Right at this very moment, my new fiance Mike and daughter Shelby are visiting my late-fiance's family in Texas. We have been here before. We spent Christmas with them in fact this past year. It still is so strange and surreal and beautiful to me how this all works. Mike and I stay in Drew’s old bedroom. Shelby sleeps in his sister’s old room. And we spend all this time hanging out with his family, in their house, with all of their memories. All of the memories of my old life. Somehow it just all works. It just all blends in this wonderful way - all based off love.
One of the most surreal experiences of this is having Mike’s daughter Shelby here… and how excited she is to come to Drew’s parents ranch to see all the animals. To see the cactus and scorpions and the beaches on Padre Island - my hometown. It’s so awesome getting to be the one to expose her to the state I grew up in and all the things I love.
It’s sometimes hard to know that I get so little time to share with her the things I grew up with in my life since we live so far away. Sometimes I wish so much I could share more of my own world with them, for longer. But when we do come down, and I do get to share with them this life that was my life, that was a life I shared with Drew, and a life I lived even long before I met him… it feels so good. It feels so beautiful and rewarding and loving and amazing. I don’t know any other way to say it besides, I feel so safe and secure in this world in a way I don’t when I’m not in Texas. I just feel grounded here.Read more
The past month or two has been tough. This time of year usually is. It’s the time of year that led up to when Drew died. These months were some of the happiest in our relationship. He had just gotten his first job as a pilot and was finally living his dreams. We were beginning to look towards our future together, towards a wedding and a new chapter of togetherness. We were at the height of everything and going exciting places… when the crash changed all of that in an instant.
It’s already a hard enough time of year. In the background of living day to day life, I get flashes of memories of the last time we went out to dinner together, or the last time we went for a hike or the last birthday we celebrated together. Flashes of all the happiness and laughter that were ended so abruptly in a crash.
On top of all of that, our anniversary is just a week before the day he died. Forever those two events slam into me almost simultaneously… a one-two punch. And of course it has been on my mind for weeks now leading up to this week. But this time, something else happened on our anniversary a few days ago.
This time, the thing that I never ever wanted to happen, happened. For the entire day of our anniversary…
For the entire day, I was completely unaware of what day it even was. And the whole thing went by without my even realizing it was that special day. It is the horror of all horrors as a widow... to forget an important day. And let me tell you, when it first hit me, I was completely horrified.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.
Clearly, 4 ½ years is far too long to miss the love of your life since society continues to tell me not to miss my wife anymore. The thrust of the conversation is aimed at pushing me to stop talking about missing my wife and get over it! As a result, we all learn to judge our social environment carefully before bringing illness, longing and/or death, if only grief weren’t so powerful.Read more
Does anyone else feel like they pay less attention to deaths these days? Hear me out. I’ve noticed this trend, at least in me, of learning of a person that might have been significant to me has died. I note it, give it a quick “that sucks, for their widow”, and go about my business.
Tim Conway (a comedian I grew up admiring), Bart Starr (a legendary quarterback that I was a fan of), or Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca!) have all died in the past month or so, and I kind of shrugged it off. I didn’t write out some long, heartfelt facebook post about how they meant the world to me. I didn’t really even “mourn” them. I acknowledged the death, thought about their widows for a second, a promptly moved on with my day.
Death happens now. It happens to young, old, married, unmarried, long-term, sudden, the worst of us, and the best of us. It just “is”. It’s not discriminatory or choosy. It’s random. When those deaths occured, they were just one each, in a line of billions over the millenia.Read more
When your spouse has a long-term, terminal illness, it’s very easy to devote all of your attention to their well-being. I rationalized for years that there was quite literally nothing as bad as what Megan was going through, so anything regarding my own health or person was minimal.
It wasn’t healthy in and of itself, but in the grand scheme of things, I felt “fine”. Megan was the important thing to focus on, just trying to get her to the next day, week, or month. I would simply hold down the fort at home while she was in treatment, go about the routines, and worry about myself later.
It’s now “later”.Read more
Lately I’ve been feeling some sort of an emptiness. After Drew died, for a lot of years, I was doing a lot of creative work around my grief. I was finding visual ways to express this inner world and sharing it with others. There was something about that work that felt so purposeful. It felt like I was doing something important for myself, and indirectly for others a bit too. Mainly, I felt like I was expressing who I was and what I cared about in a really bold way, and it felt right. It felt like I was being myself more fully than I ever had before. Talking about the realities of grief and loss and pain and also courage and creativity and resiliency.
Fast forward now seven years, and I’m finding myself not the person I had hoped I’d be… “by now”. This emptiness almost feels like it comes out of the absence of the really deep pain I was in during those early years. Life has kept on going, and I have kept on living it in many bold and beautiful ways. My life now though is far less governed by my grief and my pain. As the years go on, the pain softens, and somehow I have struggled to know what to do with myself without the agony of fresh grief. I’ve struggled to have a voice without that central idea of pain and lossRead more
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
Yesterday something happened at a doctors office that sent me straight back into 23 years ago,
when I just barely lived through a traumatic event,
and joined the ranks in becoming the 2-words that I would grow to absolutely loathe
,and feel shame about for a very long time:
After awhile, I began shifting from using the term "victim", and replacing it with "survivor,"
but this change in vocabulary did not do anything for my lifelong trauma and PTSD and massive bouts of anxiety and panic.
Calling myself a survivor instead of a victim was supposed to make me feel more powerful somehow.
But trauma has all the power, and when it wants to take you down a few notches, it makes itself known.
Trauma is a funny thing.
Well, not "ha-ha funny", but more peculiar funny, I suppose.
Trauma and PTSD lie dormant, and then come back.
They sit still for hours or days or months even, and then something happens to bring them out again,
roaring and screaming and pleading to be heard.Read more
Mother’s Day. My relationship to this day has been a complicated one for most of my life. Until more recently actually, I did not celebrate this day at all. Since my mom died when I was nine, this day has really been nothing but painful for most of my years. So much so that I just decided to forget all about it in my twenties and avoid going out in public completely until it was over. Beause for me, it wasn't Mother's Day, it was Grief Day. One of many Grief Day holidays throughout the year.
It’s safe to say I’ve always had an understandable disdain for this and any other holiday that calls attention to what is missing for me. Nothing quite as horrific as being the kid at school who doesn’t have a mom to make a card for or invite to a special Mother’s Day event.
My relationship to this day has changed a lot in the past ten years... I met Drew, and in the years we spent together as well as the years after he died, I’ve continued to get closer to his mom. Suddenly, after he died, we found ourselves in a unique place. A mother without her child, and a child without her mother. Suddenly, we found solace in each other, and an understanding of our different but equally deep losses. To this day, even halfway across the country, we remain close and a part of each other. She gave me a reason to appreciate this holiday in a way I hadn’t been able to before. She was the first person to help me see that this day isn’t only hard for me...Read more