So it's been 7 years since my beautiful husband left for work one morning, and never came home. Seven years since his shocking and sudden death. Seven years of living this life in the "after" of painful and life-changing loss. It's a long time, and it isn't. It's forever, and it's also ten seconds. In all of this time living with the death of my husband, I do get asked one question quite frequently. People often ask me if I feel guilty for being happy. Do I feel guilt when I experience joy or joyful moments? Do I feel guilty for falling in love again?
The answer is no.
Guilt has certainly been a big part of my grieving and healing process. I felt guilty on my first two birthdays after Don died, because he would never get to see another year or enjoy another birthday or another year older. I felt guilty on New Year's Eve for years, and I refused to do the countdown to midnight, because it felt like a countdown to more time without him on earth, and another year that he won't ever get to be part of. I felt guilty for being asleep in our bed, while my husband was collapsing on a hard floor in a Petsmart, and going into cardiac arrest. These are the types of things I felt guilt about, and the types of things I worked on for years with my grief counselor, and came to better terms with.
I have never felt guilty for feeling joy. I have never felt guilty for falling in love again. I have never felt guilty for laughing so hard my sides hurt, or for feeling euphoric about something incredibly awesome or awe-inspiring. Maybe it's because I know for a fact that the most important thing to my husband, was my joy and happiness, so I know that me being happy would give him incredible peace. Maybe it's because I so fiercely want to LIVE, because my husband does not have that choice, so I look for and cling to moments of euphoria wherever I can find them. Maybe it's because it took me FIVE years and a hell of a lot of processing and therapy, to get to a place where I was even able to find love again, so why spend one second feeling guilty about it? I don't know what the reason is, but I have never felt guilt for feelings of joy or love.
What I HAVE felt is this:Read more
I think we all feel “lost” in some way, and sometimes in all ways.
But, understand, feeling lost after the person you love dies doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself forever.
I know that outliving the person you love isn’t easy. In truth, it’s easily the hardest thing I’ve ever been forced to do.
I remember many nights I stood in front of the stove and unconsciously rocked myself, in an effort to become ‘present’, as I half-heartedly cooked dinner for my kids -all the while hoping I wouldn’t die from the aching in my Soul.
The good news is that I didn’t die from Mike’s death. However, from his death, I’ve learned that nothing in life is constant. When he died everything about my life changed - quite literally overnight. I remember feeling completely and utterly disorientated. The days following his death are a blur. I remember feeling like I was having an out of body experience. I stood for hours surveying the mess that was left of my life. All our hopes and dreams were shattered into a million pieces - scattered all around me. I wanted to “fix” my brokenness, but I didn’t know where to begin. I had no clue how to move forward; but, instinctively I knew I couldn’t stay still forever...
Death forces change.
And, these changes are usually unexpected and always unwelcomed - at least initially.
For most of us, accepting change is hard at the best of times; and while grieving change is especially challenging
- albeit unavoidable.
In the early days, grief suspends you in a type of paralysis where your mind becomes frozen; and, all decisions, both big and small, feel overwhelming. I think this happens because death shatters everything we believe about the assumptive world; and, it takes a significant amount of time for the mind to recover from this.
However, I assure you, with time, and hard work you can and will steady yourself. And, once you reestablish your bearings it is possible to slowly regain your sense of self; and, with that, your self confidence...
What do I think about on these Tuesday mornings, 3 ½ years after Megan died? It’s a question that I generally ask myself on the way into work, in preparation for publishing some kind of anecdote, observation, or predicament here on Soaring Spirits, in the hopes that a person will read and experience a “me too” or “oh wow, I never thought of it that way”.
I will go in circles in my head sometimes, trying to figure out if I can spin the daily reminders of Megan into something more meaningful. We’ve got a daughter that looks very much like her mother. We live in the same home that Megan and I shared for 10 years. Hell, her ashes are in our dining room. There is no escaping reminders of Megan.
I don’t know if it’s acclimatization, acceptance, or just plain old time, but none of it really triggers any strong emotions anymore. Birthdays, anniversaries, and death dates, sure, those bring a heightened awareness of her being gone, but day-to-day routines are just that...routine. Memories are still shared amongst those of us who knew her, but they don’t cause that awkward welling up most of the time. We’ve all moved forward with life in this third of a decade. New spouses, new partners, new children, new jobs, and most of all, new memories.Read more
It’s not exactly a secret that sometimes, I just can’t foresee a good subject for my weekly writings here. I’ll pine over ideas to see if they spark something, thinking about if there were any milestones, anniversaries, or triggers in the past week. More often than not, I’ll find a nugget of something and expand upon it, and sometimes, a halfway decent writing comes out of it.
But sometimes there just isn’t a good inspiration. I’ll “pocket” some ideas for later, like Megan’s birthday (next week) and our anniversary (three weeks from today), knowing full well that the emotions, and subsequent words are going to flow easily at those times. Still though, it leaves me sitting here on some Tuesdays asking myself the following question.
