This week, I went to the art museum by myself. This was a really big deal, or at least, I am deciding it is. Since moving to Ohio, I’ve been reluctant to get out on my own. I have only a handful of places I can even drive to without having to use a map to get me there. The shopping center by the house, the post office, the fancy grocery store 10 minutes north, and the shopping center 20 minutes south where I worked for a few months. That’s really it. It’s endlessly frustrating.
Instead of being more proactive about finding my way around a new city, I’ll admit I’ve avoided it. I have felt too vulnerable adjusting to a new place and lifestyle. I have felt a need to protect myself and not venture out. And that’s natural, I suppose.
As of this past week though, I officially added several new places to that list. I’ve taken Shelby to school enough times now that I finally didn’t use my phone to get me there this week. I’ve gone up to Mike’s work to take him lunch twice now, and drove the second time home without a map. After driving to my art class on Thursday nights for 4 weeks in a row, I made it there this past week on my own. And on Thursday afternoon, I went to the art museum for the first time, and thus downtown for the first time, and I drove the way back without a map.
It seems like such a small victory… but it’s definitely not. It means I’m starting to feel confident enough again to venture out. It means I’m beginning to adjust to this new life halfway across the country from where I grew up.Read more
I’ve had a couple of really beautiful, full-circle moments recently. The sort that have reminded me in such sweet ways how totally interconnected my old life and my life now still and always are.
This past week, we finally got my couch moved into Mike’s house from the garage. And by my couch, I really mean Drew’s. I have been dragging this thing around ever since he died… an enormous olive green couch. It is really the only piece of furniture of his I have. Since we didn’t live together, much of his bigger stuff ended up being given away or taken to Goodwill when he died, as there was no place to put it. But this couch, I was not letting go of it. It sat in a storage unit for 3 years after he died, before finally making the journey north with me from Texas to Ohio last fall.
So we finally get this thing moved into Mike’s basement, where we have made a cozy den next to my art studio area. Over the course of a few days, I watched as something really heartwarming took place.
Hey readers! I’m filling in for Mike today, as he had something come up and was unable to write. He’ll be back with us next Tuesday, so until then, I’m here to wander through some of my own thoughts of late and see what bubbles up...
Mike and I have spent the past few months moving all my things to his place, as many of you know. After a decade of living alone, finally, I’ve taken the plunge into this next level of partnership. A level in fact that I never even made it to with Drew, my late-fiance, because he died before we were able to get there.
We would have moved in together that same year he died, and married the next. But neither of those things happened. Instead, I gained new fears which have come with me into my relationship with Mike. Although there is no serious talk of it yet, we do have plans and hopes to get married one day. As this commitment begins to enter my mind more, new fears arise. Fears about being on the cusp of a new beginning and having it all taken away. Fears of moving in together and marrying because “what if he dies before we ever get there. Or the day after. Or three months into marriage...” What if, what if, what if. As I face these phases of my life for the first time since Drew and I were in a similar place, I find the fears quite loud.Read more
Yesterday was one of the most beautiful and hope-filled days I have been a part of since I began this entire widowed journey. We were in the woods, standing tall in the trees, three widowed people and a little girl who lost her mother. The setting itself was magic, and made even more-so when we heard of the significance of that place. For our friend, who lost her husband 5 years ago, was marrying her husband’s best friend in the place they used to go walking after he died… in those early raw months, they stood side by side, taking one step at a time down a path that he no longer could. Together, side by side, they began a walk into the future, not even knowing that it would lead to a different kind of side-by-side one day.
It was personally significant to me in a few ways that no one else knew until I mentioned it… but this is the first wedding I have been to in 4 years. I’ve been invited to many weddings, and refused to go to any of them until I felt able. And this one, finally, I felt not only able but excited for. Excited. What? How is that even possible? In fact, I didn’t have an ounce of fear in me about the triggers it would bring up. To my total surprise, I found myself completely lost in the moment.Read more
Day of birth. A day to celebrate life, at least it use to be. The person I was prior to grief made a big fuss over birthdays. Now I only wish I could fast forward past the day all together. Escape the impending date somehow.
He would have turned 30.
I would have thrown a surprise party, filling our home with orange helium balloons, but more than that, fill his day with love.
How painful and unfair it is now that this day is no longer a celebration of life but rather a life lived…
The impending day is a punch in the gut and I feel sick at just the thought of it. There is nothing I can do to escape it as much as I try.
This week I am angry but at the same time I feel numb!Read more
(Above) A traditional cemetery celebration on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
This time of year reminds me of just how important magic is. While life holds it's own magic, death certainly holds an even more inexplicable magic all it's own. Not in the sense of tricks and jokes, but in the sense of wonder and possibility. Now, I know not everyone cares as much about Halloween as I do, but it has always held a special place in my heart. It’s a time of year when society accepts both kids and adults acting like children: decorating our houses with creepy spider webs and skeletons, dressing up in silly costumes, carving pumpkins with fun or scary faces. It helps all of us, should we partake, to be invigorated with a sense of wonder and magic... something we so easily forget in our day to day lives. And I find it no coincidence that the holiday that does this the most for so many, is so heavily focused on death.
