Widowhood does not come with a map. In the beginning, there are no familiar landmarks and the curves on the road are unfamiliar. As you set out on your way, you will spend a great deal of time bumping into things as you shimmy along, and that's okay. The important thing is that you are moving and forward momentum is always a good thing. It's likely that you will not know what direction you are headed in, and that is okay too. It is time to have faith that everything will be "okay", somehow.
There have been many new beginnings born from Mike's death. I have met new people and some of these new acquaintances have become friends. And, further, some of these friends speak in Grief's mother tongue. I easily understand them because I am now fluent in grief. These new friends understand the language my heart speaks and there is great comfort in this. However, widowhood is a long journey and it demands solo traveling at times. My friends can accompany me and offer me empowering advice and encourage me with their words; but, I must recreate a life for myself. I need to navigate my way through this "mess" - no one can do this for me.
Wading through the quagmire of grief isn't easy stuff.
But, in order to re-engage in life we must sort through the broken shards of the life we imagined.
This is tedious.
This is grueling.
Simply put, it is hard work.
My fingers are bloody and raw from clawing my way back towards life.
But, bloody fingers aside, I know that the life ahead of me is worth it.
Re-entering life, without Mike, is the most difficult thing I have attempted to do in my life. There is a lot of uncertainty in my future, but more importantly, there is potential. Before me are boundless opportunities.
Once again, I find myself on a ledge. I am paused because I am scared. But, even more significant, I am excited. I am actually somewhat enthusiastic about life again. I feel it - I am standing on the edge of something big. And, in time, I am going to leap towards the new life that is waiting for me. And, I KNOW that I will land on my feet - somehow.
On May 25, 2016, he asked me to marry him.
Then, he died before our wedding day.
I have sat here re-reading those two sentences again and again and again. I just can't seem to process the words the letters are forming. My mind can not make sense of what I am reading. My heart can not accept the words on the page. I do not know if this will ever feel anything but surreal.
Never in a million years did I think this would be the story of my life. It is fair to say Mike and I were just getting to the good part in our love story. We were leading up to the chapter where we were going to live happily ever after. There was no way for us to predict that our story was going to come to a tragic end. Looking back, there wasn't any foreshadowing. Everything was coming up roses for us. Our life together was magical. And, even as I was living it, I remember stopping myself - in the middle an ordinary moment - because I could not believe how beautifully everything was falling into place. Maybe it really was too good to be true.
Life was good.
Our life together was better than anything we dreamed of.
And, that's an understatement.
Then, one night Mike went to sleep and the next morning he never woke up.
And, just like that,
Our story was over.
There were no goodbyes.
And, there will not be happily ever after for us.
At least not here...
It's been 2 years and 3 days since he proposed to me on a warm night in Mexico. I can feel everything about that moment when Mike asked me to be his wife. It feels like just last night; and, it also feels like a lifetime ago too.
A significant amount of time has passed since his proposal; and, I am still not sure what to do with all our hopes and dreams that never came to be. I struggle to live in the moment because I am continuously daydreaming about a fictional life that we never got to live. I constantly wish we were living together under one roof as husband and wife. It's fair to say that I spend a lot of time wishing for things that are no longer possible. And, all this wishful thinking detracts me from living the life before me now.
We were so excited about spending the rest of our lives together- as a family - and I still want to live this life we were planning. I know how irrational this is, and sometimes I feel like I'm crazy for still fantasizing about this pretend life. Although my mind understands that he is gone from this dimension, my heart yearns for him to come back so that we can live happily ever after like he promised me we would.
In truth, I still very much want to be his wife. And, I think a part of me always will. And, this complicates things for me because it is very difficult to fully participate in life when you want to be a dead man's wife. Because of my illogical desires I am forced to exist in limbo. I feel like I live here, and also in a parallel Universe. And, it is exhausting living like this.
The reality is, Mike did spend the rest of his life with me.
So, why isn't this enough.
Why can't I just be happy with this and be content to live a future different than the one I imagined...
After one year, six months, and six days,
Almost every thought still begins with you.
I am unable to live completely in the moment,
And, I struggle to be present,
In my mind,
I am endlessly travelling to a better place in time,
Again and again.
I return to this place,
Where you existed once upon a time.
Time. It goes on...
When his heart stopped, the hands of time were unaffected. I thought I felt time stand still when I saw his lifeless body; but, time itself callously marched on when he died. Time did not stop. Not even for a moment - in spite of my circumstance. The world just carried on without Mike. But, my world was left in ruin when the life I knew ended. However, from the wreckage, something bigger than me, dragged me out from the rubble created by my shattered Soul. I was rescued because my heart is still beating. My life didn't end when Mike's did. Life is for the living; and, now, I'm left to figure out how to do just that...
