both survived their breast cancer, unlike my mom. Still though, it makes it very likely that either my sister or I, or both of us, will one day be told we have cancer too. It’s quite possibly the most terrifying thing imaginable to me... facing this particular disease showing up in some way in my life again...Read more
My memories of Mike echo off the walls of the house, yet the silence in my home is deafening. Everything is quiet now. Death makes your whole world go silent. I think this is by design. We need this noiseless environment and solitude to contemplate how we will re-create ourselves. As we do the work of re-defining our identity we need to concentrate intensely. Death can create isolation, but maybe this detachment is necessary as we prepare to reinvent ourselves. Maybe we are required to withdraw so that we can be born anew.
Daily, I am surrounded by the hum of life, but since Mike died I don't hear the sounds of joy anymore. My heart doesn't feel the beauty of an ordinary moment like it used to when he was alive. My eyes don't clearly see opportunities before me. I feel it, I am allowing my life to pass me by because I have momentarily lost my enthusiasm. No one can change this but me. I know this, but finding the motivation to re-engage in life without him eludes me.
I need to be encouraged to embrace life, take risks and find out what I am made of; but, my biggest champion is dead. Now, I have to motive and inspire myself. I am not used to being my own encourager. Since I was 17 years old I have always been part of a couple; and, I was never solely in charge of coaching myself. I always had a companion to hold a mirror up to me. To reflect with. I had a voice, other than my own, telling me to "take it day by day, everything will work out". For me, being alone feels scary and I desperately want to be rescued.
I feel inadequate when I admit to myself that I'm scared to "do life on my own". I continuously remind myself that I am a divorced woman; and, once upon a time I left something familiar and chose to move towards the unknown. I've dealt with uncertainty before. I tell myself that "I've got this" because I'm no stranger to adversity. I tell myself that I'm strong... and I'm capable. But, Mike's death is different. His death knocked me to the ground and all my dormant insecurities have re-emerged.
In the early days after Mike died, I thought that I should be able to navigate my way through his death. I felt like there was something wrong with the way I was grieving because I was so completely immobilized with sadness. Thankfully, over this last year, I have come to realize that there is nothing to actually get "through" here. Grief isn't a disease that you need to be healed from. There is no end game because grief isn't something you complete. Grief is something that becomes a part of who you are. When your person dies you continuously absorb their absence into your Soul.
I will confess that absorbing the death of your person is ridiculously hard. I still have not accepted his death and I don't know if I ever will. I mean, logically, I know Mike is dead. I've stood at his grave. And, countless times, I've traced my fingers along the letters of his name that are etched on his headstone. I've taken wine to the grave on many a Saturday night because, well, I wanted to be with my best friend. I've written heartfelt messages on red heart shaped balloons and I've tied them to a shepherds hook I put behind his headstone because, well, I miss him.
I know Mike is dead.
His headstone tells me he died November 15, 2016.
But, in my mind he's still very much alive.
And, in my heart, I'm still very much in love with him.
I know you "get it". And, I also know that you hate that your person died too. It is the permanence of the situation that sucks. But, it is what it is. We can't back up. So, we resign ourselves to breathe and somehow continue living. On the days when I have the patience to do "nothing", I sit with my grief. I invite Grief in and I just wait until Grief speaks. Let me tell you what Grief has said (it' pretty awesome) ...
As I write this I have just pulled into the parking lot at the office of my urologist, Dr A. I have parked in stall number 61 and I find myself frozen in the drivers seat of my car as unwanted memories come flooding back into my brain. I remember the day I pulled into this parking lot with Ben. I don’t recall what stall number we parked in that day, but I do recall repeating the number out loud and saying “that’s our good luck number today.”
On that particular day in April 2015, which was two and half years ago but feels, smells and tastes like yesterday, we thought we were coming to find out how Dr A was going to help save Ben. How he was going to operate on Ben’s kidney in conjunction with another (as yet unknown but definitely brilliant) surgeon who would simultaneously remove the tumour on Ben’s sacrum. ON, being the operative word.
Sadly, that’s not how that day turned out.Read more
For whatever reason, today, I have this fear that something horrible is going to happen, or that something horrible IS happening that I don’t know about. It may be all the horrible stuff going on with hurricanes and now earthquakes… the edginess that all of that upheaval in so many people’s lives. The anxiety that I had just a few weeks ago when a friend of mine was caught in the midst of hurricane Harvey. It’s all reminding me how fragile everything is… of how stability and security are really just illusions of safety.
