Friday, April 25, 2014

Cowardly "Friends"

People on social media are always passing around these stories about very old, married couples, who die within days of one another, at the age of 92 or something, because they simply could not live without the other person for one more second. "Isn't that so beautiful?", they ooohhh and aaahhhh. "She died, and then he couldn't bear to be without her for even 48 hours, so he died too. It's so sweet!" And yes, it is sweet.

However, why do people go all wacky for these stories about people they don't even know, yet whenever I express how difficult it is to live my life without my husband on this earth with me; or say that, yes, I still miss him and love him and always will, and that I will move forward but never move "on", and I will carry him in my heart and find ways to honor him because he is a part of me forever - some people get all uncomfortable and creeped out. Really? So if you're 90 years old and about to die, then it's sweet and wonderful and amazing. But if the love of your life is taken from you by sudden death when you are 39 and in the beginning years of your marriage, somehow it is strange that you would still be in love with this person who you were planning on spending your life with??? No. I'm sorry. I don't buy it.

I am getting really tired of being constantly judged by people who have absolutely no clue what it is to lose your partner - no idea of the road I travel. Earlier today, some coward posted an anonymous comment on my comedy You Tube channel, calling me "sad" and "pathetic" because I'm "in love with someone who isn't even alive anymore" and "still haven't moved on from this." They wrote, among other things, that it is really "unfortunate" what happened to me, but that "we all have problems" and I am "making this the focal point" of my life. They also said that they found it "tacky" that I would "use my husband's death" to write a book and to "get material for comedy sets." Here is the best part: this person, who wrote these vile and nasty and off-base comments, claimed to be "a friend" who is "just looking out for me and concerned, and posting anonymously so you won't be upset with me." Right. Because why on earth would I ever be upset that someone would accuse me of using my husband's death for some sort of - I don't even know - gain? Honestly, it hurts and stabs my heart just to type that thought. This person's comments on my page left me a bit shaky, and completely speechless. I just don't get it. I truly don't. I don't get how a person can be so judgmental of a path they have never walked. I don't understand why someone would go out of their way to write this to me - to hurt me on purpose that way. Why? What is the point?

 The thing that baffles me the most, though, is how anyone can find the idea of loving someone until forever, to be sad and pathetic. I will love my husband forever. And if there is such a thing as longer than forever, I will love him then too. I will also do my best to create a life for myself and to live that life - a life that has been severely altered and changed by his death. The fact that I will love my husband beyond the end of time - is not sad. It is goddamn beautiful. It is beautiful to take something as horrible and painful as a death, and with it, carve out pieces of comedy and joy and raw truth and life and hope. I mean - truly - what is more meaningful and beautiful than that? I choose to take the love with me. The person has died, yes. Our love will not die. Not ever. I get to carry the love with me. All of it. It is mine and it lives forever, echoing in each breathe. And when I die too - even when I die - the love that I have for my husband and the love that he has for me - will live on, even then. With love, there is no death. Only more love.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thanks for all the fish....



The time has come for me to step down from writing here at WV.

I am honoured to have been a part of this wonderful resource and to have felt the love of so many who have connected with me through this medium. 

It is hard to let go - this platform has been one of the most important ways I have walked myself through this grief.  I have shared my ups and downs with you and you, in turn, have let me know I am not alone.

I remember how I felt when I first started writing - I had been pouring my pain into my own blog when Michele asked me to write here.  WV was to be a different way of writing as I was no longer writing Letters to my Husband, but I was writing about myself, my life, my now.

Ultimately, that change in writing style has seen me more closely examine my own feelings and name them for what they were: desolation, depression, desperation, despair.

But in recognising how I felt each week, I have been able to track those feelings over time.

There are times when I still feel the dark, mawing pit seething in front of me, trying to draw me down into its cavernous bowels ..... but now, more often than not, I am noticing other feelings that outweigh them.

Last week I wrote about the happiness that has come to be part of my life.
I have raised my eyes from my feet and have seen that my life is not over: that I have to live because I didn't die.

I have felt the love of my husband continue after his death and this love has given me the confidence to make a better life for my children and I.  ....and that's what I have been doing.

..... and ever so slowly, this new life is taking shape.

It's not the shape I wanted my life to be, but it is new and different and a tiny bit magnificent.

