I once heard a phrase that if all the world’s problems were in a bag you would be trying to pick back your own. At the time I thought well of course, my problems are miniscule. Now I think that clearly wasn’t written by a young widow. I know there are still worse problems than mine; people who deal with major issues on top of being widowed and not to mention people living in third world countries. However, if I was offered a bag of possible problems mine would certainly not be at the top of the list of problems I would want.
I know it’s not particularly helpful to myself but today I’m feeling envious of other people. I’m envious of the people who got to be married to their person for their life. I’m envious of the people who got to celebrate their first or even second wedding anniversary. I’m envious of people who got to get married and have a baby, not a funeral, a year or two later. People that get to live seemingly “normal” lives with their spouses and families.
And I’m mad. I’m mad that I was able to plan a life with Mike that I never got to live. I’m mad that happiness does not just come naturally to me anymore. It’s something I have to be conscious of and work for so I don’t slip back into my dark hole. I’m mad that I can’t just relax into happiness. That I know that I need to do certain things consistently, like exercise and get outside, even when I’m busy or want to do other things so that I can keep myself in balance.Read more
This morning, my cousin posted an image on Facebook of a hilarious guitar magazine parody called "Mediocre Guitar." My husband Don loved music, especially guitars. He owned 7 or 8 of them at all times, and was always hanging out online at guitar websites and message boards, and giving free lessons to his fellow online guitar-enthusiast friends, on his YouTube channel. He would play guitar in our apartment almost daily, especially as a form of de-stressing after a long and stressful day doing EMS work. I am a singer, and we used to play and sing together all the time, learning Beatles and Natalie Merchant and Fleetwood Mac songs. He would strum his guitar and I would sing, and the way he would look at me while I gently sang a new song he was learning the chords to - it was the very definition of love and music.
We met in a music chat room online. We always connected through music. So when my cousin put up that post today, I began typing my husband's name into the comment section of the post, because I wanted to "tag" him on the post so he could see how hilarious it was. I was halfway through typing his name into the comments, when it suddenly hit me - he is dead. He is still dead. He will always be dead. It will be 7 years this July, and yet, there are still those moments where a part of me forgets - just for a moment.
That moment of forgetting - that 2 or 3 or 17 seconds - it is total elation.
My eyes lit up at the mere thought of sharing this bit of humor with him.Read more
So the book I have been writing about my husband's death, and life in the aftermath, is finished. It is now in editing, and should be ready for publication for July 13th. One of the sections in the book is called "Words About Don", where I asked a handful of his close friends and family to write up a few words/couple of paragraphs or so, about a memory, or what Don meant to them, or anything they felt like saying about Don Shepherd. I have been receiving the last of these writing pieces over the past few weeks, to be added to my draft. Yesterday, I received one from Don's very best friend - his EMS partner on the ambulance for years out in Florida, and his Best Man at our wedding. This man and his wife drove 24 hours from Florida to New Jersey, on very short notice, to be there at Don's funeral and honor him. They were the kind of friends who felt like and thought of each other as brothers.Read more
I’ve been really down lately. I don’t know exactly why, but I have some ideas. Work has been overwhelmingly stressful, and I’ve been constantly sick. I will think I’m better from one sickness and a day later I seem to have something else. Every time I get sick or I have a really hard day at work (which is often) I seem to sink a little bit lower in how I feel about myself and my abilities. I’ve been sleeping a lot, having very little energy and motivation to do anything, missing Mike, and thinking miserable thoughts. I want to be functioning like my usual self, but I just can’t seem to do it. Then that frustrates me even more that I can’t seem to pick myself up and I get even more upset and stressed with myself. It’s a hard cycle for me to break.
Last week I went from sleeping pretty much all weekend and cancelling all plans, going to work Monday to then be throwing up Monday night, to having a cold by Wednesday that is still not completely gone. I had an appointment booked with a Naturopath at the end of the week that I booked quite a long time ago. I felt like cancelling but I decided to go to see if I could somehow boost my immune system. When she asked what I wanted to discuss I explained how I’m stressed and sick and probably got off topic with details. The poor doctor was probably thinking she’s not a therapist. However, she said something that popped out to me. She said, “So what strategies do you have for handling your stress? You can’t always avoid stressful situations but what do you do to help yourself?”Read more
In July of 2011, my husband died, and I died too. Well, that version of me died.
About an hour after his death, after I had made the phone calls to immediate family and a few close friends – from a random bathroom inside the ER part of the hospital, sitting on the toilet after having just thrown up from shock – I sent my first Facebook status update about my husband being dead. I wrote it in words, so that everyone would know. I wrote about it in a brutally honest way. My post said “I don’t know what to do next.“
From there, Facebook posts became something of a comfort to me. My only way to reach out to lots of people all at once, and say how horrible this all was. I didn’t have a widowed community back then. I didn’t know what the hell that even was. I was 39 years old, and my world was gone.
Sometime around early 2012, my Facebook posts became a blog (ripthelifeiknew.com). People started saying I should write a book about the brutal realities of grief, the dark humors of it, and about my story in the aftermath. So at some point that year, I started writing and slowly shaping my book. I wanted to give him a legacy. I wanted to help people who are going through this. I wanted to share all the things that I learned the hard way while grieving – all the things nobody told me.Read more
I've been back home, in Brisbane, Australia, for a couple of days now. As it seems to go with most vacations, it's so good to go away and then it's so good to get home. Getting off the plane after the 13-hour flight from LA and walking in to the arms of my wonderful parents, who came to town to collect me from the airport, was a good feeling. I had a wonderful time, both in New York exploring a new city, and at Camp Widow. But I felt ready to get back to my bubble.
Honestly…sometimes the hardest part about writing here each week is figuring out what notto write. I know many of my family and friends read this, so sometimes I try to be careful about revealing any of the darkest parts of my soul. I don’t want to worry them because I am not naturally a gloom and doom type of person. I’m pretty upbeat and positive and mentally quite healthy…but the fact is, it has been a challenging week.Read more
Something I feel many people don't understand about losing your partner is that there are many, many subsequent losses. It's something all of you understand, or will come to. Like aftershock from an earthquake, they continue to shake our foundation for YEARS after the initial tragedy. It can be the smallest things, like the first time you have to take out the trash or eat alone. Or the really big things like first holidays without them or moving from the place you called home together. But it's also the joyful things, like landing a new job or winning an award, making new friends or dating someone new. Every single event or change in your life from the moment they die is another loss - another layer of having to come to terms with the fact that they aren't here and aren't coming back. Another small step of letting go in order to move forward. Not letting go of them, but letting go of what would have been to make room for what is and will be.Read more
This has been a difficult week. I have re-entered the work arena, on a 'phased return', as they call it, here in England, and, Tuesday, I had to go speak to someone from Occupational Health, to justify my time away, and my continuing to work part-time for a few more weeks. This meant I had to recount the story of the tragic day my husband died. And it meant that the images of that day, images I have tried to place in the background of my consciousness, were brought, full force, to the front of it.Read more