Last week I shared about feeling like some new layers of my grief are beginning to thaw as we shifted the calendar into what is my 5th year on this journey. I was pretty teary the week before, but it wasn’t until this past week that the breakdown came. Quite honestly, I’m glad for it. It was such a release.
I don’t even know why it came when it did. Nothing particular triggered it. I think I was just exhausted. A combination of underlying emotions and residual holiday stress and unexpected school cancellations for Mike’s daughter… somewhere halfway through the week, as I was driving home from dropping her off to school, I just broke. I think it was a song that started things off… “The Sound of Silence” it was called. Suddenly, I am screaming and crying with all of my might with the music cranked as loud as it can go.Read more
Here we are. A new year. I woke up feeling weird about that. I think mostly I am annoyed. Annoyed by all the expectation that society holds for everyone to have this wonderful sense of hope for what’s to come on this day. Annoyed that every widowed person out there has to deal with the weight of that expectation as they manage to crawl across this annual threshold. It’s crappy. It’s crappy how much it upsets us. It’s crappy what a reminder it is to us, sometimes even more than Christmas, that our person is not here.
I am grateful to have someone new to spend my New Year’s with now, but Mike being here doesn’t mean I don’t still feel crappy about all the expectation. So many people expect that because you have someone new, your life must just be magically super happy and you are 100% healed from missing your old person. Right. Because that works.Read more
I can hear the fire works from last years New Years Eve celebrations. They go off with a bang. Thoughts racing of families watching them with smiles and couples sharing kisses that would seal there love for the year ahead. Last NYE I sat alone on my bedroom floor, with photos sprawled in front of me. A pen in hand, writing letters to John that he will never get to read. I heard the fire works go off and said out loud "happy new years kiss, I love you".
This new year I had been looking forward to, but as it draws closer I feel sick to celebrate a new year without him. I never thought much of the term "With a heavy heart" until I knew grief. I know you will all understand when I say, my heart feels heavy at the thought of this new year. A year past without him, the new year brings new beginnings, but it doesn't bring him back.Read more
This time last year I spent wishing my life away, wishing that it was all a mistake. Wishing that people were playing a cruel joke on me. Imagining that this wasn’t my life but that I was living someone else’s life and that the real me was still living a happy and blissful life in love where nothing had changed. Each day was spent running on adrenalin and sleep was non-existent. Spending my nights writing endless letters to him, begging him to come back, writing about our memories. Pleading for him to walk through the door. Driving around late at night searching for him and when exhaustion kicked in I would lay awake in bed and scream for him. The longing I felt and the pain in my chest was so intense I thought it would never leave. So I thought of ways I could join him, ways to try to see him again, to speak to him, to hold him. This time last year was the darkest time of my life.Read more
I recently heard an interview with Pema Chodron, a well-known Buddhist nun and author of the book When Things Fall Apart. This woman is chock-full of wisdom. And she got my mind turning about something this morning. In the interview, she talks about a graduation speech she gave recently, telling those brave young folks about to embark into the world, that the most important thing is to learn how to stumble well. To pay closer attention to our pain when we are stumbling through it, and allow ourselves to be fully in our losses and our pains so that we can learn what lessons they hold.
As I’m thinking about this idea, of stumbling well, I realize that the walk with grief is really one of stumbling greatly. Because, after all, losing your partner leaves you in a treacherous landscape, am right? Imagine for a moment what your grief landscape looks like. To me, it’s a mountain range. A vast place of ups and downs, with jagged edges and surprises at every turn. For you it may be a desert, or a barren, underwater world. These images of the landscape of grief can hold a lot of value for us.
Grief is not a minor thing in life. It’s not just tripping you up. It’s not just potholes and speed bumps along the road. Losing your partner is not stumbling and hitting the ground in front of you. It’s stumbling and suddenly there IS no ground to fall on anymore. It is falling off a cliff in slow motion… into a whole other landscape that you were not prepared to travel...
Suddenly, everything feels dangerous to you.
