Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Missed, Loved, and Remembered

August 31, 2011

Hi honey,

Six years ago today you headed out the door for what would be your final bike ride. You checked the tires on your bike, oiled the chain, filled two water bottles, kissed me good-bye, left, came back for some unidentified thing (I still wonder what brought you back, and if those additional moments cost you your life), and then kissed me good-bye again. After that last touching of lips, our lives would never again be the same.

Every August I approach this day with trepidation. I wonder why the reality that you are never coming home doesn't lose some of its sting. Shouldn't I be used to this by now? You'd think after 2,190 days I could open your cupboard in the garage without tears burning my eyes. And yet, on Saturday when I pulled open both wooden doors to reveal the "stuff" I haven't yet been able to move...the life I used to lead jumped out and smacked me right in the face. The force that was you screamed from each tire tube, sports watch, track shoe, Livestrong band, and trail map that are safely tucked inside that 2'X4' space. The memories of daily runs, weekend bike rides, day long hikes, and various family trips floated through the open cabinet doors, taunting me with the nearness of what was; I had to shut the doors a couple of times to take a breath.

Because your death still takes my breath away. Because it still isn't fair that you aren't going to need those stupid deflated tire tubes. Because I loved the life I had that included you. Because you were important to so many people. Because collectively, we miss you every single day. Because the world isn't the same without you in it. But when I opened that wooden cupboard, it was like time traveling. Whirling back through the moments that made up our life together at warp speed, only to come to a crashing halt on the door step of reality. You are still dead.

And yet, you aren't. I still feel you. Not in the ghostly sense, but in the warmth of love. You can be found in laughter, especially the laughter of children. I feel your determination and discipline when I want to quit; your confidence in me when my own wanes; your ability to let go of troubles, when holding on seems the much safer course, every time I face uncertainty. You know me, and knowing that you know moves me, changes me, and propels me to dig deeper, try harder, reach further...make a difference.

Your sense of fun has inspired many a silly conversation, and a number of pranks. Your dedication to the people you love has changed their lives, even after yours ended. Your ability to push yourself to achieve your personal best has inspired many an athlete, some who race in your memory. Your refusal to be anything other than who you were, has cemented your place in the hearts of every person who loved you.

But perhaps your greatest legacy is the fact that those whom you loved, know they are loved still. That is what I hold onto when the reality of your death sneaks up on me. You loved me. And you still do.

Damn cupboard.

I love you now and always,


Special thanks to Janine for sharing her writing day with me on this anniversary...and to each of you readers with whom I can share both the heartbreaks, and the unexpected joys, of life after widowhood.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another Ugly Four Letter Word

Everyone: Carl. Carl: Everyone. So there, now you've met. The last few weeks have been full of big changes for us. We've bought a new home, he moved into my house for a few weeks during the remodel of the new house, and now we've moved into our house together. The wedding is still a few months away, but well into the planning stages. Holy cow we have a lot going on!

I've had a tough few weeks - work has been crazy (as usual) and with the move, my personal life has been hectic as well. I think the busy-ness has kept me from really listening to my inner voice, and in the rare moments of quiet I find myself feeling oddly emotional and trying to find the source. I'd call it sad because I sometimes cry, but I finally realized a few days ago that it isn't sadness at all. At first I wondered if it was grief and some new unexplained wave of agony over Daniel. But it's not. I've found myself touching Carl's chest after he's asleep, making sure he's real. I sometimes get weepy watching him quietly breathe and I've been trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with me. After some soul searching and probing at the hurt spot I realized something shocking. It isn't sadness from grief, although it's related; this weird emotional state I'm in is fear: gut wrenching, heart stopping fear.

I know I don't have to explain to you what the fear is about. Some of you are probably trying to figure out why I'm doing this at all. I've stepped back into the land of not knowing. You know, that place we were before our spouses died? That place where you had no idea what was around the corner? Only this time? This time I know that death is out there. This time I'm not going to say "til death us do part" and smile an innocent smile - imagining our matching rocking chairs well into our 90's...

This time, this time I'm not sure I won't burst into tears, knowing in excruciating detail the meaning of the words. This time I know what I'm saying and how painful the disolution of a marriage can be. I'll still hopefully imagine the rocking chairs (yes, I still have hope or I wouldn't be doing this would I???), but I have a less happy alternate ending in my head too. I don't like the thought of it, but it is there nonetheless.

I've made Carl promise that I get to die first. In good humor he has accepted this challenge - and reassured me that he's always felt he'll live to be 90.

He'd better!

(so funny, in previewing this before I posted I realized that CARL is also a four-letter word - just for clarity - FEAR is the word I'm referencing. HA!)

Monday, August 29, 2011


Bunko Night

I just returned from a nice weekend in Orange County. My friends invited me to join them for the weekend, which included some surfing time for my son, and a bunco party for the adults. I was promised over and over what a good time I would have, and how it was an opportunity to meet more of their friends.

When I first arrived we were trying to remember the last time I was at their house. I was quite surprised to realize that it had been a very long time. At first I thought maybe a couple of years, then they mentioned that the last time I was there Michael was with me. Not only was he with me, but he was healthy.

Pre-cancer. Pre-tumor. Pre-marriage. Pre-treatments. Pre-death.

It was a sobering realization. The last time I was there, we had our whole future ahead of us. We were carefree. We were so happy. We had no idea what was before us. And, our life, my life, was never the same.

As the guests began to arrive I placed myself in the backyard on a chair, making small talk with a couple of people. As I sat there I had the pleasure of watching couple after couple arrive. As they entered the yard my friends would introduce me to Jim and Bob, Ty and Peg, Eric and John, you get the picture. In time I realized that for one, most of these folks knew each other, and that they all socialized as couples. Why wouldn't they? Right? The other thing that I realized was that since most of them were coupled off, I was for the most part invisible. I sat there on that lawn chair, without much conversation, for a very long time.

As the game began, we went round after round, moving from table to table, and changing game partner to game partner. I began to have a lot of fun. At one point the person I was partnered with was a a 71 year old woman, who my friends had befriended. There was a break in the game, so I decided to engage her in conversation. I learned that she had lost her only son when he was 18 years old. I then learned that she had also lost her husband years earlier as well. I explained to her that I was quite familiar with loss, and shared how I was also widowed. This conversation continued throughout the evening whenever we were seated at the same table. By the end of the night we were the best of friends, and said goodnight with a big hug and kiss.

Both of us had experienced a big loss in our life. Both of us took joy in the fact that even though we lost miserably at bunco that night, we had found each other, and had such a wonderful connection throughout the game.

I imagine that I will continue to feel like the odd man out when around happy couples. It's something that cannot be avoided, and it's something that is honestly getting easier and easier with time. While it used to cut me like a knife to be among those coupled up, it now challenges me to find new ways to connect.

If you are not familiar with bunco, it's basically a game of chance, a roll of the dice. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Either way, you have to move forward, to a new table, and to a new partner.

Funny, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. My life is now a game of chance. It's time to move forward. I'm in a new place. Will it mean the arrival of a new partner? I'm not sure, but I remain open to new opportunities to connect.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sick, Clothes and Backwards

The last two days I've been sick.
I found myself lying in my bed, the wrong way.
Backwards (head where my feet usually are, feet where my head usually is)

The fever is making me feel backwards.

I'm preparing to move from the house the kids, Art and I have been in this home for 6 years. (Huh. The kids and I have been here for six, Art only 4.) It means going into his closet and getting rid of the rest of his clothes. The ones that no longer smell like him. It means going into the attic and going through the ones I put away for the kids and this time asking them what they want to keep.

