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
Some days, it catches you breathless.
The longing to know them now.
The desire to share your life today with them.
The wish to be able to just sit down at the coffee shop together and chat...
Mindfulness has always been something important to me, in one way or another. Usually, art and creativity have been my way of being mindful - my form of meditation. In the first few years after Drew’s death, I created deeply mindful photographs which helped me reach that meditative space. I don’t think I knew it at the time, but they created a spiritual connection for me. A deeply focused time of flow where nothing else but the present moment existed. In fact, the first few years after his death were some of the most deeply spiritual years in my life.
I think I lost that when I moved to Ohio, without really realizing it, and I’ve been trying to re-establish it ever since. I was so busy just trying to figure out this new life in a new place, that I got completely derailed from any deeper internal/spiritual connection. Photography was no longer working the same way for me. Being in a new and unfamiliar place made it too hard to connect into that flow with my camera. I've had trouble finding using any other creative stuff to get that connection for long either. So, I’ve felt lost and not even sure exactly why until recently. Not knowing what wasn’t working. Not knowing what was missing. But knowing something was indeed missing...Read more
For whatever reason, today, I have this fear that something horrible is going to happen, or that something horrible IS happening that I don’t know about. It may be all the horrible stuff going on with hurricanes and now earthquakes… the edginess that all of that upheaval in so many people’s lives. The anxiety that I had just a few weeks ago when a friend of mine was caught in the midst of hurricane Harvey. It’s all reminding me how fragile everything is… of how stability and security are really just illusions of safety.
I went over to a nearby coffee shop to sit down and to some computer work this morning, when the feeling hit. This hasn’t happened to me many times really, not in this way, but when it does, I can’t help but want to panic. Because it almost feels like a knowing. Like you know how in Star Wars, Yoda just knows when there is a disturbance in the Force? How he feels when someone dies even though he wasn’t even there to see it? Yeah, it’s the Force feeling.
It feels like an instant fear that somehow this ordinary day is not in fact so ordinary. That something just shifted and I don’t know what. I’ve yet to have this feeling actually connect to something… so I guess I kind of think of it now like my brain short circuits or has some kind of spasm where there is this one little misfiring neuron that thinks today is disaster day. Like that synapse in my brain that was triggered in the moment I got the phone call that Drew was in an accident and already dead, sometimes has some sort of tremor of aftershock. And then, out of nowhere, I feel like today, right at this moment, something bad is happening to Mike, and I don’t know it yet.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
The past few days have been exhausting. As hurricane Harvey slammed into my hometown area - a whole flood of emotions has rained down on me. Mike and I have been glued to the news nonstop. Houston is now getting catastrophic flooding. Many, many people are still missing and unaccounted for in the worst areas. It is torture to watch it all from so far away.
We were up more than half the night when it hit, sending text updates to my friends who stayed in Corpus, because they had no power or internet and were sitting scared in their homes with no way to know what was going on all around them.
One of my best and oldest friends went dark on us around 2am, and we didn’t hear from her again until after 3pm the next day. Even though she was in Corpus and didn’t get the worst of it, I can tell you… it was one of the longest waits ever for me.Read more
I feel tired lately. In a subtle, general sort of way. I feel worn out by life. Something in a book I was reading this morning made me remember a person I used to be. The man described his wife as this energetic, vibrant, confident woman. And I wondered suddenly, where has that woman in me gone to? The one who was excited about life. Excited about new adventures and exploring and learning and growing. The one who always felt hopeful and - even in the midst of fresh widowhood - fucking determined to make a good life for herself still.
After five years of trying to figure out how to build a business with my art, and five years of crawling and fighting for this new life without Drew, I feel lately like the only place I have gotten after all of this effort is just more tired. And that’s where that woman has gone to… the one that used to be vibrant and energetic and hopeful. She has given every ounce of herself to trying to figure out this new life.
Endless amount of energy are spent daily trying to fulfill everyone's expectations of this new chapter of my life... expectations that my life is so happy and full and beautiful just because I have a new partner. Expectations that my business is flourishing and thriving and even some expectations that my artwork to be "happier" now because I am apparently happier (um, what!)
