Sometimes I wonder, is life harder because I have been widowed or would have been just as hard in different ways if I had never been widowed? It’s a question I think on when I have long talks with friends who aren’t widowed, who are going through their own complex lives… complete with blended, divorced families and step kids or uncertainty in their current relationship, or loneliness and feeling unsure about their career or life purpose.
Our thirties and forties have taken us places I think none of us imagined. We used to all live across town from one another, and the most complicated stuff we really dealt with was the dating scene and fighting traffic across town to meet up together at our favorite bar every Tuesday night. We still look back at those days now with such nostalgia… it was a few good years where things were easy, good friends were plentiful, and there were no major catastrophes. For a short time we all were able to relax into the present moment of our lives.
Drew’s death changed everything. It was the beginning of life becoming far more complex… and it happened to occur when I was turning 30. I feel like it’s so easy sometimes to blame the grief. To feel like all the complexity and extra difficulty and all the changes that have been hard are the fault of grief and being widowed. But I don’t really think that’s true at all.
Had Drew not died, I would have been married within a year likely… and moved out of Dallas anyway - as was our plan. I would have then followed his career as a pilot wherever it took us around the country… likely living somewhere new every few years or so. Had we adopted a child by now, which was our eventual plan, I would be going through the same fears and doubts and struggles with learning how to be a mother as I am with my new partner Mike’s child now. And I would have been doing it a bit more alone, while Drew was likely gone a lot for flying gigs that would have him on contracts for weeks or months.
Death or not, my life was going to change drastically. And many of the complex things that happened in my friends’ lives were not because of grief either. The complicated stuff they now deal with in their lives is just a part of growing up into our thirties and forties and beginning new phases of their lives. Phases none of us were especially prepared for, it seems...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
Tomorrow marks the first day of the summer session for my eCourse that I am teaching now for the 3rd time. I create this class last year as a way to share much of what I had learned in my own grieving process about creativity. For four weeks, my students will be diving into lessons and creative prompts in writing, photography, and painting, with the purpose of expressing their grief and honoring their story and their loved ones.
Teaching is not a natural role for me, in fact it still makes me quite uncomfortable. I’m a writer, and that is where I feel most at home in sharing ideas. And while my course is mostly written, it does require interacting in a Facebook group and some video recordings. In other words - it requires me to be vulnerable too. Ugh!
So far, each time I run this course, there is a part of me that resists the call to be vulnerable. Maybe it’s that part of me that wishes she didn’t have all these lessons to share. The part of me that wants to just be “normal” and be doing work that is in no way related to grief. The part of me that is always a little bit scared to connect to others at first.
But then I get emails from women who want to sign up, but are nervous and need a little encouragement. Or from women who are in a bad spot financially and wondering if there is some way they can take the course still. Or women who have had major losses that were not loved ones, and wonder if the course will apply to them. They share a little of their stories with me before even beginning the class… and I am reminded of what an honor it is to be in the space of those who are grieving. I am reminded of how incredibly brave these people are - how much courage and strength and energy it takes to say “yes” to something like an eCourse when you are deep in your own pain. I am reminded that they are willing to be vulnerable with me… and suddenly I realize I have no choice but to be vulnerable with them too. Suddenly I am reminded of how precious it is to share that kind of true vulnerability with another person. Most of all, it reminds me of all the women I met the first time I went to Camp Widow - the ones that showed me the way and gave me hope. The ones that held a lantern along the dark and terrifying path of grief for me, so that I did not have to walk completely alone in the dark...Read more
Being that both Mike and I are both writers here, we do try to talk about our relationship as two widowed people, to share how this whole “chapter 2” thing can work. There are plenty of times this is awesome to write about - when we have things to share that show you how beautiful loving again can be. How beautiful it can be when two people honor their dead loved ones, welcoming them with open arms into this new, loving space. Times when we can share how incredible it is to be on a new journey of love, and feeling like your other person is getting to come along with you for the ride. So many times I have truly felt Drew’s joy in my own heart during moments with Mike. So many times have I felt like when I am laughing, Drew is too. They’re a part of it all. And we should never expect any less of our new person than to want them to be a part of it all. Mike even wears some of Drew’s old dress shirts now. And I use Megan’s old backpacking gear when we go out for trips. They’re always with us.