I am at peace with this idea.
That feels backwards.
"They" said I'd know when the time was right to get rid of the clothes, to take down one of the photos. I couldn't imagine there would ever be a "right" time in his wrong death.
But without looking for it, it has arrived.

The time is right.
There is peace and gratitude in letting more of him go...
is it the fever?

Post from
August 27, 2009.
4 months after Art died.

Yesterday, I took Art's remaining clothes out of the closet. I divided them into the one's I want to keep and the ones to give away. Today I drove them to the Mission in downtown LA. Some tall homeless person with size 14 feet will finally have clothes and shoes that fit him.

Yesterday, I took down the get-well cards friends, co-workers, familiy members and students had sent him. This wall reflects me.
I am that wall. I am empty, vacant, not complete. I am not surprised at the depth of the grief, just disappointed in it. I am surprised at how quickly I begin to hyper ventilate, and how powerless I feel. I can't talk, even though I wanted to call a friend.

I think we are fine and then it hits, the wave and I swear that I will drown. And I cry so deeply and so completely that my whole body gets involved. I shake and feel nauseous. I force my breath. My nose quickly fills. My head aches, my arms tingle. My feet move rhythmically back and forth across the sheet. I hold myself, I let go. I punch his pillow. I hold myself again.

I know I need to call someone. Anyone. But what will I say? What is there to say? I don't want to be cheered up, I don't want to be soothed. I want to be held, to be allowed to grieve, with the noisy blows from my bulbous red nose and with the lines of tears from my swollen eyes.

I don't want anyone to tell me it'll be ok because right now, it's not. I want someone to wrap their arms around me, to sit with my pain, to stroke my hair and my back. To NOT say "shhhh." To cry with me even. No judgment, no better world. Just this grief here and now.

Tomorrow is my 45 birthday.

August 28, 2011

Today is my 47th birthday.

I am in awe at how different I feel, strong, relaxed and ok with my widowhood. It is a feeling I can't describe, the opposite of the black hole of grief (which is equally indescribable). I'm content, at ease, peaceful words that three years ago I couldn't even understand let alone feel.

Today I cried, not from sadness but from relief and gratitude. I'm OK, but for the grace of God and time, I'm OK!!!!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


The past two weeks have been a whirlwind, and I'm kind of getting acclimated on the occasions where they happen...and in a way enjoying the mayhem it brings.

Last weekend was one of the best parts. We held an Inner Peace getaway for the amazing AWP ladies. From yoga to sailing to long nights of helped center me back in a place that I had been swinging around on like an out of control pendulum.

Being around such a diverse group of ladies, with diverse love stories and diverse ways of dealing with loss just reminded me that all is well.

Being near the ocean, a place Michael so deeply loves, didn't hurt either.

I felt him. I forgot at moments that he was dead, as I was living life as if he was right there with me, with his soft, close-mouthed, grin and warm green eyes looking down at me.

I feel him when I live life as he's right there with me, and maybe it's a reminder that he never has left.

I must believe that if a feeling that strong exists, just like my love for him, it will never wander or disappear, I just must remind myself that it is real and to use it to get me through the times I need it most....and that's always :)

It's there waiting for me to take hold of, embrace, and have eternally...just as I know he is waiting there, where the world begins, to do the same.

In love with you, baby...

Friday, August 26, 2011

melancholy bed linens

Written three years ago. 17 days after Jeff died...

I have been sitting in the rocking chair in my room for a period of time each day staring at our bed and crying. I am trying to muster up the courage to wash the sheets. I tell myself, "Jeff would laugh at this. He'd think I was being silly and sentimental. They are just sheets. They aren't him." But he slept there. There are 'Jeff germs' on them.

I 'saved' the sheets from the bed in the spare room because of the same reason. They are folded neatly, with his towel he used that morning, the clothes he passed in and the clothes I was wearing that day in my closet. Do I need to add the sheets from every bed in the house? No, but it is hard to do.

He slept with Olivia for a time the night before as well because she was crying. I'm having a hard time washing her sheets too.

I sit in the chair and tell myself, "You can do it. They should be washed. You have other things that Jeff touched too." Then I sit there and sob.

I usually wash the sheets once a week. It's driving me nuts....But I don't want to wash him away.

Everything that changes in the house takes me farther away from him. I have a hard time dusting because I heard that dust is made up of 85% skin cells....some of those cells are Jeff's.

I have a box of hair in my closet along with the clothes and sheets that I'm hoarding. The day he died, my sister and I scoured the house looking for hairs in the bed, the bathtub and on the floor. I didn't want to lose anymore of him.

Am I crazy? Please tell me that I should wash the sheets. Tell me it's okay. He would want me and the kids to be on clean sheets, right? I'm just being silly and sentimental, right?
I think I've lost it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nine years ago today.....

(post written on August 15, 2011)

…. I became a mother.
I had finally achieved my life’s ambition – to be a wife and mother and have my very own perfect family.
That’s always what I wanted to be, despite my prizes and academic awards and the push from every direction to focus on my career and climb that fickle beast known as “the ladder”.
…and I achieved a lot before I became a mother. …. before I became a wife.
I got myself a science degree and backed it up with first class honours the following year and a PhD shortly thereafter…. courtesy of a cushy scholarship which some bigwigs saw fit to give me .
I travelled the world and spent a few months living and working in Africa.
I ran a research station and worked as a scientist managing huge budgets, staff and still trying to do actual science in the middle somewhere….
But all I ever really wanted was to be a wife and mother.
…and on this day nine years ago, my beautiful girl was born and Greg and I were so proud of ourselves we thought we wold burst with happiness.
I had Done It. My own nirvana, right there in the form of a tiny baby girl and my husband’s loving embrace.
I never had post-natal depression … I had post-natal elation.
…and we were lucky enough to repeat the performance two years later when I gave birth to our son.
My wonderful husband AND my pigeon pair: my perfect family. Nirvana.
…but I only got to have it all for seven and a half years.
Not long enough. not long enough at all.
On this day last year, all I could think about was what I’d lost.
But this year, I am choosing to remember what I have … two very wonderful children and to have known the love of a husband and father who was perfectly imperfect.
So Happy 9th birthday, darling K. I am so lucky to be your Mum.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It Takes a Long Time ....

                                                 picture from here

.... to get from there .... to here.

It has taken me almost 4 years to get here.
Four years that have seemed like one day .... and forty years .... all at the same time.

Six years before Jim died he had an accident on his family's farm, at Thanksgiving.  As an aside, it seems that the big events in his life, and therefore, in mine .... happened either on, or very close to, a holiday.  He went out proving that .... one week before Christmas.

Back to that Thanksgiving (I never thought I'd want to go back there .... I guess that shows what a little perspective will do, doesn't it?).
He was target shooting with a WWII replica of the kind of large gun his father used, as a sniper in the Marines.  He got it as a gift for his father.
He asked me to accompany him that day, and I did, though I didn't want to.  Not at all.
It was a very, very loud gun.

But I went, which was a very good thing, because the gun exploded into his face.
Into his right eye, to be exact.
He lost that eye, but he was spared any further damage, though it came very close to going through his eye and into his brain.
So I got 6 more years.

The week after that accident, as we were trying to figure out how to live differently, I remember thinking, "If I can just make it to one year from now, I know we'll be ok."
And we were.
It turned out to be a pretty depressing year, on many fronts.
But we made it.
I was right.

