I am tired. I am tired of everything about widowed life. It is heavy. And, for the better part of two years and a handful of months, I have been doing the heavy lifting of grief. I am sick of it. The loneliness. The isolation. The emotional and mental exhaustion. I am tired of all that grief offers. I think I have sampled it all. And, I can say with authority, it all pretty much sucks. Yep. Hard pass on what grief is serving. Thanks, but no thanks. I'm good. I'm fed up. I'm full.
Living with grief is kinda like the stale coffee I drank this morning.
Lacklustre, mediocre and kinda lukewarm.
I would not serve the cruddy coffee I drank to anyone I liked; and likewise,
I would not wish grief on another human being.
Being Mike's widow is by far the hardest thing I have ever endured. I was building my life around him and his death destroyed everything that I imagined my future to be. When he died I felt my foundation collapse. I buried Mike, but it was me who was buried alive by the wreckage of our dilapidated life. My words are powerful, but they only shine a dim light on the darkness of widowhood. My writing, at best, outlines the landscape of grief and scratches the surface of the aching and ugliness. But, those of us who live with grief know all too well how it relentlessly claws at your Soul - like nothing else can.
There is simply no way to fully explain the awfulness of this mess. Grief must be experienced to be fully understood; and, I do not recommend this experience to anyone. This is not for the faint of heart. That said, with forced practice, I am getting fairly proficient at grief, but it is not something I ever wanted to excel at. I have no desire to become good at grief. I didn't sign up for this and I would love to revoke my membership to this club. It is not working out for me. It doesn't suit my lifestyle. It is simply not a good fit.
Grief and I need to part ways. I am tired of waking up with a heavy heart. And, I am equally exasperated about going to bed with a sadness inside me that runs so deep I am surprised it doesn't drip from me onto my bedsheets. I am detached from everything around me. And, an apathy lives inside me that I can not seem to shake.
I do not want to be unresponsive and dispassionate, but I am. I want to reengage in living, but I haven't yet. I am tired of being without joy. And, I know full well that the only way to reenter life is to reengage in living, but it is so damn hard to live without him. It is incredibly difficult to breathe life into yourself when you are breathless and running on empty. It is so very hard to action carefully architected plans when your heart feels heavy. Yet, I desperately want to feel the hum of a normal life again. I want to return to days gone by when I was content and deliciously happy.
So, now what? How do I make this happen? I ask myself this question again and again. And, I am not sure. I don't know. I am simply not sure what to do next. I am unsure about the direction of my life. I am not sure what I can do to recreate a life I am excited about. I could blog about the ideas that swirl around my head and the hopes that live inside my heart, but until I action these things they aren't real. I haven't breathed air into any of these thoughts so I keep to them myself for now. Maybe, what's next is that I will stop drinking stale coffee. I can start tomorrow by making fresh coffee and see where that leads me.
It's as good a plan as any.
When Drew died, all the rules went out the window for me. I remember thinking “I’ve done everything right. I’ve been a good, responsible person. I put up with a 9-5 job and I pay my bills on time. I’m kind to people. I exercise and try to eat right. By all accounts I am a perfectly sensible adult doing everything I should....”
And then HE DIED. And then I said FUCK IT.
I remember thinking, “What the hell was even the point of keeping all of my ducks in a row? Of trying to be so responsible? Of always doing what I’m supposed to do? What the hell is the point if he’s dead now?”
I went on a bender after that. I quit my job as a designer, because I hated it. I moved out of Dallas, because I hated it there too. I stopped paying my credit cards, because I didn’t care anymore. My credit tanked, all my cards canceled me because I was suddenly a liability because I hadn’t made a payment in 6 months. I basically stopped doing anything I hated and started doing things I really wanted to be doing instead. I got a job as a cashier at an art gallery, because I’d always wanted to work in a gallery. I moved in with family out in the country because I didn’t want to be around city life anymore. I just sort of took a leave of absence from life I guess.
I realize not everyone can make those kinds of choices. I didn’t have kids, or a house, or anything tying me down really at the time. I had the freedom to change it all. Regardless of that though, I think there is always room to do more of what we want, and less of what we don’t want. And I think giving ourselves permission to do even small things that we can still enjoy is so crucial during grief and really in all times of life. It reminds us what's important, and that life is still worth living even in the midst of times of struggle and great pain.