Almost immediately after his death, life demanded things of me. On a surface level, I was forced to participate in life because children need raising. Work needs to be completed. Bills need to be paid. Dishes need doing. Laundry needs folding. Lawns need mowing. Things need to be said. I need to show up. There are people to meet and obligations to attend to. Life has not stopped because Mike no longer exists here in this dimension. Time has gone on and I've carried along with it.
Life demands participation - even after your person dies. Life is unavoidable. And, in truth, this is a good thing. At this point, there is no part of me that intentionally wishes to escape living. I think this is why my heart feels so heavy. I want to breathe life in again. I absolutely want to feel alive again; but, re-entering life is much more difficult than I imagined it would be.
He loved my smile.
And, let me tell you, I smiled a lot because of him.
I loved my life - when he was in it.
I wore my smile like a permanent accessory
because my life was beautiful.
Our joy permeated the air around us.
Our laughter echoed off every one near us.
Our words to one another were always heartfelt.
We looked at each other with a love that others could feel.
Our smiles were effortless.
Life was good,
And, this is an understatement.
Life with Mike was spontaneous and full of adventure. When he was alive I couldn't wipe the smile from my face because the life we were building together was so breathtakingly beautiful. We "had the world by the ass" as he would say. Mike loved a good swear word and I know that's not everyone's cup of tea; but, we were coffee drinkers... it is what it is.
Many of our joy filled conversations came complete with a few saucy swear words - thrown in for emphasis - because that's how he rolled. He tended to speak colorfully because he literally couldn't contain his excitement. Mike was so in love with life and everything around him that he just blurted things out. The crazy things that would fly out of his mouth made my life. He taught me how to live with wild abandon. And, I'm better for it.
When he spoke, sometimes he could be a bit brash, but he got away with it because of his smooth delivery. Once in a while the refined, cautious people would look at him sideways, or glance in my direction to confirm that their ears heard what he said. I'd knowingly smile because everything he spoke was accurate, albeit somewhat uncouth. Mike could always be counted on to state the unrefined truth. He was bright. He saw the world and the people in it exactly as they were. And, Mike definitely wasn't uncomfortable calling out what he saw. He taught me to speak the truth confidently. And, again, I am better for it.
Mike was a talker and he knew how to say the most audacious things with a twinkle in his eyes. He spoke with a simple honesty that was admirable and refreshing. Essentially, he was impulsive; and, a big kid at heart. Mike was animated and he had a larger than life personality. He saw the world in a whimsical way. It was a privilege for me to see life through his eyes. With Mike, my life became bolder and more magical. And, I am a better woman for sharing part of my life with him.
It was a wild ride wandering through life with him by my side.
from the moment my eyes opened,
I had a smile smeared across my face .
Life was big and bold and fun with Mike.
we were having the time of our lives.
was as natural as breath.
I miss living like this. Our life was rich. I have never lived with such enchantment in all my life. I miss the rapture he gave me. I miss the gush of excitement he brought to the ordinary. I desperately miss how he made me laugh. The depth of my laughter was different when I was with him. I often wonder if I will ever laugh that way again. I hope I do. And, in truth, I know that I will because he won't have it any other way; and...
I still feel like Mike's girl. When he was alive, he'd tell perfectly good strangers about me. Anyone he encountered throughout his day was sure to find out about me in short order. The cashiers at the neighborhood grocery store knew of me because he proudly gushed about me while they wrapped the red roses he'd buy me every time he did his weekly shopping. Mike went from being a single guy buying obscene quantities of frozen meat pies -when they were on sale - to the man who carefully selected extra chocolate milk and certain juices because he knew my boys liked them. Mike was so happy and his love for me and my boys was revealed in everything he did. Mike showed all of us what true love looks like, and sounds like. And, for me, he showed me what true love feels like.
Looking back, our love story served as a live lecture on love. If you were a student of love you would have filled your notebook full with our 'love notes'. Together, we made love look easy. The way we spoke to each other had the rhythm of respect. Our tone was pianissimo, reflecting our gentle love. In our voices you could hear the harmony of happiness. The way we looked at one another reflected mutual admiration. We loved how love is supposed to be. The way he held me close to him; and, the way he pushed me to soar were both acts of genuine love. We unknowingly provided an education about love for anyone who stopped long enough to take notice. When we walked hand in hand I remember that strangers would look up and smile when my eye caught theirs. Our love was tangible. You could feel it in the air around us. People smiled at me because they felt the love they witnessed walking by.
