As 5 years without you, edges its' way ever nearer to me, and as my heart and soul hear the shuffle of time coming closer, creeping past, zooming closer, flying past..
As these ten thousand years have passed, since his death, as each nanosecond passes in the here and now, I remember how he loved me, how I loved him.
I remember his calm spirit and his groan-worthy jokes. I remember his dedication to the military and how glad he was to retire, having done his time. His quiet rebellions that grew from holding his own counsel and just going about business in the way he knew he needed to do. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, he told me many times, and that thought carried him through his military service. I remember how he not only read the Big Book of AA but read what it all meant, and the history of it; he gave context to AA and the 12 Steps and Tradition, and living a life of sobriety. Chuck lived his sobriety as honestly as he could, every day. Not perfectly, but as well as he could, and he earned the respect of many because of it.
His promise wasn’t given lightly, and I could count on his promises being kept. His promises were his word, given as a gentleman of old times would give his word. It was his honor, and he held true to it, whether that promise was made to me or one of our kids or a friend or anyone else.
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 believe in Love.
I believe that Love enriches and empowers and creates and morphs mere humans into magnificent beings.
I believe that life dares us and bids us, at our best and our worst, to open our hearts to Love.
I believe that life challenges us, through strife and perplexity and awkwardness, to continue loving in the face of all that it throws at us.
Life entreats us and whispers to us…allow, yield, concede, open, persevere,
In spite of and because of…
Love. Just Love.
Three years is not an insignificant amount of time to be in a relationship with someone.
Three years is how long Megan and I dated before we were married.
Three years is how long Megan was “healthy” during our relationship.
Three years is how old Shelby was when her mother was carted away in an ambulance, on her way to an unknown future.
Three years is how long Sarah and Drew were together before his death.
Three years ago, Sarah and I met.Read more
If you’ve read Sarah's Post this past Sunday, then you are aware that she and I (and Shelby) were in Corpus Christi, Texas, over an extended weekend. One of her longest and closest friends was marrying, and Sarah herself was a bridesmaid. In that regards, I wasn’t a widower this past weekend. I was the “second partner” of a widow.
I’ve chosen to expand upon this. Sarah and I are in the unique position of both being writers here, both being widowed, and both dating (and cohabitating) with each other. While much of my writing deals with the emotions, stress, and perspectives of losing Megan, this past weekend was much more important from the other side of dating a widow.Read more
My smile has been gone for a long time.
I wore it effortlessly when Mike was alive.
But, now, my smile feels like an accessory I wear only on special occasions.
I know that it won't be like this forever because I love life too much
to never smile again.
But, for right now, my heart feels empty,
And, I see a deficiency of joy in my eyes.
Yet, some moments, I smile in spite of myself,
Even so, my smile feels awkward and it is always fleeting.
I know Mike wants me to smile again.
And, damn it, I need to smile again, for me...
Mike would stop what he was doing every single time I walked in the room. Every. single. time. He would look at me and his eyes glistened with tears of adoration. Next, he would softly smile, as he treasured me with his gaze. Then, he'd say "Hey, Beautiful" in a tone he reserved only for me. He'd reach out to me and pull me into him. Mike would look so intently at me while he held me, in the middle-of-an-ordinary-moment. It was magic, and even that's an understatement. These 'intimate' moments between us were genuine and intense. Mike would lay his eyes on me in a room full of people; and, honestly, it was like he made love to me right then and there. The way he looked at me had that kind of passion.
Common everyday routines like washing dishes, grocery shopping, sitting on the back porch, making the bed and even brushing our teeth became extraordinary events. Our life was ridiculously wonderful. It was a crazy, pure, deep love that we shared. And, every so often, I would stop myself in one of these "ordinary" moments because I felt the power of his love. It was tangible in the air. Together, we were everything love is supposed to be. And, now, like you, I'm here, in this moment, wanting everything I had back. I want him back and I want him to bring the love we shared back to life.
I knew we were lucky when Mike was alive; but, I didn't know how truly blessed we were. I didn't fully savor the life and love I had because I thought there was more ahead. I naively thought I'd be brushing my teeth with Mike by my side for at least the next twenty years... I thought our story was just beginning. I did not wholly appreciate how big our love was because I thought it would last forever.