But there’s another side to that too. What if things weren’t all roses and rainbows when your person died? What if your last words were words of anger? What if there was a lot of unresolved stuff going on that you never got to address? What if, like Mike and Megan’s story, you were only just beginning to resolve things? What if your widowed story, or even your story outside of being widowed, comes with some muck?
This week I have been filled with and unexpected strength, I have still cried almost every day but I feel strong within myself for the first time in a long time. I’ve struggled with insomnia since December. Generally waking two or three times a night. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t usually go to be till around 11 and with continuous broken sleep I still somehow cannot sleep in past 6.30am.
The other morning I woke after only four hours sleep, I made myself a coffee and walked outside to gather my thoughts. At first sight I noticed light filled rain drops resting on leaves and with that I was taken back to last year. To the memories of falling asleep with John on hot rainy nights and waking in his arms to vibrant sunny mornings.
With that, I thought to myself there are times in life now that it rains and it pours. Storm clouds roll in and it feels as though they are here to stay. However we weather it out and sunlight inevitably breaks through the dark clouds leaving behind beautiful drops of dew.Read more
I found Soaring Spirits the day after my husband died from depression. I googled the term 'suicide widow' - reeling from shock that these strange words were now something I needed to make sense of.
One of the links that I clicked contained the heart-felt words from a young widow named Melinda who had also lost her darling husband Sean to depression and was sharing her story to help others, like me.
Melinda's words connected me to a community that would save me from losing my mind. I sat for hours, reading back through her past entires, devouring the words that I so needed to hear.
Every night, for well over a year, I would read this daily blog before going to bed, to remind myself that I wasn't alone. There were other brave men and women who had walked this path before me and, like them, I too would find my way. One day, the relentless ache would ease. The sadness that sat in my stomach would lift and I'd start to enjoy living again, rather than feeling lost in the fog of grief.
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...
Tomorrow is my husband's third anniversary. And, like so much of this third year, the lead up has felt very different to the previous two. So much so, in fact, that it started to scare me as I've been wondering if something is wrong with me, or if I'd slipped back into some kind of state of shock.
Even now, I'm struggling to find the words to explain how this feels different and how I've been trying to make sense of what this means to me. I've had some moments of sadness this week, along with the tears that choke their way to the surface and can't be held back.
The sadness has come on during times when I've thought about what my husband was going through in these days leading up to his death. When I think about the darkness of his depression and the torment he must have been struggling with. It hurts my heart to know that someone I love was battling with something so catastrophic - to know he will lose that fight and miss out on the full life that was ahead of him.
I feel sadness that the world lost such a beautiful soul. That his friends and family are missing out on sharing their lives with this wonderful man. He was a special person and so very loved.Read more
It was my birthday yesterday. My third since Dan died. Next Sunday will be his third anniversary. This period from our wedding anniversary five weeks ago to his death anniversary is my hardest time of the year.
This birthday felt a bit different. My last two were very difficult, over-shadowed by the looming death anniversary and full of memories of the last birthday I had with Dan. His depression was bad, much worse than I saw at the time. I didn't know how much he was struggling and had no idea what was about to come. The frustration at how naive I was on my birthday three years ago haunts me.
I can't tell you the number of times I have wished and prayed I could turn back the clock to that birthday in 2013 so I could grab hold of him, really look into his eyes and see the darkness he was hiding. I'd get him help, I'd change his course, I'd grip him tight and stop him from moving forward towards that horrible day where he'd felt all his options had abandoned him. I've hated my birthday because I've been unable to escape what I know is coming.Read more
I'm writing this from an AirBNB apartment in the heart of New York City, a loooong way from my home in Brisbane, Australia.
I flew out here for a holiday with a good friend (and fellow widow) after attending Camp Widow in San Diego last weekend, and we've been having a wonderful time.
This was my third Camp Widow and while Kelly Lynn spoke about the concept of 'Camp Crash' yesterday, I've found that for me, the crash has typically been delayed until after I've returned home, as the holiday element of my trip has provided a distraction from the return to every-day life. So I'm still waiting for the reality to kick in... but in the mean time, just going with the distraction.