I have always looked for Joy. I search for it everywhere I go. Seeking Joy is like a treasure hunt; except, in this case, I don't have a map. Honestly, I don't mind the lack of navigational tools because I have grown used to hurling myself into the unknown since he died. With practice, I have become accustom to feeling lost. Now, I am somewhat comfortable being without direction and guidance because I have lived this way for over 500 days.
When you become a widow everything familiar is suddenly lost. The rituals and routines of your old life no longer mark the way. As a widowed person you are forced to sail into uncharted waters. It is incredibly daunting. But, with time, you get used to it. And, you can even begin to flourish in the open water.
I am different because he died. I am 'better' in some significant ways because of the devastation that I am living through; but, the price I paid for this growth is too steep. No gain will ever be worth what I've lost. But, there is no changing it. Mike has died. Wishing it was different does nothing to help me and it does not undo his death. I have to stay the course and be grateful for the good things that I still have in my life.
In a very real way, Mike's death has brought me closest to my true self. His death is leading me to some place I need to go. For a long time I believed that I was drifting aimlessly. I assumed that I was lost, so I desperately searched for direction. I was tirelessly drafting plans in my mind because I thought I had to "fix" my life. I felt compelled to correct what had been wronged. But, now I know that all my efforts were needless.
There is a plan at work here; and, in order for this plan to be successful, I am not required to "fix" or do anything. In fact, the best thing that I can do is step aside. Before I realized all this, I was my biggest obstacle. I was getting in my own way. The truth is, I do not need to carefully map out my own journey. With this realization, I no longer feel the need to control the direction of my sails. I have stopped flailing in the water because I trust that something bigger than me is at work. I believe that my best interests are being served. I do not need to intervene because everything will work out as it is meant to. In short, I have faith. I know that I will be okay.
The reality is, I am exposed as I float out in the open water. Anything is possible. I might be a lot of things, but I am not lost. I am exactly where I am meant to be. I may feel that I am without direction. But, I am drifting directly towards my destination. Everything is as it should be - I can feel it. I am not required to do anything. I don't have to steer in the right direction. In fact, I have to do less, not more. When Mike was alive he used to say "stay where you're at, I'll come where you are". And, this is exactly what I need to do now.
If I am drifting in the open sea,
Then, Mike is the water I am floating on.
I am not drowning like I thought I was.
He's got me.
I am being supported by the water.
I am being lead to where I need to be.
All I need to do is "stay where (I'm) at, (because) he will come where I'm am." I wish I remembered what Mike told me early. This would have been a whole lot easier. Nonetheless, I figured it out. I remembered his promise; and, this has brought me a great deal of peace. And, it's nice because I haven't felt peaceful in a long, long time...
I am tired of trying to be - 'not sad'.
I am exhausted from the aching in my heart.
I am weary from recognizing Joy everywhere,
All around me,
And, still feeling hollow inside,
I am aware of all the good in my life,
My heart is grateful for what I have.
So, I ask myself again and again,
Why isn't it enough?
Why isn't my life enough - without him?
I don't have the answer to this question.
For now, all I can do is ask.
And, I will be strong on his love as I seek the answers...
Painting: Big Heart by Ivan Guaderrama
The truth is, I can write all my positive thoughts and affirmations onto this page;
But, I can not reverse all the ways that Mike's death has permanently changed me.
I'm different now.
Nothing can alter this.
I can't be who I used to be - ever again.
As I am moving forward I am not just grieving Mike,
I am grieving the person I was when he was alive.
- I miss her too -
My eyes look dull and lifeless. Sometimes...Read more
My memories of Mike echo off the walls of the house, yet the silence in my home is deafening. Everything is quiet now. Death makes your whole world go silent. I think this is by design. We need this noiseless environment and solitude to contemplate how we will re-create ourselves. As we do the work of re-defining our identity we need to concentrate intensely. Death can create isolation, but maybe this detachment is necessary as we prepare to reinvent ourselves. Maybe we are required to withdraw so that we can be born anew.
Daily, I am surrounded by the hum of life, but since Mike died I don't hear the sounds of joy anymore. My heart doesn't feel the beauty of an ordinary moment like it used to when he was alive. My eyes don't clearly see opportunities before me. I feel it, I am allowing my life to pass me by because I have momentarily lost my enthusiasm. No one can change this but me. I know this, but finding the motivation to re-engage in life without him eludes me.
I need to be encouraged to embrace life, take risks and find out what I am made of; but, my biggest champion is dead. Now, I have to motive and inspire myself. I am not used to being my own encourager. Since I was 17 years old I have always been part of a couple; and, I was never solely in charge of coaching myself. I always had a companion to hold a mirror up to me. To reflect with. I had a voice, other than my own, telling me to "take it day by day, everything will work out". For me, being alone feels scary and I desperately want to be rescued.
I feel inadequate when I admit to myself that I'm scared to "do life on my own". I continuously remind myself that I am a divorced woman; and, once upon a time I left something familiar and chose to move towards the unknown. I've dealt with uncertainty before. I tell myself that "I've got this" because I'm no stranger to adversity. I tell myself that I'm strong... and I'm capable. But, Mike's death is different. His death knocked me to the ground and all my dormant insecurities have re-emerged.
In the early days after Mike died, I thought that I should be able to navigate my way through his death. I felt like there was something wrong with the way I was grieving because I was so completely immobilized with sadness. Thankfully, over this last year, I have come to realize that there is nothing to actually get "through" here. Grief isn't a disease that you need to be healed from. There is no end game because grief isn't something you complete. Grief is something that becomes a part of who you are. When your person dies you continuously absorb their absence into your Soul.
