So, for the 457,000th time in my life, I have recently added exercise to my "trying to get healthier " life routine. i joined the YMCA, and I have been taking classes, mostly in the pool. Water Zumba, water aerobics, water weights, things like this. It is actually a pretty damn good workout, and at the end of the hour-long class, I am totally wiped out. As an overweight person who originally gained a lot of weight as the result of coping/not coping with trauma, I have been up and down this "getting healthy" routine several times. Normally, I have some level of success, and then ultimately, I don't stick with it, and it all falls apart. At some point, I end up falling back into old habits, and making poor choices with food, and then getting lazy about exercising. When my husband died suddenly, 7 years ago now, I found myself eating sporadically, thoughtlessly, and terribly. Loads of sugar. Anything with carbs. Chocolate. Cakes and cookies. Fast-food. Just all the bad things. It helped to numb me, and it tasted amazing. I did it out of boredom, loneliness, and fear. Fear of getting back up and living a life again, instead of simply existing. If I kept eating and living in a non-healthy way, it gave me all kinds of excuses to not better myself and to not care. There were many years after Don died, that I simply didn't care.Read more
So it's been 7 years since my beautiful husband left for work one morning, and never came home. Seven years since his shocking and sudden death. Seven years of living this life in the "after" of painful and life-changing loss. It's a long time, and it isn't. It's forever, and it's also ten seconds. In all of this time living with the death of my husband, I do get asked one question quite frequently. People often ask me if I feel guilty for being happy. Do I feel guilt when I experience joy or joyful moments? Do I feel guilty for falling in love again?
The answer is no.
Guilt has certainly been a big part of my grieving and healing process. I felt guilty on my first two birthdays after Don died, because he would never get to see another year or enjoy another birthday or another year older. I felt guilty on New Year's Eve for years, and I refused to do the countdown to midnight, because it felt like a countdown to more time without him on earth, and another year that he won't ever get to be part of. I felt guilty for being asleep in our bed, while my husband was collapsing on a hard floor in a Petsmart, and going into cardiac arrest. These are the types of things I felt guilt about, and the types of things I worked on for years with my grief counselor, and came to better terms with.
I have never felt guilty for feeling joy. I have never felt guilty for falling in love again. I have never felt guilty for laughing so hard my sides hurt, or for feeling euphoric about something incredibly awesome or awe-inspiring. Maybe it's because I know for a fact that the most important thing to my husband, was my joy and happiness, so I know that me being happy would give him incredible peace. Maybe it's because I so fiercely want to LIVE, because my husband does not have that choice, so I look for and cling to moments of euphoria wherever I can find them. Maybe it's because it took me FIVE years and a hell of a lot of processing and therapy, to get to a place where I was even able to find love again, so why spend one second feeling guilty about it? I don't know what the reason is, but I have never felt guilt for feelings of joy or love.
What I HAVE felt is this:Read more
Sometimes, I long for a normal day.
I no longer have normal days.
I no longer have what most people would consider to be a normal day.
Today, I woke up, and went to my 2x per week physical therapy appointment for my arthritis and bone spurs in my neck, resulting from hours and weeks and months and years of sitting and typing furiously, this book that I just published about my dead husband.
Then I had a meeting with the Marketing person (and an old friend from childhood) at Groton Wellness Center, to finalize details for my very first Book-Signing Event, taking place at their venue, in my small hometown of Groton Mass, next Thursday. We discussed making snack platters in rainbow shapes to go along with the book's title, and whether or not I should read a "sad" passage from the book, or a "darkly humorous" one.
Now, I'm back home, writing my blog post in the widow blog, and then I will be writing up emails and proposals for possible speaking engagements and more book-signings, where I will go and talk to people about death, love, grief, and loss. As these events are happening, I will feel good and purposeful and even hopeful and filled with joy. After they are over and I am back home , alone in my room at night, the deep sadness will come and the trauma will return and the panic and anxiety that sudden death and traumatic events bring will emerge - and I will isolate and maybe overeat and under-sleep and exist with a constant migraine that will travel down to my toes and up to my earlobes. And I will miss my husband deeply, even though I know he is no longer my husband and even though I now have a loving and wonderfully caring boyfriend in my life and even though I am madly in love with this boyfriend, and even though, even though, even though ......Read more
I just returned from my 500 billionth Camp Widow.
Okay, I'm exagerating, but not by much. Besides, I lost count long ago on how many times I have been honored to be a presenter at this amazing healing place called Camp Widow.
July 13th was the 7-year mark of Don's death. Camp Widow began on July 13th. Friday the 13th. Nothing incredibly weird happened on Friday the 13th at camp, other than the fact that my entire life is incredibly weird all the time.