Love is the little, shared nuances.
The small, familiar gestures between lovers.
The rituals that are thoughtfully developed between two Souls.
These intimate expressions are what we all desperately miss.
These are the things that keep us awake at night.
These are the intimacies we all want back.
Maybe Mike and I were so good at love because this wasn't our first attempt at it. We had practiced love before with mediocre results. And, finally, with three failed relationships behind us, we figured it out. Together, we were good at love. And, in my heart, and in my mind, I will always be Mike's "Beautiful Wife to Be". I have theRead more
Like a good vintage wine, last weeks blog, Malbec, requires a second harvest. Over the last seven days, I have changed my mind about a few things and, now, I am offering up another tasting - this tasting is paired with hindsight.
A week ago, I shared my ritual of holding out my hands, searching and reaching for him. In my own words I said, "it is awkward because I do not know where to place my fingers. I clumsily grasp at the air around me. Then, I just drop my hands to my side because there is nothing for me to hold. Where he should be, now there is nothing. So, I stand and ask myself again and again, how could someone so big and bold be gone? How can Mike be gone - into nothing? How can he no longer exist? I don't have the answers to these big questions. (But, I'm working on it...)"
When I wrote this, I had no way of knowing if I would ever know the answers to these big questions. I thought maybe it would take me a lifetime to figure out. I thought Grief would hold me captive for a long, long time before I came to any conclusions. But, by writing my questions down, I think I sub-consciously set the intention to discover the answers. At this point, I still have more questions than answers, but I did come to a pretty big realization. One thing I know is that I was wrong...
I am tired of trying to be - 'not sad'.
I am exhausted from the aching in my heart.
I am weary from recognizing Joy everywhere,
All around me,
And, still feeling hollow inside,
I am aware of all the good in my life,
My heart is grateful for what I have.
So, I ask myself again and again,
Why isn't it enough?
Why isn't my life enough - without him?
I don't have the answer to this question.
For now, all I can do is ask.
And, I will be strong on his love as I seek the answers...
Painting: Big Heart by Ivan Guaderrama
The truth is, I can write all my positive thoughts and affirmations onto this page;
But, I can not reverse all the ways that Mike's death has permanently changed me.
I'm different now.
Nothing can alter this.
I can't be who I used to be - ever again.
As I am moving forward I am not just grieving Mike,
I am grieving the person I was when he was alive.
- I miss her too -
My eyes look dull and lifeless. Sometimes...Read more
I was scrolling through my personal blog recently, because I like reading what I wrote while Ben was still alive. Re-reading my words allows me to remember certain days with clarity. For a moment I can close my eyes and feel myself back in my real life when Ben was alive. And even though those days were terrible for him (pain, chemo, radiation, more pain), the saddest day with Ben in my life was still better than any one day could ever be without him.
Towards the end of summer in 2015 I was getting desperate. I knew that it was only a matter of time before Ben died, but he made it clear that type of thinking / talking was off limits. That meant we didn't get to discuss anything about what life would look like without him. I didn't get to tell him that we would remember him, and honour him, and talk about him. I didn't get to tell him that he would always be my number 1, and that I would miss him every single second for the rest of my life. I didn't get to tell him that my heart would break and would never fully heal, that scars would remain that would remind me constantly of a life I would no longer have.
So I wrote him this love letter, in a way that we would normally banter back and forth. In a way I hoped wouldn't scare him. In a way I hoped would let him know the depth of my love and how deeply I would miss his presence when he was gone.Read more
This week my daughter and I caught the ferry over to The Sunshine Coast in southern BC and toured Gibsons and Sechelt. Gibsons was home to the filming of the television show “The Beachcombers” from 1972 to 1990. It was also the first hometown to Wendy and Ben from 1993 to 1997. It’s where we lived when we got married, it’s where we built our first home, and it’s where we had our first baby.
Raegan and I played tourist and she humoured me while I drove around and told her a hundred stories that all started with “I remember one time, right in this very spot, Dad and I (insert memory here) …” She was a good sport. We ended up on the beach in Sechelt at the exact spot where Ben proposed to me.
Ok. So. A LOT of things have happened in the past week for me. And just days ago, one of the biggest new firsts happened. One I have wondered about and feared and dreaded for two and a half years. I can't even believe I'm going to share this... like, PUBLICLY, but it's part of the journey. So here goes.