After he died, I remembered that thought.
And I knew, without a doubt, that one year from that date .... would be no different.
He was dead.
And I would not be ok.
And I was right.

But I am now almost 4 years from that date.
And I am ok.
Most days I am better than ok.
Occasionally, I am not.

It takes a long time to get from there to here.
Most of you are there.
And I want you to know that, just because we are "here" .... it doesn't mean that we don't remember, and sometimes re-live, being "there".

We all hated waking up each day.
Most of us longed to go to bed and couldn't wait for night to come, only to realize that sometimes the night was the worst part of the day.
We all hated being told we "looked good".
As opposed to .... ?
We all hated being told that we were strong.
Because we certainly did not feel strong.

But as much as we hated it, we were.
It's only in looking back, that I know that I was.
That I am.
And trust me, no matter how much you hate it .... how much you disbelieve it .... you are stronger than you know.  I know you hate hearing it.  I remember.  And I've seen it in your eyes when I've tried to reassure you.
Trust.  Me.
You can't get from there to here .... and not come out stronger.
It's impossible.

A friend who holds a very dear place in my heart is dying.
She is young.
She is the person who arranged for Jim and me to "get together".
She is one of the reasons our oldest son has his name.
She was my "sister" in college, one of my roommates.
And in 2 to 4 months, she will be dead.
And my heart is breaking again, even though I thought it could not.

But, in trying to reassure her about her husband .... and what she thinks her death will do to him, I realized how strong I really had been.  And am now.
I told her that he would be ok.
Some day.
Not for a long time, but one day he will be ok.
I told her that he is stronger than he knows.
Stronger than she knows.
Because I remember "there".
I remember every inch of "there".
And I have come a very long way to get "here".

My journey is not over.
Nor is yours.
No matter how very much you wish it was.
I remember.
I will never forget.

It took a long time to get from there to here.
But it can be done.
One day, one second at a time.
One foot in front of the other .... one step at a time.  One step forward, three step backs.
Two step forward, one step back.
You are stronger than you think you are.

Trust me.
I never, ever .... thought I would be here.
It took a long time.
But, though I never thought I'd think this .... I am glad that I have made it this far.
Because now I can encourage you.
As can the rest of us.

You WILL get here.
You ARE stronger than you know .... stronger than you think.

Trust me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Not Alone

There was a real chance that Maggie would have died that first night we were in the hospital back on January 6, 2007. Despite our dreams, our plans, our love and our forever-together commitment, I’d truly be alone. As she slept soundly in a cozy, drug-induced haze, I felt like it was me against all the evil in the world… and the evil was winning. I felt the most alone I had ever felt in my life. While I watched her chest slowly sink and rise with each laborious breath, my mind raced with terrible, terrible thoughts and I feared I was never going to speak to or kiss my sweet wife again. It was the longest, loneliest night of my life.

That low point was reset 850 days later on May 4, 2009 and has been reset even lower many times since then. Despite being surrounded by caring friends and a loving family, I’ve felt more alone than I ever felt possible. I walked alone on this path. The Highlander of widowhood, I was the only one.

I’ve spent my days since that day being embarrassed and ashamed, that I no longer fit with society. Because of no fault of mine, I was tossed out of the mainstream and into another world. Worse, few people knew how to talk to me. Even fewer knew how to relate. And no one – no one – understood.

Weekend before last I attended Widow Camp. I was terrified and, frankly, a little bit angry. I didn’t need to hang out with another bunch of bitter, hopeless old women bitching about being a widow, nor did I have the patience to listen to their pining for husbands long gone. And I sure didn’t deserve this widower/death/restarting crap.

I sat just outside the doors of the Friday evening social wondering what the hell I did to deserve this and how the hell I was going to get myself out of this inescapable situation. Then, an angel with a charming smile named Susan told me how the people at previous Widow Camps had affected her and that she was confident that I would never regret walking through those doors.

So through the doors I walked, with my heart pounding, my palms sweating and with a serious case of regret jack-hammering my confidence. But then I met AnneMarie… then Matt… then Chris, Brooke Tiffany, Nikki, Roy, Cassie and so many others. They looked just like many other strangers I’d met before. However, when I answered “830 days” they didn’t cringe. When I said “Her name was Maggie” they didn’t look at their shoes. The word “cancer” didn’t shut down the conversation. Instead, they shared their stories, comfortably, freely, openly. Amazingly, even my dead spouse humor was met with equally appalling (and very welcome) humor. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For the first time in more than two years, I was with people who didn’t question, critique, or condemn but instead collegialised. For the first time in 830 days, I was not alone.

I am not alone.

Cliff Diving

Lately I've been taking some risks with my emotions. I don't know if I'm feeling stronger, or that I am learning that memories can begin to heal me. For the longest time I didn't look back to any of my prior writings. I put pictures and albums away, and have yet to unpack them from my move last year. Yet, in the last week I have begun opening some journals, and looking back at early entries in my blogs, both pre and post Michael's death.

Yesterday I had my extended family visiting. They don't live that far away, yet most of them had not taken the time to drive south to see my new home, or to really check in with me. When the weekend arrived one of my brothers called to ask what it was I really needed right now. Do I need quiet, or do I need company. He said he was aware that it was that time of year again. The time of year that is counting down to Michael's final days two years ago. He said he realized it must be quite difficult for me. I said yes, it was that time of year, and yes it is difficult most days. Yet I told him that more than anything, I need to have family around me. I need to know that they are there for me, and I need to be able to sit and share my thoughts and memories with them.

On Saturday we were all gathered, and my mother asked if I had any video, or recordings, of Michael's voice. I said that yes, I had a DVD of our wedding day, and Michael is saying his vows, and later giving a toast. I also told her that I haven't watched that DVD for about 18 months, as it always knocks me to my knees with grief. Everyone stopped what they were doing, and turned to focus their eyes on me. I could see that they were feeling the intensity of my emotions. My sister in law said of course it would be too difficult to watch right now. I took a deep breath, and moved the conversation in a different direction. I began reminding them of how much Michael loved all of them, and how much he loved our family gatherings. It was a very nice day.

Since then I have been replaying some of the last conversations I had with Michael. Today I was remembering the last birthday celebration I had with him. We had gone to Sedona for a week, and had a beautifully peaceful time. He gave me a beautiful pocket watch for my birthday, and a card with a picture of a cliff diver on it. He wanted to remind me, before it was too late, of how fearless I was, and how much he loved me. I cherish this card with all my heart.

Today, I have chosen to share it with you. I will edit out the beginning, as it is far more personal than I am prepared to share, but I do feel like I want Michael's voice to be heard today. After all, he is why I am here. And no, it is not my birthday, just a random memory that serves to remind me of who I was in his eyes. By remembering this, I can continue to reclaim the me that I thought was lost forever.

My Dearest Husband,

I suppose cliff diving would not phase you too much by now. You've taken so many great leaps of faith (like marrying me!) already.

Thank you for all your love, support and faith. I love you more and more each day. Like a fine wine you really are getting better each year, and I somehow got so lucky to share in your life.

Happy birthday, and every day after. Hope you like the watch. When you hear it ticking, think of my heart beating with yours.

I love you so much.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hope Personified

The people in this photo have experienced despair. These smiling faces have cried buckets (okay maybe an ocean) of tears because someone they love is not coming home, ever. Some of us were called to an emergency room or opened the door to a uniformed officer who told us the news that would change our lives; while others sat by a bedside day after day, night after night...climbing into a hospital bed to say the final good bye.