Now, let me tell you part of the best love story. Not one that I read about or heard, but one that I lived...Read more
My memories of Mike echo off the walls of the house, yet the silence in my home is deafening. Everything is quiet now. Death makes your whole world go silent. I think this is by design. We need this noiseless environment and solitude to contemplate how we will re-create ourselves. As we do the work of re-defining our identity we need to concentrate intensely. Death can create isolation, but maybe this detachment is necessary as we prepare to reinvent ourselves. Maybe we are required to withdraw so that we can be born anew.
Daily, I am surrounded by the hum of life, but since Mike died I don't hear the sounds of joy anymore. My heart doesn't feel the beauty of an ordinary moment like it used to when he was alive. My eyes don't clearly see opportunities before me. I feel it, I am allowing my life to pass me by because I have momentarily lost my enthusiasm. No one can change this but me. I know this, but finding the motivation to re-engage in life without him eludes me.
I need to be encouraged to embrace life, take risks and find out what I am made of; but, my biggest champion is dead. Now, I have to motive and inspire myself. I am not used to being my own encourager. Since I was 17 years old I have always been part of a couple; and, I was never solely in charge of coaching myself. I always had a companion to hold a mirror up to me. To reflect with. I had a voice, other than my own, telling me to "take it day by day, everything will work out". For me, being alone feels scary and I desperately want to be rescued.
I feel inadequate when I admit to myself that I'm scared to "do life on my own". I continuously remind myself that I am a divorced woman; and, once upon a time I left something familiar and chose to move towards the unknown. I've dealt with uncertainty before. I tell myself that "I've got this" because I'm no stranger to adversity. I tell myself that I'm strong... and I'm capable. But, Mike's death is different. His death knocked me to the ground and all my dormant insecurities have re-emerged.
In the early days after Mike died, I thought that I should be able to navigate my way through his death. I felt like there was something wrong with the way I was grieving because I was so completely immobilized with sadness. Thankfully, over this last year, I have come to realize that there is nothing to actually get "through" here. Grief isn't a disease that you need to be healed from. There is no end game because grief isn't something you complete. Grief is something that becomes a part of who you are. When your person dies you continuously absorb their absence into your Soul.
I will confess that absorbing the death of your person is ridiculously hard. I still have not accepted his death and I don't know if I ever will. I mean, logically, I know Mike is dead. I've stood at his grave. And, countless times, I've traced my fingers along the letters of his name that are etched on his headstone. I've taken wine to the grave on many a Saturday night because, well, I wanted to be with my best friend. I've written heartfelt messages on red heart shaped balloons and I've tied them to a shepherds hook I put behind his headstone because, well, I miss him.
I know Mike is dead.
His headstone tells me he died November 15, 2016.
But, in my mind he's still very much alive.
And, in my heart, I'm still very much in love with him.
I know you "get it". And, I also know that you hate that your person died too. It is the permanence of the situation that sucks. But, it is what it is. We can't back up. So, we resign ourselves to breathe and somehow continue living. On the days when I have the patience to do "nothing", I sit with my grief. I invite Grief in and I just wait until Grief speaks. Let me tell you what Grief has said (it' pretty awesome) ...
Today it is thirteen months and 3 days since you died. Some moments, your death still does not feel real to me. And, other times, the realness of your death is so apparent I feel nauseated. This is grief in all it's unapologetic glory.
In the early days when you died I couldn't even breathe. I'd gasp for breathe and I'd rock back and forth, holding my chest, in an effort to encourage the air to move from my lungs into my body. For months I struggled desperately, day and night, to soothe my broken Soul. I remember I'd stand in the kitchen and I'd clutch my chest as I cooked dinner because I thought my heart was going to explode into a million pieces when it broke. I remember thinking that grief was cruel because it forced us to endure and survive this deep aching pain. I knew full well that my heart wasn't going to literally reduce to fragments - even though it felt like it was. Those early days of grief were completely gutting. And, I am glad that the raw intensity of those first four months is behind me. Somehow I survived.
As much as I never want to feel the pain of the early days again, I do wish I could go back and tell my newly widowed self what I have learned about grief. I'd tell her that in order to survive she does not need to do anything - except breathe. (Which, I know, is easier said than done.) I'd let her know that the shock and numbness she feels is there by design; and, I would tell her that she is not to worry about being in a daze. I'd tell her that the laundry and housework are not a priority. I'd wink and let her know that she won't have any memory of these first four months after his death, so she should feel free to let it go. I'd also brief her about the fact that she can't rush through this. I'd say with authority, that there is no way to side step this pain because there is no "cure" for grief. Grief isn't a disease that you are magically healed from. Grief is a journey that lasts your lifetime from what I can tell so far. I'd continue with the advice, knowing full well, my sleep deprived self would not really understand or absorb much of what I was saying because her mind could no longer process anything. She was consumed with trying to make sense of the fact that Mike was dead.
