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
Over the last few weeks,
Something in my mindset has changed.
And, in the process,
I’ve rediscovered how to taste,
His memory on my lips.
-in this reality.
HOW is this done?
It’s actually pretty easy...
I AM FALLING OUT OF GRIEF,
And, I am falling in Love with Life
-all over again.Read more
There’s this fairly new song called “Ain’t Easy” where the main chorus sings, “loving you ain’t easy” after singing about the difficulty of “loving” and being with someone who is “fire then rain.” Quite simply, even though it’s a catchy tune, it makes me mad. It aggravates me because I thought of myself that way when I started dating and it was so misinformed. Also because it perpetuates the idea that being difficult to love is an acceptable way to see yourself or by someone you are with when it certainly is not. You are not difficult because of your life experiences. You are not difficult to love at all. You might just have the wrong people or person in your life. Or you might need to adjust your self image.
When I started dating I thought that whoever I dated would find me difficult to date. My rationale was that I did and do have my ups and downs; my fire then rain. My “downs” weren’t as intense as they once were but they also didn’t seem to be going all the way away. I was also very aware that I had a past that someone not yet in their thirties doesn’t usually have and I thought it would be seen as a negative.
In reflection, I am the one who saw myself that way. And then I attracted people who reflected my own views of myself: people who saw me as difficult.Read more
I’m all finished with school for the summer and heading to Hawaii with David! By the time this posts on Thursday I will already be there actually. I’m really excited to go. We have a lot of exciting things planned to do. Planning the trip was easy with David because we were interested in the same activities. If he found an idea of something he liked I was always super excited about it and vice versa. As we were planning, we started a shared document to use as an itinerary and for the first time since Mike died I was actually excited to use it.
I think I mentioned in a previous post when I was on vacation with my friend Heather about how I had lost my enthusiasm for trip planning. I had still wanted to go on trips but I didn’t have the motivation, concentration or memory to be able to plan the details of flights, cars, stay, and researching and coordinating things to do. It was frustrating to me because I had always been good at it and enjoyed it. It used to be my thing. Then after Mike died I couldn’t seem to care less even though I tried. And even when I tried I missed important things that could have caused a disaster travelling. I eventually just started to go with the flow of someone else organizing everything but I felt a bit numb doing that.
Planning for Hawaii has been so completely different. I feel like me. I have been on top of researching what I want to do, where, and when and following up with companies about booking. I have every little detail documented in order with confirmation numbers, times, location etc. I printed all the excursions, car, stay, flight confirmation emails and put them in order. Maybe it’s a little intense but organizing and planning makes me feel good. I had just been in a shift for a while. I don’t want to say my trip planning “is back”or I’m the “old me” because I don’t believe you ever really go back. Plus, this trip is so different than anything I had previously planned. It is a very active, adventurous trip. It’s full of a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have done before. I’m not just making lists of possible sites to see; I’m planning, booking and gathering the needed gear for some pretty intense activities. I think I’ve used my previous organization skills to be my basis for planning for a more rigorous, absolutely-need-it-all-figured-out and be prepared trip. It’s my 2.0 version of planning.Read more
With hindsight, I know that there is no way I could have better prepared for what has been required of me since Mike died. Widowhood is something you have to live to fully understand. There is no way to adequately explain this life in words. It is something that has to be experienced first hand to be comprehended.
This being the case, there is a strong kinship among those in the widowed community because our hearts speak the same language. We speak in fairly simple, yet carefully chosen words. The dialect of this 'language' can not be learned or interpreted - because it is not understood unless you are one of us. The aching inside us, the emptiness within us, and the sadness in our eyes is spoken in Grief's mother tongue. Widowed people do not need an interpreter. In fact, we often have the exact same tone in our voices . We can easily recognize what is said by others who are fluent in grief. And, maybe, more importantly, we hear what is not spoken by those who have lost the one they love. In short, we understand one another without words because there really are no words to adequately explain widowhood and how gutting it is.
Grief itself has many shared characteristics no matter who you are. The feelings of grief do not discriminate by gender, race or socio-economics. I believe that the emotions of grief are somewhat universal. Yet, our own grief is unique to each of us. It's ours. No one person feels the exact same way about losing their person.
We widowed people understand one another without words or explanation because we have lived through those lonely nights that we thought would swallow us whole. We have nearly crawled out of our skin yearning for the touch of our person. We have gasped for breathe because of the permanence of our situation. Their absence is forever - for the rest of our lives - and this changes everything about our future. Hence, we have been brought to our knees. We have laid on the cold, hard floor sobbing and wishing this was not our reality. We each know exactly how these things feel because we have done these things many, many times since they died. Thankfully, grief is fluid. The rawness of grief changes with time; but surviving the initial months of grief is something that is etched into your Soul. Outliving the person you love is something that changes you forever...
