Since coming back from Camp Widow Toronto, the upcoming holiday season has been on my mind a lot. I met so many new widows in Toronto. So many who are enduring the horror of their first holiday season without their person this year. As I sat down this morning to write, I began thinking, just what could I share that might resonate with anyone out there who is about to endure the kickoff of their first holiday season widowed?
I decided to go back, to my personal blog - Our 1000 Days - where the majority of that first year was written about, before I wrote for Soaring Spirits. I went back to November 26, 2012… just 5 months after his death. It is there that I found this piece, talking about having made it through that first major holiday...
“I survived First Thanksgiving, as I’m calling it, and I learned a thing or two… I learned from writing and talking to other widows that sometimes the time leading up to the holiday is the worst. And sometimes the day of the holiday is the worst. And sometimes, as was the case for me… the actual holiday itself is kind-of not too bad. Hell there was even some really enjoyable times and I was able to share in them and feel all the love. It was easy to feel all the love, I spent the day with Drew’s family. Lots of things to do. Lots of people to be with, lots of love. Lots of joy.
This is the tricky part… this is where your mind wants to believe that maybe you’ll make it entirely through the holidays with that same “this isn’t so bad” feeling...Read more
As I sit here thinking about what I want to write, I am struck by the fact that I don’t really want to write about Ben specifically. That’s a first. I had a pretty good week overall, and despite going it alone I was still able to find some joy.
Last weekend was the start of several busy days in a row which left little time for grief to rear it’s ugly-yet-somewhat-comfortable head. My sister and niece came over from Vancouver Island and together with my mom, my eldest daughter and my other sister we all spent the day in a tattoo parlour. (It was my mom’s idea. She’s 73, by the way). By the time we left at the end of the day my mom was sporting her very first tattoo – a small tulip on her ankle. She’s been talking about it for years and now it’s done. Way to go Mom!
The rest of us also left sporting brand new tattoos of our favourite flowers. Jaime and I chose the daffodil which is the flower of March (Ben’s birth month) and of course it is the symbol of hope for finding a cure for cancer.Read more
In the before moments
As you hold tight while trying to let go
Waiting for that last breath
Dreading that last breath
Holding your breath waiting for that last breath
Gasping in your breath as he exhales his last breath
Long Live LoveRead more
I think one of the hardest things about losing people we love, is that in a way, we lose a part of our own history when they die. Or at least, we lose one of our living, breathing connections to that history. Without those connections to the history of ourselves, I’m learning it can be easy to get lost. I think this has been especially hard because both of my parents are gone along with Drew. I simply do not have a wealth of people in my life that I'm in touch with often who remember all the many moments of my history with me.
There are pieces of me that I wish so badly to reconnect to - parts of myself I’ve struggled to nurture in this new environment because of stress, busyness, my own self-critical nature… who knows what exactly. Parts of me that I think I was beginning to finally nurture a few years ago, but the upheaval of moving I guess interrupted that more than I could have known it would.
They are pieces of me I wish for Mike to know also. Sometimes it feels like all he has known is this person who is constantly battling overwhelm, feeling homesick, trying to make order out of everything, while periodically having complete meltdowns about her inability to cope pretty much all adulting. I’m certain he would disagree of course, but quite honestly I don’t always feel like he is getting to have the best version of me, at least not right now. I know there is so much more in there. I know because I remember her.
For a while now, I think I’ve believed that losing my parents, my fiance, and proximity to my friends and family and the culture of my state back home meant I lost me too. No doubt, it's left me questioning... without any of that around me to help define me anymore… who am I supposed to be now?Read more
The past few days have been exhausting. As hurricane Harvey slammed into my hometown area - a whole flood of emotions has rained down on me. Mike and I have been glued to the news nonstop. Houston is now getting catastrophic flooding. Many, many people are still missing and unaccounted for in the worst areas. It is torture to watch it all from so far away.
We were up more than half the night when it hit, sending text updates to my friends who stayed in Corpus, because they had no power or internet and were sitting scared in their homes with no way to know what was going on all around them.
One of my best and oldest friends went dark on us around 2am, and we didn’t hear from her again until after 3pm the next day. Even though she was in Corpus and didn’t get the worst of it, I can tell you… it was one of the longest waits ever for me.Read more
This past week, I was hopeful about beginning to make some positive shifts in my life. About trying to focus more on the joys of life. I had some glimmer of the sort of energy and zest I used to have. Unfortunately, that didn’t last. Instead, I found myself in a state of overwhelm, to the point of having an anxiety attack on Monday - which hasn’t happened in over a year.
