You Would Be Proud of Me If You Weren't Dead

So, one week ago today, on March 31st, in NYC, in a big giant concert hall and an even bigger audience watching the online live-stream, I was one of 11 speakers, chosen to give a TED talk, at the TEDx event, held at Adelphi University. My talk was titled: "When Someone You Love Dies, There Is No Such Thing As Moving On", and it was all about how we as a society have it all wrong, when it comes to how we deal with loss, grief, and death. It was about how important, and healthy, it is, to continue to tell the stories of those we love who have died, and how doing so can actually expand your world and help others. It was about how sharing love forward, can change people's minds, and change the world. I wrote every word of it, then spent the last 2 months working on it obsessively, practicing and honing it, and making my words come to life.

For those who are not familiar with what a TED talk is, look it up. It's a very prestigious thing, and a huge honor. The idea behind TED talks are 18 minute talks, about anything and everything. "Ideas Worth Sharing" is their motto. Last Friday, there were talks about grief, suicide, education, autism, social media and it's effect on society, and many other relevant and meaningful things. To be chosen to do a TED talk, its a long process. You come up with your idea worth sharing, and then you submit it through a very lengthy application, which asks you lots of questions about what your message is, and what you want to say, and why its important. Then, from the huge piles of applicants, they choose maybe 50, and those people come in to "audition" their talk. The audition was me standing in front of the TEDx panel, and giving the first 3 minutes of my presentation. In the end, 12 speakers were chosen, and its a 6-hour event of these educational and thought-provoking talks, that then live online and on the internet, where they have a chance of going viral and reaching a LOT of people. That is the hope for me with mine - that when my talk is released onto the TED website - that I can share it like wildfire, and others will too, and that my message will get out there into the universe where it belongs. 

So, to say I was humbled and honored to be a part of this incredible event, is an understatement. It was amazing, and it took a lot for me to get myself there spiritually and emotionally. What most people don't know, is that the past couple of months have been impossibly hard for me, in my personal life. The worst part is that I couldn't even really talk about it because if I did, then I was giving it too much focus, and not able to focus on my TED talk huge opportunity. And there was no way in hell that I was going to let my personal life crisis and emotions steal my moment to make a big difference. So, I will just say this: a lot has been going on with me, in my personal life, these last 2months, that has left me feeling a new kind of grief all over again. The loss of a relationship, a friendship - the loss of talking to someone every single day, and going from that, to just nothing. The very real possibility that this person has decided not to be in my life anymore, and the way that it all went down. Being blindsided so completely and so painfully. At Camp Widow in Tampa a few weeks ago, everything came to a head inside my heart, and I had a lovely combination panic attack/emotional breakdown, right on my hotel room floor. My dear friend Michele picked me up and said words that mattered, and ordered me to get outside, get some fresh air, and to NOT allow this to steal my very important moment that I have worked so hard for, and deserved. 

So, I took her advice. And it was so hard. The past few weeks have been so damn hard. Hard to focus. Hard to not think about what was hurting me from deep inside. Just hard, in so many ways. But I did it. Somehow. I got on that train to NYC, I stayed at a Marriott local to where the TED talks would be, and I used my time alone to focus, to work, to prepare, to sit in the hot tub and say the words in my head, that would need to be spoken from my heart. I tried to remember what Michele told me: "The stories are written on your heart. Just get up there and speak your heart." And when the time came, and I walked out onto that stage, with that solo spotlight right on me and nothing but empty space around me, I did it. I told the stories and spoke the words, with passion and meaning and confidence. And in the moments before and the moments during, I knew that my widowed community and all my friends were with me, and next to me, and right there on that stage in spirit. Their many messages on my Facebook page and their texts and their flowers and their massive support, was so overwhelmingly amazing, it moved me several times that day. About 20 minutes before I went on, in the dressing room, I had to shut my phone off, because the messages were becoming too much. The expectations from people, the hopes and the confidence THEY had in me, that I would represent them well and that they would be proud. It was amazing, but it was a lot. I had to put it down for awhile, so that I could go out there, and just speak the stories that were written on my heart. 

And so I did. And I was able to stay inside the moment of my words, which is often very hard for me. And I was able to get across what I wanted to say, in the exact way I wanted to say it. And all of my hard work and preparation and not letting other emotional things into my heart, paid off. It was done, and it was everything that I wanted it to be. 

And then I went back to the dressing room. The event itself was still going on, because the speakers are back to back, so there were still 4 more speakers left before it was over. So I go back there, I sit down in a chair, and I turn on my phone, because a LOT of people had just watched the live-stream on the internet, and I wanted to hear the feedback. My phone was blowing up with messages, texts, shouts of congratulations, friends saying things like: "Im so damn proud of you." Or "That was the best thing Ive ever seen you do, and youve done a lot of great things." My phone was going crazy with support and love. And then, in the distance, one of the other speakers was on the phone, with his wife. She was practically screaming into the phone at how proud she was of him, and he was on the verge of tears (of joy) as he was listening to her voice, because her voice was the only thing in the world, the only thing that he could hear through all of the noise - the only thing that mattered. 


And as I sat there in the chair nearby, everything came flooding outward. The grief and the sadness and that alone feeling, and the isolation, and the realization that I just gave a talk about my husband, who is still and always forever dead. The tears started to fall as I realized that everytime I accomplish something, there will be no more of my husband giving me hugs and flowers afterwards. There will be no more of him sitting in the audience with that look he always had on his face when he would watch me perform - like he was in awe of me. There would be no more phone calls to him, like that man next to me, where I could hear the only voice I wanted to hear, the only voice that mattered. 

And then I thought about everything I had been through emotionally, in the past couple months, and how I tried (and succeeded) to stuff it all down, so that I could not only get through this talk, but be amazing. And then all THAT grief came out of me, and all those mixed up emotions about the loss of my husband, the life I knew, and all the secondary losses that came after - they just poured out of me. Silently. But forcefully. And the man on the phone didnt notice. And the world kept spinning just like before. And I dried my tears eventually, and went out to watch the rest of the speakers, and then to meet up with all the many friends and people who had come out in person to cheer me on. And life was really good again, and I felt so accomplished and like I had done something that MEANT something, and it mattered. 

But deep inside, in that place where the darkness meets the soul, and where the hurt never really fully goes away, my only thought was this: 

I miss you, sweet husband. 

And you would be so damn proud of me,

if you weren't dead. 

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  • Lisa Richardson
    commented 2017-04-07 23:11:25 -0700
    Kelley you have so much to be proud of. We’ve all felt the depth of that aloneness at times. Like the day I drove away after dropping our son at college. So much pride in that moment, and still so much pain in what he’s missing and we’re missing not having him here. Thank you for carrying the message to others. You are truly an inspiration.
  • Misty Corrales
    commented 2017-04-07 17:18:45 -0700
    I’m so very proud of you. This post is amazing, empowering. Your ability to express is beautiful.