It has been 7 and a half years since my beautiful husband Don Shepherd's sudden death.
About 18 months ago, I found new and wonderful and beautiful love.
Somewhere in the first few months of the relationship with my new love, the topic of "Don's things" came up. I think I was the one who brought it up. We were in my bedroom talking, or kissing, or something. I forget. But in that moment, I looked over to my nightstand next to my bed, and noticed, as if for the first time or through my lover's eyes, the shrine that it was to Don. Our wedding picture was there. The American flag folded up and in it's frame from the Air Force funeral. The framed certificate from the Sharing Network for being a tissue/organ donor. And his rally monkey stuffed animal that was his lucky charm. I asked Nick very honestly: "Does it bother you that I have so many of Don's things all over my bedroom? Is it weird for you? I feel like it must be weird. " He paused for a minute, and then said just as honestly: "He was your husband. And he died. I think it's normal, and I don't ever want to be someone who would ask you to subtract anything about him from your life. I don't believe in subtracting . Just adding. " Then we talked about how we both looked forward to the day when we have started to build our own memories and private jokes and "things" that could be added to my life's collection.
I remember loving his response that day. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and it was comforting. It also made me fall in love with him just a little bit more.Read more
Tis’ the season for all the things that remind us of what we have and what we have lost. This year, for me, there has been more loss and it’s much harder to shake that feeling as those around me put up lights, throw holiday parties and decorate. I can’t put up a Christmas tree. I can’t decorate. I wrapped one present and I just can’t. So I don’t and I tell myself that there is nothing wrong with skipping the traditions this year. With everything added up, I’ve earned a hall pass to the holiday blizzard we all experience every year. However, there is one thing I can’t control….The mail.Read more
Last weekend I went with David to pick out a Christmas tree for my house. It’s something I’ve been doing since living where I live - first with Mike, then with family and now this year with David. There is a Christmas tree farm 5 minutes down the rode from me and I love the tradition and having a fresh tree.
We walked around the Christmas tree farm and I searched and searched for my perfect tree. David would point out trees and I’d examine it and turn it down. Nope, too short. Nope, too crooked. Nope, too sparse. I would think I found a nice tree to then find something wrong with it. I wanted it to be perfect.
I finally found a tree I liked and I did (what I thought was) a thorough examination. It looked lovely! I was satisfied. We cut it down and with our two dogs in tow, we carried it back to the car and put it up in my home.
I let the branches settle for a day and then went to decorate the tree on my own. As I’m putting the lights on I start to notice all the bare spots. There’s whole sections without anything there! How did I miss that?! As I put my (light wooden) ornaments on the branches they instantly bend and wilt under the weight of it. I press the branches delicately and take note of how frail they really are. I never noticed that; they look strong! As I look at the tree from the side I start to see it is crooked.Read more
This week I felt like writing about how the arrival of the holidays has already been extremely difficult for me. These are the first holidays without Clayton. Those Facebook “memories” that pop up in my news feed are like a sharp knife from a friend. Nothing is safe from the reminders. I don’t know if I can even decorate this year but decorating is not what my words are for this week. It is the place that no one would ever think could be a heart-wrenching trigger. A place everyone goes that is designed to help you live but, as a widow, it is a place that can take more of you away…The Grocery Store.Read more
"I don't have any reason, dont wanna waste more time
Im in a New York state of mind......."
Ah yes, Billy Joel had it right with that song.
Its been about 17 months since I left NYC, my second home, to move back to my home state of Massachusetts, finish my book, and see what comes next. I didnt expect to find love here in smalltown Mass, and I didnt expect for that love to provide not only the perfect ending to my book, but a new lease and purpose on life in addition. When I left NYC, in my heart, it was temporary. I kept saying: "I can always come back." But somewhere deep inside, I knew that my soul was being eaten alive by NYC, and my wallet too. So, I have made a lot of visits, and almost every one of them was because I had something professional or career-related going on in the city; a book signing event, a comedy show, this time its a TV taping on the local cable show OPEN TO HOPE. I will be one of a 3-person panel of widowed authors - me , Michelle Miller, and John Polo. We will talk about our books and about grief and loss. It will air at a later time. The evening before the taping, on Friday night, (this will post Friday for you all, but Im writing it Wednesday evening) the three of us will host a fun Karaoke Book-signing party in the city, sort of a "Meet and Greet" with anyone who wants to come out. In between all of that, I will see some friends and have some fun. Back to my NYC people. My NYC vibe.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
Just like in life, in grief there is progress.