It’s also a time of year when I feel closest to my mother and my other loved ones that have died. She loved the fall. That first cold front that came in each year invigorated her, and though I can’t remember much from the 9 years I had her, I do remember the essence of that feeling. I remember the feeling of her excitement. I remember a feeling of magic and warmth and creativity and possibility.
My mother’s death day happens to be the day before Halloween. And my dad, who is also passed, has his birthday the 29th, the day before that. And the third, Drew, loved Halloween as much as I. So there have always been personal losses that connect this time to death for me in a big way. In an odd way, it is wonderful, because it feels like so many others are celebrating their own loved ones around this time with their own customs such as All Soul’s Day and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and it has given me new ways to celebrate my dead.Read more
Hi all, I’m filling in for Kelley today since she is at Camp Widow Toronto. She’ll be back with us next week! Until then, I’m sitting down to write who-knows-what to you, on the fly. I suppose the first thing that comes to mind right now is community. It’s been on my mind all morning. Not only am I missing Camp Widow Toronto, and all the laughter and tears that are shared within this unique, incredible group of people, but I’ve also been missing my overall sense of community since moving to Ohio a year ago.
I will admit, I grossly underestimated how hard it would be to move so far from everything I’ve ever known back home in Texas. The culture itself is quite different. The people are. The restaurants and stores. The landscape and seasons. I suppose - as in grief - you really cannot grasp what it will be like, or how hard it will be, until you’re in it.Read more
This past week was my birthday. I turned 34. It might be the first time in my life I don’t really seem to have any particular feeling about turning an age. Usually I have a feeling of either excitement or resentment towards a new age. When I hit 30, I was so gloriously ready to leave my 20’s behind because they were, with the exception of meeting Drew, quite hard years. I had an abusive boyfriend, two jobs, and too many classes to count in my early twenties. I had a fear of relationships and complete breakdown and entered therapy in my mid twenties. Not to mention an alcoholic dad creating occasional chaos throughout all of that. I spent the better half of that decade fighting so hard to survive… with the odds of a dysfunctional childhood rearing at every turn. My twenties were filled with many adventures, but also much pain. Particularly when Drew died, just 3 months shy of my 30th birthday.
The best years, were from 26 to 29. My years with Drew. They were the first carefree years of my life. The first years where I finally understood what it felt like to exhale fully. Those were the birthdays I didn’t want to end. The celebrations that would span a whole week, just because this one person enjoyed celebrating me that much. Both of my parents were dead already, but his overflowing love combined with that of our amazing friends made it much harder to feel the pain. I remember in fact just enjoying my birthdays, fully, without the bittersweet feelings. Instead with only a passing thought to my parents.
Since he died, birthdays have yet again returned to that sort of “hurry up and get it over with” feeling. And I hate it. I hate that I fought so hard for so long in my twenties to finally have peaceful, joyful birthdays only to have them stolen away again. And it isn’t like I don’t try. It certainly isn’t like Mike doesn’t try. Having someone new in your life doesn’t take away the pain or the longing for your other person though. And I’ve learned over time that some years are just harder than others.
Four years, 3 months, and two days after you died, I walked under a blanket of oak and beech trees. The air was cool and crisp, the leaves still shining from a gentle rain… holding drips ransom until the wind blows them loose with a whisper. We were in the city, he and I, but all the world around us was quiet up on that wooded hill. As we explored this newfound paradise, there was a wonder present… the kind of childlike feeling that was always around with you. Slowly a sadness crept into me. It was so gentle I don’t think I even noticed it for a time. Then suddenly, as we began to make our way down the hill, and back to the car, I felt it keenly. It seemed so odd to me to be sad while exploring nature, one of my favorite things to do.
And then I realized, and asked aloud to him, “Do you ever just get sad out of nowhere that they can’t experience any of this anymore?” He confirmed my wondering. Which of course, I know, anyone who has lost someone sometimes gets sad about that. Only thing is, it’s been a long while for me. Or at least, since I actually realized that’s why I was sad.
The crocus is a flower that blooms in early spring here in Ohio. So early in fact that it’s one of the first glimpses of spring you will see peeking through the colorless shell of winter. Year after year, these vibrant beauties bring with them the first moments of hope towards spring coming. Today as I am reflecting back, and as the seasons are yet again shifting, I’m finding much meaning in their metaphor.
Life’s been happening at warp speed for the past year it seems. The seasons here change so much faster than in Texas, where - although we have a very short spring and fall, our summer stretches on long and wide as the land itself. Not in Ohio. Here they are spread more evenly, and just as it seems you are settling into one, it begins to shift into the next. Suddenly, when I stop to really look back, my life has felt that way, as if the seasons are now changing faster. I can still remember this time of year three years ago, when my life was quite different. I had not even been on a date yet since losing Drew two and a half years before. But I still remember how the seasons of my heart began to change then. And I wanted, for the first time since his death, to have a new partner.
Somehow I could feel in my bones that the things were changing. It was like that first warm front coming into my heart after a long, cold winter. The kind where the sun begins to warm your blood and the wind starts to stir things up inside you. And you know, somehow, without anything concrete telling you so, that the seasons are changing inside you.
That’s a bit what it felt like when I first began wanting a new relationship… like a slow awakening of spring inside me. If that is the case, Mike was certainly the first major thaw of my heart since losing Drew...Read more