I wish I had better guidance to give people early on when they tried to help me.
People were making heartfelt efforts to comfort me
- most armed without experience.
Two years later, these helpers have almost all disappeared.
And, I understand.
People have lives of their own
I understand that they simply can not understand my life.
I recognize that visiting me, while I sift through the wreckage of what was, is not overly enticing.
Truth be told, I don’t want to live here among the debris of my old life either.
I understand their absence.
I understand the difficult position we are all in.
I know that those who have not lost their Soul’s mate can not possibly know what to say to me.
In the beginning of this mess, I was not adequately equipped to educate anyone about what they should and could do.
I wish I could have helped you help me.
I want to thank you for being with me when I was brought to my knees.
I know that you did not know what to do.
I didn’t know what to do either.
But, I know that both of us had the best of intentions.
When Mike died I was not given a manual to follow. There were no instructions. No roadmap has been created for grief because it takes us along different paths. Yes, there are shared attractions and similar views along the way, but the road we travel is unique for all of us. When your spouse dies, you must go where you have not gone before. You are forced onto a road that is not well marked. There are countless ruts along the way. Some parts are bumpy and make for difficult travel. Other times, the road is smooth and there is blue sky overhead. Then, around the corner, the sky turns dark and it becomes hard to see where you are going. During these stretches, you may bump into things. On this journey, you will become lost. It's unavoidable. Along the way, you will be re-routed and sometimes you will travel down dead ends. And, through it all, you will learn. You will learn to rely on your instincts. You will learn to believe in yourself - in a way you never have before. Solo travel isn't easy, but it changes you in a lot of good ways.
At the start, even if I possessed all this knowledge about grief, I still would not have been able to teach you how to better handle me. Widowhood has to be lived to be understood. In the days and months following his death, I was completely disoriented. I was unable to guide you as you tried to help me. I wish I could have succinctly told what I needed. And, really, the only thing I needed was him. I needed him not to die. But, he did. And, his death is permanent. There is nothing anyone can do to make this better for me. It is what it is.
As the days turned into months, I learned to sit still in the horrific aching. I learned to lean into the ugliness of it. I learned to cry until I gasped for breath. I learned to pick myself up from the floor after I thought I would die from missing him. I learned that Grief is presumptuous and demands attention. And, I have learned to give Grief the attention it screams for.
Grief is brazen, dauntless and in your face. Grief pronounces everything in heavy, smashed strokes. Grief threw me into an out of body experience. And, I've learned that Grief rarely shows any mercy. Grief deprived me of many things I once took for granted.
I had to relearn basic things like breath and sleep.
For many months both eluded me.
Sometimes they still do.
Early on I could not communicate without confusion.
I could hear conversations around me, but the words did not make any sense to me because I had begun speaking in another dialect.
My heart was learning the language of grief.
I am now fluent in it.
With time, many people have drifted away from me because we no longer speak the same language.
There is nothing that needs to be said.
For the past two years I have been physically present,
but my mind is far away from here.
I have been unravelled.
I have come undone at the seams of my Soul.
Mike’s death has affected me to the depths of my psyche.
But, thankfully, with time,
I am making a slow, steady comeback.
In truth, comeback isn’t the correct word.
Death is a trauma.
And, after outliving your spouse,
You do not and can not come back to who you once were.
There is no returning.
I can not come back to what was.
Whatever “it” was,
It is all over.
I apologize if this sounds overly dramatic to ears that have not lived in the silence
I have existed in for nearly two years.
None of what I am saying is intended to be dramatic,
it is just the truth.
I am forever changed because he died.
But, even more,
I am a better woman because he lived.
Slowly, I am finding ways to adapt to my changed life.
Daily, I drape myself in Hope.
I want to do more than survive his death.
I want to live a full, happy life
Since Mike died I have spent hours lost in my thoughts.
I continually revisit the past.
I endlessly mourn the future we imagined.
And, I desperately hope to become present in the moment.
As surreal as it remains,
I know that he does not exist here anymore.
I accept that I must begin anew.
Mike’s death has forced me to be reborn.
And, though a piece of me will always wish for the life we shared and planned,
I am grateful for my chance at a new life.
Gratitude for what was,
And, what will be,
Has allowed me to survive without him.
My simple message below is intended to help everyone involved in this mess.
I only wish I had these words for you earlier when we both stood before grief without any guidance.
I sometimes feel like I have 2 identities: the me before and the me after my husband, Mike, died. I was originally going to introduce myself by introducing the me before I became a widow but that wasn’t sitting well with me as a first impression. It’s not really who I am today. It is still important to how my current identity developed but it is not all of it. Who I am today is more relevant because it is me in this moment. However, unlike the Before Me who knew who she was and can be described pretty clearly, the Now Me is still a work in progress and therefore harder to explain.
