On Sunday, September 30th, I hosted a huge Book Launch Party Celebration in NYC, at West Side Comedy Club. A few years ago, when I was beginning to write this epic love and loss story book about the life and death of my husband, I did a fundraising campaign where lots of great people donated to help make my book happen. One of the things I promised as part of that campaign, was that when the book was finished, I would have a huge Book Launch Party in NYC.
Well, 4 years and a few months later, I did it. I put time and energy and hard work and money into this party. I ordered food. There was a huge sheet cake that said "Thank You for your support", and had the cover of my book superimposed right into the icing. We did a raffle to raise money for Soaring Spirits, and I called and gathered people to donate services, goods, books, and gift cards toward the raffle for prizes. I stood up on the stage and read from my book. I did a little bit of comedy. My friend Lori, who manages the club where we held the party, also did some comedy and spoke very kind words about me in front of everyone there.Read more
Another number away from the "2012" in which Ian died.
One thing I read late last year was people doing a 'word' for the year, not New Years Resolutions, which seemed a far more sensible way to go than dragging out the perennial resolution that never gets stuck to.
The word that stuck out to me at the beginning of the year was Faith.
Not religious faith, but ...
I did it. I survived, and sometimes even thrived, Christmas day.
It is now Christmas night, and I sit here in my parents dining room on my laptop writing this blog.
I am staying with them for 10 days over the holiday, in Massachusetts, away from my usual NYC apartment and life.
I love being here. I love my family. However ...
and there is ALWAYS a "however" with grief ....
sometimes it hurts being around my family. It hurts a lot.Read more
I received the parchment last week for a course I started about 18 months ago. No formal graduation, just a small package in the mail. Additional studies over and above my university studies.
It's the first thing I've done from beginning to end since Ian died. Wholly and completely without him. Concept to completion.
I started it because I wasn't sure my uni studies were the right direction. Seeking counsel from friends, many thought that this course/profession would be a good fit for me.
It was a six month course, so I've taken a lot longer to do it than is scheduled (but that also seems to be usual with numerous students taking more than the minimum to get through).
Here's the thing. I probably won't even use the qualification.
week has been a whirlwind for me. I met a fellow artist who, upon seeing my photographic series on grief, asked to write this feature about it for a creative blog he writes for. That one blog post at this point has led to around 6 other blogs contacting me to share my story and the project… which has resulted in hundreds of people sharing the project via Facebook and Twitter. It has been certainly one of the most memorable and moving weeks of slogging through the past two years since my fiancé died.
To catch you up, this is a year-long self portrait series I have been doing since February called "Still, Life". Each weekly image - which I share on my blog - explores and expresses the emotional and psychological journey of living on after the death of someone you love. It touches on aspects like desperation and isolation, hopelessness and hope, fear and trust. It has been a grueling and often frustrating project. I've wanted to quit MANY times. I've cursed enough over it to make a sailor blush. I've had total emotional breakdowns over it. But, I've needed it project to survive. It's given me something to put myself into each day… like being able to climb into a boat on this stormy sea of grief. Still in the storm, but with something to hold me and help give me some small bit of direction.
So here I am this week, reading kind words written by other people about this work I've poured myself into for the past nine months. A project that could have never come out of me had he not died. It is so bittersweet - but my God, it's beautiful. The first two years were deeply survival. But these first 5 months of the third year since he died, it feels like he lives on in every step forward I take. The bitter is beginning to fall away, and leaving more and more sweetness over time.Read more
Yesterday was one of those days in this after life that was both incredible and heartbreaking all at once. Earlier this year, I started going to the gym and took up Crossfit to try and get into shape. I hadn't done anything for over a year since he died and was really out of shape. Not to mention I've never really been athletic my entire adult life.
So yesterday was big because I went to my first Crossfit competition. And it was cold. And rainy. And I had a cold. And I somehow still didn't back down and I did all three of my workouts to compete. I was on a high all day... The very fact that I was even there was amazing. The fact that just a year ago I'd never have imagined I'd be doing something like this was so fulfilling.
I didn't win anything, I did probably somewhere around mediocre compared to all the other women. But that didn't matter. I showed up. And I worked harder than I ever have. And I beat my own practice times by a lot. And I did it with a layer of grief underneath it all.
I'll keep on the theme Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation has run on their facebook page for International Widows Day - what I've achieved since Ian died.
Well, working on achieving.
One of the big changes I made was to go back to school. I knew my job would end about 12 months after Ian died, and I opted to work towards a change in direction. But one semester into my 2-year accounting course, I was a bit unsure if it was the right direction, even though I'm getting decent marks and enjoy the studies.
A week ago, I had a really big moment. It was defined the by a very simple difference in word choice. It was not something anyone else would have noticed or defined as big - unless of course you yourself are widowed perhaps. While at the gym, one of the other girls in class asked if I was married and had kids. And I said - in this effortless, matter-of-fact way - "No, I'm widowed, so the kids thing is pretty much out of the picture for right now". And then I just continued about my workout. Just like that. No big emotional breakdown. No desire to run and hide. No real care for whether or not this other woman was pitying me. It just rolled out naturally. A fact. Plain and simple.
This was a big deal. Something felt really different about it. The more I thought about it, I began to realize what it was. I said "I'm widowed". It's the first time since he died that I have said it that way by default. Every other time I have said "I'm a widow". I AM a widow. It's a small difference in words, but it feels like a huge difference in perspective.
Today I read a beautiful article that really got me thinking. During a commercial photo shoot for a show on the Oprah Network - near the end of the shoot - one of the actors requested the photographer to take a few more shots for him. As he stepped back onto the backdrop, the actor began to sob. The photographer captured about a dozen or so shots before finally feeling uncomfortable with remaining uninvolved and then walked around the camera to give the man a hug. The actor went on to tell him that his father had died that day, and he had just gotten the phone call while on their lunch break during the shoot. He had been holding it in all day - without anyone knowing - and finally, at the end of the day, he just wanted someone to record what he was going through. The images are beautiful… I have shared one below.
As a photographer, and as a human being, this story touched my heart and really got me thinking. I have taken many many self portraits since Drew died… and the vast majority of them seem to end up being on my phone while at the cemetery (including the two below). I don't know why I do this, but nearly every time I am there, in the quiet space where his body lay, far out in the countryside, I seem compelled to get out the camera and look back in at myself. I want to see myself going through it. I want to capture it - all of it - the pain, the tears, the anguish. I want to have a conversation with myself and explore it from a different point, from a point where I am suddenly outside looking in on that moment. I don't know why, but I want that. I'm guessing a lot of us for one reason or another want to capture the pain in some way. After all, even pain is sacred… especially sacred.Read more
I suffer from fear.
A lot of it I think is normal for what I've been through.
Fear of being alone for the rest of my days. Fear of having my heart broken. Fear of falling in love and having him die. Fear that something terrible will happen to someone I love and I’ll have to start this grief process all over again. Fear that I am getting a little to comfortable with being alone and getting set in my ways.Read more