Today I’m writing about a different side of grief… about being the one sitting beside someone who is grieving. About those moments watching a partner who is widowed go through their own pain. It’s no secret that Thanksgiving is a hard holiday for Mike. His wife died just a week before this holiday 3 years ago. Hitting the 3 year mark is hard enough without it happening near the holidays.
So there we were, having a very different holiday than they would have ever had before she died. Before he met me. And at some point, it was inevitably going to come crashing down. Which it did. Late the evening after Thanksgiving, we were about to get in the hot tub with everyone when his emotions welled up. He snuck away to one of the bedrooms at my sister’s house and I soon followed. As I sat beside my new best friend, putting my arm around him, I didn’t say anything at all.Read more
It’s official. We signed the lease this week, my boyfriend and I, for the house we will occupy for the next year. I’ve decided to only think that far ahead, and it’s made it a little easier. Because it’s a huge transition, moving from the house I shared with my late husband for so many years.
It’s also not a huge transition. I’m only moving, literally, up the block. And we have plenty of time to make the move, since my current house will be available for a couple more months. I’m going to move a few things at a time and do the big move after I’m back in Kona from my visit back east with family for Christmas.
November 19th. It’s “the” date. A week before Thanksgiving, and the start of the holiday season. The weather has turned cold, the leaves are off the trees, halloween is over, My work begins to slow down, as does the seemingly endless string of summer and early fall weekends where we have plans with family and friends.
For all intents and purposes, November was always a “quiet” time of year, when I could sit back and take a breather. I could focus on preparing the house for winter, lazily erect a Christmas tree, and read the newspaper as the first snowfalls and blustery winds crisply blew in. Full blown winter hadn’t arrived yet, and you would not catch me anywhere near a shopping area this time of year. The lawn and any gardens or flowerbeds are dormant, leaves are cleaned up, and there isn’t any real snow to shovel yet.
November was “easy”. Three years ago, that all changed.
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
I can hear the fire works from last years New Years Eve celebrations. They go off with a bang. Thoughts racing of families watching them with smiles and couples sharing kisses that would seal there love for the year ahead. Last NYE I sat alone on my bedroom floor, with photos sprawled in front of me. A pen in hand, writing letters to John that he will never get to read. I heard the fire works go off and said out loud "happy new years kiss, I love you".
This new year I had been looking forward to, but as it draws closer I feel sick to celebrate a new year without him. I never thought much of the term "With a heavy heart" until I knew grief. I know you will all understand when I say, my heart feels heavy at the thought of this new year. A year past without him, the new year brings new beginnings, but it doesn't bring him back.Read more
Without a second thought, I stepped right into the holidays, as I’ve done for all but one year in the last 15 (the year Megan died was a little different). Just after Thanksgiving, we got our Christmas tree, put up lights on the house, decorated indoors, and as a first, we set up my old model train on the dining table, complete with snow, buildings, bridges, and trees.
We attended plays, went for drives to look at lights, and listened to Christmas songs on the radio everywhere else we went. We baked gingerbread cookies, wearing silly elf hats, and hiked in what little snow we’ve received so far this winter.
I try to make this season happy and memorable for everyone around me, especially Shelby. Ensuring that she has good experiences is of the utmost importance to me. I love that I can now do the same for Sarah. This was the first Christmas she’s spent with us, travelling to my parents’ on Christmas eve, and Megan’s parents on Christmas day, as has been tradition for a decade.Read more
This time last year I spent wishing my life away, wishing that it was all a mistake. Wishing that people were playing a cruel joke on me. Imagining that this wasn’t my life but that I was living someone else’s life and that the real me was still living a happy and blissful life in love where nothing had changed. Each day was spent running on adrenalin and sleep was non-existent. Spending my nights writing endless letters to him, begging him to come back, writing about our memories. Pleading for him to walk through the door. Driving around late at night searching for him and when exhaustion kicked in I would lay awake in bed and scream for him. The longing I felt and the pain in my chest was so intense I thought it would never leave. So I thought of ways I could join him, ways to try to see him again, to speak to him, to hold him. This time last year was the darkest time of my life.Read more
It is known to be a common sorrow amongst widowed people that so many of our friends from our "before" lives disappear after the death of our partners. Nearly four years later, I have a deeper understanding of this. Initially, this additional pain is so hurtful that we bear ill will, and I will say, rightly so. If everyone knew what it felt like to lose a partner or loved one, if people were educated on grief and how to behave, this wouldn't, and shouldn't, happen. But...I know now, people do not know how to behave, and this is no fault of theirs. We are not taught this, in our western culture. They only know that they have their own lives. They have children to raise, dinners to cook, bills to pay, and their own troubles to bear. Sometimes, being part of our sorrow can be too much, on top of it all. And today, I forgive. Today, I understand. But it has taken these many years.Read more
Just before Christmas, in 2002, Megan and I met. A few weeks later, and I was already invited to her family’s home for Christmas dinner and gifts. I was accepted into their clan with open arms, and I’ve been a part of their family ever since. I’ve been at Christmas dinner in 2005, not long after Megan’s brother died. I was there in 2010, a week before Megan got her lung transplant, where we weren’t sure if she would be there for 2011. I was there in 2014, a month after Megan died, followed a few weeks later by both her grandmother and great-grandmother.
I was there last year, where it seemed there were more people missing from the family than were present. By Christmas this year, Megan’s grandfather has also passed.
One would think that this holiday would become more and more somber each year. The family is seemingly shrinking, if one looks only at those that are no longer here.Read more
Yesterday, we received a great big box in the mail. Shelby drug it in through the front door, and we slid it across the living room floor, near the Christmas tree, to open it up. I zipped a pocket knife through the tape and she pulled open the top of the box to reveal presents of all shapes and sizes. She squirmed with excitement, while Mike and I stood watching her pull each one out and read off the “To” and “From” tags one at a time.
As she read them, my heart filled with joy. Presents from all of Drew’s family… his parents, siblings, aunt and uncles, to all three of us. It quite took me by surprise actually. I had assumed after moving away from them, and starting a new journey, that we might fade from each other’s lives a bit. I think I mentally prepared myself for that shift to happen some this Christmas. Instead, we received this great big box of goodies I could have never imagined...