Some parts of me are still straightforward though. I’m 29 years old. I feel like possibly going on 80 sometimes, but nope, just 29. I am a grade 1/2 teacher in Ontario, Canada. I have a dog named Tango who has to listen to me when I share about my day. He’s pretty good at it and he doesn’t interrupt except to give me kisses, which is also acceptable. I love the outdoors and being active. I go for a lot of hikes with my dog and take him cross-country skiing (skijorning) in the winter. I also like mountain biking, snowboarding, running, travelling, cottaging and working out. I don’t particularly love to cook but I love to eat so I’m a pretty decent cook. I do love to bake. And read and write. I have amazing friends and family who I also enjoy spending time with. I’d appreciate adding a few hours in the day so I have time for all the things I want to do. See, I can do “normal.Read more
I sit here at Mike’s old desk, a glass of wine by my elbow and the almost full moon shining brightly through the window, and wonder what I would be doing now were he still alive.
I got an email today that made my heart do a little dance. It was from a fellow widow friend of mine, whom I've only met online, and who also happens to be a therapist. This was what her email said:
"I was with a client yesterday, and I asked her where she has found support online. She sighed and then said, 'Well, most of the stuff is useless. But I like 'Whats Your Grief' and 'www.ripthelifeiknew.com. (my personal blog). Those are really the only two.' So, there you have it. Not only one of a woman's Top 2. But one of her only 2. "
Talk about powerful. Somebody out there, someone I have never even met, read my words on a page and found "support" in them. And someone else whom I've never met, is this person's therapist, and decided to share that information with me, so that I would know it. And now I share it with you, so that you will know it too. Because if we don't tell people that they have made a difference to us, affected us, shaped us - how on earth will they ever know? All it really takes for isolation to become connection is for someone to say the first word.
It's been a long time since I could say without hesitation "I feel happy".
In the time since Dave died, I've laughed and enjoyed myself, but always I felt that underlying layer of sadness and shock that dampened everything. It made even laughter a bittersweet act. How could I laugh when he was gone?
Lately, though, I've felt happy. Not tinged with despair, not lost in a fog of numbness, not laughing through my pain, just simply happy.
... Christmas, that is.
I won't lie to you, the week before Christmas, I was not feeling great. The weight of another Christmas without Greg weighed heavily on my mind.
I missed him.
I know I miss him every day, but last week I really missed him.
I missed sitting on the couch and snuggling, watching the lights on the tree flicker.
I missed talking to him about everything.
I missed his strong arms.
I missed his safe embrace.
I missed seeing the kids play with him.
I even missed seeing him stuck under a piece of machinery, tinkering away for hours on end.
I'll start today with a few toasts to the holidays! Cheers! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! and drum roll please.....Death still Sucks!
Two more days til Christmas, and as usual....I'm not ready yet. I still have a shopping list, I've still not wrapped my gifts, and I haven't watched all the movies I want to see or drank all the eggnog in the fridge. BUT, I'm working on it!
Michael's my prince charming. He saved me from the poisoned apple, kissed me out of an eternal sleep, slayed the dragon, and swept me up into his safe arms. And as soon as I was swept up, I felt like he was pulled away from me.
But, I still believe in fairy tales. It has been through my fellow widows; their stories, pictures, memories and thoughts....that I realized there were others in this world that had found their Aladdin, Beast, and Prince Phillip. It reinforced that I have felt the greatest of loves yet survived the largest of tragedies....and I was not alone in surviving.
It reinforced that love will always live on.
Six years ago my husband died in a tragic accident (is there any other kind really?). I woke up the next morning, and felt certain that I had been dreaming. With my eyes closed, I slid my hand across the bed to Phil's side, and felt the cold sheets where his warm body used to lie. I wasn't dreaming.
The pain of his absence was searing. There were so many days when I thought for SURE that the gut wrenching pain would kill me. In fact, to this day, I am still surprised that it didn't. I felt like a zombie that was bleeding internally, and dragging my blood soaked bandages as I wandered aimlessly through life. Attractive, yes?
I was looking through some old posts today and this one caught my attention. I wrote it on December 18, 2008. One year after Jim died.
I wrote about that year, and how far I/we came in those 365 days.
I thought I had come a long way.
I had no clue.
I still had so much further to go.
But still .... after reading it today .... that's what I thought: But still ....
It was .... a year.
It was a lifetime .... in 12 months.