I was recently told that I need to move on from my husband’s death. As I heard that statement, I thought to myself, what a bold thing to say, especially coming from someone who has never experienced losing the love of their life. Grief is unique to everyone, and NO ONE can tell you how to grieve and what to do. Losing a brother, a son, or even a friend is different than losing your soulmate and the love of your life. Death is different for everyone, and the relationships are different. I am not saying that one loss is greater than the other; they are just different.Read more
I’ve had some really weird and disturbing dreams the past week. The sort of dreams that don’t really relate to anything in my actual life but have lots of very stressful or strange things going on in them. In these dreams, nothing appears to relate to my actual life in any particular way. Nothing symbolic even seems to be obviously about my life.
They might not be welcome, and the past few nights I’ve caught myself feeling a tinge or dread when going to bed because I don’t want to have more disturbing dreams. Still though, it makes me think back and be grateful that these nightmares are just that - nightmares and not real. It makes me think back to the year Drew died, and how many nights I had bad dreams about how he died. In the dreams, he was either angry with me and leaving me, or had found someone else and was leaving. Not a single time did one of these dreams show the true reason he was gone - that he had died suddenly in a helicopter crash. Helicopters were never in a single one of these dreams in fact. It seemed as though my mind was trying to make sense of what had happened to him in the trauma of it all. So it would create these false stories that he had left, or that he was far away and not coming back for one reason or another - none of them ever death.Read more
So the feelings are the same, just as intense but not as often and demanding. I miss Clayton every day but the immediate sting when the thoughts rush forward is milder with time. My eyes still water each day but there are more days of laughter than tears. The dust has settled and now I’m feeling unsettled. A year ago I feared I would have to move out of the apartment that Tin and I shared. People don’t realize that when you become a widow most often times your finances flip. Your household income drops but all the same responsibilities are there. We, the widowed, are billed for our loss. As if life isn’t taxing already.Read more
Though Shelby started middle school last year, entering the 6th grade, the jump into 7th is more significant to me. In my own schooling, the seventh grade is when I was no longer an “elementary” student. I moved on to a new school, new friends, changing classrooms, more advanced subjects, and so on.
Shelby is doing the same this year. Not only that, she will be turning thirteen soon...officially a “teenager”. She’s already formed her own tastes in music, books, activities, foods, and hobbies. She’s gone through a change in “best friends” in the past year. She’s become more independent, responsible, opinionated, and dare I say, outgoing. Recently, she started her….well, you know.
All without Megan.Read more
Mike and I are both widowed. Which means that there are two days every year that are very specific to our relationship. Two days every year that most couples don’t have, nor have they probably ever considered. These two days are extremely special, but hard. And each year as they approach, in June and in August, we’re not exactly sure what to do with them or how each other will be feeling. After all, these two days are in celebration of a beautiful beginning with someone else, not our beginning with each other.
These two days are hard, and complex, and beautiful. Usually, we go out to dinner on those two days together. Sometimes it’s very joyful and full of love and laughter. Other years, it’s hard. And no matter how great our meal is or our love for each other, nothing removes the sting of why we are there. Or why we are together in the first place. And we never know from year to year which way it will be.
Just last week was Mike’s anniversary with Megan. We went out to dinner to one of her favorite steak houses. And it was lovely and it was hard all at once. The kind of hard I’ve come to know well since loving someone that is widowed. The kind of hard that often times lies under the surface of things. As I sit across from him in the dimly lit restaurant, I can feel it pumping through his veins - entirely unbeknownst to anyone else in the room.Read more
Being afraid and doing it anyway. That’s what they say courage is all about. I’m sure most people don’t see themselves as courageous. I think because the idea of being afraid and doing it anyway is often associated with enormous, heroic action.