As time goes on, my grief has softened around the edges; and, for the most part, I appear to be "okay" - except that I'm not. And, recently, I have accepted that this is the way life is for me right now. And, I am okay - that I'm not okay.
I think that this is part of grief - to just accept that you are changed and working towards a future that you can't yet imagine. In grief, one must just breathe and have faith that things will work out - eventually. I now know that there is nothing I can do to "heal" myself - other than just live. I have to live the best way I can, and I must learn to forgive myself when I exist poorly some moments. Ironically, whether I like it or not, Mike's death is teaching me about living. (It is what it is.)
Recently, I find that I am continuously lost in my own thoughts. I spend hours imagining the future that we wanted to live together. I spend far too much time wishing things were different. And, I also spend a lot of time convincing myself that this is actually real.
He is dead. He is dead. He is really dead.
And, nothing can change it.
I say these words to myself again and again,
Because, one year and seven months later,
Mike's death is still surreal to me.
Maybe it always will be...
I can not believe how drastically different my life is without him. All day long I ask myself "NOW WHAT?" ... What the hell am I supposed to do without him? I don't have the answer. I have more questions than answers and I think that's okay for right now. It has to be.
How do I bring the girl he fell in love with back to life?
I miss her.
I am working on rebuilding myself.
And, the new version of me is different.
I am changed not by choice, but by design.
Not all of me survived his death. But, the core of who I am and who he loved still remains. So, here I am using the bones of my old self as the foundation on which to recreate myself and my life. And, it is fair to say, like with any remodel, the new me will be better equipped and improved.
I’ve heard that when you feel you are struggling with your writing it is because you are writing what you think you should write instead of what you truly feel. I can’t find the actual quote right now (it was much more eloquent than that) but that idea has been on my mind for a while. Since I saw it really. I’ve wanted to write and share about something but I’ve been nervous. Anxious for a whole bunch of reasons. Nervous that it’s too easy and good to be true. That it’ll soon disappear. Anxious because I’m less cautious than I use to be and although I like it I’m still getting used to myself. Nervous because with change comes emotions and more changes and I’m adjusting.
But at the same time, I want to share. It’s what is on my mind a lot and it’s hard to write about other things when it’s not really what I’m thinking about. I’ve mentioned here and there about it but not really fully shared.Read more
Does our soul get more than one soulmate?
This is what I believe. ....
Our soul is perhaps the biggest part of our makeup, as human beings. It is what carries all the important stuff. Emotion, heart, love. I think that with life experience, age, and time, our souls change and alter some. I think after the death of a partner or spouse, our souls become different. They transform. Sure, the core of who we are remains - some personality traits, things like that. But our soul, the way we view the world, the way we love - changes drastically after the death of a partner or spouse. So, to me, the soul and the person I was, when I was with my husband and loved by him, is not the same soul and person I am today, because of his death. That soul deserved love. This one does too. The way I love is different now, and the person I am today, has a soulmate. My first soulmate lives on in my heart, and through all my memories and stories about us. As his widow, I feel honored and privileged to be the one to carry out his legacy, and build my own, on the foundation that is love. The bricks are all built from love.Read more
I became a NY Yankee fan in the 1990s, when I went to NYC for college. It was the Joe Torre era, and baseball in NY was exciting. Going to multiple games at Yankee Stadium with college friends, it was tough not to fall in love with it. When I started dating Don, my late husband, he wasn’t really into baseball. He said it was boring, and asked me how I could watch an entire game without falling asleep. I told him if he understood the strategy, it’s the furthest thing from boring.
When he moved to NY to start our life together, he understood. He became a huge Yankees fan too, bigger than I could have ever imagined. He was hooked. He would watch pre-game show, post-game show, and everything in between. When we watched a game together on TV, he would talk nonstop, analyzing the pitcher or hitters next move. It is a thinking man’s game, and my husband was a thinker. This was his sport. WE went to lots of Yankees games together. In NYC, in Florida during spring training - we had a blast, and so many memories. My love for the Yankees is my own, but it’s also very much connected to my relationship with Don. It was one of "our things" that we truly enjoyed together - a great Yankees game.
When he died, it took a long time for me to go back to my Yankees. At first, I watched an inning at a time. Or maybe two innings. Then I’d have to shut it off. It was too lonely without his commentary and back and forth conversation. After a while, I went back to Yankee Stadium. I went with good friends. We felt his spirit there, we felt him close. It was comforting.Read more
*Normally I write on Fridays, and although this post will appear here on Friday, I am writing it Wednesday evening, and setting it to publish Friday. This way I dont have to worry about finding a computer to post the blog while at the Marriott and busy with other things.