I’ve attended three weddings this year. I’ve heard of many widows who hate or avoid going to weddings but I don’t really feel that way. That’s not a new development for me; I attended 3 of my best friends’ weddings (within my self-set boundaries) and was a bridesmaid in my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in the three to six months after Mike died because I wanted to be there and be a witness and part of their joy (they would all have all graciously excused me). However, it is certainly not the same experience that it use to be for me and I have a different attitude and perspective attending than I once had.
I think the expression of love at weddings is beautiful and I’m so happy I got to experience that with Mike. I feel lucky for that. I’m glad when I go to weddings that the people get to experience that too. Obviously, my love story with Mike after our wedding was not what I expected and that’s where the “different” experience comes in.
The vows the bride and groom say to one another is the part that stands out to me the most now. It also is the part that makes me a bit uneasy. The weight and promise of those words is so enormous. I reflect on my own promise I made, what I think of it now, and my future moving forward.
I understand the thinking behind the “until death do us part” promise but I just don’t find it actually works that way. When someone dies, you don’t feel like you’re not married to them anymore. It’s not a clean break. It’s not a breakup or divorce. I still felt very much married. Death doesn’t make you stop loving them. It is just no longer reciprocated.
Beyond “until death do us part,” I think it makes more sense when brides and grooms also often say that they will love and honour their spouse for all the days of their life. It’s an individual choice as opposed to a joint one. It is carried out regardless of the other person. I think that is really sweet and also very true. I will love and honour Mike for all of my life. It’s a beautiful, huge promise.Read more
Last week my school took part in the Terry Fox Walk. I’m not sure how much everyone knows about Terry Fox but in a way oversimplified summary he was a young Canadian, who lost his leg to cancer in the 1980s. He had an artificial leg and set a goal to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. He died before he could finish his “Marathon of Hope” but many schools across the country still participate in a walk and raise money for cancer research on his behalf. My explanation does not do it justice but I strongly suggest you look it up and there’s a great new video the Terry Fox Foundation put out this year as well.
Anyways, so our school starts the walk with an assembly where we watch the video about Terry Fox and then we’re on our way with a cause. After the walk, the 5-7 year olds in my class want to talk about Terry Fox dying and death in general.
As someone who has spent so much of the last bit of my life dealing with grief I am careful to not project that onto the kids I am constantly around. However, I also refuse to shy away from talking about death when it is naturally brought up by them. I think that would do them a disservice. Avoiding conversations about death, when they have questions or comments, perpetuates the idea that grief and death are a taboo topic when it really is a natural and unavoidable part of life. They shouldn’t be forced or taught to hide their emotions connected to death and they certainly shouldn’t grow into adults who have internalized those ideas. If they have questions or comments I’m going to do my best to respond and validate them.
I must say that I was both so humbled, proud, and full of hope by the conversation that stemmed from their little minds. It was so honest and raw. It gave me a perspective of the progression from their open minds as children to the closed minds we develop as adults. It gave me hope that if conversations can remain open that maybe their thinking can stay. It expressed their concerns and worries in such a true form. It demonstrated respect, care, maturity and an awareness for others that is inspiring.
Instead of describing the conversation in length I thought I would just write a few of the things they shared and my thinking behind it and hope that maybe it can be meaningful and insightful to you too.Read more
Grief is hard. There is no denying that. There are things that are so obviously associated with grieving that I know will be difficult: anniversaries, birthdays, things that remind me of Mike and the list can go on. When those moments happen (or are soon going to happen) and I feel upset or angry or sad I can clearly attribute it to grief. It almost makes me satisfied to be able to classify it. “Ah, it would have been our wedding anniversary and I’m pissed he’s not here.” I know why I am feeling the way I am. It’s grief. I can give myself the grace to go easy on myself and let myself experience whatever emotion it is I need to feel.
The more difficult part is when I just feel sad, angry, or upset and I don’t know exactly why. Sometimes I just don’t feel like doing anything at all. I may just want my bed or I may cry over something that doesn’t seem significant. Is that still grief? I’m not necessarily crying about Mike but I still just feel sad or alone or whatever. I didn’t ever use to do that or feel that way so intensely before Mike died. Can it still be grieving? Is it something more? Is it normal to just have bad days for no reason? Is it for no reason? I just don’t know.Read more
Our wedding song playing.
Someone else playing our wedding song as part of their shared memory of a completely different circumstance.
My boyfriend’s family’s memory of our wedding song as part of their memory of his parents’ 30 year wedding anniversary.
Sitting in my boyfriend’s parents’ living room with his whole family watching his parents’ 30 year wedding anniversary video play to our wedding song.
Jolted from the present moment. Torn from my daydream of what a possible future might hold for me now. Back to the past.
All consuming emotions. Hard memories of a life that never was. Missing Mike. Missing sharing our memory together. Alone.
Paralyzed in frozen silence. Hoping no one notices. Wishing to disappear. Hard swallow. Dark room. Silent tear.
If you’ve read my post from my personal blog from last year around this time you would know that I don’t like Fall. It’s my least favourite season. There is however a very redeeming quality for me at this time of year: the end of motorcycle season in Canada!
I don’t know if I’ve ever fully mentioned it (it’s not what I want to focus on) but Mike died in a motorcycle accident. Since then, motorcycles have been extremely triggering for me.
When he first died I literally had to pull over and off the road when a motorcycle was driving anywhere near me. I could not handle it. They made me so anxious and upset. I would wait for them to pass, collect myself and get back on the road. I seemed to have passed those emotions onto my dog and he would try to hide in the car when he heard a motorcycle. The two of us were a bit of a disaster. Mike died in the Spring so I had the Spring, Summer, and start of the Fall with those things whipping around and making all their terrible loud sounds near me. Let’s just say that it took me a long time to get anywhere that year.
