Many of you know, in 2014 I did a year-long series of self portraits capturing my grief. During that time, I lived so deeply in sadness, pain, anger… all of the emotions we face when losing someone. There were good times too, but the large part of 2012-2015 were spent in deep connection with my own darkness, working to understand how to heal and find peace with my loss. The last portrait I took was October of last year, the week before I my big move to Ohio.
It was a hopeful image, but still with a darker edge to it. I’ve been unable to capture more portraits since moving to Ohio… as I have gotten caught up in the expectations of others. With new love in my life and a new adventure unfolding before me… people started to express their interest in how all these positive things would come out in my photos. They were happy for me, but I also think, somewhat relieved. And I believe, they were hoping to see happy images instead of having to endure the discomfort of seeing my darkness come through my photos.
This expectation has been getting to me since I moved. I would like to note, most of these people who expressed wanting to see positive images from me, were not widows. Nor were they people who were currently experiencing a darkness of their own. It was usually folks who were meaning well, but totally missing the point. Our darkness doesn’t leave just because new joys come into our lives. I shoot my portraits to have a conversation with my most vulnerable, hidden self… not my joy. Our grief does not disappear, nor do our insecurities, fears, and triggers, as our life moves forward.Read more
I'm down in Texas this weekend. It's my first visit in almost 6 months since moving to Ohio. Drew's little sister is graduating... or actually, just did, yesterday. I arrived here on Thursday morning and immediately felt that beautiful rush of comfort of the familiar. The old, wide oak trees, the rolling hills, the warmth of the Texas heat... it all felt so wonderful. Like a dream almost.
I have moved away from many places in my 33 years that held a lot of hard memories for me. When I moved away from home, I left my dad in a terrible state - drinking himself to death. When I left, moving 8 hours north to Dallas, I had no idea if he would even be alive from week to week. There were a lot of difficult times that I left behind there... and each return home was filled with a strangeness similar to the one I felt a few days ago coming back here. That dreamlike feeling... that I was suddenly stepping back into a past lifetime.Read more
My mother, daughter, and girlfriend have all lost their own mothers at a young age, all to different illnesses. Each of their moms had to stare their own mortality square in the eye, and hope for the best for their daughters. They did everything they could to love and protect their little ones in the time they had, but ultimately, they had no choice but to leave them to grow up without their biological mother.
Tuberculosis, Cancer, and Cystic Fibrosis. Those are the diseases that took my mom, Sarah, and Shelby’s mothers, each before their daughters were even ten years old. Though each is of a different generation and time in their life, they have all needed to learn how to become a mother after losing their own biological mother. They each picked up surrogate mothers along the way. Friends of the family, adoptive parents, neighbors, teachers, and other relatives were all able to form part of the village it takes.
But none had their biological mothers. I can’t begin to fathom that.Read more
I have the ironic honor of always writing on Mother’s Day, being the Sunday writer here at Widow’s Voice. Ironic because it always forces me to evaluate my feelings about a holiday I have mostly chosen not to celebrate since my own mother died when I was young. I hate this day, or at least, I mostly always have. But this post isn't about that. This is a story of surprises, and how life evolves after the losses in our lives in some of the most unexpected ways.
I decided today, that I would go back and re-read a few of my posts from previous years, to see if there was something to glean there. I came across this one, from 2014, called The Accidental Mother, where I share about a waiter wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day accidentally. The excerpt below stopped me in my tracks...Read more
This was me, back in 2009. The week Drew and I began dating, we jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. It was a pivotal experience for me... and changed my beliefs in myself and how I dealt with risk and fear in my life. I have always been a cautious person, but every so often, I discovered after this day, I am able to make some pretty big leaps. I'm learning now, that even though sometimes I can make big leaps in the face of risk... I'm not always that person. Especially after his death, I have had to learn to accept that that it can take me longer now to take leaps in my life.
Something really hit me last week as we began to clean out Mike’s basement. For the first time, I started to see a space that I could make my own. A space where my art studio and office could live. I spend more than half my week over at his place, so I’m starting to feel the need for some small bit of “me” over here. That got my mind going about moving and suddenly it hit me… I only have 6 months until the lease at my house is up for renewal. As busy as we’ve been and all the energy I’ve put into just trying to adjust to a new place, that timeline completely snuck up on me.
Before I know it, my mind is in a tailspin about whether or not this fall will mean yet ANOTHER move to merge with Mike. He wants me to move in, and there aren’t actually any real reasons why it ISN’T a good idea… at least not practical ones. No, the only reasons I had were emotional ones. And somehow in my mind those didn’t seem like real enough reasons and so I started to pressure myself and thus the freakout ensued...