I’ve been thinking about this lately more, because I feel like I’ve fallen back into a slump of not paying attention to what’s really important...Read more
How many of us had dreamed of being super heroes when we were younger? Pulled between imagining magic powers and wishing we were older so we could do whatever we want and “oh how perfect life would be”. It’s true when they say to be careful what you wish for…Read more
I have not felt your lips against mine for over two years. It has been almost a thousand days since I have heard your voice outside of my memory. And, it is starting like I knew it would. I am starting to forget your voice. I've tried to keep the sound of your voice clear in my mind by replaying our conversations again and again, but it just isn't the same. My ears have not physically heard you in a really, really long time. And, now, because of your absence, I can not remember the exactness of your voice. However, I can still hear you say "Hey, Beautiful" in the tone you reserved for me. I will remember the sound of your voice saying those two words forever. But, aside from this, and a few other words and phrases, I can't hear you for certain anymore. I knew this would happen. And, it is as awful as I thought it'd be.
It has been well over one hundred weeks since I have touched you. It's been far too long since your hands were on me. And, too long since I looked into your kind blue eyes. I haven't felt your gaze on me in hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of days. So many days that I have lost count. For me, counting does not serve a purpose anymore. Everyday, you are still dead. You do not become more dead with time, and I know for certain that you are not going to come back to me once I reach a magic number - so I've just stopped counting. In grief, counting is pointless. It is not like in a game of hide and seek where counting serves a purpose. I can count and then shout "ready or not here I come". But, you aren't ready and I am not coming to where you are - yet. Counting just pronounces your absence and makes me feel further from you and the life we shared together.
the most important part
of the journey
is just deciding to go.”
I read this quote the other day in a book and I liked it. I tend to spend too much time overthinking things and not enough time just doing them. So this was refreshing to read. But it also got me thinking about widowhood, and decisions. And how much of the difficulty about loss in general is the lack of control we have. The fact that there are usually so many decisions that we either did not get to make, or never wanted to have to make. It really has a whole lot of different meanings depending on where you’re coming from.
Most of all, though, this quote makes me think back to on the different journeys that I am glad I did decide to go on. Of how glad I am I decided to date that cocky, goofy pilot. Even though I knew his work was dangerous and he could someday die doing it - which of course he did. Even though I’d been in an abusive relationship before him, and I was scared to get close to anyone again. Even though it all felt terribly scary, and I tried to run away from it, eventually I just decided to go on that journey with him. And once I decided, everything else was the most incredible ride. He changed my whole view of men, and of love, and of myself in the best of ways. And even though he did die, the changes he made in my life did not. That decision changed who I was forever - so he has never left me.
I am glad I decided to leave the city we lived in together, and leave my career, and leave all my friends behind. Even though that was hard too… I just knew, after he was gone, I couldn’t be there without him. I knew I had to decide to just go. And take some new chances. And yet again, once I made the decision, things fell into place to help it happen. His family supported me through it all, and I made new friendships and grew as a person in ways I never would have had I not decided to go.
And then I met Mike, 4 years ago this week actually. I knew within that very first meeting that if I decided to keep knowing this man, he was going to change my entire life all over again - just like Drew had. It was scary for sure, because I didn’t really feel ready for so much change. But I decided to go, and things unfolded. And here we are four years later… miraculously carving out a new life in the aftermath of losing both our partners. On a journey of firsts together, trying to figure out what it means to be in love again and also love the ones we’ve lost. And deciding each day what that means for us, and what we want to create this new love to be.
All of the best parts of my life have always been the results of those moments I decided to just go. And sure, they have also led to an unfathomable amount of pain sometimes… but isn’t that life? We aren’t owed easy. We aren’t owed a perfectly happy, painless life. We aren’t owed anything at all really. I realize that’s not everyone’s favorite thing to hear, but it’s true. It's not the whole story though...Read more
It hangs in mid-air,
swaying through the trees,
like an echo,
and other times,
like a scream.
That life unfinished,
the one we didn't get to have,
because you died.
It lingers there,
in the breeze,
like a hundred-thousand question marks,
and never any answer.Read more
My wife and I have always enjoyed mixing our favourite coping mechanism, comedy, with accomplishing important tasks. Sometimes, the best remedy for the worst life stresses is proactive humour. Natasha came up with the term “cancer card” as a way to deal with life’s day to day challenges. We would often jokingly ask each other a question, “Is this a cancer card moment?” For example, we are waiting for a table for brunch and Natasha tells me that we are third on the waitlist for a table. I turn to her and say, “This is a good time to play the cancer card.” I approach the hostess and say, “Excuse me, my wife is literally fighting cancer right now, so, if there is any way that we could get a table faster, that would be great.” Usually, the cancer card works because the restaurant staff and the other customers are very accommodating—especially if I had told Natasha to exaggerate her fatigue while I get her a chair to sit on. Contrary to popular opinion, some cancer patients are not super thin and emaciated. As in Natasha’s case, the medications used to manage the side effects of chemo can make you gain a lot of weight. As a result, she didn’t always look like a cancer patient to everyone, which is why exaggerating symptoms was sometimes necessary. In the past, when my self-esteem was low, I would have felt pushy, inconsiderate and manipulative using my wife’s cancer to get special treatment. Now, I know whatever I can do to make life easier for my family, I should definitely do. I know this might sound strange, but my wife’s cancer has actually had a positive impact on me: I am much more confident. In the past, I would have spent too much time worrying about pleasing strangers in a restaurant at my own expense—no more! One of the most important things I have learned is that we all have to do what we think is best for OUR family because if we don’t, no one else will. Besides, the chances of anyone else in line for a table is battling post-partum depression, cancer AND has a new born baby is highly doubtful.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
This is not how I imagined my life.
