Today an exciting milestone has happened for me. One that runs deep, and is stitched with so many remnants of a past life and of every day since that I've fought for. Today I was accepted to be a contributor for a major photography agency that works in the book publishing industry. They work with publishing houses all over the world to help them find the perfect photograph or artwork for a particular book cover. I am now one of the photographers that helps to provide those perfect photographs to their clients. In the near future, I may just be able to visit the nearest Barnes and Noble and find my photographs on the cover of beautiful books.
This milestone means so many things to me. I’ve wandered around trying to find a sense of direction ever since Drew died. I’ve tried countless directions with my art… and each one has had a feeling like it just didn’t quite “fit” for me. As I’ve learned, there are about as many different ways to be an artist as their are types of people. But this one - which marries my love of photography and storytelling - feels like a perfect match.
I can’t help but think back… I’ve been picking up a camera and capturing the world as I see it for almost ten years now. The first of those years, was the year Drew and I began dating. It was the year that he bought me my first DSLR camera, excited to see what I would create. In the three short years we had together, he continued to support and foster this direction in my life… buying me nearly all of the lenses and gear that I still use today. He was my photo assistant when I needed a helping hand or some strong arms for carrying ladders and lighting. And sometimes he was just there to observe. I still recall mornings at sunrise on the beach in my hometown when he would just sit back and watch me while I got lost behind the lens, capturing the sun-kissed waves. He loved to watch me seeing the world that way… to see how it lit me up inside.Read more
There I was, at a coffee shop downtown last Wednesday afternoon. I was sitting beside a large window enjoying the rain tapping against the glass as I did some work on my computer, when suddenly my awareness was completely shifted. In that instant, I felt a deep, emptiness that was both piercing and aching at the same time. A screaming hollowness inside me.
What had happened? I overheard a word from one of the two women who sat behind me enjoying lunch together. And that word, was “Mom”.
As I continued to listen in on their conversation, the hole in my heart grew bigger and bigger. The daughter looked to be my age, and here they were, just having an ordinary lunch together. Like this is a thing they do every week. She must have fired off the word “mom” twenty more times as I listened. There was such an ease in their voices. Such a comfortable knowingness of each other. Something I have never experienced as an adult. I teared up, and actually stopped working to grab my journal and write my emotions out….
“I feel it so acutely right now. This hole in me. This lack of security. I wonder if I should go back to counseling. I wonder if I will always have trouble with avoiding things. I wonder if I will always get in my own way, and if somehow all of it is because of this hole. Because of this lack of security deep down in me. I just miss my mom.”Read more
A few weeks ago, a milestone came that I have dreaded for a very long time. It’s odd to say that, considering it was my anniversary with someone I love very much. But it wasn’t just any anniversary. It was the third year since the day Mike and I met. The third anniversary was also the last I got to have with Drew… he died six days later, suddenly. This is almost unbelievable to me.. As my 3 years with Mike have felt like a whirlwind, and the same amount of time with Drew felt somehow like a decade.
It’s no surprise that I’ve had many mixed emotions the past few weeks. Emotions about the fact that, going forward from here, each new day with Mike is one more day than what I got to have with Drew. Emotions about Mike dying somehow suddenly a week after our third anniversary. I’ve even had some particularly difficult and confusing dreams as of late… dreams that seem like my mind trying to make sense of it all again, just like in the first year after he died.
I’ve struggled to find words about how all this feels. I haven’t really even journaled about it, which is my usual go-to. So I’m trying here to confront those feelings. I don’t want to. I don’t like these feelings. Because they are so complex. Because I don’t even fully understand them. Because they make me feel guilty for not being 100% joyful when milestones hit. Quite bluntly, I feel resentment. And It feels awful. And Ugly. And not at all like a feeling I want to have.Read more
While we were down in my hometown last week for a wedding, we managed to get out for a few hours one morning to make the drive out to Rockport. If you’ll recall, this little coastal town got the brunt of hurricane Harvey last year. I will never forget sitting in bed at 2am, watching the TV in horror from 1400 miles away as one of my favorite little beach towns was swallowed alive. And all the pictures and videos that came in the days following as they began to assess the damage of a place I hold so dear.
I both wanted and didn’t want to visit Rockport… but I knew I needed to. As we drove the long, straight stretch of single highway out there and hopped the ferry across the channel, I grew emotional at what we might see. As we started to get in to town, my stomach turned in a way I’ve rarely ever felt. Nearly every other house was missing a roof or a wall. The little ice cream shop where Drew and I stopped on our first trip to the beach together was gone. Every one of the big beach shops was empty - nothing but a skeleton of gaping broken floor-to-ceiling windows… all the merchandise and shelving now stripped clean. Boats were still lying in piles on top of one another all about, and mounds of old furniture and refrigerators and twisted up metal roofing and splintered, rotting wood lie at almost every corner.Read more
Here we are. A new year. An entire expanse of fresh time laid out before me… and a mixture of dread and excitement about what that means. As I’m reflecting and looking forward from this in-between space, I’m thinking on just how much has changed in my life in the past five years. In particular, how unreal it is that I have become so many new things since Drew died.
