As I wrote last week, I had made plans to go to a place called the Dolly Sods wilderness for a weekend of backpacking. I’d been planning for months, to return to this place that I was so familiar and comfortable with. A place that felt like home to me. As fate would have it, a fire ban was instituted in the area, which quickly put this trip into an unsafe endeavor. Being wet and cold at 4000+ feet in December is not something one just says “oh well” to.
“I hear her voice in the morning hour, she calls me, the radio reminds me of my home far away.
And driving down the road I get a feeling that I should have been home yesterday, yesterday.
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads.” - John Denver
However, I’ve spent many-a-night under the dark skies of the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia. I’ve walked every inch of trail on that plateau, at 4000 feet, the highest in the east. It was the first place I backpacked as a civilian, apprehensively leaving Megan at home, alone, for a long weekend.
Two years after her death, and I had finally mustered up the motivation and fortitude to wander off into that windswept spruce forest again. For a few months now, I’ve been planning this trip, fantasizing about going back to the place I belong. Winding up the dirt road leading to the trailheads on the eastern continental divide, where boulders and stunted spruce trees greet the sky. Disappearing from civilization for even a few days, where i’m not a widower, caretaker, husband, father, or employee. That scene was to happen this Friday, December 2nd.
It was to be my first “real” backpacking trip since Megan’s death, and it’s been crushed, as am I.Read more
As much as I try to escape it, that day has been on replay in my mind for the past few weeks. The lead up to the one year mark of the day life changed.
Terrified at the thought of what emotions this day will bring me. Angry that this day has a place in my life at all. And an overshadowing sadness that engulfs and strangles me with the thought that this is real. That it has almost been a full year since I last held him, spoke to him and kissed his warm lips. As much as I try nothing can prepare me for what this day will bring. A huge part of me wants to spend this day alone in my sorrow, hoping for my life to end. I don’t want anyone to witness what may unfold on this day. Then the other part of me screams, get out and live for him! Breathe for him, like you promised you would. He wants you to smile, but even writing about this day brings me to tears because sometimes it just hurts too much to smile.
I wrote him a letter last night in hope that it would help release some of this pain but with each day that brings me closer to one year without him, well the pain cuts deeper. And although this is my new normal life, I am angry that this is normal now. It shouldn’t be normal that every aspect of my life is affected by grief!
It’s unfair and I would give anything to have the normal that I knew before. The death of a spouse is rated the number one most difficult, stressful, life changing event a person can go through. No shit! It’s never ending and unfair is an understatement.
With this journey I have had the fortunate, yet unfortunate privilege to make many new friends in grief. These women will be lifelong friends. Some of which I speak to every day. We laugh and cry and vent our anger. And share the dry and messed up humour that comes with this grief. We share with one another what we cannot share with anyone else. We understand each other. So for this post of what a widows grief is like I will share from not just my own grief, but theirs also. In the effort and hope that it helps other women like us to express this grief.
At 357 days this is how my grief feels… and how it feels for so many others.Read more
Saturday marked two years since Megan’s death. I could sit down to write about how it was a horrible weekend, curling into the fetal position and crying more often than not. I could note how the minute I woke up, a tightness seized in my chest and a chill shot through my body. I could give an anecdote about walking through our dining room, where Megan’s ashes rest, and not being able to keep my composure.
Weddings can be a huge trigger for many widow(ers). It makes sense that attending a wedding brings up memories of one’s own wedding day. They emphasize that, at one time, you were married too, but now, your relationship status is somewhat murky, to say the least. Seeing a bride walk down the aisle, with a combination of tears and smiles, and saying “I do” shortly after uttering the words “til death do us part” seems more real when death has done one part.
Everyone has their own coping mechanisms when dealing with loss. Some turn to creative pursuits, creating paintings, books, photos, and sculptures that serve as an outlet for pain and frustration, and a visual representation of hope. Others become quieter people, spending less time socializing with friends and family, and more time socializing with themselves. Many of us turn to others that have experienced a similar loss, attending events like Camp Widow and perhaps preferring to isolate themselves with their “tribe”. There are even those who become self-destructive, turning to the artificial self-medication of the bottle, or worse.
So, you’ve decided to begin dating a widow. You met this person online, in a bar, through a mutual friend, or via an interest group of some sort. You may have met by chance at a convention, or at a singles night nearby. The point is, when you met that person, you didn’t necessarily know them as a widow.
Disclaimer: I met Sarah at Camp Widow, so I was kind of privy to that information beforehand.
Regardless, you’ve shown an interest. You may be just starting to date, or have known this person for years. If said widow also shows an interest, buckle up, because it’s going to be interesting. Here are four things that are somewhat unique to dating or being in a relationship to a widow or widower.Read more
I’ve known Sarah now for almost two years. In that span of time, we met, at Camp Widow, began dating, she moved to Ohio, and has since moved in, officially, with Shelby and I. She’s been here in Ohio for one year, as of yesterday.
Next week, I’ll be 36 years old. I had my first job at 15 years old, joined the Marine Corps at 17, was discharged at 22, and began working in the civilian world immediately thereafter.
I was married at 24, a father at 26, and a widower at 34. For 21 years, almost two thirds of my life, I’ve been working, playing, learning, and growing. It has been “go, go, go” since before I was able to drive. For the most part, I’ve kept up the pace. Sure, it’s been stressful, but I’ve never felt physically incapable of providing for myself and my family. I’ve never been too tired to take a leisurely drive or cast a fishing pole. Yeah, there are days when we all just want to lie around on the couch and do nothing, but those days have usually been few and far between.
Bills need paid, lawns need mowed, trails need hiked, people need fed, plumbing needs unclogged, books need read, and cars need washed.
If there’s one thing Megan taught me above all other things, it was that you have to live life as much as possible with whatever time you have.Read more
As has become more and more typical, I find myself sitting down to write, and not having a clear topic on where to focus. The fact of the matter is, though I miss Megan, her death and absence is not all-consuming. Far from it, actually. Trying to spin an anecdote about my day-to-day life into something about grief or loss is exhausting sometimes, because grief and loss is not what my day-to-day life consists of.
I still have Shelby here. Her schooling and upbringing is part of my day-to-day. Going to work, paying bills, and taking care of things at home is part of my day-to-day. Sarah is officially moved in with us, but we’ll still be organizing, merging, and unpacking her things for a while. That’s part of my day-to-day.
Megan died on November 19th, 2014. A thought of her is part of my day-to-day, but to be honest, it’s a small part.Read more