So it is time for me to say So Long- and thanks for all the fish (because you all should know by now what a massive geek I am and I would just have to use a HHGTTG quote somewhere in here).


....and so it falls on me to introduce my replacement here on WV. 

Please welcome Stephanie to the fold and shower her with the kindness and understanding that you have given me.....




Stephanie was widowed in February of 2013 after her husband of nearly 14 years, Mike, had a heart attack in his sleep at age 59. Only 44 at the time, she has spent the past year obsessively writing about her husband, her grief, and the difficult task of recreating her future. Stephanie is originally from the Washington, DC area but moved to Hollywood after college to work as a special FX artist. She met her husband, who was a stuntman, there in 1999. They moved to Hawaii in 2001, where for four years, they ran a martial arts/yoga school. They closed the school when Mike got the job as stunt coordinator for the TV show "Lost". Stephanie worked as the personal assistant to a physicist for several years, and then - now, ever so gratefully - spent a couple of years in quiet retirement with Mike before he died. She feels it is the exact right time for her to start connecting with other widows, and sharing stories of grief and personal transformation. Her first post will be on May 1, which was the day she and Mike first got engaged in 1999.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 21 of this year marked one year mark for me since my beloved husband Chuck died.  It wasn't harder than any other day has been since he died-just more concentrated as far as impossible memories.

I'm in Arizona with my kids.  Our younger son and his lovely girlfriend came from Connecticut to join me and another son and our younger daughter in a remembrance of love. My niece came in from a trip through Southeast Asia.  So I had lots of family around.

You know how suddenly the feelings will just not be contained any longer?  And they spill out in tears and shakes and moans and horror?  Yeah, that was me on the 21.  Which is something we've all experienced but maybe you haven't experienced the beauty of how it happened for me.

So often, people stumble to say and do the right thing when someone they love is grieving.  They try to fix it, to make them feel better.  It doesn't work but they don't know what else to do.  So, let me share with you how the young people around me were the perfect picture of compassion as I lay there on the floor, almost but not quite in a fetal position, the grief overpowering my body and mind and heart and soul.

My sons and my soon-to-be daughter-in-law and my niece sat with me on the floor as I sobbed out my agony.  They didn't sound off with cliche's, they didn't try to make me stop crying, they didn't try to talk me out of it.

Here's our hope for the future of grieving that these young people in my life are already practicing.    They pressed kleenex into my hand not for stopping the tears but for mopping the tears.  They put a glass of water on the floor next to me and reminded me it was there to replenish my body so that I could cry the necessary tears.  They helped me steady the glass as I drank because my hands were shaking so.  They gently held my hands which were covering my head as I tried to squeeze the pain out.  They quietly leaned into me as the pain poured from my eyes and spoke how cleansing it was for me to be letting my soul bleed in such a way and they were envious of my ability to do so.  They asked me if I would like a pillow to rest my head upon as I cried.  They sat with me.  They touched my back or my hair or my arm, so gently.  They listened to me as the grief spewed from me and their love for me became tangible and got caught in the corners and crevices of pain and overwhelmed it.

This, I say to everyone out there who wonders what to do and how to do it...this is how to be with someone in grief.  Even in the midst of my grief, I recognized the gift they were giving me.

Since my husband's death, I've striven to keep grief and love balanced.  On the one year mark of his anniversary, the bucket of Love could no longer be contained and it tipped into the bucket of grief and mingled with it and became more than.  More than.

I don't know how this next year will play out.  Honestly, I don't see even into tomorrow.  No expectations.  But this I do know.  Whatever grief there is will always, always, always, be balanced by the hugeness of the Love that is in my life and the love that continues to grow.

Grief and Love and Compassion and young people who instinctively know how to be with all three.

Our future is in very good hands.  Because these young people know Love~




Tuesday, April 22, 2014

GAHHHHHH



I'm sitting here, drinking my morning coffee, and finally realised what day it is.

Well over 12 hours since my post was supposed to go live.

AND when I remembered this, I actually wasn't 100% sure if I had, or had not, done a post.  I had to check on the back end of the site.

When I went to bed last night, I'd felt like I had a productive day - started clearing in the garden to make a new veggie patch, got a ton of laundry folded and away, plus another load done, caught up on some reading, paid some bills. 