Our widowed journey began anywhere from a few short weeks ago to more than ten years ago. We are women, men, married, not married, remarried, straight, gay, religious, not religious, some of us have children while others do not, we came alone and in groups, we have met on-line or never before....but none of this mattered. For three lovely days in San Diego, California what mattered was hope.

Hope was a palpable presence wherever we gathered. We overcame fear of travel, or rejection, or not fitting in, or the awkward first steps in getting to know a new person in order to embrace the hope that we tasted in the air. To allow that hope into our hearts we were willing to say words that have been stuck in our throats (maybe for years); shed tears we thought were dried up; listen to another story with a tragic ending; accept  the word widow as a role that impacts our lives; and stand side by side with others who were both like us and different from us. Sometimes the last step that was necessary to get to the hope that was within arms reach, literally, was terrifying. I watched many of these faces battle internally with whether they would take that last step towards hope...towards another widowed person. But time and time again hope led people to climb over their walls and take a risk.

Each person in this photo radiates hope. Sometimes they may not recognize the glow, and many times when despair knocks they are covered in shadow. But underneath the blanket that grief throws over our lives is the light we each carry within us, still flickering. When you gather 275 flickering lights in one place, hope burns brightly.

Thank you to each and every camper for: taking a risk, reaching out, embracing the widowed person next to you, being willing to let down your guard, facing your fears, and allowing your personal light to shine. Together we made a difference, together we are more than just one word.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Midnight in Paris

Today's post was written by guest writer David Hallman...thanks for sharing your journey with us David!

I walked by the building, intentionally, on the way home from seeing Woody Allen’s new film “Midnight in Paris”, a poetic reflection on the seeming attraction of former eras.

The access to the building is now sealed. Not just boarded over with plywood that I could pry loose. Not even with brick that I might be able to chip away with the right tools and enough sweat. No, the former door is now a solid wall of impenetrable concrete cinder block.

Thirty-five years ago, I walked through that door and met Bill. We created a new life together that evening, one that continued for over three decades during which we lived large in laughter and music, in art and politics, in travel and work, in pain and suffering, in love and loss.

That life is over and it feels like memory is all I’ve got left.

Without giving away anything too crucial about the plot of “Midnight in Paris”, let me just say that Woody seems to conclude that the past is not quite as romantic as we might imagine nor the present as pedestrian as we might fear.

The movie prompts reflection on memory and verges, I think, on deprecating memory as ultimately shallow—quaint and curious nostalgia that is unreliable as a guide to life in the present. That’s my take on it anyway. Many may disagree with my interpretation and I’m prepared to admit that my reaction may be coloured by more than a little defensiveness about the place of memory.

Paris was a special place for Bill and me. We had both studied at the Sorbonne before we met and we returned to the city of lights many times during our years together. Those are some of the memories that I cherish, that I hoard, that I guard with an army of emotional weaponry. Yeah, I’m a bit defensive.

But just so you don’t send the straight-jackets to take me away quite yet, let me reassure you that there is, I think, some good news.

I’m not only wallowing in the memory, though I do do that. I’m not dysfunctional and incapable of getting up and making breakfast each morning though that is difficult on many days. No, the good news is that I’m working with those memories, mauling and molding them, creating meaning out of them to help me understand where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I may be headed.

This memory work for me is through writing. This memory work is not easy. It does suggest though, that if memory is all I’ve got today, it is not all I will have tomorrow. I’m not prepared to just stare at that sealed-up door and walk away in despair.

Friday, August 19, 2011

to me....three year ago me.

I will never be able to deliver this letter to myself three years ago in the past. But I can post it here and hope that it will offer some comfort and solace to some of the widows/widowers who come after me ....

Dear Me (and You),

I know you feel that you died in the moment that you lost Jeff and that you will never have the desire to live again.
I understand that you don't know which end is up and you are searching for answers anywhere you can find them.
I get that you just want something/someone to soothe the hurt and fear inside you....and that you have trouble fathoming that it cannot and will not ever be Jeff again.
I want to tell you that you will live. And one day, if you allow yourself, you will again cherish the life you have been given.
I promise you that although none of us, while alive, will ever know concretely what happens after death and why our lives evolve as they do, life will one day make sense to you again and if you manage to remind yourself that there are miracles and wonders unseen all around you, you will be able to guide yourself through.
I know that it breaks your heart that you cannot lean into Jeff and cry deep into his shoulders with his arms enveloping you within his safe embrace, but you will learn to care for and comfort yourself. And the memory of his love for you and who you are will stay and remind you of the good within.
You will grow. You will stumble...but you will get up again. You will find those who understand your loss and although they may not live close by, they will laugh and cry with you and form unbreakable bonds with you. You will smile again. You will find joy again.
This will all take time....but you will make it. I promise.
You have lived through this....everything else is cake.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I get by with a little help from my friends

As I write this, hundreds of widows and widowers are meeting half a world away.

Finding others who don’t look at them with pity, but with knowing.

With love.

With friendship.

....and while part of me would love to have been able to go, the other part of me knows that it is just not logistically nor financially possible right now (and no, that’s not a hint- I just can’t leave my babies, nor my work to fly half-way around the world).

But as I sit here, living vicariously through the tweets and facebook updates from the wonderful organisers and beautiful attendees, I am reminded that I have my own little pool of friendship and love right here.

There are the five young widows who I know from my school days (as in we were in the same year at high school). ... we “get” each other in ways very few other people understand. We meet irregularly and informally but when we do, the humour is dark, the advice well thought out, the tears accepted as normal and the friendship real. Oh ... and the wine is cold!!

Then there is my BFF who is not a widow, but who “gets” this stuff. She spent the first six months of my widowhood writing daily e-mails for me to find late at night when my spirits were low.
Not pitiful, emotional piffle, but truly funny stuff that had me splitting my sides with laughter.
...and love so real and present that you could carve it.

...and above even that, there is my Mum. My angel. My army of love. Fixer of things, maker of meals, babysitter of grandchildren. ...and guiding light. Mum makes me keep living because I didn’t’ die.

...and I feel so lucky to have such resounding love and support right here at home and from all of you, online.

So I sit here, half a world away from Camp Widow and raise a glass to all the widows, widowers, BFFs and Mums who help us all get through each day.

We get by with a little help from our friends.....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Emotional Time ....

.... was had by all.

I am at the San Diego airport, waiting for my flight back to Houston.
I am spent.
I am exhausted.
Physically and emotionally.
And I know I'm not the only one.

But it's a good exhaustion.
And I know I'm the only person who thinks that.

Camp Widow 2011 was a huge success.
I'm not talking about a "business success".
Yes, it's probably a bit important that an event be attended by a huge number of people, that it makes a huge amount of money, and that it gets a huge amount of attention.

That's not was this weekend was about.

It was about people.
Plain and simple.
It was about people meeting people and sharing their hearts.
And it was a HUGE success.

We all have one horrible thing in common.

And yet, now almost three hundred of us know that we have more than that in common.
We are more than our label.

We shared tears, laughs, photos, fun, stories, lack of sleep (oh my word, the lack of sleep!) ....
.... and we shared love.
Love for those who aren't here with us anymore.
Love for our families.
Love for each other.
And love for this organization and it's cause .... to let all widowed people from all over the world know that they are not alone and that there is support .... here.

I hope that's what each and every person found this weekend.
And I hope that each and every person can pass that on .... at some point in time.
Maybe not now.
But later.
To someone.

