Well, it’s that time of year again. I’m here in Texas, with Sarah and Shelby, to celebrate you. This is what, year...five for me? That seems crazy. We went to your grave today, and it’s I guess looking good as ever. The little heart shaped rocks, the trinkets...the helicopters; they’re all still there. Your mom had some pretty nice flowers set up too. Lilies, I think. I dunno. I’m pretty sure you don’t care all that much, considering that it’s been 7 years, and your loved ones are still making it a point to come by and “tidy up”.
Anyway, you should have seen it tonight. Your parents are totally loving having Shelby around. Playing ping-pong with her, your mother showing Shelby around her business, rendering Peanut both in awe of all of the scientific equipment, and speechless, your dad and I telling “dad jokes” to her, and even letting her drive the farm vehicles around. It’s almost like Shelby is their granddaughter.Read more
Things are hard.
Life is hard.
Sometimes I am convinced that life is much harder for some than for others.
Sometimes it feels like I can never get a break.
Sometimes it feels like I will always struggle and things will always be really hard,
and that is just how my life will be.
I dont know.
None of this is fact.
I’ve felt abnormal my whole life. Ever since I became aware of how my own childhood with a single father who was an alcoholic was far different from the seemingly idyllic 2 parent households of all the other kids at my private school. I’ve never fit in. I’ve never felt like I fit in. Largely, because of death and grief.
When my mom died, I became consumed by death. I thought about people dying all the time. I obsessed over my dad dying and not knowing what would happen to me then. I was nine. No one talked about it, we just pretended it didn’t happen and tried to keep going. That’s how things were done back then.
That feeling of not being normal was further enforced in my teen years. Without a mom, I didn’t know how to be like other girls. I had no one teaching me how to do makeup or shave my legs or to talk to about boys. I just had to learn a lot of things on my own… and often painfully and embarrassingly failed at it. Those were the years my dad started drinking again too. So while other kids were busy being worried about tests at school or winning the big game or how their hair looked that day, I was walking beside them to class wondering if my dad would be too drunk to pick me up from school. Or if he would die in a car wreck because he was drinking and then I’d be totally alone and what the hell would happen then?
The only place I didn’t feel all those things, was when I was making art or spending time with the few close friends I did have. It was the only time I didn’t have to live in that reality. When I was making art especially… I could create a whole other world for myself that had nothing to do with my reality.
It’s ironic as I sit here now, looking back at those difficult early years. At my relationship to death and how it has changed over time. Death has altered my life so drastically since such a young age. For so long, I was alone with death. I never met other kids who had lost a parent. Literally, not a single kid I knew growing up had also lost a parent. I think that’s what made it worse. Even though I have siblings they were all grown and out of the house… so I just felt very alone with death.
Then, I lost my fiance in 2012 suddenly, and death showed up again to alter my entire world. This time though, death did something a little bit different. I still felt very alone in the world of my pain and my grief. We all do in some way. But now, I was an adult, and I could make my own choices about death. There were certain things I learned that I can control. And one of those turned out to be community.Read more
A month from today, Sarah, Shelby, and I will be hitting the road for Texas. It is time for our annual “Drewfest” weekend, where Drew’s closest friends gather to remember him, celebrate him, and in general, have a fun time like the “good old days”.
Personally, this will be my fifth Drewfest. I’ve been part of them since 2015, a few months after meeting Sarah, and less than a year after Megan’s death. I wrote about the first one in a letter to Drew, right here, for Soaring Spirits, and coming up on this one, there are still many times when I feel like an “Outsider”.Read more
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.
This past week I started something new that I feel both a little bit nervous about but also really hopeful about. I finally signed on to be a regional Soaring Spirits group leader here in Northeast Ohio. I’ve been sitting on this idea for over a year now. In part, for my own reasons… I have very few friends nearby since moving to Ohio. Each year, going to Camp Widow in Toronto, I remember how wonderful that kind of community feels, and how much I’d like to have some piece of that community here locally. I also know, I’m not alone there. I know there’s plenty of other folks who could use the very same thing.
So I finally signed up to lead the regional group here, with hopes that we can grow a wonderful, kind, supportive, fun group. This is a new part of me… I’ve never really been one to be part of organizations or larger communities. I’ve certainly never been one to lead things. But widowhood has changed that some. It’s helped me to realize we all have the ability to lead each other, guide each other, and help each other - even if we don’t have all the answers. It’s helped me to see that we heal better when we heal together.
Being a part of the widowed community has helped me to become more confident and realize that we are all so capable of helping one another on this journey… simply by being there.
Since becoming an involentary widow almost 8 years ago, I have changed in many positive ways.
I am more empathetic.
I am more sympathetic.
I am less judgemental of people's lives and situations and circumstances.
I listen better.
I stop to talk with people more.
I find more meaning and beauty in very tiny things.
I exist in the moment more.
I love profoundly and deeply.Read more
This Sunday it will be 6 years since Chuck died.
Just writing that number leaves me breathless, and not in a good way.
How can it be 6 years?
Though it might as well be 6 centuries. That's how it feels.
So, my thoughts on this fractured time as they meander through my mind...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’ve had very few visitors since Tin passed away. I don’t know if the reason is avoidance, being unsure of how I’ll be with guests or just that life goes on and we become too busy for the little things. Approaching the first anniversary of Tin’s passing, as the warmer month’s and spring break approaches, I’m starting to get the calls to stop in for a weekend.Read more