Yesterday, we received a great big box in the mail. Shelby drug it in through the front door, and we slid it across the living room floor, near the Christmas tree, to open it up. I zipped a pocket knife through the tape and she pulled open the top of the box to reveal presents of all shapes and sizes. She squirmed with excitement, while Mike and I stood watching her pull each one out and read off the “To” and “From” tags one at a time.
As she read them, my heart filled with joy. Presents from all of Drew’s family… his parents, siblings, aunt and uncles, to all three of us. It quite took me by surprise actually. I had assumed after moving away from them, and starting a new journey, that we might fade from each other’s lives a bit. I think I mentally prepared myself for that shift to happen some this Christmas. Instead, we received this great big box of goodies I could have never imagined...
Mike left around 3am Saturday morning, headed out to West Virginia. It's his first major solo backpacking trip since we've been together. Three nights out in the mountains alone, with no cell service. Our only form of contact has been a satellite device that lets him send me preset “all is well” messages with his location every few hours (this is proving to be a complete Godsend for quieting my mind, which is trying like crazy to create horrific stories of him breaking a leg or being mauled by a bear while I’m sitting on the couch watching TV).
I don’t have to tell any of you the sort of feeling this trip brings up. Especially if your person died from a sudden loss, while they were away on a trip. This specific trigger is one I have known I would have to face, some day.
The old me would not bat an eye over this sort of event. I am not a needy person, nor have I ever been. I can spend hours and days alone, and enjoy myself so completely in the space of solitude. For me, it is grounding. Drew was often on trips for work, long weekends or week long trips, sometimes out of service for most of the day. So I was used to this sort of thing before. Well, the old me was.
One of the most precious gifts from my marriage to Mike is that I have, for the rest of my life, two beautiful stepdaughters. They were grown when I married him, but still very young, 18 and 22. Now, one is mother to three beautiful children and the other just got married this past weekend here in Kona. Let me tell you - I am deeply grateful I was able to be here for that. Caring for my dad the past five weeks in Virginia, with the unexpected turn of events in his condition, had me think I might not be able to leave. I never would have left had we not been able to settle things there so they were manageable, but somehow, his care got arranged, kind of at the last minute.
There were two really meaningful things about Thanksgiving for me this year. Firstly, I was at my sister’s house in upstate New York. For the first time in our adult lives, we now live close enough to each other that we can do the holidays together. This is an enormous deal for me… one that makes me wish our mom was alive to be a part of it all. God, she would be so happy to see it all.
As much as I try to escape it, that day has been on replay in my mind for the past few weeks. The lead up to the one year mark of the day life changed.
Terrified at the thought of what emotions this day will bring me. Angry that this day has a place in my life at all. And an overshadowing sadness that engulfs and strangles me with the thought that this is real. That it has almost been a full year since I last held him, spoke to him and kissed his warm lips. As much as I try nothing can prepare me for what this day will bring. A huge part of me wants to spend this day alone in my sorrow, hoping for my life to end. I don’t want anyone to witness what may unfold on this day. Then the other part of me screams, get out and live for him! Breathe for him, like you promised you would. He wants you to smile, but even writing about this day brings me to tears because sometimes it just hurts too much to smile.
I wrote him a letter last night in hope that it would help release some of this pain but with each day that brings me closer to one year without him, well the pain cuts deeper. And although this is my new normal life, I am angry that this is normal now. It shouldn’t be normal that every aspect of my life is affected by grief!
It’s unfair and I would give anything to have the normal that I knew before. The death of a spouse is rated the number one most difficult, stressful, life changing event a person can go through. No shit! It’s never ending and unfair is an understatement.
With this journey I have had the fortunate, yet unfortunate privilege to make many new friends in grief. These women will be lifelong friends. Some of which I speak to every day. We laugh and cry and vent our anger. And share the dry and messed up humour that comes with this grief. We share with one another what we cannot share with anyone else. We understand each other. So for this post of what a widows grief is like I will share from not just my own grief, but theirs also. In the effort and hope that it helps other women like us to express this grief.
At 357 days this is how my grief feels… and how it feels for so many others.Read more