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
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
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
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
As I sat down to write this morning, as I usually do, I read a few of this previous week’s posts. On a day like today, where my mind is somewhat blank, it often helps me to zero in on a subject. Once I have that nugget of inspiration, I can usually let it flow.
This week, I’ve been inspired to write about something from a different side of the same coin. Olivia and Staci had spoken about the triggers of lack of contact with a loved one, and the desire and intricacies of revisiting places and events they once shared with their person.
Perhaps its the different circumstances...long-term illness versus sudden, surprising loss, but I don’t feel the same way as they do.Read more
Sometimes, being incredibly, almost comically busy can be a blessing in disguise. Although it’s a short work week for us here in the US, with Thanksgiving being this Thursday, I arrived to an unexpectedly busy office yesterday morning. It was a madhouse for the entire day, and even as I drove home, I was receiving phone calls from co-workers, asking for assistance with their IT needs. I spent at least half an hour hunched over in our “office” after getting home, online, and on the phone.
I didn’t get lunch yesterday. I was unable to even break away for 5 minutes to grab a cup of coffee. I spent almost the entirety of the day away from my desk, with the fleeting moments that I was able to sit down on the phone.
Password resets, email problems, printer outages, accounting programs mysteriously losing information, our president forgetting his laptop at home, broken cell phones, misbehaving monitors, and a bevy of other issues all seemed to occur at once.Read more
This past weekend, Sarah and I traveled to Toronto to attend our third Camp Widow there. We’ve both realized that Camp Widow recharges us. Though we may not be in the active throes of grief on a daily basis, with Megan’s death four years ago, and Drew’s six, there is something about telling our stories, and hearing others’ that brings a warmth that we didn’t realize we were lacking.
This year though, it was so much more. I assisted with two of the focus groups on Friday, one for those that lost their partners less than a year ago, and one for widowers. I was given the opportunity and honor of introducing Michele Neff Hernandez for her final keynote address. I helped Sarah setup for her intensive workshop on Saturday, “Rebuilding our Hearts”, and took my leave to let her shine. Those stories are for a different time though. I will certainly be expanding upon my “introduction speech” soon, because ten minutes is certainly not enough time to convey how much my story has been influenced by Michele.
A few months before Camp, Michele contacted Sarah, and proposed an idea for the message release that is conducted at each and every Saturday banquet at Camp. It was to be a large sign, displaying the word “Hope”, with a similar look and feel to the large “Toronto” sign just across the street from the hotel. Since we can easily drive to Toronto from Ohio, and I have a pickup truck, logistically, it was easier (and obviously more cost effective) for us to create something and deliver it across the border than it would be to ship something from California.
We worked for weeks creating this. Purchasing supplies, calculating, measuring, cutting materials, sanding, painting, gluing, and lighting these letters. As late as the Wednesday night before camp, we were cutting out small cork “bricks” and tying a string to over 200 of them.
It was a lot of work, to say the least, but the reception we received to it was far and away more than we could have ever imagined.Read more
I’m 38 today. Eight years since 30, 2 years until 40. Is it supposed to be surreal? Am I truly supposed to feel like I’m getting older? I guess I’m considered middle-aged, or “getting up in the years”. But, do I feet like I'm anywhere near the end of the story?
I don’t. I don’t feel old or long in the tooth. Sure, my back hurts about half the time. Falling ill tends to floor me a bit more than it ever did, no matter how minor. I don’t know what the latest craze is among twenty-somethings.
Then again, I was married and bought a house at 24. I had a child at 26. I was widowed by age 34. Hell, I’m 20 years into my career at this point. Had I re-enlisted in the Marine Corps and stuck with it, I could have RETIRED last month.Read more
For those of you not aware of what “overdrive” is in a car, I’ll try to simply explain it. Overdrive is a gear in the transmission that is less than a 1:1 ratio with the engine. Effectively, the wheels turn faster than the motor.
It's great for cruising at higher speeds. The engine doesn’t have to work as hard, so it’s a more efficient use of fuel. There is so much weight and momentum behind the car that it could happily glide along with barely any input, needing only to overcome wind resistance and the occasional uphill segment of highway with a millimeter more depressing of the accelerator pedal.Read more
I don’t have much to say today, other than a reminder (and perhaps, a warning to those of you reading that are still in the raw, early stages of your grief) that triggers can appear anywhere at random, no matter how “far out” you may think you are.
We’re never truly “free” from our grief. It may fade, in a way. We evolve and learn to acknowledge it, taking the sting off of it. A birthday, anniversary, or even just a random thought gives us a bad day, but it generally doesn’t reduce us to a sobbing mess. After that first year, I knew what to expect. I knew what songs, movies, events, and locations could trigger an upwelling of grief. It didn’t make the feelings or thoughts any less significant, but there was certainly a sense of “it is what it is” making noise in the background, softening the blow.
But, there are those moments that you’re never prepared for. The moments where it is a complete shock to the system. Happenings that you don’t have time to work up to or get your “gameface” on, like readying for battle.Read more