And I am very emotionally looking forward to seeing all of you again.
And more of you next time.

Because it's true, you know.
We TOTALLY rock.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why I go to Camp....

Each year for the past 8 I have participated in the Relay for Life sponsored by the American Cancer Society. As part of fundraising efforts, we have personal pages telling people why we "relay". I was thinking yesterday as I was traveling home from Camp Widow about the reasons why I come back each year and continue to work on it in the months in between.

I love Camp Widow. I love the joyful noise of it - the voices chattering, the loud bursts of laughter, and even the quiet sniffles. I love the look of it - the groups of people chatting, the heads nodding, the hugs, the smiles, the compassion and the community. I love the feel of it - welcoming, understanding, warm, caring, and oh so inspiring!

I spoke with so many people over the weekend I can hardly keep it straight in my head, but I was touched by the conversations I had with each person. I heard a hundred different stories of how people found out about Camp and how they ultimately made it there. I listened as people described for me their loneliness and isolation as a widowed person, and their revelation at the community they found in San Diego. I was awed by the courage it took to come when they had doubt it would help them, and inspired by the hope I heard in so many voices.

Why do I go to Camp Widow? I go because of you. I go because I want to be there to meet you and hear your stories and see your transformation when you find our community. I go because we all belong to an exclusive club with VERY high dues, and I want to see our members in person, not just online. I go because I need to be reminded that moving forward (exactly right Meagan - not moving ON, but moving forward) is a very tough choice and we have to make it each and every day, no matter how many days/weeks/month or years it has been. This is a tough road we all travel, but the bumps are much easier with the love and support of each other. I love you my widowed family. You are the reason I go to Camp Widow and I can't wait to see you next year!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Something Tangible


There is nothing like a strong embrace. It's purposeful. It's grounding. And, it nurtures my soul.

I, along with 275 other widowed individuals, attended Camp Widow this weekend. The workshops were great. The wisdom shared was inspiring. And, all of us left with a renewed spirit of hope.

I haven't been touched like this in a very long time.

When I say touched, of course I can report that my heart was touched by the love and support that spilled over in each room where we gathered. But, the touch I speak of is something different. I speak of the physical touch.

How many of us go day after day with little physical contact these days? Some of us may have children around, which does bless us with the occasional hugs or kisses, but how long has it been since a pair of grown up arms wrapped themselves tightly around you, and just held you, for a very long time?

I can tell you, it's been a long time. This weekend I saw old friends. I saw friend's I've known for awhile, but had never met in person. I met new people that became instant friends. And with each of these encounters, I was embraced.

I stood there in the middle of the lobby, with my arms around someone just as hurt as I am. I leaned into someone who's heart has been broken in all the same places as mine. I was cheek to cheek with only the moisture of fresh tears between us. I kissed, and was kissed, with messages of love.

For the first time, in a very long time, I was given something tangible. It was a gift of self. It was a gift of strength. It was a gift of shared vulnerability.

It told me that I mattered. It tethered me to another human being. It affirmed my place in this world .

I was given the gift of touch.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Special thanks to guest blogger Matthew Croke for filling in while Kim is at Camp Widow...we appreciate you Matt!

I hate to think I need bad stuff to happen to put life in perspective.  Haven’t I already tortured myself enough, trying to understand painful life lessons after my wife’s passing?  After three years, haven’t I come out on the other side a better person?

On the three year anniversary of Lisa’s passing, my parent’s basement flooded due to record rainfall in Chicago.  The very same basement my three girls and I moved into a year ago, after we sold our house.

A basement, where I specifically did not clean up before the weekend, as I was going to give myself a break to focus on the emotions of her passing.  Thus, toys, books, and clothes that on Friday night were on the floor, by Saturday morning, floated around the basement, like lily pads on a pond.

I place three fans throughout the basement to dry the floor which just hours ago were inches deep in water.  More memories are taken away from me as an entire collection of children’s books are ruined, water pouring out of them like a soaked sponge, as I lift them from the bottom shelf to the garbage.  Lisa use to read these to our girls. 

Today it seems personal. How much more headache is life going to throw my way.  I thought I was getting better feeling the world is not picking on me.  Today I am being bullied.  I can feel the anger build in my stomach.

I take a break from clean-up and go upstairs to get a glass of water.  I drink it fast as if I can, as if I’m trying to douse the fire that is roaring in my belly.  My Mom calls from the living room, “Matt, the news is on and they are showing the flood.”  I walk in the room and the first image on TV I’m greeted with, is an older man on oxygen cleaning his basement which is damaged far greater than ours, “What can you do?  You gotta clean up and rebuild.” he says, his shirt as wet from his perspiration, as his pants are from the flood waters.

His words throw a blanket over my anger inferno.  “The world isn’t picking on me” I say to myself, “I am looking for a fight.  Everyone is hurting tonight in my area; I’ve just made a choice to make it all personal.”  This is not how I want to live.

I go back downstairs to throw more soggy furnishings in the garbage.  While I’m at it, I decide to do a little internal cleaning and throw away some soggy anger that needs to be put by the curbside also.  When the clean-up is done, both places will be a healthier environment to live in.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Hey Guys, came upon these at another great blog site . I especially like 4 and 6. Take care, T

4... My heart grew somber with grief, and wherever I looked I saw only death. My own country became a torment and my own home a grotesque abode of misery. All that we had done together was now a grim ordeal without him. My eyes searched everywhere for him, but he was not to be seen. I hated all the places we had known together, because he was not in them and they could no longer whisper to me “Here he comes!” as they would have done had he been alive but absent for a while. I had become a puzzle to myself, asking my soul again and again, “Why are you downcast? Why do you distress me?” But my soul had no answer to give….Tears alone were sweet to me, for in my heart’s desire they had taken the place of my friend.

6... I wondered that other men should live when he was dead, for I had loved him as though he would never die. Still more I wondered that he should die and I remain alive, for I was his second self. How well the poet put it when he called his friend the half of his soul! I felt that our two souls had been as one, living in two bodies, and life to me was fearful because I did not want to live with only half a soul. Perhaps this, too, is why I shrank from death, for fear that one whom I had loved so well might then be wholly dead.

7... What madness, to love a man as something more than human! What folly, to grumble at the lot man has to bear! I lived in a fever, convulsed with tears and sighs that allowed me neither rest nor peace of mind. My soul was a burden bruised and bleeding. It was tired of the man who carried it, but I found no place to set it down to rest.

8… the grief I felt for the loss of my friend had struck so easily into my inmost heart simply because I had poured out my soul upon him, like water upon sand, loving a man who was mortal as though he were never to die.

--Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Confessions of Saint Augustine, Book IV (translated by: Unknown)

Found On This Great Site

Friday, August 12, 2011

Plus One

Wendy Diez is filling in for Jackie today who is headed to Camp Widow. She will be back next week. Thank you Wendy!

Not long after Chris died, I received a wedding invitation addressed to "Wendy and Guest."  It was one of the first visual affronts to my newly-acquired widowed senses.  I remember looking at the envelope and wondering, "Who the heck is Wendy and Guest?" 

I certainly sympathize with the couple who sent the invitation.  I'm confident that they struggled with how to address it as well.  They really couldn't win.  Address it to just me, making it obvious that my husband really was dead, and expect me to endure the beginning of their happily-ever-after all alone?  Or address it as they did, making it obvious that most people attend weddings as one half of a pair, but allow me to make the decision as to whether or not to drag some poor soul along.  I wound up not attending the wedding at all partly because I couldn't bear the thought of how painful it would be (regardless of how honestly happy I was for the couple) and partly because I had no idea who I would bring.  My mom?  My sister?  My 2-year-old son? 