I know from that, something is definitely not going right. The whole rest of the week has proven no better… my mind will not seem to turn off. Constant racing about all number of things from the pressures and expectations of being a step mom, to the stress of trying to “get somewhere” with my business that never feels like it’s getting anywhere. The nagging stress that having some extra money would really help Mike and I out, and the pressure I’ve put on myself to try and find all sorts of ways to bring that in… none of which have panned out really so far. I guess sometimes we don’t even realize how hard things are getting, until we hit the wall. The wall for me, is anxiety.Read more
I feel tired lately. In a subtle, general sort of way. I feel worn out by life. Something in a book I was reading this morning made me remember a person I used to be. The man described his wife as this energetic, vibrant, confident woman. And I wondered suddenly, where has that woman in me gone to? The one who was excited about life. Excited about new adventures and exploring and learning and growing. The one who always felt hopeful and - even in the midst of fresh widowhood - fucking determined to make a good life for herself still.
After five years of trying to figure out how to build a business with my art, and five years of crawling and fighting for this new life without Drew, I feel lately like the only place I have gotten after all of this effort is just more tired. And that’s where that woman has gone to… the one that used to be vibrant and energetic and hopeful. She has given every ounce of herself to trying to figure out this new life.
Endless amount of energy are spent daily trying to fulfill everyone's expectations of this new chapter of my life... expectations that my life is so happy and full and beautiful just because I have a new partner. Expectations that my business is flourishing and thriving and even some expectations that my artwork to be "happier" now because I am apparently happier (um, what!)
Then there is the enormous and completely new expectation of being a mother figure... and constantly trying to be "enough" in that role to make certain that everyone in Mike and his late wife's family are pleased with me being here. To make certain that no one ever doubts me being in this role in his daughter's life. There is even the expectation of being a good enough partner to Mike, and a good enough friends to all of my friends now that we live so far away from each other. With the exception of a few people's dumb comments, all of these are in my own head. But it's enough to leave me totally depleted after 2 years into this new life.
Somehow with all of that, I actually feel like I shouldn’t be this tired. I feel like I should have all of it more together. That things should all be running more smoothly than they are. That I should be more financially successful with my art business. And that I should have energy and be vibrant and alive like I used to be. But when I type that out… I realize how completely insane that expectation sounds.Read more
This past week, in between various errands and chores and work tasks, I took an hour or so to go for a walk at one of my favorite hiking trails nearby. It’s been on my mind ever since, for a few reasons. I don’t really take time to myself out in nature anymore like I used to. Life is so much busier now and there just never seems to be time. More like I always seem to find 50 other things I “should” be doing. So it was a real treat to spend a few hours just going for a walk.
I walked a short way down the trail before returning to my car, which happened to be parked at a little pullover on the side of the road, just in front of a creek. There’s a bench I know of, just past my car, that sits overlooking the creek. I went to sit for a while, and discovered a little painted stone someone had left on the bench. It was gold, with a smiley face painted on it, and the word “Happy” written clearly by a child. It brightened me even further, feeling like a sign or confirmation that I need to do this more for myself… get out in nature on my own so that I can truly connect with it. Little did I know there was an even bigger sign in front of me, with a beautiful lesson...
Homesick. This past week I’ve been so painfully homesick, not only for a place but for the people and community that make me feel home. So much has changed in the past few years, most of the time I think I’m pretty used to just being outside of my comfort zone. But then there are days when I’m so tired from that I guess, that I realize how long its been since I’ve truly been in my comfort zone at all. I don’t know why this past week has felt this way. Sometimes I guess there just aren’t any real reasons at all. I’m blaming it on hormones though, I suppose, as it just so happens it is coinciding with good ole Aunt Flow visiting.
Almost every night this past week, my mind is flooded with memories of places I am now far away from, and the memories and feeling of those places. So much so, that I have dreaded going to bed a bit at night… needing a podcast or the TV on just to try and avoid my thoughts...Read more
Last night, Mike and I went to a concert. It was a surprise I gave him, to see one of his favorite bands. The entire night was incredible… one of those magical nights you remember forever. The joy in Mike’s eyes was palpable. No one had ever surprised him with such a wonderful gift before he said, and you could just feel the joy and love radiating from him all night. It was a beautiful evening. We had lawn seats at this outdoor arena. Not only was every song amazing and the energy of the crowd amazing, but there were songs from this band that I’d never heard before that slammed into my heart with such deep emotion. They went right to the core of me and touched something so very deep...Read more