So it's been 7 years since my beautiful husband left for work one morning, and never came home. Seven years since his shocking and sudden death. Seven years of living this life in the "after" of painful and life-changing loss. It's a long time, and it isn't. It's forever, and it's also ten seconds. In all of this time living with the death of my husband, I do get asked one question quite frequently. People often ask me if I feel guilty for being happy. Do I feel guilt when I experience joy or joyful moments? Do I feel guilty for falling in love again?
The answer is no.
Guilt has certainly been a big part of my grieving and healing process. I felt guilty on my first two birthdays after Don died, because he would never get to see another year or enjoy another birthday or another year older. I felt guilty on New Year's Eve for years, and I refused to do the countdown to midnight, because it felt like a countdown to more time without him on earth, and another year that he won't ever get to be part of. I felt guilty for being asleep in our bed, while my husband was collapsing on a hard floor in a Petsmart, and going into cardiac arrest. These are the types of things I felt guilt about, and the types of things I worked on for years with my grief counselor, and came to better terms with.
I have never felt guilty for feeling joy. I have never felt guilty for falling in love again. I have never felt guilty for laughing so hard my sides hurt, or for feeling euphoric about something incredibly awesome or awe-inspiring. Maybe it's because I know for a fact that the most important thing to my husband, was my joy and happiness, so I know that me being happy would give him incredible peace. Maybe it's because I so fiercely want to LIVE, because my husband does not have that choice, so I look for and cling to moments of euphoria wherever I can find them. Maybe it's because it took me FIVE years and a hell of a lot of processing and therapy, to get to a place where I was even able to find love again, so why spend one second feeling guilty about it? I don't know what the reason is, but I have never felt guilt for feelings of joy or love.
What I HAVE felt is this:Read more
Something that Megan and I did every year or two was get family photos taken. While we had thousands of “candid” pictures, taken from our phones or old point-and-shoot devices, we were never posed, and neither of us were exactly professional photographers. We would make the appointment, pack up a few various pieces of clothing, and head to JCPenney for an hour or so of awkward positions and goofy smiles, followed by standing in a department store looking through each and every shot, choosing the six best, and deciding on a package. The photos are done well, and I like them, but the experience of producing them was not exactly the most enjoyable memory. If we could have had them without all of the other hassle (and money), they would have been perfect.
We still have some of those photos hanging on our walls. Shelby truly lives up to her “Peanut” nickname in most of them...being about 2 feet tall and 25 pounds at the largest. (for the record, I too have added about 30 pounds since then, so the “growing together” has a literal meaning). The memory of her simply being that size is the most enjoyable to me.
Megan has a beautiful smile in all of them. She was, simply put, photogenic, and she knew how to apply a good “picture smile”. For Shelby and I’s part, we did our best to smirk.Read more
It’s not exactly a secret that sometimes, I just can’t foresee a good subject for my weekly writings here. I’ll pine over ideas to see if they spark something, thinking about if there were any milestones, anniversaries, or triggers in the past week. More often than not, I’ll find a nugget of something and expand upon it, and sometimes, a halfway decent writing comes out of it.
But sometimes there just isn’t a good inspiration. I’ll “pocket” some ideas for later, like Megan’s birthday (next week) and our anniversary (three weeks from today), knowing full well that the emotions, and subsequent words are going to flow easily at those times. Still though, it leaves me sitting here on some Tuesdays asking myself the following question.
“What should I be thinking and writing about right now?”Read more
Saturday marked two years since Megan’s death. I could sit down to write about how it was a horrible weekend, curling into the fetal position and crying more often than not. I could note how the minute I woke up, a tightness seized in my chest and a chill shot through my body. I could give an anecdote about walking through our dining room, where Megan’s ashes rest, and not being able to keep my composure.
I vividly remember logging onto Facebook and staring at his messenger icon hoping he would come online. That it was all a misunderstanding and it wasn’t real. Last active… The hours ticked over into days, then into weeks. Now it has almost been 11 months. Remembering it as though it were yesterday. Today I still feel the longing, waiting and wishing just as before although it’s no longer as intense.
