I'm in a state of panic. This happens now and again - one of the frightening realities of sudden and shocking death. Sometimes a few weeks or months will go by with me able to escape the panic and anxiety. Then, just like that, something happens - or doesn't - and I am shaking back and forth and my skin is on fire and I'm pacing the floors of my apartment and unable to breathe correctly or get a thought out.
I forgot the song. That's what caused the panic this time. I was in bed last night with our two kitties Sammy and Autumn, that we adopted together years ago, and I was doing my normal (or abnormal, depending on how you see things) routine of singing to them all the songs that my husband Don and I used to sing to them together. The songs that we made up ourselves, and that we would sing to them as part of our nightly routine before going to sleep. As crazy as it might sound, I have continued to sing these silly songs to my kitties, just about every night, as they lie there in my bed with me, all cuddled up and ready to sleep. I want them to still feel like he is here in some way, like he is still and always a part of things, and for them to hear my voice singing to them those same notes and words that I would always be singing with him. It's comforting. It's ceremonial. It keeps him alive in some way.
Except I forgot. I forgot the words. I forgot the words to our song.Read more
Today is one of those days that I have no idea what to write about. Not because I have nothing left to say about my husband or us or my grief. That isn't ever the reason. No. It's because sometimes, there are literally no words that exist , to properly explain the depths to which I miss him. Sometimes, I just get tired of saying "I miss him." It doesn't feel like enough, and I hate the repetitiveness of it. It is soooo much more than just missing him. But there are days, like now, where Im just too tired to go into all of that. So, I miss him. Yes. Always. And I will never be able to find words that are big enough to express what this type of loss does to a person. How it immensely changes every single cell inside a person. It is impossible to explain this to anyone, yet it is always there, like oxygen.Read more
The face of grief is always changing. Grief never ends - it just shifts and changes, over and over and over again. The past few months, my grief tsunami has turned into something very different than ever before. I almost want to call it "profound", but that sounds too pompous. I do feel as if this past year or so, I have been able to dig deeper into the abyss than ever before. I have reached inside, pulled out pain, and then started to make some sense of it, like solving a puzzle. Piece by piece, the joy inside the life that I have now, today, is starting to emerge.
It is my belief that in order to get here, I had to feel and analyze and break down and sit with every single fragment of my grief. It was probably the hardest thing I ever did. I am not finished. I might not ever be. There is no finish line - only sharp turns of major growth and awakening. But every single day, I wake up in a new way, all over again. I wake up with the knowledge that I am still and always learning.Read more
After a long day at work yesterday, teaching Theatre and Comedy courses at the University I work at and have worked at for 15 years, I came home to find out about the awful, horrific shooting at Oregon's Umpqua College. I had sat down and put my TV on in order to feel relaxed after a tiring day, and instead, I found myself feeling once again exhausted, anxiety-ridden, and filled with fear. These shootings are becoming commonplace in this country, and it's pretty much the saddest thing in the world to me. And please, I am BEGGING you, the person who is reading this - I do not want to use this blog piece to get into a huge and pointless debate about gun laws or politics or anything else that will only stress me out even further - I just need to use this space today to express my frustrations with the repetitiveness of what is happening in our world, and how MY world is so much more frightening without my husband in it to make me feel safe.Read more
Something I say to my grief-therapist often lately, is that I feel like I'm generally doing "okay", as long as I don't think about the future, or let my mind wander there. I feel okay or sometimes even good, as long as I can stay in the present. Do you know what she said back to me? She said: "So stay in the present." Oh, okay then. Guess I'm done with therapy now. ALL BETTER! ALL FIXED! Thank you for that brilliant advice! You mean I just need to stay in the present and everything will be fine forever? Cool! Awesome! Sometimes my grief-therapist has a hilarious sense of humor. I think me laughing in her face when she said "stay in the present" maybe surprised her a little bit, but its just not that simple. If only my brain didn't find itself in situations that catapult me directly into "the future that never was." It happens all the time, and I don't feel as if I can control my reaction to it. My reaction is extremely emotional, for example, whenever I see elderly couples together, living their ordinary days together that I will never have, as happened yesterday.Read more
I am a strong and fiercely independent woman. I always have been. When I was 18 years old, in 1990, I left my comfy small town of Groton, Massachusetts, to attend college and live in NYC. I wanted to be a performer, actor, comedian, writer, or anything that got me out of that boring and predictable suburban life. I wanted more. So I went out on my own, leaving behind my wonderful family and all my relatives and friends, hoping to make new friends and a life for myself. And I did. I lived in and around the city for years. First, at college. Then, getting apartments with friends in Brooklyn, Queens, and ultimately, New Jersey, just 10 minutes outside NYC. I was 5 hours away from family, and often lonely and scared.