I also took my son to his first toddler circus skills class.

It's just my post that wasn't done yesterday - and honestly, it wasn't even on the radar.  Even though "Circus" is on "Tuesdays", I didn't even think about it.

For this reason, I hate public holidays and long weekends especially.

I struggle to remember what day it is at the best of times... public holidays make it that much worse.

But it's not the first thing I've completely forgotten in recent weeks.

I forgot to do an online test for school two weeks ago.

I hope there's not too much more to come...  These two forgotten things are pretty important.

Now I need to go and pay some attention to a clingy toddler who has been demanding attention by using me as a climbing frame as I write (ahhh peace; thank you Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom).

And write a to do list so I reduce the risk of forgetting anything else.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Depression Lies

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I took on a lot at once. School, a new relationship, a few new outdoor sports and hobbies, and as always, the constant urge to reinvent myself to be better, better, better.

This urge comes thanks to my own particular genetic makeup and my childhood combined. If I can be better, I can be more lovable. If I can be more lovable, I won't be alone. That is the drive that almost constantly steers me toward improvement and overdoing it.

I recently went to the Portland Tedx Talks for the second time and the side effect I left with again was the feeling of not good enough. Those people who spoke onstage were wonderful and inspiring and yet my takeaway is I'm not good enough and I'd better start working on improving since I have such a long way to go. I'm not brave enough, or strong enough, or smart enough or passionate enough.

Along with all the not good enoughing myself and everything else I've taken on in my life, I decided to try reducing (very slowly) my anti-depressant dose (not my smartest decision in recent times!) I'd been at 25 mg for a few weeks when I hit a wall. Everything seemed hopeless, irritability was sky high and everything felt personal and hurtful. Overwhelm was the word and the emotion that kept slamming around in my brain. I've had to put on the breaks and go back to basics. Back up to 50 mg, and eventually maybe 100 again. More alone time to recharge, more exercise, more self-care, and much less self improvement.

How could I forget for one second how much Dave's death leveled me? How could I lose sight of how much rebuilding takes out of me? How intense it is, just on its own? How could I think that I could be the way I used to be when the way I used to be is extinct? I feel robbed. I hate that I'm this delicate, vulnerable, exhausted, overwhelmed person now. I fear I'll never be able to be a mom or be a healthy partner for my guy. How could I possibly handle all of that?

I'm guessing that after a few weeks at a higher dose of meds I'll begin to feel more capable and less overwhelmed and hopeless. I'm also guessing that the lack of serotonin in my brain is the reason for my thoughts of my own hopelessness and not a reflection of the truth.

 I'm trying to reach back in my memory for times when I felt more balanced to access those thoughts too. The thoughts I have in a depression are usually terrible lies and not to be trusted. They feel so true, though. They make giving up seem so reasonable and sensible.

Hopelessness and apathy are easy to lean into. Hope and joy are so hard to access. I'm looking forward to the days when they are easier to find. They'll be back. I know that.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Strength Among Women.

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The above picture is a specific shot of the Sex and the City girls that my girlfriends and I send to each other when we miss each other or just need a smile. It is - like the show is for us - a reminder that thru thick and thin, life and love and illness and death, it is your girls who were there for you. I'm sharing it because I was reminded of that tonight.

On this pre-Easter evening, I would like to say,  I really hate being vulnerable. I mean, doesn't everyone? It's definitely not the best feeling out there. Tonight, I felt so completely vulnerable. It's the evening before Easter - my in-laws are having a big party at the ranch. We are grilling and cooking up a ton of good food. I spend the whole day in the kitchen with my mother-in-law… partly because I really enjoy helping her out on these kinds of days and partly because just keeping busy with helping keeps my mind off the obvious person missing. So really, for the most part, I made it through the day alright. I made this amazing lemon-lime bundt cake that was "to die for" (I always feel odd saying that now). But the sadness was underlying. And eventually after dinner and several beers… the flood gates opened. Everyone was out back playing ping pong - I could hear them loudly cheering and laughing over the game and the country music. Laughter. That kind… you know, the kind we used to all enjoy? Yeah.

