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 changed 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.
I can easily say that I do not reach out to Tin’s mother and family as much as I should. I want to speak with them but it’s hard for me and I feel like I am the immediate reminder, that I trigger all of the grief for them. These widowed weights on my shoulders press down hard at times. It’s a double-edged burden. I want to speak with them but I don’t want to upset them. So conversations don’t happen as often as they maybe should.Read more
The other week, we stopped by a field of sunflowers on our way home. This isn’t just any field of sunflowers… it is a memorial called Prayers from Maria. Each year for the past five years, this field has been planted with hundreds of sunflowers. Towards the end of every summer, they bloom into their full glory. I’ve seen this covered on the news each year since moving to Ohio, but this is the first time that I had set foot there in person.
So what is special about this place? It was started because of death, and because of love. Because of the death of a beautiful daughter to a family, who lost a battle with childhood cancer. What has unfolded now is a powerful place for so many to come to have a moment of quiet. What I didn’t realize before stepping through the field, is that there would be notes and prayers, written on cards they provide, tied gentle to the stalks of the flowers.
As we first entered the main path through the flowers, I was completely overwhelmed by all the messages. Many of them were messages to loved ones who have died. Not just children that died from cancer, but moms and dads and grandparents and friends and spouses. It was beautiful and terrible all at once. The further we walked, the more there were. Message after message. Row after row. So much loss. So much death. But also… so much love. So much deep, enduring, beautiful love.Read more
My whole life, I’ve played it safe and small because I grew up within a family that taught me to be practical and frugal and not take risks. I’m sure a lot of us grew up in that kind of family. They did their best, but the illusion of safety and security was always a pretty big focus. Even after my mom died and it became apparent that safety from pain really wasn’t a thing, we still went on trying to be safe from pain for the rest of my childhood. Needless to say, it didn’t set me up so well for all the rest of the pain I was going to experience in life.
When Drew died, a lot of the tactics my family taught me about trying to achieve safety fell apart. It was like watching a sandcastle that I had carefully constructed for years be hit by a tsunami while I was busy putting the last touches on it. All I could do was watch as his death smashed into all of my tediously laid out walls and smartly built turrets. Suddenly, it didn’t matter how skilled I was as building walls, or how cleverly or beautifully I put them together. It didn't matter how much time and effort I had put into it all. The entire thing dissolved and all I could do was watch as the sand slowly disintegrated between my fingers and left me standing there... empty handed. Exposed. In shock.
I will never forget that feeling. Or that moment, which for me, happened in one phone call.
Shortly after losing Tin I was honored being asked to write in this space. I quickly felt the weight of grief ease as the words hit the paper. An amazing thing began to happen, others started to respond to my writing that they felt connected again and that lifted my grief a bit more. As I continued moving forward, I had started to use essential oils for support and the community surrounded me with support and asked me to share my story with others. No matter how many times I share my story it never gets easier, just different. However, I keep telling my story because each time I see my words create a space of safety for others even if it’s for just a moment where they don’t feel alone.Read more
So the feelings are the same, just as intense but not as often and demanding. I miss Clayton every day but the immediate sting when the thoughts rush forward is milder with time. My eyes still water each day but there are more days of laughter than tears. The dust has settled and now I’m feeling unsettled. A year ago I feared I would have to move out of the apartment that Tin and I shared. People don’t realize that when you become a widow most often times your finances flip. Your household income drops but all the same responsibilities are there. We, the widowed, are billed for our loss. As if life isn’t taxing already.Read more
This past week, I got to sit down and have a mentoring session with a photographer that I have greatly admired for several years now. We went through my photography - most specifically, all of the photographs I made about my grief after Drew died. It’s taken me years to get to the right space emotionally to be ready to have someone look at these photos with a critical eye and tell me what is working best and least in relation to showing them in galleries and having exhibitions. I’ve thought for years that I’ve just been avoiding it, but I’m now seeing that I just wasn’t ready to take these photos into such an often harshly critical atmosphere as the fine art gallery world.
Deep down though, I have never been able to ignore this pull from inside my gut that wants this work to be out in the world in a bigger way. The parts of me that went through all that trauma and pain and grief and sadness and anger and confusion and brokenness… which is captured in the images. I want this series and this experience to be seen by those who have the fortune of not yet experiencing such pain as well as those who have. I want it to be seen by anyone who has ever been broken by life, because I think seeing visuals about struggle and rebuilding can help all of us feel more connected and less alone.Read more
Funny how different losses can create such different kinds of struggles for us. How different versions of loss can confuse us and blindside us in unexpected ways… even when we have dealt with loss before.
I feel like I came home from our recent trip to Texas changed. In a good way. I feel like there were a lot of things that were rearranged inside me while on that trip. I know it had a lot to do with seeing good friends, and Drew’s family, and being in my hometown and feeling that anchored feeling of the place I grew up.
Usually when we visit, I leave feeling like there just wasn’t enough time… to see everyone and do everything that mattered. This time though, it didn’t feel that way. I made it a priority to have greater amounts of time with the people I often barely get time to see - some of them, the most important people to me. So as we hit the road back to Ohio after 10 days in Texas, my heart felt so full and satisfied and peaceful. It was the first time a trip back home didn’t feel like “not enough”. And it was beautiful.
That trip has left a different sense of calm in me since being back in Ohio. I feel this stronger sense of connection to the people and places I love that are far away, and also to the person I was then. In a way, maybe it feels like I’ve brought her with me this time.Read more
For some reason, I always feel that this blog should be sad and grief-driven. But, today I just feel AMAZING! It would have been our 10th anniversary last week, and yes, it was hard, I mean really hard. However, it wasn’t nearly as hard as in the past.Read more
This past week, Mike wrote about how we are continuing a dream he and his late-wife Megan shared as we are looking into getting a camper next year. There were a lot of dreams I had with Drew that never came true too. Even just planning a wedding and spending time on every little detail was something I never got to do with him. Much less a wedding itself. Hell, we didn’t even get to live together yet because we were waiting until he was done with flight school and got his first flying job. We were only a few months into him getting that job, and were finally ready to embark on so many new adventures together that we never got to. Our honeymoon plan was to get a small camper in fact, and travel across the country for a few weeks.
Seven years later, Mike and I live together. We are engaged, and I am happily planning away every little detail while trying not to hear the whispers of “What if he dies before you ever get to the wedding?”. We’ve already done so many of the things that Drew and I never got to do. And I’ve done a lot of things that I was only beginning to dream about when he died. I’ve been selling my art and photography and teaching healing workshops. Much of these are dreams that came out of the ashes of his death… dreams that I didn’t realize were buried deep inside me until he died and I had a perspective shift. Or dreams - like writing on this blog - that evolved from my experience with grief and my passion to help support others through it.
There are dreams that I paused when he died. Like the idea of buying that little camper. It was a bit of a different dream than the one Mike and Megan shared. For us, it was a “someday” dream of a tiny teardrop trailer, while they were actively pursuing purchasing a larger travel trailer for their little family. But still, there was a shared dream there that we can now reignite.Read more