Part of the sting of this situation is that I got married at the age of 34.  I went to many a wedding as "Wendy and Guest" and a lot of times it was just "Wendy."  When I married Chris, I thought my "and Guest" days were over.  It never occurred to me that I would be relegated back to this god forsaken place of no guaranteed dance partner so soon.  I don't like being in this place (can you hear the temper tantrum starting?).  This place is filled with uncertainty about whether I will ever go anywhere again as something other than "Wendy and Guest."  Let's face it, this place is....lonely. 

After two and a half years, I think it is finally starting to dawn on me that life is going on without Chris.  As much as I want him here with me, my life is moving forward and I am starting to envision what the next phase will look like. Instead of seeing "Wendy and Guest", I'm starting to see "Wendy and _____."  I guess that is what some people might call healing.  And that is a good thing.

By the way, if you are inviting me to an event before _______ appears, invitations addressed to "Wendy and George Clooney", "Wendy and Hugh Jackman", or "Wendy and Patrick Dempsey" will be perfectly acceptable.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The screaming

It started when the policeman told me he was dead.
I was still sitting in my car in my parent’s driveway at the time.
It was loud.
It was hysterical.
It was guttural.
It was primal.
It continued as I was led inside the house, up the stairs.
It went on for a long time before I wore myself out.
It stopped long enough to listen to the police and the chaplain and my parents as I tried to think what to do next.
To search their faces for the next sentence “Oh sorry, we made a mistake. He’s not dead. He’s in the hospital waiting for you”.
It stopped long enough for me to leave a message on the answering machine of my best friend because I could not get a hold of a single other family member or friend to tell them.
To sob this news to them.

But that’s when the screaming started inside my head.

I spoke calmly to people on the phone. They swore at me with shock when they heard the news: I was the calm one.

But inwardly, I was screaming “He’s Dead. DEAD. DEAD......”.

It didn’t stop while I was talking to those other people.
It didn’t stop when I sipped water to sooth my ruined throat.
It didn’t stop when I showered.
It didn’t stop when I stared at the food people kept putting in front of me, only to take it away again hours later after it was cold.

And it didn’t stop while I slept.

I screamed aloud in my sleep.
It rang in my ears for most of the first 6 months.
It screeched in the background to all my thoughts; sometimes loud, sometimes whispered.

That desperate, aching cry “he’s DEAD!"

Now, it lurks inside, waiting for my brain to think too hard about it, just for a minute.

For the most part, I’m learning to ignore it, but sometimes it screeches into the forefront of my mind with alarming speed.

And once more I crumple under the weight of the screaming.

The endless internal screaming in my head.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

We Are More ....

                                                                  Photo from here

.... than the word, "widowed".

I used to hate that word.
In the first two years out.
Refused to use it or answer to it.

I've come to learn that's a very common response.
The only widows I knew were older.
And I in no way wanted to be associated with them.

And then I started forming a group of young widows in my community.
By word of mouth.
We started with two.  Now we have 12 - 15.
And as we started meeting for dinner every week, started growing closer to each other and support each other, the word "widow" held less negativity for me.

And then I attended the first Camp Widow.
And though I still hated the vision that accompanied that word, I started to embrace it.
And accept it.
Because, like it or not, it's what I am.

And yet, I am so much more.
As are you.

When non-widowed people hear about my weekly "Circle" of friends, they picture a table full of women who spend the evening crying into their beer, or wine .... or whatever.
They imagine a very sad, bleak evening.
The reality of our time together is so very different.
We laugh.  A lot.
Sometimes we cry, but we laugh a whole lot more.
We crack "widow jokes" .... you know the ones.  The ones that cause non-widowed people to become speechless, stare open-mouthed at us, or just look down at their shoes.

When non-widowed people hear about an event called "Camp Widow" they visibly cringe.  And they picture a weekend spent with 200 people wearing black and crying into their beer, or wine, or .... whatever.
They do not picture us laughing into our beer,  or wine, or whatever.
They do not picture us laughing so hard that sometime our drinks pour out of our noses (which burns, by the way, but is so very worth it!).
They do not picture us rocking out to a live band, line dancing,  and shaking our "stuff" all over the dance floor.
They do not picture us bar-hopping until the wee hours of the morning, taking pictures of crazy things we're experiencing and laughing so hard that we wish we had bought a box of Depends.
They do not picture us sipping margaritas by a beautiful and fun pool, next to an ocean.
They do not picture us sitting together in various areas all over the hotel, talking and laughing until the wee hours of the morning.
They do not picture us being sad to leave one another at the end of that weekend .... sad to leave who they consider to be complete strangers.

And they are SO far from the reality .... from our reality.
Just as they are when they look at us, size us up and down, and then say how great we look (like they were expecting dark circles under our eyes, the wearing of all black, if not sack cloth and ashes).
Just as they assume that, because we look "good", we must be feeling good ... on the inside.
Just as they assume that, because two years, then three, followed by four, have passed so we really must be "all better".
And that could not be further from the truth.

We are more than their perceptions of us.
We are more than their definition of the word "widowed".
For good, or for bad, we are more.

We can, and do, laugh and we laugh long and hard.
We can, and do, find instant rapport and encouragement from each other, even if we've never met face to face.
We can, and do, feel happy for days on end, only to be knocked to our knees by an unexpected wave of grief that sometimes comes out of nowhere.

Yes, we are widowed.
But we are more.
We are women and men who have experienced the worst that life has to offer.
We know from experience that life is short.
We know how to take things one day at a time.
We know that we have to choose our battles and that very few things are worth a battle now.
We know to not take things .... or people, for granted.

We know so much more than we did "before".

Yes, we are widowed.
And more.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Heartbreak, Hot wings, and Hope

Here I am, one of nine men sitting on nine bar stools, all of us without wedding rings. The others look a little older than me but it’s an unfair comparison; in my mind’s eye I’m still 30, the age when I met my wife. But here we are, nonetheless, peers, or at least men of similar relationship status – lonely.

Every guy on every stool is sitting on a story, each probably just as sad. Some, no doubt, are worse than mine: cheating spouses, abusive ex-girlfriends, .... (hmmm… I seem to be all out of “worse.”) Others are here because they’ve never found love at all (which is definitely worse.) Regardless of the specifics, we are united on our stools as society’s misfits, the ones for whom the fairytale has failed. We missed our chance. So now we sit together in a crowd of nine, at a bar eating hot wings, alone. Camaraderie, I suppose, sad, wing-sauce flavored camaraderie.

It seems so unfair to me that I’m on this bar stool, with my partners in single life. I didn’t screw up and choose an incompatible mate. I didn’t not make her happy so she had some (albeit arguably shallow) reason to cheat. I didn’t not tell her I loved her every day. I didn’t fail to be a good husband and a good friend. I didn’t fail to support her in her dreams. I didn’t cheat. I didn’t abuse. I didn’t do anything wrong… other than fail keep her alive. Thus, my butt is stuck on this bar stool alongside my new friends eating hot wings in a sports bar wondering if I’ll ever be where I was again – in love and loving being there.