But I never had a problem doing things for myself and by myself, or not being in relationships for years at a time. I was never one of those girls you see who always has a boyfriend or has to be with someone. Nope. In fact, I was usually not with someone at all. I carried my own groceries up the stairs or across multiple streets, lugged my own heavy suitcases, figured out ways to try and keep myself feeling safe on those days I had to come home late at night on the subway by myself. I did all of that for years. Alone. By the time I met Don, and by the time he finally moved in with me so we could start our life together in 2005, I was exhausted. I was so beyond ready to have a man in the house, or, apartment. I am an independent woman, but there is something to be said for what a man brings, what a man gives, and what a man is - in a relationship. It's now been 4 years since my dear husband died his sudden death, and once again, I am exhausted. I'm exhausted from being a woman, who no longer has a man. And at the end of the day, there is something to be said about that.Read more
If I'm being 100% honest, which I always am in my writing about loss, there are actually two of me. Version One of me was born on September 26, 1971, and she died on July 13, 2011. Version Two of me was born on the same day, within seconds even, of version one's tragic death. Version One never saw it coming. A massive heart-attack took her husband away forever, and in that same instant, Version One of me ceased to exist. A new me was born, and, like an infant, I had to start life all over again.
Everything was different. Every. single. thing. The world smelled and looked and felt different. Inhaling and exhaling had an unfamiliar, labored feeling to it. Speaking a sentence felt like a chore, and I wasn't sure what words to use or where they were coming from. When my husband's heart stopped beating, my new one started it's frightening and insecure rhythm. From that day forward, it would be up to me to figure out this new life without Don, and this new version of myself. Yes, there are still pieces of the old me that remain inside the new me - things that are part of the core of who I am. But even those pieces of me changed - some drastically, and some slightly. But they changed. They had to.
Now, just one week away from being 4 years into this new life, I am still taking baby steps everyday, still navigating the terrain to find my way through the thick and humid mud. I'm getting there, but I probably won't ever really arrive. The death of a spouse or partner literally affects every single part of your life. It does. There is no part of your life that this loss does not touch, from finances to jobs to friendships to living situations to parenting (if you have kids) to dreams of parenting (if you didnt get to have kids) to what you eat to how you shop to what kind of health insurance you have (or the fact that you lose it because you were on your husband's plan and now he's dead) to where you go on a typical Friday night - on and on and on. In this way, the death of a spouse is very different than other kinds of death. It leaves no stone un-turned. Every part of your life is now changed, and you are left starting over, alone, in the middle of a field, standing on a landmine, with nothing but endless terror and a blank canvas. And you don't even know how to paint.Read more
I went to the doctor today. I know. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but believe me, in my world, it is. When my husband died suddenly just under 4 years ago, we were living paycheck to paycheck. We shared his beat up old car to get to our jobs, and we had nothing in savings. We lived in a crappy and small apartment in New Jersey, and we were both stressed out and overworked. He was working two jobs to try and get us out of that "struggling" lifestyle, and start bringing us on a road to a better life together. We were working toward something. And then he dropped dead.Read more
There was a time, early on in my loss, where I felt like I was constantly on the search for my husband. Every second of every day was spent , in my mind and heart, trying to locate him somehow. People kept telling me over and over and over that he is always with me, that he is in my heart, and all those other cliche', blah-blah-blah things that people say that make you want to punch them. It meant nothing to me. It meant nothing to me because I couldn't feel any of that. I was not feeling him near me. I was not having dreams of him. I felt like he was here one second with me, and then just gone forever. Sudden, unexpected, shocking death will do that - it will make you feel as if you are going insane every hour of every day. How the hell can someone be here one second, and then just be gone? How can you have gone to bed together the night before, and then wake up to a ringing phone telling you that your life is no longer your life? How can a perfectly healthy 46 year old man just collapse and die? These questions played inside me daily, hourly, for over 2 years. Until one day, they stopped playing.Read more
On July 12th, 2011, during another ordinary day in my previous life, I could have never in a zillion years predicted or seen coming that only hours later, my husband would leave for work and never return again. I could NOT have foreseen that he would be sitting at the computer desk in our bedroom one minute, and the next morning,I would be jarred awake by a ringing phone, and then rushing in a cab to the E.R. to find out that he was dead.
And for those first few months and even year or two after that horrific day, I could not have predicted that I would be able to take my intense and excruciating pain, and create from it a play, a stand-up comedy act presented to other widowed people, a blog, and now a book. I would have never ever known , had you asked me just 8 months ago even, that I would be using this pain and grief to become a grief coach and walk others through their hurt - staying beside them and crawling them through the processing of deep emotions and eventual healing. Had you asked me back then, I would have told you that I would feel this horrific and dark pain forever until the end of time, and that there would never ever be a day where I could see or feel or experience joy again. I truly believed that my life was over. I truly felt that the pain of losing Don and our life and everything inside it - would kill me. I thought that I would surely die from the pain, because how can anyone live in that kind of pain forever?Read more