Then there is the enormous and completely new expectation of being a mother figure... and constantly trying to be "enough" in that role to make certain that everyone in Mike and his late wife's family are pleased with me being here. To make certain that no one ever doubts me being in this role in his daughter's life. There is even the expectation of being a good enough partner to Mike, and a good enough friends to all of my friends now that we live so far away from each other. With the exception of a few people's dumb comments, all of these are in my own head. But it's enough to leave me totally depleted after 2 years into this new life.
Somehow with all of that, I actually feel like I shouldn’t be this tired. I feel like I should have all of it more together. That things should all be running more smoothly than they are. That I should be more financially successful with my art business. And that I should have energy and be vibrant and alive like I used to be. But when I type that out… I realize how completely insane that expectation sounds.Read more
I won't lie, I've cried quite a lot the past few days. It may just be that time of the month making me extra emotional… but it’s also a lot more. It will be my anniversary in a few days… eight years ago next week is when I went on my first date with Drew. The following week, just seven days later, will be the 5th anniversary of his death.
It’s hard to imagine he has been gone 5 years, but surprisingly, this fact isn’t the one getting to me. Perhaps because I spent the first few months of this year already processing the “5 year mark” being here, I almost feel as if that has already passed. The one that is getting me though, is the other milestone.
We would have been together for 8 years now. Instead, we only got three. THREE. And I know, no time is ever enough. Not three, or ten, or fifty. But I do feel like there is a specific kind of heartbreak for young couples that had so very much unfinished life to live. We hadn’t even moved in together yet, much less gotten married or started a family. And so much of that was slated to unfold in that very year when he died. So much was already in the plans to be happening. It will haunt me forever, the unfinished stuff, I know that. And I know it’s normal for it to be worse as I get closer to this day. It just sucks I guess, there’s not much else to say there.Read more
I think grief is an even trickier thing as time goes on. It becomes more infused with your new life and sometimes it’s hard to even know when struggles are related to your grief or to other things. I’ll be honest, I think I’m still holding on to some resentment that this other life I wanted to have will never happen. Even if 99% of me wants everything I have in this new life. Even if I had to choose between these two lives, I truly could not, there will always be that part of me that just wants to know how the other story was going to play out.
I know Mike has this feeling too. We both wish that we could see how those stories would have played out with our first person. Lately, I’ve started to wonder if maybe I’m feeling more resentment over that unfinished story than I knew.
I think it’s part of the root of my struggle to adjust since moving to Ohio. I will never get to know what my wedding with Drew would have been like. Or if we would have had children. Or where we would have moved to for his flying jobs. I think moving and beginning a life somewhere so new and different with Mike has unknowingly made me even resent that I never got to move with Drew and do all of this.Read more
Hi readers! Mike had some things come up and wasn't able to post today, so I'm dropping in to take his place! He will be back with a new post next Tuesday!
It isn’t so often that I meet people who have been through as much darkness as I have. Although I know there are plenty of people who have, it’s not exactly like there are clubs for us. So yesterday was a bit of a beautiful reprieve, when I spent the afternoon with a new friend here in Ohio.
On our first time meeting each other for coffee last year, we spouted off one thing after another that we had in common. Like me, she is an artist. She also happens to be a transplant from Texas, like me. We have both lost our parents at young ages. We both lost someone else significant in a traumatic way… for me, it was Drew. For her, it was her brother. We both came from families of dysfunction and substance abuse. It was unreal… and I can still remember our eyes widening in surprise as we looked at each other feeling like twins. As we shared our horrible facts nonchalantly, knowing we didn’t have to worry about what the other person thought. It was the biggest “me too” I think I’ve ever had with another person.
Sadly, it’s probably been a year now since that initial coffee date, and we have failed to hang out all that time. Because for people like us - it’s easy to isolate from the world. When you have already had so much loss and trauma, it becomes easier to just not get attached to very many people. You become extra guarded. You have such an acute awareness of people’s mortality and you know, that they are all going to leave you. It makes you a lot choosier about who you let in… sometimes, that’s a good thing. But sometimes it prevents you from letting in the right people too. I have fought with this my whole life. It seems, my friend has too.Read more