A little over 6 months ago, at the end of April 2019, two months before my 15 year-old daughter Julia died by suicide, and 2 years after Mike my husband died, I met a man on a dating website. He’s called Medjool, after my favourite kind of dates. Big, chewy, tasty, sweet. Yum.
Since there seems to be some kind of annoying gender difference whereby (many) single men prefer women who are quite a lot younger than them, and since I was only interested in meeting a man (approx.) my age, this Medjool was the only Medjool I met. He didn’t seem to share the common belief that prospective female partners should be 10-15 years younger than him. As it happens, I am 6 weeks older than he is.
I had one date with one Medjool. I had planned on having quite a number of Medjools but this Medjool was the one and only. As it happened, there were other women on the dating website interested in him, and Medjool was juggling not just me but another woman who too was dating just him. It took Medjool a little while to figure out – openly and transparently – that he needed to make a choice, which he did some 6 weeks later. Two weeks before Julia died.
Julia wouldn’t have liked the news but I am sure it was not a factor in her decision to take her life. I had planned to tell her and her older siblings just a few days into July, when the four of us were to be in Munich together seeing Elton John in his final tour. Julia never made that concert. She died 5 days before.
Medjool chose me.Read more
Our wedding song playing.
Someone else playing our wedding song as part of their shared memory of a completely different circumstance.
My boyfriend’s family’s memory of our wedding song as part of their memory of his parents’ 30 year wedding anniversary.
Sitting in my boyfriend’s parents’ living room with his whole family watching his parents’ 30 year wedding anniversary video play to our wedding song.
Jolted from the present moment. Torn from my daydream of what a possible future might hold for me now. Back to the past.
All consuming emotions. Hard memories of a life that never was. Missing Mike. Missing sharing our memory together. Alone.
Paralyzed in frozen silence. Hoping no one notices. Wishing to disappear. Hard swallow. Dark room. Silent tear.
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 have always thought of myself as an adventurous person. I have never enjoyed sitting still and I enjoy trying new things and exploring. I love being outdoors in nature and a little bit of adrenaline. That being said, I would like to emphasize that I wrote that I like just a little bit of adrenaline. Not too much at any point. I like being in control.
After Mike died I realized I never really had all the control I thought I had. I had to go the flow. I had no control over the most important part of my life and I didn’t have the motivation or reason to try to gain it in other parts either.
I also understood the cliché that life is short. I realized that my life could be over at any point and I questioned if I was really experiencing it the way I wanted. I constantly asked myself: Would I be satisfied with myself and what I’ve done if my life ended today? My answer was often ‘no.’ I found that in many areas I was so cautious that I wasn’t really experiencing what I wanted to experience. I was so afraid of failing, or being embarrassed, or hurting myself that I held myself back and didn’t allow myself to fully enjoy the experiences I wanted. I was living but not to my full potential. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I figured that I would rather have a life lived to the fullest then have a long cautious life full of nothing. What’s the point of being alive until you’re old if you never really lived? It seemed all of a sudden like such an obvious waste.
So I started to make an effort to get out of my own way. I accepted my nerves and anxiousness and pushed myself out of my comfort zone to do the things I wanted to do. I told myself that I am capable and I can do it. Some things were baby steps and some things were diving right in. For example, I have snowboarded for years but would constantly stop myself to slow down even though I had the skills to go faster. I pushed harder and challenged myself in all the things I enjoyed. It was exhilarating. I realized I was previously stuck in a middle ground of doing things but not fully doing them for years. It wasn’t until I started pushing and challenging myself a bit that I realized how amazing it all was and what I had been missing. I’m glad I took the risks.Read more
Chuck wants me to tell you he wouldn’t leave you without a road map. He wants you to be aware of the markers he’s left for you, both physical and metaphysical.
Whatever you’re doing, keep on doing it. You’re on the right track.
Did you know that you’re surrounded by so many angels that I can’t even count them? You’re protected.
These are just some of the words I’ve heard from people along my Odyssey of Love, who have sought me out, on the roadside, in stores, in meetings. People who don’t know me, who have no idea of my story.
They have sought me out to bring me messages from Chuck and about my Odyssey.
I’ve also heard from people, earlier on, who said completely different things to me. I’m 5 years into this widowhood now, and these things were primarily said to me in my 3rd year. Seemingly, there is a limited amount of empathy to be given and after a certain point, one must be…I’m not sure what.
Are you depressed? You might be depressed. Maybe you need medication.
Don’t you want to be happy? It’s a choice, you know. You have to choose to be happy. Don’t you want to feel joy again?
Why do you call yourself a widow? You’re more than that, you know.
So, here’s what I know, 5 years in.
Chuck did leave me a road map. And there have been markers all along the way of my Odyssey of Love. They have shown up to me as Love. From people I meet along the road, the workamping jobs I’ve found, and the words that he spoke in his years on this earth that I live by; suit up and show up and let the day unfold.Read more
I’ve heard that when you feel you are struggling with your writing it is because you are writing what you think you should write instead of what you truly feel. I can’t find the actual quote right now (it was much more eloquent than that) but that idea has been on my mind for a while. Since I saw it really. I’ve wanted to write and share about something but I’ve been nervous. Anxious for a whole bunch of reasons. Nervous that it’s too easy and good to be true. That it’ll soon disappear. Anxious because I’m less cautious than I use to be and although I like it I’m still getting used to myself. Nervous because with change comes emotions and more changes and I’m adjusting.
But at the same time, I want to share. It’s what is on my mind a lot and it’s hard to write about other things when it’s not really what I’m thinking about. I’ve mentioned here and there about it but not really fully shared.Read more
So much has happened in such a small amount of time that my head is spinning even as I type. I now live in downtown Austin with cars and people and dog walking and concrete which, for a country boy, is quite the change. I have a new job that’s challenging, engaging and, quite frankly, fun. Life is completely different than just a few weeks ago, let alone a month or a year ago. So much has changed. And I’m ok with all of it. A new world of possibilities has appeared in front of me and I’m happy to be right where I am. Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that.Read more
I got up this morning with one important task to accomplish, decorate the front of the house with holiday lights. I've notice the number of houses in the neighborhood slowly being lit up with beautiful lights of every color. My daughter has been asking when we would show our holiday spirit by lighting up our house as well.Read more
Two Thanksgiving celebrations down, and one to go.
It's been an interesting couple of days. Friday night I hosted an office Thanksgiving potluck at my home. Almost every person from the office came, along with their families. There was so much food, wine and desert, and everyone was in a very good mood. Most had hoped to meet Abel, and since he had to work, I was explaining all night as to why he wasn't present.
When loss strikes, we have a way of denying ourselves of things.
Whether it be the ability to smile since they can't smile. The ability to see all the impact that they're life left by focusing on the fact that they were taken so suddenly. The ability to celebrate life's happenings, since they are not there to celebrate it with you. Our ability to look ourselves in the mirror and like who we now are, because we're too focused on who we were before tragedy struck.
They're just a few things that I did and denied myself of.
I think I had to...it was necessary.Read more