In fact, I would pretty much consider myself the opposite of courageous and always have. I get all spazzed out if I’m late to things. I am endlessly nervous about missing a flight somehow, despite never once having had this occur. I’m paralyzed by moments of having to make choices and decisions… spending what most people would probably consider a ridiculous amount of time weighing the pros and cons and potential outcomes of each possible choice. I take too many things too seriously too much of the time. And of course, I’m constantly afraid people are going to die and I’ll regret some choice I made somehow...Read more
This past week, I got to sit down and have a mentoring session with a photographer that I have greatly admired for several years now. We went through my photography - most specifically, all of the photographs I made about my grief after Drew died. It’s taken me years to get to the right space emotionally to be ready to have someone look at these photos with a critical eye and tell me what is working best and least in relation to showing them in galleries and having exhibitions. I’ve thought for years that I’ve just been avoiding it, but I’m now seeing that I just wasn’t ready to take these photos into such an often harshly critical atmosphere as the fine art gallery world.
Deep down though, I have never been able to ignore this pull from inside my gut that wants this work to be out in the world in a bigger way. The parts of me that went through all that trauma and pain and grief and sadness and anger and confusion and brokenness… which is captured in the images. I want this series and this experience to be seen by those who have the fortune of not yet experiencing such pain as well as those who have. I want it to be seen by anyone who has ever been broken by life, because I think seeing visuals about struggle and rebuilding can help all of us feel more connected and less alone.Read more
Another year, another birthday. Megan would be 38 tomorrow. Each time July 24 rolls around, it’s a slightly different experience for me. Sometimes, the build-up to that day is the difficult part. Other times, it has been acknowledged as “it is what it is” and the day passes without much fanfare.
This year, it’s a mixture of both.
While it is never swept under the rug, the theme that past few weeks has been a ridiculous amount of distraction. My work has been beyond what I would normally call “busy”. We’ve just returned from our trip to Texas. There has been some car trouble, and a lot of work around the house. More often than not, I’m just plain tired.
That doesn’t leave a lot of room to remember that Megan’s birthday falls in July. But I do anyway. I remember it at night, when I’m falling to sleep. I remember it on weekday mornings, when I’m up and preparing for work, but the rest of the house is quiet. My commute is yet another instance where I get a few free minutes to think, and in comes Megan.Read more
When you read this, I will be somewhere in Europe. I will have already traveled to Paris. And, trust me, it is not lost on me that both Notre Dame and myself are under reconstruction. It is no coincidence.
When I lay my eyes on the Cathedral Notre Dame it will be actively undergoing reconstruction - just like me. And, like with any rebuild it will not go smoothly. I know this. There will be things that don't go according to plan. Best laid plans will need to be changed as they go. Accommodations will be made. Things will be changed and rearranged. Careful attention will be paid to keeping the integrity of the building. And, similarly, I am conscious that I should maintain a lot of the woman I was when Mike was alive. She was built solid. There is a lot of me that is salvageable. Just like Notre Dame, I am not altogether lost. I have survived the firestorm that is Mike's death. I am still standing just like the iconic Cathedral.
In both rebuilds, there will be improvements to the original. And , I expect there will be things lost too. It is what it is.
Funny how different losses can create such different kinds of struggles for us. How different versions of loss can confuse us and blindside us in unexpected ways… even when we have dealt with loss before.
I feel like I came home from our recent trip to Texas changed. In a good way. I feel like there were a lot of things that were rearranged inside me while on that trip. I know it had a lot to do with seeing good friends, and Drew’s family, and being in my hometown and feeling that anchored feeling of the place I grew up.
Usually when we visit, I leave feeling like there just wasn’t enough time… to see everyone and do everything that mattered. This time though, it didn’t feel that way. I made it a priority to have greater amounts of time with the people I often barely get time to see - some of them, the most important people to me. So as we hit the road back to Ohio after 10 days in Texas, my heart felt so full and satisfied and peaceful. It was the first time a trip back home didn’t feel like “not enough”. And it was beautiful.
That trip has left a different sense of calm in me since being back in Ohio. I feel this stronger sense of connection to the people and places I love that are far away, and also to the person I was then. In a way, maybe it feels like I’ve brought her with me this time.Read more