This week I felt like writing about how the arrival of the holidays has already been extremely difficult for me. These are the first holidays without Clayton. Those Facebook “memories” that pop up in my news feed are like a sharp knife from a friend. Nothing is safe from the reminders. I don’t know if I can even decorate this year but decorating is not what my words are for this week. It is the place that no one would ever think could be a heart-wrenching trigger. A place everyone goes that is designed to help you live but, as a widow, it is a place that can take more of you away…The Grocery Store.Read more
"I don't have any reason, dont wanna waste more time
Im in a New York state of mind......."
Ah yes, Billy Joel had it right with that song.
Its been about 17 months since I left NYC, my second home, to move back to my home state of Massachusetts, finish my book, and see what comes next. I didnt expect to find love here in smalltown Mass, and I didnt expect for that love to provide not only the perfect ending to my book, but a new lease and purpose on life in addition. When I left NYC, in my heart, it was temporary. I kept saying: "I can always come back." But somewhere deep inside, I knew that my soul was being eaten alive by NYC, and my wallet too. So, I have made a lot of visits, and almost every one of them was because I had something professional or career-related going on in the city; a book signing event, a comedy show, this time its a TV taping on the local cable show OPEN TO HOPE. I will be one of a 3-person panel of widowed authors - me , Michelle Miller, and John Polo. We will talk about our books and about grief and loss. It will air at a later time. The evening before the taping, on Friday night, (this will post Friday for you all, but Im writing it Wednesday evening) the three of us will host a fun Karaoke Book-signing party in the city, sort of a "Meet and Greet" with anyone who wants to come out. In between all of that, I will see some friends and have some fun. Back to my NYC people. My NYC vibe.Read more
I had dreams of him this past week. It's the first time in a lot of years I've dreamt of him two nights in a row.
It was both beautiful and sad. The dreams were good... they were happy. I got to see his smile again, that beautiful smile that warmed my heart. For a moment, I got to remember the feeling that his smile gave me. It's been so long, almost seven years now, that I can almost not recall the feeling of him anymore. But every now and then, something - like a dream - pulls out the memory from the depts. Not the mental memory, but the feeling memory. Those are the ones that are harder to hold on to. I can remember vividly so many details about our lives still. I can still remember the sound of his laugh and the love in his eyes. But the one thing that a struggle to remember is the feeling of what it was like when he was here. Dreams sometimes pull me back there, in the most beautiful, but painful way.
Will I Ever Stop Asking
Where would we be,
had you not died?
Will I ever stop wondering
what would have happened
in our life together
if you were still here?
Will I ever be at peace
with the idea that my life is filled
that do not have answers?
Will I ever feel okay
with the knowing
that large pieces of my life
will always remain unknown?
Will I?Read more
I wrote this on a night when the moon blazed so brightly in the sky...
"I remember, barely now, because it's been so long, the feel of my hand in Chuck's. His hand so strong and firm around mine. His hand gave me a feeling of comfort, of protection, of belonging... a sense of order in my Universe.
As the nights grow colder now, as the moon shimmers so very brightly above my upraised face, i remember, sometimes barely now, because it's been so very long, the strength of Chuck's arms around me from behind, as we stared up at this same moon, marveling at the beauty of it, transfixed by its' distance from us, and the might of the Universe around us...Read more
Last night, I saw the film "Bohemain Rhapsody" with my love, Nick.
Everything having anything to do with music always makes me think of Don.
It just does.
Our connection was largely based in music. We met through music. We played and sang music together.
We introduced each other to lots of musicians and artists to listen to.
Don used music and strumming his guitar, as his biggest coping mechanism to get through the trauma he saw on the job.
To get through most hard things.
He would disappear into music, play his guitar for a couple hours in solitude, and then he would be okay.
Don and I connected through music.Read more
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 once heard a phrase that if all the world’s problems were in a bag you would be trying to pick back your own. At the time I thought well of course, my problems are miniscule. Now I think that clearly wasn’t written by a young widow. I know there are still worse problems than mine; people who deal with major issues on top of being widowed and not to mention people living in third world countries. However, if I was offered a bag of possible problems mine would certainly not be at the top of the list of problems I would want.
I know it’s not particularly helpful to myself but today I’m feeling envious of other people. I’m envious of the people who got to be married to their person for their life. I’m envious of the people who got to celebrate their first or even second wedding anniversary. I’m envious of people who got to get married and have a baby, not a funeral, a year or two later. People that get to live seemingly “normal” lives with their spouses and families.
And I’m mad. I’m mad that I was able to plan a life with Mike that I never got to live. I’m mad that happiness does not just come naturally to me anymore. It’s something I have to be conscious of and work for so I don’t slip back into my dark hole. I’m mad that I can’t just relax into happiness. That I know that I need to do certain things consistently, like exercise and get outside, even when I’m busy or want to do other things so that I can keep myself in balance.Read more
So the book I have been writing about my husband's death, and life in the aftermath, is finished. It is now in editing, and should be ready for publication for July 13th. One of the sections in the book is called "Words About Don", where I asked a handful of his close friends and family to write up a few words/couple of paragraphs or so, about a memory, or what Don meant to them, or anything they felt like saying about Don Shepherd. I have been receiving the last of these writing pieces over the past few weeks, to be added to my draft. Yesterday, I received one from Don's very best friend - his EMS partner on the ambulance for years out in Florida, and his Best Man at our wedding. This man and his wife drove 24 hours from Florida to New Jersey, on very short notice, to be there at Don's funeral and honor him. They were the kind of friends who felt like and thought of each other as brothers.Read more
In July of 2011, my husband died, and I died too. Well, that version of me died.
About an hour after his death, after I had made the phone calls to immediate family and a few close friends – from a random bathroom inside the ER part of the hospital, sitting on the toilet after having just thrown up from shock – I sent my first Facebook status update about my husband being dead. I wrote it in words, so that everyone would know. I wrote about it in a brutally honest way. My post said “I don’t know what to do next.“
From there, Facebook posts became something of a comfort to me. My only way to reach out to lots of people all at once, and say how horrible this all was. I didn’t have a widowed community back then. I didn’t know what the hell that even was. I was 39 years old, and my world was gone.
Sometime around early 2012, my Facebook posts became a blog (ripthelifeiknew.com). People started saying I should write a book about the brutal realities of grief, the dark humors of it, and about my story in the aftermath. So at some point that year, I started writing and slowly shaping my book. I wanted to give him a legacy. I wanted to help people who are going through this. I wanted to share all the things that I learned the hard way while grieving – all the things nobody told me.Read more