I feel like I should have some sad theme song playing, maybe with piano and saxophone, as I sit here on my stoop, lonely and a little pissed off (that my friends think I should be “over this” by now) and craving even the simplest of human touch. I can’t talk about how I feel to my friends because they don’t understand the depth of my loss. The very thing that strengthened the cement in my relationship with my sweet wife is the very same thing that scares people away now - I cared too much. Why is that a negative? Why can’t that be a badge of honor? Why do I have to go through all this 'being single' crap again? Why can’t there be a t-shirt that says “Hey, it is ok! I’m a great guy. A beautiful girl loved me and I loved her, too. Let’s talk.” Just something to break through all the bullshit. But no. I’m just some older guy with a sad story sitting on a bar stool at the bar with all the other single guys, eating hot wings.

Coming Friday (just days from now) I saddle up to a different bar. This one’s in California and is filled with other folks who understand what it means to not be “over this.” Every person there also speaks the language of death and loss and heartbreak. I’m hoping that a few might even understand and appreciate raw but appropriate dead spouse humor (Maggie and I can’t possibly be the only ones that find humor in this ridiculous tragedy.) I’m anxious about my trip but as a good friend of mine suggested “It’ll be good for you to be around people who have shared the same type of loss as you have.” I hope my friend is right. If she is, maybe for the first time in years, I won’t feel like such a stranger.

See you soon. I know we haven't met but to help you recognize me when you see me, I'll be the guy with the broken heart (and possibly some hot wing stains on my shirt.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

The News

conference call blues

It was Friday afternoon, and I was busy wrapping up some work that had been piled on my desk. I was looking forward to the end of the week, and for some relaxing time on the weekend. There was a lot on my mind, with Camp Widow being just around the corner, and things to get done at home. Suddenly my cell phone rang, and I could see it was my daughter calling.

"Hi Dad. I need to talk to you."

It was the tone of her voice that made me take a deep breath, and purposefully let go of any prior thought that was lingering in my mind.

Yes, daughter. What's going on?

"Well, please don't be mad at me. I know you are going to be disappointed"

I knew it before she could say it.

"I'm pregnant."


In that moment time seemed to stand still. I knew that whatever I said next could either make, or break, her spirit. I could hear her sobbing in the background. My daughter is 20 years old. She's an adult, and no longer lives at home. I've had to let go the idea that I have much control over what goes on in her her daily life. I still have influence, but it is her life, and lately, it seems that my role is to help her pick up the pieces.

My mind immediately turned to Michael, and I could picture the look he would have given me in that moment. If he had been sitting by my side his hand would have reached over to lay upon my own. He would have discretely squeezed my hand to let me know that I need to remain calm.

Michael was the calm and methodical one in our relationship. He was often the good cop, and yes, I was the bad one. I don't mean that in a negative way, but by the time he entered my life I had already been a single parent for many years. When Michael joined our family it was a breath of fresh air for all of us. The kids finally felt like there was another adult, another parent they could turn to when Dad was already angry. Michael could be that go between person, the one that buffered our responses before temperaments got raised.

When my mind was able to refocused I found that I was quite calm. I had been here before. I had heard news that I didn't want to hear, and was able to recover. Am I disappointed? Yes. But being angry, and drowning in disappointment, will not help my daughter during this time. I reminded her that I loved her, and that she would have my full support. I told her that we would talk during the weekend, and that she would have the opportunity to share this with her brothers.

Today my daughter was able to share her news with my parents. They actually handled the surprising news quite well. I was very proud of my mother, who can be a bit harsh with her words at times. Yet as soon as my daughter left the room my mother turned to me and said, "after all you have been through, this is not what you needed." I looked at my mother purposefully, and explained to her that I have already been through the worst in life. Nothing will ever compare to that. Anything else that comes my way is a piece of cake at this point. And bringing a new life into this world, however it happens, is always a good thing.

I have come to accept that I cannot control the lives that surround me. All I can do is respond to them with loving kindness. I have said goodbye to the man that I loved. I held him in my arms as his life came to an end. Now it appears that I will be saying hello to a new life in the coming year. My only sadness of course is that Michael won't be here to share in this new life. Another chapter to face on my own.

Life continues to move forward. I, in turn, must do the same.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


photo by Ezra

I’m gonna come out and say it.
I’m happy.

I’m a widow and
I’m happy.

It’s not because of another man either,
and I didn’t win the lottery.
I didn’t discover extra life insurance money or an extra $20,000 in my savings account.

I still haven’t found a new place to live. (If you live in LA, I’m looking for a 3 bdrm, 2 bath on the Westside. Hey, ya never know!)

And no, I have not been drinking or smoking the funny stuff.

I haven’t been eating ice cream or chips or cake for that quick high.

I’m happy because today Ezra and I had a good day and this day would not have been possible if
Art were here.

If Art were here,
my two oldest would not have flown on separate flights by themselves back east. They would not be forging their own, significant relationships with my sister and my in-laws.

If Art were here,
I wouldn’t have taken Ezra to the Venice Beach boardwalk. We wouldn’t have marveled at the roller skating guy, the skate boarders, or the guy in the turban with the electric guitar. I would not have been told, “Wow, they don’t’ make them like you anymore!” by the dummy and his ventriloquist.

If Art were here,
I wouldn’t have insisted (a bit meanly) that Ezra buck up and get on his new skate board. I wouldn’t have dared him to fall 5 times. (He fell 7 times and said he won!)

If Art were here,
I would not have been at the neighbor’s pool. I would not have heard “Mom watch this!” only 9 times (a record low) and been amused that I actually DID watch 8 times.

If Art were here,
I would have said, “I’m too tired, you take him.” Who am I kidding, if Art were here, we’d be somewhere else.

If Art were here,
I’d be in Maine, suffering my in-laws.

Art’s not here
and still
I’m happy.

I can’t believe I wrote that.
I’m too happy to even bother justifying that statement.

I am happy.

I’m happy.
Down to my hair follicles happy.

I’m happy because without Art here
I found this new strength, this courage, this audacity to just fuck it all and
be happy.

Without him here,
I have found
that was lacking when he was here.
A deeper,
more loving knowledge of
who I am,
faults included.

Without him here,
I like what I’m left with.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Next Week

Next week, at this exact time, many of y'all will be home...and when I say home, I mean at Camp Widow.

Though I will be unable to attend this year, it was my honor to be among fellow widows and widowers at last year's celebration of love, life and survival.

My fellow widows have been a blood line and a huge reason I've made it this far and actually become reacquainted with a long lost friend, Happiness. I wish that for us all and in whichever way, shape or form we can find it.

So, pull out a needle and thread and feel free to proudly sew on that scarlett letter "W" to all of your apparel, don't forget some dancing shoes, and most importantly, remember that home is where the heart is. And your heart and love and stories will always be cherished by those who know it's true depths, so share away.

As SSLF so proudly says, "Widows Rock" and I'm honored to rock on among you.

Friday, August 5, 2011

why not?

Written five months "post Jeff"....

My sister, Kirsten, was lending an ear the other day when I was having a hard time. I was upset about the whole lack of hope and happiness thing. I didn't know why I should try anymore...with anything. He's gone. Nothing matter's anymore. So I said to her, "Why? Why bother?"
She said, "I guess it comes down to 'Why not?' We're here anyhow. Why not make the best of it?"
The next day, I was driving past the cemetary that handled Jeff's remains. Instead of it's usual messages of "Get your burial plot before the new rate increase" or "Preplan your funeral arrangements. Your family will thank you." It said this:

I know it's a coincidence...but it tripped me out.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A long-term thing.

