Over the last few weeks,
Something in my mindset has changed.
And, in the process,
I’ve rediscovered how to taste,
His memory on my lips.
-in this reality.
HOW is this done?
It’s actually pretty easy...
I AM FALLING OUT OF GRIEF,
And, I am falling in Love with Life
-all over again.Read more
I should have started writing my blog a long time ago, but the day got away from me because I got busy L-I-V-I-N-G . I didn't do anything particularly noteworthy today. In fact, I spent the better part of the day doing "normal" things; which, in and of itself, is not extraordinary. But, what was exceptional about today was that I actually got caught up in being "normal". For the first time in a long while, I went about my day like most ordinary people do; and, for brief moments, I didn't think about Mike being dead. Today, I gave myself permission to do something other than grieve. I allowed myself to just be alive. And, it felt good.
To be clear, in the months since Mike died, I've had my fair share of busy days; but, today was unique because I felt less like I was simply distracted from my grief because of the business of life. His death didn't lord over my mind today because I did not allow it to. Today, I consciously picked life and living over my grief.
Today I didn't organize my thoughts around his deadness.
Today I lived more than I grieved.
It wasn't the content of my day that was amazing,
My satisfaction simply comes from me choosing to live over ruminating about his death.
Today I put LIVING before grief and I'm better for it.
I have come to a place where I accept that my life hasn't stopped because Mike died. There are still demands on me and of me. And, I am keeping up with my responsibilities and, I'm glad for this. But, even more importantly, recently, I am doing more than what I am duty bound to do, I am starting to live a little for myself again.
The day he died, if you told me that it would be possible for me to live on I would have desperately wanted you to be right; but, I wouldn't have believed you. Now, twenty months out, maybe it still surprises me a bit that I am actually living.
However, I am no longer satisfied simply living.
Now, I want to thrive.
And, there is a huge difference in the two things.
The fact that I am now differentiating between living and thriving indicates to me that my grief is changing.
I've been feeling the strains of beginning anew lately. Let's face it - starting to date someone is always messy. New person, new energy, new triggers and sensitivities. But being widowed makes it even trickier. After almost 3 years without a man by my side... I am a completely different person than who I was with Drew. I am far more independent. I don't even think of it as being alone these 3 years, but that I have been in a very deeply committed relationship to myself. I'm discovering this is making it hard for me to navigate the landscape of a relationship with someone ne
This past week, a friend of mine shared a story with me about a woman she recently met while out shopping for boots at a western store. As they looked through the sale rack, the woman told her how she got through the death of her husband by promising herself a new pair of cowboy boots every time she had to do something hard in relation to her grief… like going to the mortuary, or collecting his will. Eventually, she had a whole shelf of them and she wore them everywhere she went. "Even to church" she said. "I medicated myself with old western movies and cowboy boots". My friend, who is actually a grief counselor, fully endorsed her grief medication.
I thought this week I would share one of the images from my self portrait series and the story behind it. While I was out shooting on the beach for last week’s photograph – wandering the grassy, windswept dunes – I came across a peculiar sight. Every plant on the beach was bright green and vibrant with life that day. Rich olive green sea grasses and succulent fat-leaved emerald vines with ripe yellow flowers. There must have been an unseasonable amount of rain recently because everything was really blushing. You could feel it – like all of nature had just taken in a deep breath.
But then, right in the middle of it all, I noticed this one particular type of plant. They were large – towering over me by at least a few feet. And every single one of them, as far as my eyes could see, over each rolling dune down the beach, was dead. All of them. There was such an eerie metaphoric nature to it… these clusters of death pitted right down in the midst of so much life. It seemed almost deliberate. Certainly hard to miss when you are closely observing a landscape as I often am.
With mosquitos biting boldly at my ankles and arms, (I will remember to add insect repellant to my camera bag from now on!) I grabbed my gear and climbed into a thicket of these otherworldly dead plants to explore. The leaves were a silvery blue-green hue – like faded sage. I had no plan. No idea what I even wanted to capture. I just began shooting, trying different ways of interacting with this mesmerizing space.Read more
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
I have to thank everyone for all the incredible responses to my post last week. You warmed my heart and really helped me to feel a bit more okay with all of this mess - and a bit less alone. Trying to welcome a new life is SO not easy, but its a heck of a lot easier with friends like all of you. You encourage me to be honest with where I am at on this journey, thank you for that. I thought today that I would share one of the self portraits from my photographic series I have been working on this year - and the story behind it - as it has become a big part of my own healing as of late. Both creating these images and writing about them has helped me to see myself and my pain in new ways… so I hope maybe this one will do that for someone else out there too….
"I just want to crawl out of my own skin" is something I said often in the first weeks and months after he died. For the whole first year really. Every cell of my body - every hair, every pore, every organ, was reverberating a constant and loud message of denial. Every cell of me, bumping up against the truth at every turn, abrasively, painfully. And then violently pushing and pushing, trying to thrust the truth out of my world. No, no, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO NO, NO!!!… vibrating loudly within every inch of me, trying to fight off a reality too painful, too unbelievable to comprehend. This single aspect of his death has been by far the most agonizing of all.Read more
I'll be very blunt here. Christina Rasmussen, the visionary of Second Firsts, continues to help save my sanity by holding out hope. Her story helps me know that I just might get through this devastating grief brought into my soul by my beloved husband's death. I personally don't feel hope but I see the life she's built after her husband's death and I recognize intellectually that it's possible because she has shown that to me.
Her story inspired me to take the life insurance my husband left for me and use it as a springboard to create a new life without him. I don't want to create a new life without him. I must create a new life without him. I read some of her story just a few weeks after Chuck died, where she wrote of using her husband's life insurance to start a new life for herself and that was the first time I started thinking about how I could live a life without him, logistically.
I put a blue sticky note on it so the movers wouldn't pack it. I carefully carried it to the car, hefting its astonishing weight, and placed it gently in the back seat.
Alone for a few moments at the new place, I picked it up again, and carried it close to my body up to the new bedroom and found its new spot where it snugly fits. I closed the door to the closet, pressed my hand against the door and then my forehead, breathed in...out. I sent it thoughts. Gratitude, disbelief, anger and a remnant of the shock I felt in every cell that day three years ago.
FWG. A term I made up myself and one that may or may not be offensive to people.
Words are funny, aren't they? My mom used to say that people are the ones who give power to words and I believe the same goes for those who hear the words. They receive it according to how they define the word.
When people ask me what FWG means, I generally ask them if they want the PG version or the real one. I'm not intentionally setting out to upset people, so I do that. How great am I?
FWG means Fucking Warrior Goddess. When I say that word I say it fiercely and I mean it fiercely. Not angrily. Not as a swear word. But fiercely. You hear it however you hear it.