I will confess that absorbing the death of your person is ridiculously hard. I still have not accepted his death and I don't know if I ever will. I mean, logically, I know Mike is dead. I've stood at his grave. And, countless times, I've traced my fingers along the letters of his name that are etched on his headstone. I've taken wine to the grave on many a Saturday night because, well, I wanted to be with my best friend. I've written heartfelt messages on red heart shaped balloons and I've tied them to a shepherds hook I put behind his headstone because, well, I miss him.
I know Mike is dead.
His headstone tells me he died November 15, 2016.
But, in my mind he's still very much alive.
And, in my heart, I'm still very much in love with him.
I know you "get it". And, I also know that you hate that your person died too. It is the permanence of the situation that sucks. But, it is what it is. We can't back up. So, we resign ourselves to breathe and somehow continue living. On the days when I have the patience to do "nothing", I sit with my grief. I invite Grief in and I just wait until Grief speaks. Let me tell you what Grief has said (it' pretty awesome) ...
Just two weeks ago, I wrote of a friend that was, at the time, fighting for her life in the ICU, hoping for a lung transplant. She was on death’s door, and no one could guess if she would make it another week, waiting for a donor.
I am happy to say, that, as of yesterday, she received her transplant. A call came in late in the night on Sunday, and by 8:00 AM, she was being wheeled into surgery. That’s all well and good. It’s great news, in fact. It’s one less person that is going to die from Cystic Fibrosis this week. I witnessed Megan’s brother Jason in almost the exact same state, back in 2005. He didn’t make it. I witnessed Megan in almost the exact same state in 2011. She DID make it. It’s always hit or miss, but in this particular case, it was a “hit”.
But. There’s always a “but”.Read more
As I wrote last week, I had made plans to go to a place called the Dolly Sods wilderness for a weekend of backpacking. I’d been planning for months, to return to this place that I was so familiar and comfortable with. A place that felt like home to me. As fate would have it, a fire ban was instituted in the area, which quickly put this trip into an unsafe endeavor. Being wet and cold at 4000+ feet in December is not something one just says “oh well” to.
I’ve had a couple of really beautiful, full-circle moments recently. The sort that have reminded me in such sweet ways how totally interconnected my old life and my life now still and always are.
This past week, we finally got my couch moved into Mike’s house from the garage. And by my couch, I really mean Drew’s. I have been dragging this thing around ever since he died… an enormous olive green couch. It is really the only piece of furniture of his I have. Since we didn’t live together, much of his bigger stuff ended up being given away or taken to Goodwill when he died, as there was no place to put it. But this couch, I was not letting go of it. It sat in a storage unit for 3 years after he died, before finally making the journey north with me from Texas to Ohio last fall.
So we finally get this thing moved into Mike’s basement, where we have made a cozy den next to my art studio area. Over the course of a few days, I watched as something really heartwarming took place.
The day began with tears. Its brutally unfair were my thoughts. He should be here! Where is he?
My stomach in tight knots I felt physically ill. He would have been 30.
The day was spent with family. Reminiscing and sharing stories. Keeping busy, we laughed, we ate, and we supported each other. Sending balloons up into the clouds the physically sick feeling returned and I choked swallowing my tears.
I thought that once the day I dreaded was over, the mood I had felt intensely the past week would lift. I was wrong. The following day was worse. Maybe it was the shock and disbelief wearing off, the lack of distractions the denial I sometimes live in.
Denial that was taken away in an instant with the sound of his voice. “Close your eyes and listen” Unexpectedly and unprepared I leaned into the mobile phone being held to my ear. I closed my eyes and listened in wonder.Read more
Yesterday was one of the most beautiful and hope-filled days I have been a part of since I began this entire widowed journey. We were in the woods, standing tall in the trees, three widowed people and a little girl who lost her mother. The setting itself was magic, and made even more-so when we heard of the significance of that place. For our friend, who lost her husband 5 years ago, was marrying her husband’s best friend in the place they used to go walking after he died… in those early raw months, they stood side by side, taking one step at a time down a path that he no longer could. Together, side by side, they began a walk into the future, not even knowing that it would lead to a different kind of side-by-side one day.
It was personally significant to me in a few ways that no one else knew until I mentioned it… but this is the first wedding I have been to in 4 years. I’ve been invited to many weddings, and refused to go to any of them until I felt able. And this one, finally, I felt not only able but excited for. Excited. What? How is that even possible? In fact, I didn’t have an ounce of fear in me about the triggers it would bring up. To my total surprise, I found myself completely lost in the moment.Read more
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
Usually I would write a blog post separate from my personal blog for Widows Voice. However this week has been a rough one, we all have them. Rather than write a totally new post I want to share a post I wrote earlier in the week that shows the dark side of grief. The side that most feel they need to hide.
I want to tell you, it’s ok to not be ok!
So today I am ok, but not that day.
That day emotions ran wild and it felt as though I was thrown back into December. To the month that shattered the world as I knew it. That day I was not ok, but that’s ok!
That day I hurled breakable possessions at walls, I screamed at the top of my lungs with no one around to hear. That day I tore the house apart, I stared at my broken reflection and watched tears fall from blood shot swollen eyes. That day I wanted to die.
That day I was angry that I have to be here, that day there was so much pain. Digging nails into my flesh and pulling at my hair, I screamed for him to take the pain away.Read more