We should have been in our new house for over two years now.
Mike and I should be celebrating our two year Wedding Anniversary
August 20th, 2019.
But, he died. And, none of this happened or will happen.
There is no shared home.
There will not be a Wedding Anniversary.
There won't be anything.
There is nothing more.
Not one thing will be added to our story.
He is my heart. But, Mike is the past.
Even though this is my story, it seems surreal to me most of the time. I have to continually remind myself that this is actually real. He is really gone from here. Mike really died. Ugh, I think I type this so often because I am desperately hoping that it will finally imprint onto my heart. Cognitively I get it. I know he's gone, but on a heart level I still struggle to accept this; but, as I've mentioned in previous blogs, I am working on it. This third year of widowhood I will work on accepting his death on a heart level. I have to do this in order to live without him. For me, it is not possible to fully engage in my own life until I can accept that our life together is over.
As every widowed person knows, acceptance takes time, hard work and a consistent effort. Acceptance does not just magically occur with the passage of time. When ready, we, the bereaved, need to actively work to accept the death of our beloveds. For the first year, I could not even consider accepting his death. I hated it. I think I hoped against hope that Mike would somehow come back to life and we would resume where we left off. When Mike suddenly died, all our hopes and dreams died with him and I was left here to kick the tires without him.
In the last few years, I recognize that I am doing a decent job of surviving his death, but it has not been easy. Being Mike's widow is easily the hardest thing I have ever done. Widowhood itself has not necessarily gotten "easier" with time, but it has become different. My grief has definitely changed. Now, it is no longer primal. It is not as gutting. Instead, my grief has become a permanent dull ache inside me. My grief is softer around the edges, but it continues to take up a lot of space in my heart. It still keeps me from actively and fully engaging in my life. I half-heartedly go through the motions; but, I still feel somewhat detached from my own life. Yet, I sense change. I feel that this will change for the better, eventually.
I've survived my first two years of widowhood because of the strong connections I made with other widowed people. I have been helped through the longest days and loneliest nights of my life by fellow widows and widowers. These people have become my Lifelines - the people who have been present in his absence. I'm still standing because of human beings who, despite their own heartache, chose to support me in my grief. Several widows and widowers have come into my life and loved me when Mike is no longer here to do this for himself. The impact their presence has made in my life is beyond measure. I have managed to survive Mike's death, in large part, because of the continual support of these kind people. A strong kinship exists in the widowed community because we know the ugliness of grief and we come together to hold space for each other.Read more
It’s been a little over a month now since Mike proposed. I’ve had a few hard triggers. Trying to think about planning a wedding has been tough at first. The last time I was going to marry someone, he died before we ever got to the big day. He died before we ever even got into the true planning. So needless to say, that part of me that remembers is very aware. I’ve had a few moments of just bursting into heavy, deep sobs because sometimes it feels like reliving the past and it gets very scary to imagine it all disappearing again.
I’ve worried this whole process would be too much to handle, and too emotional to deal with, and that I wouldn’t even be able to manage the idea of planning a wedding ever. But aside from those moments where the fears get big and scary, most of the time, I’ve felt a new awareness of time and a new appreciation for each day.
Just last week, I told Mike, “I’ve gotten to be engaged to you for a whole month now! That’s more than I ever got to before!” And it’s true. Just as with each anniversary year we have hit (4 YEARS next week, wow!)… there is a feeling of thankfulness that we’ve somehow gotten this far. Part of me is still expecting it all to fall apart at any moment like it did when Drew died. But instead of being so afraid of that, I just feel excited for every small piece. Excited to ask one of my best friends to make our wedding cake. Excited to ask another of our closest friends to be the one to marry us. And honored, so honored, that I get the privilege to have had one whole month of planning such a special day, so far. Even if all went wrong and it didn't happen, I still got this part. I still got to spend all this wonderful time dreaming of the day - which is something that was taken from me the last time I was going to marry my person.Read more