This time, at camp, I was going there as both a presenter and also a new author, my book being out on Amazon for over a month now, and on sale at the Camp Widow bookstore. The entire weekend people came up to me and asked for their book to be signed. It was my honor. My favorite part of that was sitting there and penning the name "Kelley Lynn Shepherd" over and over, knowing that I did not take my husband's name when we married, but that I would now take it on the pages of this book. Writing that name again and again made me feel so emotional. So filled with pride that I was well-loved by this incredible man. So happy to share with the world, pieces of our story.
At camp, I met new friends and saw old ones. I attended some workshops that helped me to heal just a little bit more. I had lots of drinks, hugs, and support down by the pool. I dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean - on two different days. I sat in my widow friend's bed and ate chocolate chips with her while laughing at our strange lives. I waded in the pool, floating from end to end without a care in the world. I went on a sunset cruise to celebrate Soaring Spirits 10-year anniversary in existence. I ate lunch at the famous Hotel Del Coronado, with two widow friends. I stood on a balcony from my hotel room, admiring the gorgeous view of San Diego, and appreciating all of the beauty in nature. I enjoyed an unexpected upgrade into a suite, where I spent the morning of July 13th reflecting quietly, and alone, and with my dead husband. I gave my presentation to the largest crowd I've ever had at Camp Widow to date. I danced to Prince out on the dance floor, and held out my arms and empathy when a fellow widowed brother had an outburst of tears overflowing.Read more
So last month, June 14th, was my one-year anniversary with Nick, my new love. My new beginning. My "next great love story." I never know how to refer to us, but thats another post for another time. I dont like the term "chapter two", because he deserves way more than a chapter, as did my dead husband Don. But back to the point .......
I just returned from a mini-road trip (2 overnights in the Berkshires and then Sturbridge Mass), which was Nick's anniversary gift to me, taking us on this getaway which kicked off with seeing James Taylor in concert at Tanglewood, on the evening of July 4th. We had lawn seats, which was so much fun and such a cool vibe, walking through the wooded path with our cooler of picnic food, blanket, lawn chairs, and excitement; as we found and chose our place on the lawn near the stage. James Taylor has a voice that brings me back to nostalgia - back to childhood days and innocent times and being back in high school with old friends. I expected his music to be a bit emotional maybe for me. I did not expect the grief tsunami of triggers that happened toward the end of the concert. I did not expect the intensity and severity of these emotions to come on so quickly and suddenly. I did not expect that, even after almost 7 years into this, grief can still take the reigns and take full control and attack you full-force without your consent.
It was toward the end of the concert, about 4 or 5 songs from what would be the last one. We were sitting in our lawn chairs, in the dark humid night, with thousands of others, loving and basking in the music of this talented man. It happened during the song "Fire and Rain", a classic for any Taylor fan. The song is about his childhood friend, Suzanne, who died by suicide, and Taylor's reaction to it. It is also about his own struggles in life with addiction. As he sang this song, I noticed HE was getting emotional, and his voice cracked slightly when he sang the line: "I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend - but I always thought that I'd see you again." Suddenly, the tsunami hit. My heart started burning with intense sadness, and a furiously fast flash of music-related memories of me and Don started blinking through my mind, all at once, one following the next and the next. Don strumming his guitar in our apartment. Seeing Paul McCartney together in concert, twice. Seeing Fleetwood Mac together. Being in our friends recording studio doing a recording of me singing and Don playing lead guitar on "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith. Sitting on our living room couch and playing CD's for each other. Talking to him that first night in that music chat room.
If there’s something powerful about telling your own stories, there is something equally profound in hearing someone else tell your story to others. For centuries, we have been telling stories. Well before we could write, the most important and valuable knowledge we had as humans was passed down through stories and spoken word. And although our modern culture has become removed somewhat from traditions of telling stories in the same way, it is no surprise that spoken word seems to touch a very ancient part of our being. A part of us all that remembers our ancestral traditions. Something inside us that knows... stories spoken were stories we valued, ones we wanted our civilization to remember decades to come.
Every time I have had someone else put my story into words, it has changed me. It has changed how I view myself, for the better. It has added another layer of meaning to this horrendous journey of widowhood, too.
I’m going to say that one of the greatest occurrences of this happened just a few days ago. Many of you know our Friday writer, Kelley Lynn, and that she was selected recently to do a TEDx talk on grief and living on. I’ll spare the details, as I am certain she will be eager to tell you all about her own experience of doing this talk, but what I will share is that my story was a part of her story. She chose a few individuals to make examples of to drive her inspiring message home, and one of those examples was from my own life.