At this point, in my made-up (but all too real) scenario, I'd make us both something to eat because I know that she is on the "widow diet". I know that she has probably only had coffee all day. Once I got her fed, I'd tell her I notice she's lost more than her smile, she's lost weight too. I'd remind her to eat everyday. And, I would tell my freshly widowed self that she needs to start wearing makeup again, and I'd tell her that doing her hair is not as optional as she thinks. And, then, I'd hear her laugh... and it's magic.
As a new widow she needs to know that she should try to lean into the pain and absorb the ache into her DNA. I'd let my frazzled self know that when your person dies you are reduced to a state of infancy. And, I'd smile and I'd gently brush the strands of stray hair from her eyes; then, I'd tell her that she's normal. And, I'd promise her that she's going to be okay. I'd remind myself to tell her that death is a trauma. And, because of the trauma Mike's death caused, she has forgotten how to soothe herself. She will need assistance with the basics: breathing, sleeping and eating. I'd recommend that she surround herself with only compassionate, loving, people who don't try to "fix" her. These people who simply walk along side her as she grieves will become her lifelines. They will carry her on the really hard days in the year ahead. I'd gently tell my newly widowed self to be patient and settle into her feelings. I'd remind her to smile more, even if it's just for a fleeting moment. I'd let her know that, in spite of herself, I heard her laugh today - and it was magical.
And, finally, I'd stop and hold her for longer than most normal hugs last.
And, then, I'd look far past the glazed, "deer in headlights", look in her eyes,
I'd look straight into her Soul and I'd whisper to her "you've got this".
Photo credits: @heidi_the_untold
Somehow I've survived this surreal experience of out living Mike. I have learned that in order to survive his death I had to undergo a sort of re-birth, and this process is still ongoing. I've come undone and I've been unhinged for the better part of this last year. But, alas, I've arrived here, in this moment. I've emerged exhausted and a bit disheveled because...
I can’t tell you how I manage to pull off a post every week, or how I have done so for the past three and a half years here. I get asked that a lot. Some weeks I know exactly what I want to write. Other weeks I feel dry…uninspired, lackluster and done. Then suddenly something will move me. Feeling overcome with emotion in a moment, a vision of something in our world, something a friend says, a memory I have. Sometimes it’s just a phrase that comes to me.
Sometimes I start writing and never title it. It remains in my files, which Apple titles for me, Blank 22 or Blank 24. Sometimes I go back and read what I’d started, and I find I can finish.
Other times I just know the title, but nothing more. This is one of those times. I think maybe a friend said that to me, or I read it somewhere, this phrase.
Life after the death of the person you love demands that you ask yourself BIG questions. Ironically, the questions are often about life and living. I have asked myself over and over again, Who am I now that Mike has died? Maybe part of the answer lies in Who I was before I met him. Who I was before he died. I think a lot about Who I was when I was Mike's fiancee. And, I ask myself again and again, Who I want to be now that I am his Widow.
Admittedly, these are questions to which I don't have the answers; but, I'm working on it. These questions challenge me and scare me because of their enormity and because I feel the potential here. I still have choices in my changed life. I have the opportunity to re-create myself, and you do too. I know how overwhelming this is; but I believe that if we allow ourselves to be off kilter we will find ourselves in the process.
In the last year, I have spent a fair bit of time on my knees scrounging for direction and answers. I have spent many a night on the floor crying, begging Mike to come back. I've dance under the stars with my dead fiance; desperately wanting his touch, longing for the days when his arms were wrapped around my life. Many times, I have wandered through the day completely absent with thoughts of him endlessly ruminating in my mind. Grief is gutting. I know how hard it is for you to live with the relentless heaviness and ache in your chest. If I am awake I'm likely on the verge of tears at any given moment, I get it. I have noticed, with time, the ache in my heart is softening a little and my tears don't last as long anymore. But, still, the emptiness is there. And, maybe in some weird way, that's okay. Maybe we are meant to use this emptiness and rootlessness as our foundation. Maybe we need to feel the emptiness and absorb all this "missingness" into every cell of our body. If we feel it and lean into our grief we will learn something about ourselves. I think there in the empty silence - is where the answers are for all of us. I've decided that if I am going to survive Mike's sudden death I have to build a purposeful life around the emptiness inside me.
So, I haven't told you Who I am. Well, for starters...