I never would have pictured myself being so ecstatic and thrilled and jazzed up to talk about death and loss and grief. I never would have thought my heart would beat faster at the thought of making another widowed person laugh at something dark, through their tears. I never saw it coming that my life would consist of comforting people and listening to people as they walk through this narrow and confusing unlit pathway called grief.
But here I am, ecstatic.
Here I sit, heart beating ...
Here I wait, to by that listening ear
for the next person in pain.Read more
I’ve always felt that, 5 years after Megan’s death, I wouldn’t feel like a widow anymore. Not counting those first few months, when I swore up and down that my life was over and that I would never, ever move forward or be able to love again, I consider myself very realistic. I have a stable career. Shelby is and always has been well-adjusted, smart, and healthy. I’m not under mountains of crushing debt, or struggling to make ends meet.
By 3 months, my focus had already shifted from being “lost” to being “off track”, if that means anything different.
Most of the time, my premonition rings true. I don’t focus on the fact that Megan is dead on my day to day life. I do not identify myself as a widower anymore than I identify myself as a Marine, network engineer, or high school graduate. The titles are no more than a minor addition to the whole sum that is “me”.
Then again, with my sixth Camp Widow attendance, in Toronto next weekend, the title of “widower” gains greater significance. It becomes “who I am” for a few weeks.Read more
Before I was Mike's widow I did not know the depth and breadth of grief.
I had no idea that grief lasts forever.
I never considered secondary losses.
I did not think about how the dead are missing from our futures.
The day Mike died, I did not know that my grief would stay with me throughout my lifetime.
I just didn't know.
I couldn't know.
Now, I intimately understand that grief profoundly changes who you are and how you see the world. From the outside, people in my proximity, think that I am moving forward and getting my shit together.
Well, I am a work in progress at best. In nineteen days, I will have been widowed for three years. What does that even mean? Am I good at this now? Am I used to living without Mike? Am I thriving in this alternate life? Am I okay?
The truth is, I am not okay. And, I still don't know how to live fully without him. Yes, I survived his death, but am I thriving? Not yet. Maybe not for another year, or two or ten. Who knows. Nothing is simple anymore, even three years later.
Sometimes I am surprised by moments that heal my in ways I never imagined on this journey of loss. I met Mike because I lost Drew. And I met his daughter Shelby because of that too. And because they lost a wife and mother. And here we are, this new little family sort of scrapped together from the pieces of past lives. There are more pieces too… from our childhood quilts as well. For me, the life when my mom was alive. The life when my dad was alive. All of the pieces are sewn together into this new life we’re sharing.
With so many old, tattered pieces, I think it’s easy to wonder if my parts of the quilt are strong enough. If my whole area of our shared quilt will just fall apart at any time. It’s easy for me to doubt my abilities to be a mom for example, because I lost my mom so young that I really feel like I am just flying blind. All I have to go off of is my dad’s parenting, and he wasn’t winning any parent-of-the-year awards, let me tell you!
Every so often though, there comes a moment when I really know, that I am not only rocking at living on as a widowed person - but that I am rocking this mom thing - even if all I have to go on is my own instincts and my dad’s poor parenting.
This past week was one of those moments for me. We had a big Halloween party for Shelby and all her friends. She’s in 7th grade now, and I’m trying to find ways to continue having big, amazing memories around Halloween with her now that she is getting older. Especially because I have heard so many stories from her about how much her mom loved Halloween. From the moment I met her, I knew that we needed to keep that Halloween spirit alive and big. In past years, that meant hand making amazing costumes together and going to a few fun Halloween events. Now that she is older though, I figured a party with her closest friends would be the way to go.Read more
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