Sometimes I wonder, is life harder because I have been widowed or would have been just as hard in different ways if I had never been widowed? It’s a question I think on when I have long talks with friends who aren’t widowed, who are going through their own complex lives… complete with blended, divorced families and step kids or uncertainty in their current relationship, or loneliness and feeling unsure about their career or life purpose.
Our thirties and forties have taken us places I think none of us imagined. We used to all live across town from one another, and the most complicated stuff we really dealt with was the dating scene and fighting traffic across town to meet up together at our favorite bar every Tuesday night. We still look back at those days now with such nostalgia… it was a few good years where things were easy, good friends were plentiful, and there were no major catastrophes. For a short time we all were able to relax into the present moment of our lives.
Drew’s death changed everything. It was the beginning of life becoming far more complex… and it happened to occur when I was turning 30. I feel like it’s so easy sometimes to blame the grief. To feel like all the complexity and extra difficulty and all the changes that have been hard are the fault of grief and being widowed. But I don’t really think that’s true at all.
Had Drew not died, I would have been married within a year likely… and moved out of Dallas anyway - as was our plan. I would have then followed his career as a pilot wherever it took us around the country… likely living somewhere new every few years or so. Had we adopted a child by now, which was our eventual plan, I would be going through the same fears and doubts and struggles with learning how to be a mother as I am with my new partner Mike’s child now. And I would have been doing it a bit more alone, while Drew was likely gone a lot for flying gigs that would have him on contracts for weeks or months.
Death or not, my life was going to change drastically. And many of the complex things that happened in my friends’ lives were not because of grief either. The complicated stuff they now deal with in their lives is just a part of growing up into our thirties and forties and beginning new phases of their lives. Phases none of us were especially prepared for, it seems...Read more
Today, Tuesday, is an anniversary of sorts for me.
It isn’t an anniversary connected to Chuck, since it happened after he died.
And yet, it is entirely connected to him.
Because today is the day, 5 years ago, that I picked up my new Ford Escape from the garage, and the man, I’d taken it to after buying it from the dealer.
I took it directly from the dealer to a man named Anthony, who had his own garage.
He and I had spoken a week or so earlier, when I’d called him and told him that I was looking for someone to create a shade of pink for me and paint my car in the created color.
I shared with him the Love story that Chuck and I had for 24 years. I told him what Chuck said about me wearing pink after his death. He knew I’d need color around me. I told him about our Happily Homeless travels for our last 4 years together. I told him that I was staying on the road, alone, and I was terrified and devasted and didn’t know how to do it, but I was doing it.
The price he gave me was just too high for me, but I told him how very much I appreciated that he listened to me and we hung up.
Not half an hour later, Anthony called me up again and quoted me a lower price. He really wanted to create a color for me and paint my silver car.
The first shade of pink that he did was too dark, and I told him to lift the brown out, and add a creamy white, but that I didn’t need to see the second shade. Paint my car in the color you get and it will be the exact right shade.
A couple weeks later I went with my daughter to pick up my car. She cried and I cried when I saw it, and we cried more when Anthony handed the can to me, with the formula for the paint on it…and the name he’d named it.Read more
I think one of the hardest things about losing people we love, is that in a way, we lose a part of our own history when they die. Or at least, we lose one of our living, breathing connections to that history. Without those connections to the history of ourselves, I’m learning it can be easy to get lost. I think this has been especially hard because both of my parents are gone along with Drew. I simply do not have a wealth of people in my life that I'm in touch with often who remember all the many moments of my history with me.
There are pieces of me that I wish so badly to reconnect to - parts of myself I’ve struggled to nurture in this new environment because of stress, busyness, my own self-critical nature… who knows what exactly. Parts of me that I think I was beginning to finally nurture a few years ago, but the upheaval of moving I guess interrupted that more than I could have known it would.
They are pieces of me I wish for Mike to know also. Sometimes it feels like all he has known is this person who is constantly battling overwhelm, feeling homesick, trying to make order out of everything, while periodically having complete meltdowns about her inability to cope pretty much all adulting. I’m certain he would disagree of course, but quite honestly I don’t always feel like he is getting to have the best version of me, at least not right now. I know there is so much more in there. I know because I remember her.
For a while now, I think I’ve believed that losing my parents, my fiance, and proximity to my friends and family and the culture of my state back home meant I lost me too. No doubt, it's left me questioning... without any of that around me to help define me anymore… who am I supposed to be now?Read more
This past week, in between various errands and chores and work tasks, I took an hour or so to go for a walk at one of my favorite hiking trails nearby. It’s been on my mind ever since, for a few reasons. I don’t really take time to myself out in nature anymore like I used to. Life is so much busier now and there just never seems to be time. More like I always seem to find 50 other things I “should” be doing. So it was a real treat to spend a few hours just going for a walk.