In the first year alone, I lost my fiance without warning, left the city we called home, quit my job and left my career as a designer behind and moved out to the country to be away from all of civilization. Effectively, I left everything that reminded me of our life together behind, except for the people we loved. Our friends and families. I guess I sort of shed all roles at that time, without realizing it. I rejected the idea of being anything really other than existing for a while. Except that I could not seem to escape the one role that now defined me… “WIDOW”...Read more
Nearing New Year’s, of course we’re all looking back. Or maybe some of us aren’t because we don’t want to - or we just can’t. I imagine a lot of us are ready to leave 2017 in the dust. I certainly am. Not perhaps in the same way I was ready to leave 2012 in the dust… that was more about running away from my reality and my pain. This is more a feeling of being ready for what’s next. A feeling of accomplishment for making it through a year filled with all kinds of new challenges I’d never faced before.
This year I also hit a major grief milestone - the 5 year mark. I remember having so much fear about one day being FIVE ENTIRE YEARS away from the last day I saw him or heard his voice. For a long time, that number scared me a lot. Then it just became hard to imagine. It’s still hard to imagine even though it’s now here. Now approaching 5 ½ years as I write this and somehow it hasn’t been so traumatic after all. There have been painful moments yes, but not as I had imagined it would be. It was a softer and more gentle pain, if that makes sense. Still there is a longing for a time that once was. For a life I loved. A person I still love. For the person I used to be that I will never be again. But it doesn’t feel like I’d thought it would.Read more
This year, Christmas has given me a lot to consider. Reminders to give myself ample time to take care of all that needs doing, so I don’t get overwhelmed. To give myself at least 30 minutes each day to myself, to do something that relaxes me, like yoga or taking a walk or drawing, in order to help me stay sane. That daily maintenance has been a Godsend. Not only has it kept me sane, it’s left space for me to actually enjoy the holidays… and maybe *gasp* be excited about the season for the first time in years.
It’s also given me more space to feel the loss. Not only of the people I love who have died, but also of the traditions I’ve lost with them. This has been one of the things my counselor and I have been talking about quite a bit lately. Loss of tradition. I honestly don’t think I’d even considered how significant that was until now. How much it has affected my Christmas experience my entire life.Read more
Five and a half years later
There are days when I just want to disappear
To run away from everything
All the materialism of Christmas especially
Because no matter how hard I try
No matter how many lights are on the house
No matter how many ornaments are on the tree
No matter how many Christmas songs are played
So much is missing too...
I’m on the other side of the three year mark at this point. I can watch a movie where an actor is hospitalized, and not have to turn it off. I can hear a song that reminds me of Megan, and get a little choked up, then laugh it off. I can even pull all of our holiday decorations out from storage, observe the ornaments with Megan and I’s names on them, or pictures, or items we purchased together, curl my lip a bit, and remember the happy times we had at Christmas.
I can remember dates. Anniversaries, birthdays, transplant dates, and so on, and know that they’re coming. I can even find a private writing of Megan’s, written long before her passing, cry my eyes out reading it, and go about my day afterwards. A persistent cough that Shelby or Sarah may be experiencing only pales in comparison to the decades of it that Megan experienced, but it still makes me remember just the same.
These are called “triggers”. I know it. We all know it. It’s the songs, sights, events, smells, sounds and memories that don’t really “haunt” us, so much as they are just part of our day to day lives. Time does not make these go away, but rather, softens their outward impact. When that godforsaken “Let Her Go” song, by Passenger, gets randomly played, it has become somewhat humorous (that particular piece of music has followed me around since the day she died), albeit still thought provoking, to say the least.
Since coming back from Camp Widow Toronto, the upcoming holiday season has been on my mind a lot. I met so many new widows in Toronto. So many who are enduring the horror of their first holiday season without their person this year. As I sat down this morning to write, I began thinking, just what could I share that might resonate with anyone out there who is about to endure the kickoff of their first holiday season widowed?
I decided to go back, to my personal blog - Our 1000 Days - where the majority of that first year was written about, before I wrote for Soaring Spirits. I went back to November 26, 2012… just 5 months after his death. It is there that I found this piece, talking about having made it through that first major holiday...
“I survived First Thanksgiving, as I’m calling it, and I learned a thing or two… I learned from writing and talking to other widows that sometimes the time leading up to the holiday is the worst. And sometimes the day of the holiday is the worst. And sometimes, as was the case for me… the actual holiday itself is kind-of not too bad. Hell there was even some really enjoyable times and I was able to share in them and feel all the love. It was easy to feel all the love, I spent the day with Drew’s family. Lots of things to do. Lots of people to be with, lots of love. Lots of joy.
This is the tricky part… this is where your mind wants to believe that maybe you’ll make it entirely through the holidays with that same “this isn’t so bad” feeling...Read more