For the past week, I have poured myself into the creation of my new grief workshop. It’s finally getting real now. Which is scary and exciting all at the same time. The fundraiser is over, and by the end, I raised $1700 to help with the creation of all of this. Amazingly, 95% of those donations were from widowed people. None of my close non-widow friends donated, or really have even bothered to ask about this whole endeavor. Only one of my family members really has. This fact is not lost on me. I have done my best not to get bogged down by who ISN’T supporting me, and instead have been focusing on who IS.
To have the support of any kind is awesome, but to have the support of people who are going through one of the darkest times in their life… that is something entirely different. It is deeper. It says that they not only believe in you, but they understand what you’re trying to do. It says that - even in their darkest time - they still have the heart to reach out and help you too. And that is one thing death does for us, isn’t it? It’s one of the gifts we’re given for living through this agony… our own broken hearts just want to help someone else.
I don’t even know how it is possible that when we are in our most broken and fragile state, that this is the time so many of us reach out to help others. Is it some instinct that takes over? Does our gut know that helping others will help us? That healing or supporting another will heal and support us too?Read more
In just 3 days my fundraiser for the Meaningful Making e-course will be complete. In the past month and a half, I have raised over double my goal to begin work on making this online workshop. It will be geared towards those grieving, with the premise that students will use a combination of creative acts and storytelling in order to express their inner worlds in new ways and ultimately have a new set of tools to help them heal.
The main support I've had for creating this has been all of you, my widowed community. The very people I want to share it with and hope that it can help. I'm left with a feeling of deep overwhelm and gratitude. Having people believe in you when they themselves are in their darkest time is something so sacred. It is something I do not take lightly. You all have been my cheerleaders, and it has been more important to me than you could know.
I’m writing you this morning from the bed of a roadside motel in West Virginia. The walls inside are all wood, the entire place looking like a big log cabin. It’s cozy feeling, with ruffled curtains, checkered blue and white bedspreads and warm corner lamps. I’ve woken up in a good mood, which I am infinitely grateful for, and hoping I can keep around.
Mike, Shelby and I woke up around 2:30am, after I barely got any sleep. I dragged myself into the truck and proceeded to try and sleep during the 5 hour drive here… which was minimal. This is usual for Mike. He likes to drive through the night. I have never experienced this, and can say that it’s far from my favorite way to begin a vacation. I fought tired eyes most of the day yesterday, as well as trying to keep in good spirits. I failed quite a lot.
I have to admit, even as we got into the mountains, no part of me was feeling too excited. All I could think of is everything that wasn’t right… no sleep, it’s too early for there to be leaves on the trees yet so everything is brown. It turned out to be almost 80 out in the afternoon, far warmer than predicted and I had only brought clothes for cooler weather.
Back home, in Texas, it’s green and lush already out. Spring has fully arrived. Here, the trees are just barely beginning to bud out leaves this week. Everything is still brown. The comparison could not be more different. The changing seasons is proving to be one of the hardest new losses of moving so far from the place I’ve called home.Read more
So here we are again, at yet another holiday in the “after” life… only this one for me is very different. Firstly, I’m in Ohio, not Texas. Mike, Shelby and I are up early. The two of them are in the kitchen starting to cook up a feast for Easter while I write this. In about 5 hours, Mike’s family will be over and we will be doing a whole new kind of Easter. It’s the first year this holiday hasn’t been done at his parent’s house, something we decided on a whim. So we are taking over making much of the food and doing all the egg hiding for Shelby’s cousins. I would have thought this would be overwhelming for me… but it has been the opposite. More of a mixture of the happy and the hard. A blending of the past and the present. And in a few minutes, I will be baking a cake.Read more
I wanted to share someone else's story today... one that she shared with me recently that I felt had such a powerful message for us all. I met Tara at my first Camp Widow back in 2014, and I remember having a great conversation with her one night over a few drinks out on the patio. She made an impression on me that night that has always stuck. A bit reserved at first, she seemed to me as someone who's trust you have to earn in order to get closer to. I'm a big believer in that myself (as many of us are now) and so I greatly respected this about her. We met up once again in Tampa for Camp this year... and had some time to visit again. I noticed her wearing a certain watch, and though I never got around to asking about it, I read the story she shared of it online after returning home. It's a powerful story that she and her husband have created together. In my mind, it is a way that he is still actively helping to guide her, and maybe even guide all the rest of us too. I'll let her tell it in her own words, because she wrote it with such passion and spirit:
"Stephen and I were on a cruise in 2003 and the man who never, I mean NEVER, asked for anything, said to me that he always wanted a Rolex watch. So, while we were in St. Thomas, we stopped at the Rolex store. We were there FOR EVER. He was anal about everything. Which I loved about him. So, after trying on almost all the watches in his price range, he picked out his "special" watch. We nearly missed the ship it took so long, but he had his "special" package in tow..."