Since coming back from Camp Widow Toronto, the upcoming holiday season has been on my mind a lot. I met so many new widows in Toronto. So many who are enduring the horror of their first holiday season without their person this year. As I sat down this morning to write, I began thinking, just what could I share that might resonate with anyone out there who is about to endure the kickoff of their first holiday season widowed?
I decided to go back, to my personal blog - Our 1000 Days - where the majority of that first year was written about, before I wrote for Soaring Spirits. I went back to November 26, 2012… just 5 months after his death. It is there that I found this piece, talking about having made it through that first major holiday...
“I survived First Thanksgiving, as I’m calling it, and I learned a thing or two… I learned from writing and talking to other widows that sometimes the time leading up to the holiday is the worst. And sometimes the day of the holiday is the worst. And sometimes, as was the case for me… the actual holiday itself is kind-of not too bad. Hell there was even some really enjoyable times and I was able to share in them and feel all the love. It was easy to feel all the love, I spent the day with Drew’s family. Lots of things to do. Lots of people to be with, lots of love. Lots of joy.
This is the tricky part… this is where your mind wants to believe that maybe you’ll make it entirely through the holidays with that same “this isn’t so bad” feeling...Read more
Some days, it catches you breathless.
The longing to know them now.
The desire to share your life today with them.
The wish to be able to just sit down at the coffee shop together and chat...
Today is my Dad’s birthday. It’s hard to believe he died 8 years ago. That eight entire years have passed, and so much more living has happened for me, since he died. It’s hard to believe I’ve been without any parents now for eight years. But it’s amazing to see where things have gone in my life since his death. Not only the good, but also the challenges and hardships. Not only have those struggles taught me more about myself, they’ve taught me so much more about my dad. You see, he was also widowed. It was a journey I never expected to go on that horrible day when I got the phone call that my fiance was killed in the accident. A journey of walking in my father’s footsteps in so very many ways. Of being able to see with new eyes the depth of his love for me.
My dad struggled with depression and alcoholism for most of his life. I watched it periodically destroy him, and strain our relationship in such complex ways over the years. But for a time, when I was between the age of 9 and 17, he was sober. He went to AA meetings weekly. And though I wouldn’t quality our life as normal or healthy by any means, he did create some semblance of stability in my life at a time when his had fallen apart.
The catalyst of his sobriety? My mom’s death. I don’t quite know how it all went down… whether he had begun to stop before she died, or after, or what the main motivator was. I wish today I could ask him those questions. I wish I could know… how on earth did you stop drinking? How on earth, when the love of your life had been ripped from you, and you were certainly plagued with guilt for how your addictions created unhappiness in your marriage and family…. How?
Mindfulness has always been something important to me, in one way or another. Usually, art and creativity have been my way of being mindful - my form of meditation. In the first few years after Drew’s death, I created deeply mindful photographs which helped me reach that meditative space. I don’t think I knew it at the time, but they created a spiritual connection for me. A deeply focused time of flow where nothing else but the present moment existed. In fact, the first few years after his death were some of the most deeply spiritual years in my life.
I think I lost that when I moved to Ohio, without really realizing it, and I’ve been trying to re-establish it ever since. I was so busy just trying to figure out this new life in a new place, that I got completely derailed from any deeper internal/spiritual connection. Photography was no longer working the same way for me. Being in a new and unfamiliar place made it too hard to connect into that flow with my camera. I've had trouble finding using any other creative stuff to get that connection for long either. So, I’ve felt lost and not even sure exactly why until recently. Not knowing what wasn’t working. Not knowing what was missing. But knowing something was indeed missing...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
I think one of the hardest things about losing people we love, is that in a way, we lose a part of our own history when they die. Or at least, we lose one of our living, breathing connections to that history. Without those connections to the history of ourselves, I’m learning it can be easy to get lost. I think this has been especially hard because both of my parents are gone along with Drew. I simply do not have a wealth of people in my life that I'm in touch with often who remember all the many moments of my history with me.
