It’s been far too long since I felt the sting of an icy wind hitting my face. Months have passed since I lazily stared into a campfire of my own creation, with nobody but my own self to discuss it with. I haven’t dunked into a mountain creek after a long march, and I haven’t been woken up by annoying crows, rather than an annoying alarm clock.
I have every opportunity to walk off into the woods for a day or two. It doesn’t cost much, other than the gas to get there. Winter has never stopped me either, in fact, I favor the winter when I’m out in the “back-of-beyond”. There are no insects, no stifling humidity, and most of all, no people. I can be truly alone with my thoughts, my triggers, and my memories. I can process the self-pity and pessimism that rears its ugly head every so often, without a facebook notification, ringing phone, or a TV interrupting me.
I don’t have any real excuses as to why I haven’t at least taken a day or two to be alone in nature in the past 4 months. But oh, do I sure try to find them. I have slowly been becoming grumpier. Angrier at minutia. Pessimistic and spiteful at the situation that I was thrust into. It’s a negative feedback loop...the more I NEED to be in those woods, the less I have the ambition to get up and go.
I’m using all of the tricks to talk myself out of it and avoid. I think it’s time to have a discussion of these finer points with myself. A “heart-to-heart”, if you will, with my own. It’s a time where, as I wrote over three years ago not long after Megan’s death, I need to flip the switch from suffering to determination. To dust myself off, climb out of my fighting hole, and just friggin’ DO IT.
Let’s talk, self. Have a seat and lets discuss the reasons your ambition is all but gone.
I wonder, frequently, when grief changed from a normal, human response to the death of a loved one, to a condition that, seemingly, must be gotten through (with all due speed, thank you very much for your consideration), with clinical protocols assigned to it?
When did grief get designated as complicated and unhealthy and uncomfortable and perceived as an enemy? When did our culture start demanding of us that we, as grievers, choose life as quickly as possible, focus only on the happy memories of life and not dwell in the layers of sorrow that come with death? When did grief become something to hide from the world at large?
When did we medicalize grief so that our approach is clinical instead of soulful?Read more
A dear friend and Air Force widow sister said to me last weekend, in response to my endless questions to her about this grief (she’s 6 years out), and time frames and, oh, you know, everything...she said this to me, and I’ve reflected on it in the days since.
It isn’t that it goes away.
We just get stronger, and we carry it differently.Read more
This is a list. Not a gratitude list necessarily, but a list that does include some good shit, nonetheless. And sometimes it’s easier to write in list form than prose form.
I have to remind myself, as many of us do, I expect, that this widowhood is, as I learned in AA, a matter of progress, not perfection. Because I, for one, consistently seem to expect more of myself than is realistic. By which I mean, I continually scan my body and mind and heart to see where I am in this grief and why I’m not further along, even as my mind tells me to stop such nonsense and lays out all the reasons why I need to stop such nonsense.
Still it continues. But I’m getting better at just letting it be and not gauging my grief by anyone else’s grief.
So...progress, not perfection.Read more
Is it just me? I wonder, even as I know it isn’t just me. Logically and because I literally know otherwise, it isn’t just me.
There’s a boat load of men and women through time immemorial who have lived this shit that I'm living, that we're all living.
And yet, my brain doesn’t let up about it.Read more
Tuesdays used to be only about writing my WV blog. Now they’re also about my EMDR sessions, so please bear with me as my brain and heart work overtime.Read more
I am a strong and fiercely independent woman. I always have been. When I was 18 years old, in 1990, I left my comfy small town of Groton, Massachusetts, to attend college and live in NYC. I wanted to be a performer, actor, comedian, writer, or anything that got me out of that boring and predictable suburban life. I wanted more. So I went out on my own, leaving behind my wonderful family and all my relatives and friends, hoping to make new friends and a life for myself. And I did. I lived in and around the city for years. First, at college. Then, getting apartments with friends in Brooklyn, Queens, and ultimately, New Jersey, just 10 minutes outside NYC. I was 5 hours away from family, and often lonely and scared.
But I never had a problem doing things for myself and by myself, or not being in relationships for years at a time. I was never one of those girls you see who always has a boyfriend or has to be with someone. Nope. In fact, I was usually not with someone at all. I carried my own groceries up the stairs or across multiple streets, lugged my own heavy suitcases, figured out ways to try and keep myself feeling safe on those days I had to come home late at night on the subway by myself. I did all of that for years. Alone. By the time I met Don, and by the time he finally moved in with me so we could start our life together in 2005, I was exhausted. I was so beyond ready to have a man in the house, or, apartment. I am an independent woman, but there is something to be said for what a man brings, what a man gives, and what a man is - in a relationship. It's now been 4 years since my dear husband died his sudden death, and once again, I am exhausted. I'm exhausted from being a woman, who no longer has a man. And at the end of the day, there is something to be said about that.Read more
If I'm being 100% honest, which I always am in my writing about loss, there are actually two of me. Version One of me was born on September 26, 1971, and she died on July 13, 2011. Version Two of me was born on the same day, within seconds even, of version one's tragic death. Version One never saw it coming. A massive heart-attack took her husband away forever, and in that same instant, Version One of me ceased to exist. A new me was born, and, like an infant, I had to start life all over again.
Everything was different. Every. single. thing. The world smelled and looked and felt different. Inhaling and exhaling had an unfamiliar, labored feeling to it. Speaking a sentence felt like a chore, and I wasn't sure what words to use or where they were coming from. When my husband's heart stopped beating, my new one started it's frightening and insecure rhythm. From that day forward, it would be up to me to figure out this new life without Don, and this new version of myself. Yes, there are still pieces of the old me that remain inside the new me - things that are part of the core of who I am. But even those pieces of me changed - some drastically, and some slightly. But they changed. They had to.
Now, just one week away from being 4 years into this new life, I am still taking baby steps everyday, still navigating the terrain to find my way through the thick and humid mud. I'm getting there, but I probably won't ever really arrive. The death of a spouse or partner literally affects every single part of your life. It does. There is no part of your life that this loss does not touch, from finances to jobs to friendships to living situations to parenting (if you have kids) to dreams of parenting (if you didnt get to have kids) to what you eat to how you shop to what kind of health insurance you have (or the fact that you lose it because you were on your husband's plan and now he's dead) to where you go on a typical Friday night - on and on and on. In this way, the death of a spouse is very different than other kinds of death. It leaves no stone un-turned. Every part of your life is now changed, and you are left starting over, alone, in the middle of a field, standing on a landmine, with nothing but endless terror and a blank canvas. And you don't even know how to paint.Read more
I went to the doctor today. I know. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but believe me, in my world, it is. When my husband died suddenly just under 4 years ago, we were living paycheck to paycheck. We shared his beat up old car to get to our jobs, and we had nothing in savings. We lived in a crappy and small apartment in New Jersey, and we were both stressed out and overworked. He was working two jobs to try and get us out of that "struggling" lifestyle, and start bringing us on a road to a better life together. We were working toward something. And then he dropped dead.Read more