Time has moved so quickly. Hours, to weeks, to months, soon it will be a year. Disbelief at how quickly time has passed, the last 327 days of my life are mostly a blur. But the fog with time is lifting and no longer as heavy as before.
There are days that it feels as though my breath has been ripped from my chest, I struggle to breathe without him, days I don’t want to breathe without him. But those days are becoming less frequent and I cannot help but feel guilty about that.
Every thought and emotion I have now, whether it be happy, sad or guilty stems from my grief. I believe it always will, forever all-consuming but differently than before.Read more
Over the weekend I attended John’s son’s swimming lesson. He jumped off the diving board for the first time. Every first brings with it pride for my children along with the inevitable thought, John is missing out or we are missing out on experiencing this first with him. Whichever way you look at it, it’s unfair that he is not here.
I left the swimming lesson in a fog of sadness that I couldn’t share this first with John. Lost in my thoughts I began to reverse the car without paying complete attention. I had to brake suddenly when I realised I was going to reverse into a car that was about to drive past behind me. I stopped about half way out of my car park, leaving quite some distance still between myself and the other vehicle. However the lady in the other car was cross at my vague driving skills, she threw her hands up over the steering wheel and proceeded to yell profanities out the window.
What should I write about today? Nature? No, I am beginning to sound like a broken record, and I haven’t hiked in the past week. How about Sarah? Well, I’ve got a good subject for NEXT week, but that doesn’t help me right now..
OK, how about Megan’s disease? I mean, I went through a lot with that, but really, it just sucks. It would be hard to write an entire post about it right now, because I don’t have too much to say that hasn’t already been said. Any recent grief triggers come up that I can reflect on? Well damn...no. Problems that are related to being a widower? Not particularly, and Sarah’s post actually covered that on Sunday for both of us, so I don’t want to rehash it. Yes, the past week or two has been stressful, but things are resolved, and we've talked them out, so it's not at the forefront of my mind.
My mind is blank right now.
I generally try to write my posts in advance, which gives me a bit of time to pore over them and change things up here and there before it goes public. This week, I did just that, writing a post about the five year anniversary of Megan’s lung transplant, which is Wednesday, the 6th, and what it meant to me.
Then, at the eleventh hour, I decided that I didn’t want to write about grief, or changes, or missing or mourning Megan. I didn’t want to spit out emotions and metaphors about losing her. I want to write about something happy, hopeful, and fun. Lord knows that we can’t just sit and mire in our grief forever.
On New Year’s eve, 2014, I was deep within the pit of grief. Megan had just died a month and a half before. Shelby was at my grandparents, and I sat alone, on my couch. It was a horrible, lonely night, I cried myself to sleep, and that’s all there is to say about it.
Thursday, August 6th, would have been Megan and I’s 10th wedding anniversary. A full decade. When I sit quietly to reflect on this, I suppose it would be a fitting end to the gauntlet I’ve been running the past few weeks. After a few months of relatively no significant milestones; her birthday, a trip to Myrtle Beach to spread her ashes, and the date her brother passed, ten years ago, all occurred in the span of 8 days. 4 days after his death, Megan and I were married. Our wedding was in the same church that his funeral was occurring in, two days later.
I’m finding however, that our anniversary is something that I alone have to work through. Yes, our parents and Shelby obviously celebrated it, but not to the emotional level that we did. This was a day for us. Chances are, we would have one of the grandparents watch Shelby, and her and I would have went out for a nice date, just the two of us.
That, frankly, is no longer possible.
I’ve noted a shift in my overall attitude since Megan’s death. I was somewhat of a pessimist in years past; always finding the bad news in any nugget of information that may have come my way. Perhaps it was the shock of losing my wife that finally changed my outlook in everyday life. I now take events or news with a different eye, one where I step back, and try to find the silver lining in anything. It has made me a happier person overall, and it serves to suppress the stress of living in a way I had never thought possible. While at first, this philosophy was a conscious effort, I’ve found that it has become habit, to where I no longer need to force myself to find a silver lining.