I walked a short way down the trail before returning to my car, which happened to be parked at a little pullover on the side of the road, just in front of a creek. There’s a bench I know of, just past my car, that sits overlooking the creek. I went to sit for a while, and discovered a little painted stone someone had left on the bench. It was gold, with a smiley face painted on it, and the word “Happy” written clearly by a child. It brightened me even further, feeling like a sign or confirmation that I need to do this more for myself… get out in nature on my own so that I can truly connect with it. Little did I know there was an even bigger sign in front of me, with a beautiful lesson...
I had some bad news this past week that has really been on my mind and in my heart for days now. Something that brought back a lot of memories, and a lot of important lessons, for me.
It may be an odd thing to say, but at times there are things that I actually miss about those first few years after Drew’s death. As painful and horrible as that time was, I can’t deny that there were certain gifts that I suppose I always knew would be short-lived. The main one being a perspective shift.
I remember living so vividly those first few years. I remember being so without fear, and so without concern for all the mundane things in life. I was so raw, and essentially giving a big “fuck you” to life by decreeing to live more fully. So it was an odd time - a time of terrible gifts. A time of painful joys.
For someone who has spent a lifetime walling off from people and bogged down by the smallest fears and the biggest self doubts, it felt like a miracle to be leaping over those walls and reaching out to connect with other hearts going through what I was going through. Breaking is breaking open, as they say, and that was certainly true for me.
As I “re-enter” a more normal day to day life now, I can see my perspectives sliding back. I can see myself worrying once more about the small stuff. I can see my self doubt closing in around me more than before. But that perspective his death gave me hasn’t left entirely. It still resides in my heart. Even if often times being back in the day-to-day takes up more of me mind, I can still hear those lessons I learned about having no control, about letting go of fear and worry, about opening my heart more fully to the world.
This week gave me a swift kick into remembering all of those lessons when I got a text from an old friend back in Texas. She said that one of our other friends had died, the day before. While I don’t know for certain the details, it sounds as though he may have taken his own life. And just like that, with a simple text, everything felt different.Read more
Being that both Mike and I are both writers here, we do try to talk about our relationship as two widowed people, to share how this whole “chapter 2” thing can work. There are plenty of times this is awesome to write about - when we have things to share that show you how beautiful loving again can be. How beautiful it can be when two people honor their dead loved ones, welcoming them with open arms into this new, loving space. Times when we can share how incredible it is to be on a new journey of love, and feeling like your other person is getting to come along with you for the ride. So many times I have truly felt Drew’s joy in my own heart during moments with Mike. So many times have I felt like when I am laughing, Drew is too. They’re a part of it all. And we should never expect any less of our new person than to want them to be a part of it all. Mike even wears some of Drew’s old dress shirts now. And I use Megan’s old backpacking gear when we go out for trips. They’re always with us.
But there’s another side to that too. What if things weren’t all roses and rainbows when your person died? What if your last words were words of anger? What if there was a lot of unresolved stuff going on that you never got to address? What if, like Mike and Megan’s story, you were only just beginning to resolve things? What if your widowed story, or even your story outside of being widowed, comes with some muck?
Ever since that horrible day 4 years ago, I have been shoved into every imaginable situation of discomfort. Just like all of you. I’ve been thrust into an oblivion… a war zone of emotions… trying to fight my way through without even knowing which direction I am fighting towards. Fighting in the dark. Wandering. Scared. Trying to survive. Trying to figure out just what it is that I am actually fighting for. Trying to understand what is even worth it in this life, so that I can want to still be here.
The thing about all this, is that it changed me. All this struggle, all this fight to find reasons to be here, to still find the beauty in life, has changed me.
I’ve said it before, but his death taught me that fear is not a good enough reason anymore. He died in order to live his dreams as a helicopter pilot. He knew the risks, we both did… and he chose it anyway. You would think I would be mad about that (and I certainly went through a period of being really pissed that he didn’t have a more boring “safe” job). Instead, it is like his forever reminder to me to not let my fear get in the way.
If he could be willing to risk his life for what he loved doing, than I choose to honor him by trying to always do the same. So while my fears may still be there, I keep choosing to step outside my comfort zones and walk through the uncomfortable spaces. I’ve started to see that beauty and wonder are always just on the other side of fear. A recent experience has reminded me of that...