Sarah and I are planning our wedding, taking place next year. Vaguely, it is going to be somewhat informal, in the sense that the traditional rehearsal, church, event hall, catering, DJ, etc are either going to not be a part of it, or otherwise substituted in a more unique way.
I’ve helped plan a wedding before. 14 years ago, Megan and I were “locked in” so to speak, by May. Our wedding was in August, and everything was booked, arranged, planned, and scripted. Invitations were not only sent out, but most RSVPs had been received. We had spent 6 months already getting everything in order. (Because of her health situation, all of it was somewhat “accelerated” from the traditional year of planning).
The point is, I’ve personally done this before. Most widows have. I have the benefit of a happy memory of doing half the work of planning a wedding, followed by a happy memory of nine years after the fact.Read more
This Sunday it will be 6 years since Chuck died.
Just writing that number leaves me breathless, and not in a good way.
How can it be 6 years?
Though it might as well be 6 centuries. That's how it feels.
So, my thoughts on this fractured time as they meander through my mind...Read more
As you may have read, Sarah got a “tattoo” on Saturday. It’s a simple henna tattoo, with a complex and meaningful backstory. A sun, symbolizing her dad, a moon, symbolizing her mother, and seven stars, symbolizing Drew. These three celestial objects imprinted on her forearm remind her of a connection to those she’s lost.
While not permanent, it will last at least a week or two...kind of like a prototype for the real thing. She will see it every day, and be reminded of those three losses. She’ll also be reminded of the people they symbolize, and the life she experienced with them.Read more
I met Christina Rasmussen, from Second Firsts, early in my widowhood, on her first book tour.
She was in Boston and I was in NH, so I drove to the book store holding the event, and heard her speak for the first time.
It didn't change the emotions of my widowhood, but her words, her philosophy about life after loss touched me deeply.
It was my first true indication that I wasn't alone on this road.Read more
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
Anniversaries are, in general, a prompt for looking back. They’re an annual reminder to be reminded of the past. While oftentimes, an anniversary is also a milestone, it still remains that, simply put, an anniversary measures the passage of time.
They don’t really MEAN anything to widows. Our person is neither more, nor less dead on their death anniversary than they are on any other day, but damned if we aren’t reminded of the fact that they ARE dead a whole hell of a lot more.
Interestingly, other dates tend to morph into this reminder as well. Shelby’s upcoming birthday? I’m always reminded of the fact Megan isn’t there to see her reach twelve years old. Halloween? Megan loved halloween...she would enjoy being here. The anniversary of the date I was discharged? Oh wow, now I remember how I met Megan a few months after that.
That’s the thing, it’s like I can’t have an anniversary or holiday anymore without feeling the pressing need to remember Megan and either A) remember how she was on that day, or B) point out the fact that she’s not there.
But today’s anniversary? It’s different.Read more
There are surreal little things lately about my life lately. About getting together for coffee with girlfriends recently, who are eager to see the new engagement ring and hear all about Mike’s proposal. Surreal because part of me still thinks something will go wrong before we ever get to a wedding. Part of me is wary of that… how could I not be. And surreal because even though I am in a whole other chapter of my life with someone new, I don’t feel like the other chapter is “behind” me or “gone”. I don’t feel any less close to that life and to the person I was with then. I don’t feel Drew’s absence the way I feared I would years ago when his death was so fresh.
It will be 7 years this summer since Drew died. Which is also surreal. I still remember the enormous knot of fear in my stomach in the first year… about ever, ever reaching 5 years, or 8 years, or 10 years, or 20 years of him being gone. I think somewhere around years 3 and 4 though, something started to happen. A shift where I realized I don’t have to ever be scared of losing him. I left Texas, and the life he and I knew together. And I faced the fear of losing my connection to him in an even bigger way by doing so. I chose to love someone new, and start a life with that person too, facing that fear even more.
I realize now, that every single new milestone that causes a fear of losing more pieces of him, or of the life we shared together, is one that I must push through. Because every time I have done so, I have come out the other side realizing that I still feel just as connected to him, to our life, and to who I was. Every time I have dared to venture into more living and loving, I have felt his presence with me… most especially in quiet moments to myself where I will simply, suddenly, feel him near and feel him assuring me that all is well. Or in unexplainable signs that pop up when I least expect it.Read more
I often think I have come to accept that Mike is gone. For quite a while my conscious mind and unconscious mind had not synced and often confused if he was here, just gone for a bit but coming back, or gone completely. It hadn’t processed on all levels. That’s not the case now. I don’t forget that he’s dead anymore. I don’t have to have that second to think and remember. I know he is gone at all moments. I know he’s not coming back. Most of the time this is just a flat fact.
However, every once in a while, a moment takes me by surprise and I feel in shock that he could possibly be gone completely. In these moments I feel that even though it’s been over two and a half years the finality of death just doesn’t seem real. Where did he go?
I find this particularly the case when I catch glimpses of pictures. The other day I was moving something around in a drawer and came across his old license.
I found myself just staring at it. Moving it close to my face. Turning it slightly to see other angles. Focusing intently on the different parts of his face. I don’t know exactly what my purpose was. It felt like maybe I was trying to take it all in. Maybe trying to remember and close the distance in time from the last time I saw him. Maybe trying to find something or see something I had missed before. Trying to look into his eyes and see a glimpse of life. Trying to see him in the present instead of remembering him in the past. See something or imagine something that isn’t there. Have a moment of insight about where he is now.Read more
Like a good vintage wine, last weeks blog, Malbec, requires a second harvest. Over the last seven days, I have changed my mind about a few things and, now, I am offering up another tasting - this tasting is paired with hindsight.
A week ago, I shared my ritual of holding out my hands, searching and reaching for him. In my own words I said, "it is awkward because I do not know where to place my fingers. I clumsily grasp at the air around me. Then, I just drop my hands to my side because there is nothing for me to hold. Where he should be, now there is nothing. So, I stand and ask myself again and again, how could someone so big and bold be gone? How can Mike be gone - into nothing? How can he no longer exist? I don't have the answers to these big questions. (But, I'm working on it...)"
When I wrote this, I had no way of knowing if I would ever know the answers to these big questions. I thought maybe it would take me a lifetime to figure out. I thought Grief would hold me captive for a long, long time before I came to any conclusions. But, by writing my questions down, I think I sub-consciously set the intention to discover the answers. At this point, I still have more questions than answers, but I did come to a pretty big realization. One thing I know is that I was wrong...
Tomorrow, the day after this posting, marks the first anniversary of my beloved husband’s death. I can hardly believe it is true. One year.
It feels like yesterday. It feels like a lifetime ago.
So much has changed since he died. I have done many things, in spite of my crushing grief. I have visited my home neighbourhood in Indiana, and sat with pigs and donkeys on an animal sanctuary in Spain. I have travelled to Whitby in Yorkshire and to Ireland and to Snowdonia in Wales. I have spent days and weeks in meditation, study, and reflection with my sangha teachers and friends. I have helped form a grief support group with a widowed friend in Sheffield. I have written for this blog.
And some days, I have not been able to pull myself up from the grief. I have stayed on the sofa with the curtains closed. I have slept for hours throughout the day and into the night. I have had periods of insomnia where I could not sleep more than an hour or two at a time.
Such has been the landscape of my grief. Activity and exhaustion. Periods of joy and hope followed by deep sadness. Despair and loneliness and friendship and gratitude and love.Read more