I went over to a nearby coffee shop to sit down and to some computer work this morning, when the feeling hit. This hasn’t happened to me many times really, not in this way, but when it does, I can’t help but want to panic. Because it almost feels like a knowing. Like you know how in Star Wars, Yoda just knows when there is a disturbance in the Force? How he feels when someone dies even though he wasn’t even there to see it? Yeah, it’s the Force feeling.
It feels like an instant fear that somehow this ordinary day is not in fact so ordinary. That something just shifted and I don’t know what. I’ve yet to have this feeling actually connect to something… so I guess I kind of think of it now like my brain short circuits or has some kind of spasm where there is this one little misfiring neuron that thinks today is disaster day. Like that synapse in my brain that was triggered in the moment I got the phone call that Drew was in an accident and already dead, sometimes has some sort of tremor of aftershock. And then, out of nowhere, I feel like today, right at this moment, something bad is happening to Mike, and I don’t know it yet.Read more
One month till one year, it’s difficult to find the words. Disbelief sums it up well. Disbelief that only one year ago we were living out our dreams together, both so insanely happy and in love. Never could I have imagined our happiness was just a mere month from being ripped away. Its eleven months today. On this day last year he was at work and I remember as though it were present time, the giddy butterflies and how much love I felt for him. I couldn’t help but send him multiple messages throughout the day because I missed him every second that we were not together.
“Not much longer till I get to kiss your lips! It’s my favourite part of the day”
“I love you for all that you are, all that you have been and all you are yet to become. You are my everything, always and forever. I get butterflies just writing a text msg to you! Im so in love with you, I can’t wait to see you xoxox”
These were two of the many texts I sent him on this day last year.Read more
Hey readers! I’m filling in for Mike today, as he had something come up and was unable to write. He’ll be back with us next Tuesday, so until then, I’m here to wander through some of my own thoughts of late and see what bubbles up...
Mike and I have spent the past few months moving all my things to his place, as many of you know. After a decade of living alone, finally, I’ve taken the plunge into this next level of partnership. A level in fact that I never even made it to with Drew, my late-fiance, because he died before we were able to get there.
We would have moved in together that same year he died, and married the next. But neither of those things happened. Instead, I gained new fears which have come with me into my relationship with Mike. Although there is no serious talk of it yet, we do have plans and hopes to get married one day. As this commitment begins to enter my mind more, new fears arise. Fears about being on the cusp of a new beginning and having it all taken away. Fears of moving in together and marrying because “what if he dies before we ever get there. Or the day after. Or three months into marriage...” What if, what if, what if. As I face these phases of my life for the first time since Drew and I were in a similar place, I find the fears quite loud.Read more
15 years ago today, as I type this, Mike and I were awakened sometime after 3 AM Hawaii time by a phone call. In those days it was still landlines, so Mike groggily stumbled into the living room to answer it, and came back and woke me, handing me the phone, and saying, it’s your mom, I think there was a hurricane or something.
The house where I grew up, where my parents still live, is only a few miles from the Pentagon. So mom was calling to let us know she and dad were ok. I sat up in bed. Why, what’s wrong? I asked. Oh don’t you know, oh my gosh turn on your television right now.
Ever since that horrible day 4 years ago, I have been shoved into every imaginable situation of discomfort. Just like all of you. I’ve been thrust into an oblivion… a war zone of emotions… trying to fight my way through without even knowing which direction I am fighting towards. Fighting in the dark. Wandering. Scared. Trying to survive. Trying to figure out just what it is that I am actually fighting for. Trying to understand what is even worth it in this life, so that I can want to still be here.
The thing about all this, is that it changed me. All this struggle, all this fight to find reasons to be here, to still find the beauty in life, has changed me.
I’ve said it before, but his death taught me that fear is not a good enough reason anymore. He died in order to live his dreams as a helicopter pilot. He knew the risks, we both did… and he chose it anyway. You would think I would be mad about that (and I certainly went through a period of being really pissed that he didn’t have a more boring “safe” job). Instead, it is like his forever reminder to me to not let my fear get in the way.
If he could be willing to risk his life for what he loved doing, than I choose to honor him by trying to always do the same. So while my fears may still be there, I keep choosing to step outside my comfort zones and walk through the uncomfortable spaces. I’ve started to see that beauty and wonder are always just on the other side of fear. A recent experience has reminded me of that...