“What should I be thinking and writing about right now?”Read more
As has become more and more typical, I find myself sitting down to write, and not having a clear topic on where to focus. The fact of the matter is, though I miss Megan, her death and absence is not all-consuming. Far from it, actually. Trying to spin an anecdote about my day-to-day life into something about grief or loss is exhausting sometimes, because grief and loss is not what my day-to-day life consists of.
I still have Shelby here. Her schooling and upbringing is part of my day-to-day. Going to work, paying bills, and taking care of things at home is part of my day-to-day. Sarah is officially moved in with us, but we’ll still be organizing, merging, and unpacking her things for a while. That’s part of my day-to-day.
Megan died on November 19th, 2014. A thought of her is part of my day-to-day, but to be honest, it’s a small part.Read more
This image perfectly sums up my post for today. There are times in our life when our path to somewhere ends, and from that moment on, we have to begin making decisions for another journey. We have to decide to stay on the shore, at the end of that life, or wade out into the unknown and swim toward some unknown future, trusting we will be able to make it to a new and beautiful shore.
Last week I had a really bad day. I don’t know if it was just a buildup of emotions because I’ve been so busy lately, or if hormones were just doing their thing randomly, or I was trying really hard to just not feel some stuff, but wow. I went over to my place to pack some more things to bring over to Mike’s place… and I just lost my shit. I cried, and I cried, and I cried some more. I felt so completely sad to be moving. For a lot of reasons... but mostly, I am figuring out, because I'm feeling thrown back into the currents a bit again. And every time I feel that way, I am reminded that my life is currently a "plan-B". That the path I was on ended one day, and I just had to get out there and swim...Read more
Megan and I bought our home in June of 2005. For nine years, it was “our” home. I had the outdoor spaces...lawn care, gardening, the garage, and landscaping were all mine to take care of and shape into something I enjoyed. Megan had the inside. Knick-knacks and decorations, paint colors, organization, and general decor were hers.
The system worked. I’m not exactly an interior designer, and she wasn’t exactly a farmer. We both appreciated and enjoyed what each other had done with their respective spaces, and there weren’t any conflicts. We complimented each other well.
It would be all too easy to just “mothball” what she had done with the inside of the house. Her decor was pretty much set already when she died. We hadn’t been talking about doing anything in particular with paint or furniture before the transplant rejection set in, so I was content that she was happy with what she had done up to that point.
I’ve followed a somewhat standard path in my adult years. Megan and I met in 2002, married and bought a house in 2005, and had Shelby in 2007. Notwithstanding her illness and the extra events associated with it, we had followed a fairly “textbook” sequence of events. We were effectively playing the “Game of Life”, spinning the wheel, and seeing where we landed.
We took vacations, attended school events, and explored new and interesting things in our city all of the time. I worked a 40 hour week, with good benefits and insurance, and came home to my little 1/6th acre in the suburbs and mowed the lawn, had a beer, and ate dinner with my family.
The elephant in the room, through our entire relationship, was the fact that she had Cystic Fibrosis, and likely wasn’t going to make it to 40 years old.
Yesterday, we painted a wall. To me, this was no ordinary wall, this was the last major wall in the downstairs of Mike’s house to change since Megan died. Now, when you look through the living room, dining and kitchen, all of it has a totally new color scheme from when she was living. Which leads me to talk about a very touchy aspect of widowhood, and of me being on the other side sometimes… dating a widower: The process of merging your life into a widowed person's home.
I’ll confess, Megan and my styles are very different. She was all about Americana, and I am certainly not. I mean to say, bluntly so, I don’t like her style. I cringe to type this. Why is it so hard to say we don’t like a dead person’s preferences? Why would it even be expected for me to like or leave things the way she had it? I’m not sure, but it seems like a lot of those outdated societal expectations are at play here...Read more
This morning I’m sitting some fifteen feet up in the air surrounded by woods, near the northern border of Arkansas, and it seems no accident that the book I brought with me to read is titled "The Gifts of Imperfection".
A few days ago, Mike and I made the 14 hour drive down to Eureka Springs. Why? To stay in a treehouse cottage, which has always been a dream of mine.
This isn’t just any random dream though, this one, has a a great personal meaning to my story with life, loss, and living again. You see, the year Drew died… he and I were coming up with ideas for my birthday that fall. We talked about going to the Grand Canyon. And also about one other place, the treehouse cottages, here in Eureka Springs, AR. I can still remember so clearly researching this place with him… finding their website and looking through pictures and being so overjoyed that it was really not a very far drive from Dallas, where Drew and I lived. Our plan was, if we couldn’t swing a trip to the canyon that fall, that we would instead book a trip to the tree houses.
That plan never happened of course, because the crash happened instead, 3 months before my birthday. While I did end up making that trip to the Grand Canyon after all - with Drew’s mom - the treehouse cottage trip was lost… vanishing amidst the heaviness of grief. It has sat in the back of my heart all these years, gathering dust, until now.