I snuck out to sit on the front porch. Alone. Crying in my beer. And looking at pictures of my fianc√© and I on my phone. And crying some more. And wishing that someone would notice right away when I wasn't there, and would come to check on me. The way he used to when I needed it most. Wishing I was the center of anyone's universe like that again. Or that someone would just happen to come outside and notice me there and sit down beside me to be my friend. But no one came… except one person who walked right past, ignoring me. Which as you know, feels even worse than no one coming at all. And so I sat there more and more alone - just me, the glow of the porch light, and the june bugs occasionally thwacking into my back. I cursed aloud to… what? Someone. Something. My life. My stupid emotions. Him being gone. My pathetic desire to have someone rescue me. All of the above.

Eventually… I texted a few of my girlfriends. My best friend. And one of my also-widowed girlfriends. And my old high school girlfriend. It turned out we were all having pretty emotional nights for entirely different reasons. My best friend has just found out that this guy she really likes who she's been on several dates with is still hung up on an ex. My high school friend is pretty sad because her best friend just moved really far away, she just broke up with her boyfriend, and she had to move back in with her parents to boot. I really wish none of us had been going through any of that crap tonight… but you know, it helped to know I wasn't alone. Even though their situations were very different, that didn't matter. Tonight… each one of us was in need of someone to be there for us and console us and love us. Each of us wanted that someone to be a man, and each of us didn't have that. So we turned to each other. And we found exactly what we needed in each other. Love. And support. And understanding. And a warm welcome that will always be there. And a powerful "I've got your back, you are amazing and don't forget it" sort of feeling that we all needed.

I didn't used to be very close to any of my girlfriends. Many years ago, I had a really hard time connecting with women and I kept my distance from them for the most part. Losing my fianc√© has changed that world so entirely for me. I have come to rely on the women in my life in such a deep and powerful way. No matter what our situations or differences… when we are in pain, and we share that with each other, there is a sacred bond of holding each other up that occurs. Its like this unspoken code that all women seem to abide by. And it only occurs when we take the risk to be fully vulnerable with each other.

For the past month or so, I've been resisting taking that risk. It's so easy to do… to try and avoid being truly vulnerable - even with my closest girlfriends - because I just don't want to face it sometimes. But this week as I've had a few instances of both myself and my girlfriends hitting low points and really needing each other… I am reminded again how important, how powerful, and how healing it is to just let it all out to each other. Sure it felt better to let that out with Drew. More comfortable. More secure. But there is something equally powerful about baring your soul to other women. Something that I have never experienced until losing him.

I'm not even sure where I'm going with all this. Honestly, it's late, I've been on my feet all day cooking, and super stressed about a million other things, and I'm on my 5th or 6th beer (the fact that I can't remember which tells you something!). All I can say is that tonight, I am so incredibly grateful for the women in my life. The ones who are widows. The ones who are not widows who still seem to get it. The ones who are older and wiser and help guide me, and the ones who are right in the thick of it with me. I truly do not know what state I would be in today without each and every woman who has crossed my path since losing Drew. They, you, are the safety net that keeps me afloat. The wind beneath my wings. And the fuel that keeps me trying to make something big and bold and powerful out of all of this pain. We may not have the lives we want, but dammit, at least we have each other. And really, that's a hell of a lot.

Bloom



“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.” 

2014 has been one heck of a year.

It's been the year that hasn't ruined me ( as I believe that any year after Michael's death has been one of recovering after the ruin).

But this year has been different.

It's the year that's shown me that even when we think we've sifted through the rubble of loss and feel that seeing the light on the other side will suffice enough (and I fully believe it does)....this year has kicked me in the face to say:

"Look, we're glad you made it out of the ruins, we're even glad that you have learned to dance where you once felt you were crippled to for eternity. Heck, we even love that you've taken that which has torn and tried you to your last fiber and smoothed it out to be fertile ground to plant upon! But this year, all those bulbs and seeds you forgot your soul and heart buried in that ground of hurt...well.....they're blooming!"

And bam! Like that, things I've never thought could or would or I even wanted to be in my life are! and instead of turning my eyes away from the garden's of my perseverance and resilience, I've decided to savor their colors...soak in the beautiful scents and colors...and even pluck a few to take home with me :)

And in doing so...in recognizing, tending to and enveloping myself in the sprung seeds of hope....I have found I have blossomed too.