I hardly have the words for what this experience was to me. Initially, as I logged in to watch her talk stream live online, I was just excited to see my friend up there, doing her thing so well. I was excited to be a part of it with her. I was excited to think of how meaningful this moment was for her. But I wasn’t prepared for just how it would make me feel when she got to my story...Read more
So, today, December 18th, is the 10 year anniversary of my husband Don asking me to marry him, on a 23 degree windy Sunday evening, exactly one week before Christmas. Knowing my obsession with the Christmas holiday and the the entire season, he took me to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, got down on one knee in front of hundreds of total strangers and clapping tourists, and said: "Kelley, you are my best friend. Will you make me even happier and please also be my wife?" My fingers were so cold, I had to put my mittens back on right after he put the ring on my finger. Then I would take the mittens off, stare at the ring, then put them on again. We giggled and kissed and held each other, and then sat down at the nearby cafe that cornered the famous skating rink, and drank celebatory hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream. It was the kind of proposal that only happens in movies. But it happened to me.Read more
I feel like I'm falling.
It's been a weird couple of weeks.
Most of you who read this know that Im a comedian, writer, actor. I have a YouTube channel and I do lots of silly, funny, comedy videos. One of those videos that I did back in 2010 is called "Oh! I've McFallen!" and it features me trying to order the McLobster at McDonalds (something they actually had on their menu for a time being, which is what we were mocking), then upon leaving with my food order, falling down (pratfall - yes, I did it on purpose. Its comedy), and saying loudly: "Oh! I've McFallin! Im sorry. Ive McFallen!" This video was the first in a series of about 8 more that I have been featured in, with my friend Gregg Hughes, on his YouTube channel, OpieRadio. (He is "Opie" of the "Opie and Jim Norton show on XM satellite radio)
Back when we filmed this, my husband thought it was hilarious. He kept watching me fall down over and over and cracking up. He was excited that I was being featured in this video and doing it with someone I had been a fan of for a long time. (My brother and I grew up in Boston listening to "The Opie and Anthony Show" on the radio, and now I was meeting him in the city to make these videos!) Well, that would be the last comedy video that my husband Don would ever see of mine. He died a few months later, and since then, I have done several more videos with Opie, a few of them getting some nice media attention. This past week, on Don's birthday, a stranger on the site "Vine", grabbed the 6 seconds where I fall down and say "Ive mcfallen", from this video we did 5 whole years ago, and created a Vine video with it. That video, in just the past 6 or so days, has gone viral. Millions upon millions of views all over the internet. 15 million on Vine. 7 million on Facebook. A few million on Instagram. People creating a trending hashtag with the phrase #mcfallen. People doing their own versions of themselves falling down in McDonalds, and all over, and posting them online. Teenagers and kids telling their parents they want to fall own like the McFallen lady. My own friends and relatives calling me up and making me talk to their children on the phone, because their kid doesnt believe that they "know the McFallen girl." It has been absolutely crazy on a level I cant even describe, because I have never experienced anything like this before.
However, the dude who posted the Vine video did not credit myself or Opie anywhere. In the world of online social media, it is not illegal what he did, but it IS extremely classless and tacky. To pull content from someone else's video and then NOT credit them as being the originators of that video - it just isnt right. He should have put my name or my Twitter handle (@kelleyiskelley)and Opie's channel (@OpieRadio) in the video caption, but he didn't. And then when people got on him about it, he blocked them and then deleted the video altogether. It didnt matter. By that point, it had already been reposted so many times in so many places, that his original posting was no longer necessary. People were watching this thing everywhere - watching me fall down over and over again. Laughing with me. Enjoying my comedy.
And that is great. Its fantastic. But heres the thing - that stunt hurt my knees for days. Its not easy falling down like that. I should be getting recognized right now - this thing should be on Ellen or Fallon or Tosh.O or something - and people are telling me EVERY MINUTE OF THE DAY: "Oh my god! Youre famous! Youre all over the internet! Youre viral! Congratulations!" Yeah. Pretty cool, right? Except my name isnt attached to it anywhere, except for me spending countless hours the past few days furiously commenting on threads and websites and everywhere I see the video posted - letting people know that this is comedian Kelley Lynn and where to find more of my stuff. Because this is it - this is my chance. Right here. This silly video. THIS is my chance to get noticed, and to get going down the road to success and fame. This is the kind of thing that catapults people's careers - struggling people, like me. People who live paycheck to paycheck. People who have no health insurance and who miss their dead husband like crazy and just want to live the dreams that we both had for me. And so even though this whole thing has been surreal in the most awesome of ways, Im feeling very desperate with it all, like here it is - and I can already feel it slipping away and disappearing, before it even began.Read more
Today, my dear and sweet husband, you are not 51.
Today is your birthday. You are not here.
You cant eat cake or blow out candles or makes jokes about getting older and how time flies.
You can't go and see the new "Peanuts" movie with me, our favorite, which comes out today, on your birthday.
We can't joke around about how you will always sit and wait in the pumpkin patch with me , forever, just like Sally did on Halloween night with Linus.
We cant share popcorn today, or share a large root beer that I would only take two sips of and you would drink all the rest.
Today is your birthday, and you are not 51.Read more