I have moved slightly forward through a lot of those feelings. I no longer have to pull over when a motorcycle drives near me. I so still absolutely hate them driving near me and I try to avoid them. I will slow down or switch lanes to try to get it away from me. I can function driving around them but it still makes me anxious, brings up memories or makes me feel all sorts of feelings. There’s still never a single motorcycle that passes through my eyesight that doesn’t make me think of Mike and his accident.Read more
Recently someone reached out to me asking me how I do this life and how they find it so difficult to not be where they want to be or thought they’d be. Turning 30 this past week has made me think about some of the same things so I thought I’d share my thought process.
Is this where I thought I’d be and what I thought I’d be doing at 30? No. It is certainly not.
Is where I am and what I’m doing not good? Is it less of a life? A definite no to those too.
I think it starts with acknowledging feelings of what I thought my life would be. I don’t think stifling emotions is healthy or helpful. So yes, I did not think I would be where I am at 30. In my original plan, I thought I’d probably have a family by now. I thought maybe I’d have a child or maybe two. I didn’t think I’d be living on my own (well, with a roommate now) with my dog and dating. That was never what I pictured or what I planned.
That being said, I acknowledge that lost future when it pops into my mind but I also work on letting that life go. That’s not where I am. Sometimes it’s more difficult than others. But as much as possible I try to be present in where my life currently is so that I can enjoy that. Living in the “would be” or “should be” robs today of all that it is. It doesn’t make my life any better thinking of what I am not doing or what I don’t have. It actually makes my life worse because it makes me miss all the things right in front of me while still not having what I thought I’d have. Double loss.Read more
I originally wrote this post last year and have revised it a bit to reflect my current feelings. Happy Birthday to me! Enjoy!
I hear it all the time…”another year older, urgh,” “I hate getting older,” “I hate my birthday and the reminder I’m getting old,” “getting older sucks.” I use to be one of these people. I cried on my 10th birthday because I didn’t want to be double digits. I’m sure many people reading this are still those people that post on social media about how getting older is terrible or complain to their family and friends about it. I, however, strongly disagree - getting older doesn’t suck.
Whenever I hear someone say that they hate getting older I wince inside knowing that they have this privilege yet they don’t fully appreciate it. Do you have any idea how lucky you are to be here living and getting older? Not everyone gets to get older but you do and are everyday. It is one of the best things that can happen to you. You are here with a life to live, adventures to be had, goals to set and achieve and love to share.
I wish Mike was here getting older. I know there are other widows, friends, brothers and sisters and parents who wish the same for their loved ones. There is nothing nice about being forever young. To be forever 28 is limited. I’m not saying he didn’t have a good life while he was here. It is not about that. It’s just that there was more life to live that got cut short.Read more
The other week I saw this meme on Instagram about dying and not wanting the person you’re with to be happy afterwards and about how they should get in the casket and die too. It was framed in a “funny” way and meant to be a joke but I didn’t find it funny at all. I felt defensive, like it was an attack on me and other widows who have fought so hard to find happiness again. I felt like I was being judged and that made me mad. Then I thought: That’s stupid to care about what others think and I don’t care. People who haven’t experienced that type of loss yet are very blissfully ignorant and very immature. People who liked that and tagged their partners (including people I follow and “friends”) are pretty much idiots and have no idea what it’s like. I almost pity them to have that outlook on life and the happiness of the person they apparently love should something happen to them. Which reality check: either you or your partner will end up in this position at some point unless you (very unlikely) have some kind of joint Notebook death.
The thought of others finding it funny made me think though. Was there a time I would have found this to be funny? I certainly couldn’t relate to the humour now but would I have before? Would Mike have related to it? Would I have been one of those people who “liked” it or tagged their partner? Was there truth in it? So much in such a silly, stupid meme.Read more
This past weekend my friend from British Columbia flew to Ontario to come to visit me. I haven’t seen her in a year since we last did a road trip together. I’ve written about her before on my own personal blog about her being The Friend I Never Wanted. She is an amazing and inspiring person. She’s a young widow too and an incredible support. We have been navigating life after loss with very similar timelines across the country.
We talk on a regular basis but it’s different actually being together. We know we’re both moving forward, and we talk about our lives now, but it just feels so much more obvious when we’re together. Our visits are like a timeline of progress in grief, to me anyways. Much has stayed the same but there’s also been change. For example, when I was asking what food she wanted as I grocery shopped for her visit she commented that she doesn’t think she had food in her house the first time I visited. At that time we were both in the first year of loss. We then tried to remember what we even did during that first visit. It all seemed like a blur. We talked about our trip together the last time we met up, just over a year out from the death of our husbands, and how we struggled to come up with a plan between the two of us. We had joked that between the two of us we had a total of 1 working brain and we hoped that would be enough to manage everything.Read more
When Mike first died, everyone asked me if I was going to therapy. When I said that I was it was somehow a relief to them. “Good for you,” they’d say. I didn’t get it. I was so fresh into it that I mostly just sat there and cried at my sessions. I mean, it was good to cry and talk and hear an outsider’s perspective but it was still very raw.
Now, just past the two year mark, when and if I ever mention I go to therapy I’m met with the surprised reaction of, “Oh? Do you still need that?” I’d like to be able to say that reaction was a one time thing but that’s the usual reaction I get from many different people. Sometimes also met with their embarrassment or discomfort in the fact that they are now talking to me about the “taboo” subject of therapy. I refuse to succumb to that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that I still go to therapy. Maybe people just don’t understand.
The “do you still need to go to that?” with the implied suggestion that I should be fine by now was the exact question my family doctor asked me when I asked her to sign the papers for my insurance. I replied, “Is my husband still dead?”Read more