My daughter is 8 years old. She will be 9 soon.
Her Dad died when she was 7. She is a bright, beautiful, thoughtful, intelligent child. My blog name for her is Miss K. ...
...and Miss K has had a rough day.

For Miss K, most days are rough: she misses her Dad.
But she copes with her day at school.
No..... she does more than that ... she loves her days at school.
and at home.
But at night, she often feels the loss of her beloved Daddy more acutely.
Because he is so obviously missing from our lives.
...and we talk about her feelings a lot.
...and she sometimes talks to a psychologist about her feelings.
... but really, the verdict is that she is behaving and acting "normally" for a young girl in her situation.


...sometimes, the sad feelings show at school.
Like when the school play unexpectedly shows life savers reviving a swimmer as part of the play.
And her emotions float to the surface.
.....and she cries. (so did I).

....and this scares other people.
this idea that children are emotional beings.

Other people tell me I should worry more about her.
I do worry.
But not overly.
But I struggle to explain to others that she NEEDS to feel sad.
She won’t get over this quickly.

This sadness is long term.

Even though we are working through our grief … together.
Even though we might function OK.
Even though some people think we should be “over it” by now, or able to move on or able to function as we were in the Before.

This sadness is here for the long-haul.

And you know what?
It probably should be that way.
Grief shouldn’t go away overnight.
Grief shouldn’t go away within a year.

It needs to be felt, everyday, until we can run our fingers over the scars without screaming , and see how strong we are.

...and while I know that people here at Widow's Voice will understand, I struggle to explain this to other people: Grief is a long-term thing.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'd Like a Freakin' Break ....

                                         picture from here

... from life.
From life as I know it.
From life as I've known it for the past 3+ years.

I am overwhelmed.
In the past month I have replaced 2 air conditioning units, fixed one septic system, been told that tomorrow I will have a hole knocked into my bedroom wall so that a plumbing leak can be addressed.
And then had another AC unit break down today.

Add that to the broken sprinkler system, a "new" boat that, after using it only 15 hours, now has its engine light on, which .... when I looked into the the owner's manual, showed that a boat should not be  used when its engine light is on.
W. T. H??

Add that to college tuitions.
To children who are going back to school for Master's degrees.
To children who are living their lives "differently" than was planned.
Than what was hoped for.
For children who are still at home and not always as respectful and loving as they should be.
As they would be if their father were here.

I am past overwhelmed.
I am pissed.
I am angry.
I am at a state where tears come easily.

This is NOT what I signed up for.
This is NOT the way my life was supposed to go.
This is NOT what I dreamed of when I thought of our future.

This should not, can not really ..... be my life.
I should not be, as my friend so succinctly put it, "always putting out fires".
I should not be chewing the hell out of the inside of my cheek because of how stressed I am.
My blood pressure should NOT be going off of the charts .... especially when I've always had low blood pressure .... very low blood pressure.

I should be enjoying this time in my/our life.
I should be planning what we would be doing, where we would be traveling, once the kids were all on their own.
This was supposed to be the time in our lives when things would be easier.
When we'd have more free time to be together.
When we'd enjoy the time and ability to travel and just "be" with each other.

When I pledged "better or for worse", I was too young to even know what "worse" meant.
When I pledged "till death do us part", I never, ever thought that death would part us before the age of 90.
Stupid me.

I want to raise the white flag.
I want to say, "I give up."
I want to say, "I quit."
I want to say, "Just please give me a freakin' break.  One month.  One month is all I ask.  One month where nothing goes wrong, where nothing needs to be fixed, where I don't feel the pain, loss and depression that can fill my heart so quickly .... at the missing of him. One month when there are no health problems, no car accidents, no home repairs, no insolent teenagers, nothing.
Just a month of .... nothing."

I am not supposed to be doing this alone.
I am not supposed to be a widow.
I am not supposed to feel so very lonely.
I am NOT supposed to be looking on line for a possible date.
I am NOT supposed to be dealing with serious health issues on my own, with absolutely no support or no one to hold me when I'm uncertain about my future.

But .... this is life.
Life is short.
Life is not always "as it should be".
Life is not always fair.
Life is not always predictable.

Life is ..... what life is.
And sometimes, to be perfectly honest .... sometimes that just sucks.
But .... it is what it is.

Yes .... it is what it is.

But I'd still like a freakin' break.

Nine More Days.....

In just 9 more days I get to see some of my favorite people on the planet! A few of them are pictured here. It seems like only yesterday I was packing my suitcase and heading home after an amazing and exhausting weekend of Camp Widow. How can a year have passed already?

I remember thinking after last year's camp that a nice break from all the preparation was surely deserved by all of us, only to hear that Barb (SSLF board member and Camp Widow registration queen) had already started on 2011 registration. I remember thinking at the time that surely she was insane, and she is, but that is beside the point. She was completely excited about the next camp and running high on the energy from 2010. I couldn't blame her for being excited, but it seemed so far off. Now it's days away and I find myself wondering where the time went.

I also wonder about who is coming. Last year's attendees were fantastic, and I'm so excited to meet everyone this year. I know we have some alumnae coming back, some even as volunteers and it's awesome to think about. We come at some points because we need the support, and at others to offer support (usually both roles in the same weekend!). I love the instant rapport that I see in campers, and the feeling of community. The whole weekend is envigorating and a source of inspiration to me. The courage that it takes to come is what inspires me. Widowed people from all over the country (the world even) coming together to share their unfortunate bond. Most come alone, they may only know other attendees from their blogs or from online communities. Still, they pack their bags, fly to San Diego and take the chance, hoping that someone there will get it and they won't feel so alone. The best part is that more than someone gets it: everyone does. We're all on this path. We all get it. It's amazing and wonderful to experience.

This is my 3rd year at Camp Widow. I can't wait to get there. See you all in 9 days!!!!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011


Day 192 - Predicament

I'm in a deep funk, and it feels like I am sinking.

It seems as though it was only a couple of months ago that I emerged from my winter hibernation. I thought I was through with all that for awhile, and I expected a longer period of sunny days.

Instead, clouds follow me wherever I go. I try to make out the sun, and from the looks of others, the sun is there for them. Why do I not see it? Why is it that I only feel the sky's dark shadow over me?

I feel like I am doing the right amount of things to help propel myself forward. I'm doing my best to keep the tide going in my favor, yet it is always that undertow that wins out. Is this depression? Is this grief?

I have struggled with depression for many years, and have turned to therapy and medication to assist me with coping. I have also added new elements into my life, such as my love of gardening, or my interest in Buddhism. I have tried prayer, and have struggled to reclaim that inner peace that my soul once had. It seems that life does indeed give you more than you can handle, or perhaps more than your share to carry. I suppose those words are not true, as I would have already given up if that were the case.

I sit here and think about these words, and I know it's all par for the course. This is what I must work through. Am I depressed? Sure, I have plenty to be depressed about. Is everything dark and gloomy? No. I'm in a funk, and it will pass. Sometimes these heavy hearted days pass quickly, and other times last for weeks. I just have to be patient. It's not like there is anybody knocking at my door wondering why I haven't come out to play. And, it's not like I have to measure up to others' perception of where I should be at this point.

This is just where I am right now. Today. The saving grace is that it is quite familiar, and I have come to expect days like these. Sometimes it's just the disappointing realization that I have been pulled back under. It would be nice to think that my grief was like climbing up a ladder, getting closer and closer to the top with each reach of that next rung. Yet we all know the reality, and it certainly is not as easy as that.

We slip, we fall, and then we begin reaching back up.

Reach with me.