There are pieces of me that I wish so badly to reconnect to - parts of myself I’ve struggled to nurture in this new environment because of stress, busyness, my own self-critical nature… who knows what exactly. Parts of me that I think I was beginning to finally nurture a few years ago, but the upheaval of moving I guess interrupted that more than I could have known it would.
They are pieces of me I wish for Mike to know also. Sometimes it feels like all he has known is this person who is constantly battling overwhelm, feeling homesick, trying to make order out of everything, while periodically having complete meltdowns about her inability to cope pretty much all adulting. I’m certain he would disagree of course, but quite honestly I don’t always feel like he is getting to have the best version of me, at least not right now. I know there is so much more in there. I know because I remember her.
For a while now, I think I’ve believed that losing my parents, my fiance, and proximity to my friends and family and the culture of my state back home meant I lost me too. No doubt, it's left me questioning... without any of that around me to help define me anymore… who am I supposed to be now?Read more
That moment when you think you see him. The same shirt, the same belly, the same hair…from a distance, without your glasses, you really, truly think it’s him. Your heart lurches…you look again more closely, and even for the next moment, knowing it couldn’t possibly be him, it still looks so much like him your heart continues to pound.
You don’t want to put your glasses on, you don’t want to let your brain be rational, you just don’t want to remember just for another long moment, that it’s not him. Just for another second, please be him.
As Sarah noted on Sunday, I stepped off into the mountains last Friday, disappearing into the wilderness on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. It’s no surprise to any of you that have read my posts for these past two years that backpacking, in isolation, is the most transcendent experience that I personally can have. No matter how my wanderings unfold, they always mean something to me.
However, I haven’t really experienced anything new in the three plus years since Megan was first admitted to the hospital. I’ve went to familiar places. Places that I could ramble into, disappear for a few days, and feel the comfort and safety of a home away from home. Places that I had been to so many times that I could navigate every trail blindfolded and say “Hello, again” to every tree.
Imagine a tree. Any kind of tree you like. Oak, elm, evergreen, lemon, plumeria. That tree is your life.
It began when the seed was created by its parents, like you were. It began to sprout. It began to root. It made a small, tiny leaf, followed by another small, tiny leaf. It threw out one small tentative tendril of root, followed by another, and another.
You began to grow, adding cells, becoming a human. You grew slowly, like the tree. Each new branch, each new leaf, each new root, each new layer of bark. Each new memory, each new milestone, each new layer of skin, each new and stronger, longer bone.
I feel tired lately. In a subtle, general sort of way. I feel worn out by life. Something in a book I was reading this morning made me remember a person I used to be. The man described his wife as this energetic, vibrant, confident woman. And I wondered suddenly, where has that woman in me gone to? The one who was excited about life. Excited about new adventures and exploring and learning and growing. The one who always felt hopeful and - even in the midst of fresh widowhood - fucking determined to make a good life for herself still.
After five years of trying to figure out how to build a business with my art, and five years of crawling and fighting for this new life without Drew, I feel lately like the only place I have gotten after all of this effort is just more tired. And that’s where that woman has gone to… the one that used to be vibrant and energetic and hopeful. She has given every ounce of herself to trying to figure out this new life.
Endless amount of energy are spent daily trying to fulfill everyone's expectations of this new chapter of my life... expectations that my life is so happy and full and beautiful just because I have a new partner. Expectations that my business is flourishing and thriving and even some expectations that my artwork to be "happier" now because I am apparently happier (um, what!)
Then there is the enormous and completely new expectation of being a mother figure... and constantly trying to be "enough" in that role to make certain that everyone in Mike and his late wife's family are pleased with me being here. To make certain that no one ever doubts me being in this role in his daughter's life. There is even the expectation of being a good enough partner to Mike, and a good enough friends to all of my friends now that we live so far away from each other. With the exception of a few people's dumb comments, all of these are in my own head. But it's enough to leave me totally depleted after 2 years into this new life.
Somehow with all of that, I actually feel like I shouldn’t be this tired. I feel like I should have all of it more together. That things should all be running more smoothly than they are. That I should be more financially successful with my art business. And that I should have energy and be vibrant and alive like I used to be. But when I type that out… I realize how completely insane that expectation sounds.Read more