Megan spent a lot of time in her pajamas. It kind of came with the territory, spending so much time in the hospital. When she was home, she often wasn't nearly at 100%, so being in her pajamas was comfortable, warm, and easy. If there was no need to been seen in public, she figured, why get all dressed up and ready? Pajamas made sense.
She was tiny. Five feet, three inches, and at her absolute heaviest (after a double lung transplant and a lot of steroids) she was able to crack 110 pounds. She spent more of the time in the sub-100 pound range. Still, she wore those same big baggy pajamas.
In the final year of her life, she struggled to keep 80 pounds on her frame. Those pajamas fit her in a very specific way. The waistband was tight enough, but the flannel fabric draped off of her like curtains. Her accompanying t-shirt seemed far, far too large, with the sleeves actually hanging down to her elbows.
When I eventually got around to clearing out some of her clothes after her death, I don’t know exactly why I kept some of her pajamas. It may have been a small feeling of comfort in knowing that the things she wore so much weren’t just going away. Possibly, it felt a bit wasteful, knowing that they were so “broken in” that even a thrift store wouldn’t take them.
Mostly though, I imagine there was a lot of “oh, Shelby can wear these someday”
It’s now someday.Read more
I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be feeling, now moving towards year 5 since Megan’s death. Shelby is a preteen (and it certainly shows), and moves ever so closer to wanting to spend time with her friends versus us. Her brother is married with a growing family of his own, with two sons that Megan never got to meet. One of our best friends was just approved to be listed for a lung transplant of her own, and herself has a son that’s a toddler.
I’m engaged, for crying out loud.
So, so much has changed in these 5 years, and it’s not just my weight. While life stagnated for awhile, just after her death, it began evolving quickly thereafter. That crushing, defeated feeling of the world coming to an end started to fade a bit. What seemed like rash decisions or actions in those months following her departure have morphed into memories that I can hang my hat on.
They’re memories that, carefully analyzed, draw a clear path to where I am today.
They also add confusion to grief.Read more
This post is actually about another chapter of my grief story… the chapter about my dad. But I’m certain that it’s something that will relate to a lot of widows, too, because it touches on a really hard subject… GUILT.
While cleaning up the basement the other day, I came across a stack of old greeting cards. I’d known they were there - congratulatory words from many family and friends from back when I graduated college. There was one card I hadn’t realized was in the stack though. As I went through and read them all, one unfamiliar card caught my eye. I opened it, and instantly recognized the handwriting to be my dad’s unique style of very messy cursive. It was short, as he was a man of few sentimental words… but it said “I’m very proud of you”. And with that, I burst into tears.
I sat there, alone on the cold cement basement floor and cried my eyes out… not only because I miss him, but also because of the guilt.
My dad battled depression and alcoholism all of his life. There were some longer periods of sobriety, but from the time I was around 17 on, he fell back into drinking pretty hard. So the dad I’d had before that, who was sober and funny and fun to be around, sort of disappeared around the time I went in to college. By the time that college graduation came around, we weren’t talking often. It was a complex relationship and I didn't know how to deal with it. I had forgiven him for a lot, but I wasn’t willing to let him back in really, so our relationship was mostly distant with a few phonecalls and visits sprinkled in sparingly.
I will never know if that was the right decision. All I know is that I have felt guilty for almost a decade since because I simply never even attempted to have more of a relationship with him in his final years. There WAS an enormous love there between us. He adored me to no end and I did adore him too. But I just couldn't handle the combination of his drinking and his getting closer to death. I think more than anything, I was just so scared shitless about him dying that I can away from it. After losing my mom as a child, I did not know how to cope with being an orphan at 25, and I didn't have the tools to cope in a healthy way.
As a result, I left him very very alone in his final few years… in a retirement facility he was unhappy in and felt very alone in. Instead of being there for him in his last year, and last months, as his health slowly failed and his body slowly faded, I just kept on living my life and running away. I know now, I didn't know what to do. But I know that - at the time - I was very aware I was making poor decisions. I just didn't realize how much I would regret them later.
As I read those few words in the card “I’m very proud of you”, all the emotions and all of the memories of that time period came flooding back in full detail...Read more
It’s been four years. Four times, the earth has orbited the sun in full since Megan’s death. That seems like an eternity, and yet at times, it also feels like it was yesterday. It’s still “fresh”, yet also “routine”.
If I could have foretold the future, four-and-a-half years ago, a few days before she died, it wouldn’t have changed anything, really. I would just know what to expect. I can reflect on it now, however. I can write to myself, 1,700 days later, telling my past not what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to.
So, here goes.Read more
In my 38 years, I have never once not been with my parents on either Christmas eve or Christmas day. Even when I was in the military, I lucked out in that I wasn’t deployed over Christmas, and I was able to drive from North Carolina to Ohio, even if only for a 48 hour visit. Since 2002, I’ve added Megan’s family to that tradition, always ensuring that my second family was part of the holidays, but simply splitting time between both.
It was convenient that both my family and Megan’s family lived within 15 minutes of each other, and we never lived farther than 30 minutes away from either. Christmas Eve with my family, Christmas day with hers.
Since Megan’s death, that tradition has remained the same. Now, however, there’s a third and fourth family.Read more
Will I Ever Stop Asking
Where would we be,
had you not died?
Will I ever stop wondering
what would have happened
in our life together
if you were still here?
Will I ever be at peace
with the idea that my life is filled
that do not have answers?
Will I ever feel okay
with the knowing
that large pieces of my life
will always remain unknown?
Will I?Read more
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 been nestled inside the winter for months, it seems. It has been so cold and dark. Even today, at the end of April, spring struggles to gain a grip, the wind and rain overtaking its warm and promising breezes, painting the hilltops white, again, pouring pellets of icy hail onto the ground. This weekend, there are predictions of frost.
Each day, I walk past the newly budding lilacs on my way to the train station, and I kiss them, and tell them to be strong, and reach deep, and find warmth. I so hope the cold will not kill them before they flower.
I have sat inside an inner winter, too. Some days, I am able to look around, and revel in the rainbow coloured tulips and the deep blues and violets of the evening sky. But other days, I cannot reach deep enough to overcome the cold, and the world feels frozen, the wind biting at my fingertips.Read more
I already know the answer to this question, but I will ask it anyway.
Do you, dear widowed friends or surviving person of anyone you loved that died, have certain specific things that still make you feel guilty? Things that you wish you had done differently? Things that maybe you regret, in the wake of the loss of the person you love? Yes. Of course you do. We all do. I do. I have many. It would take me all day to list them, and to analyze them. Some of these things I have processed and talked about and come to a place of peace within myself about them. And some of these things have stuck with me, and probably won't ever really go away. There is one particular thing that has nagged at me since the day my husband died - it just scratches and scratches and claws at me, begging to be dealt with. And today, I found a way to begin to deal with it in a way that has started to give me some calm.
My husband's name.
Ian and I never particularly did Valentines day. Although I *like* getting the gifts and stuff, I never felt it a necessity. It's a more than a bit over-commercialised to me, which is thankfully quite a protective view-point in my after.
But the day still holds memories. Some good. Some that trigger a sense of guilt.