Thankfully, time changes grief. I don’t know how or why, but time softens the edges - ever so slightly. And, thankfully, time has taken the sting from my tears and the primal rawness from my cries; but, still, the missingness is ever present.
Last year, I visited a local Christmas store because I wanted to get in the Spirit of the Season. And, partially, or more likely, completely, I was attempting to revisit the past. A past that included Mike. The year before, he and I had gone to this same store and I wanted to return to a place we had been. I wanted to be somewhere that he physically was.
I still have this urge to return to the places he and I walked together.
This urge is more controllable now, after two years, but sometimes I still need to walk the aisles of our local grocery store, sometimes I need to sit in our diner - at the same table he sat at with me. While drinking my coffee, he comes back to life in my mind. In an effort to be closer to Mike, I always order his favorite breakfast every-single-time. I just can’t help myself. And, still, there are nights that I need to stand outside of his house. I stand in the shadows of the night and I look at the house that was once my home. I feel like a voyeur who is witnessing another life. But, I can not stop myself. I need to breath in all that once was. Maybe I need to convince myself that it was real. I don’t really know.
The Christmas holidays are still quite a while away but I’ve been thinking and worrying about it since September so it feels like it’s been around for quite a while now. What precisely I’m anxious about has changed each year since Mike died but it has brought emotions and stress each time.
The first Christmas without Mike I just didn’t want to do it. I just wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to see any family or see anyone’s Christmas “cheer.” I didn’t want to celebrate anything or do anything. I didn’t want to buy gifts or go in any male store section to remind me that I wasn’t buying for Mike this year. I would have been perfectly fine if the whole holiday didn’t exist. The year before Mike and I had a wonderful Christmas as our first Christmas as a married couple. We did the whole corny thing - cut down our own tree, buy “first Mr. & Mrs.” ornaments, buy eachother thoughtful stockings and have our own Christmas morning just the two of us. It was ridiculously wonderful and everything I wanted. I remember putting away all the Christmas decorations and thinking about how I couldn’t wait to do it again next year. What a stark contrast the following year was.Read more
I don’t like dessert, so I will not be serving it with our Thanksgiving dinner.
I have never really liked dessert.
And, Mike didn’t like dessert either.
I wonder if that is a coincidence?
I think not.
I can tell you that I don’t think there are any coincidences in life,
even when it comes to dessert.
I almost always pass on dessert.
I’d rather have seconds than eat sweets.
Honestly, I’d rather eat more steak and crab (that's a story for another day).
I like savoury foods because that’s how I like my people too.
I like people who speak and act with a bit of tang.
I like people who are spicy, with a side of sweet.
Even though I don't like dessert, I do desire the sweet things in life.
Sweet things like a walk in the rain.
A good book.
A good conversation.
A laugh that fills the room.
A kiss that takes your breath away.
I like these things.
I crave these things.
I need these things.
I desperately miss all these sweet things I shared with Mike.
Things like sunshine gleaming off a wine glass as I shared a meal with him.
Things like slow dancing in the kitchen.
I miss looking across the room and knowing that he would smile
and wink at me because I was his.
I still wish I was his girl.
And, a piece of me always will wish this.
I miss him desperately everyday; and during the holidays
I miss him even more than usual.
Like I said, I don't like dessert; but I am a sucker for the sweet things in life.
I love a good love story.
And, I keep re-playing ours in my mind.
I don't think this will ever change.
As I was cook our holiday meals I know that I am loved
- even without him here telling me these words.
Love does not die, it actually becomes stronger and even deeper.
I'm thankful for this.
In every store you visit the shelves are lined with colorful, foil wrapped chocolate bunnies. They stand neatly organized in the aisles, adorned with ribbons and bows. At first glance, these holiday treats catch your eye because they look shiny and decadent. But, things aren't as they appear. We know the bunnies are hollow inside even though they look substantial. I am a lot like these chocolate Easter bunnies. I appear to have my life together. I look solid. But, the reality is that inside I feel empty.
This may come off as slightly dramatic, but it is the truth. After over 16 months, my life looks shiny and newly restored. Outwardly, things have remained stable and solid. In many ways I am a vision of widowed success. I returned to a good career, I still have the house, the car, and the kids. On the outside, the condition of my life looks good. Aside from Mike's death, my life may even be enviable to some; but things are not as they appear. Like the aesthetically pleasing chocolate bunnies, I look to be well dressed and professionally presented; but, inside me there is something lacking. Inside of me, in my Soul, the landscape is sterile. I am hollow inside like the foil bunnies. On the inside of me there is 'nothing'. Where there used to be unbridled joy there is now emptiness.