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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Getting Back to It...Take Two





    I woke up with an itch a few days ago to start writing again. Since I last left off so very much has happened...happy, messy, crazy life, with a touch of widow thrown in for that extra special dash of crazy.

I am in a fully realized, fully committed relationship (aka I'm engaged).
We own a house together.
We fight.
We love hard.
My kids make me want to throw things.
In my life, the kids have what we refer to as "first daddy" and "second daddy".
We are total nerds for things, but not all the same things, which makes for some pretty interesting conversations.
I graduated college (well, community college) with an AA in Psychology.
I'm a semester away from graduating with a BA in Psychology.
I've applied to grad school.

Confession:
I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO SCARED IN ALL MY LIFE.

There are so many unknowns out there for me. I know, I know, I sound like a spoiled millennial who has never adulted before. But seriously, at my age (which is more Gen X than millennial), having started my WHOLE life over, this shit is SCARY.

I will graduate in approximately four months and haven't been able to hold a job in 7 years. I have no idea what kind of a job I should get, if I should do grad school full time, or if I should take a gap year and get a job. I can't make a decision if my life depended on it. I have an idea how to adult, but, to date, have never done so successfully. At this point, I'm lucky my kids aren't eating the leftover french fries out of the back seat of the car and calling it dinner.

On top of full time life, full time kids, and full time school, my kids are EXTRAORDINARILY busy. L is the jock of the fam, and we are at some sort of sports practice at least twice a week, every week. D has a very active social life, on top of being autistic, so our lives are filled with after school activities, social skills therapy, regular therapy, medication management appointments, and one-on-one time to stave off meltdowns and the like.

Then there's good old crazy me. With all my widow brain (forgetting even the simplest of tasks), ADHD (literally), perfectionism, school work study, school activities (like program chair for a mental health group on campus), anxiety (over just about everything that involves getting out of bed), and generally being angry about having to do the widow thing in general, I am sure I am just a joy to have to deal with.

So, enough about me and my starting over.....what have you done when faced with unimaginable life choices and no road map?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sh*t People Say to Widows

    Following trends is not usually my thing, but after reading some posts on my support groups, my anger when certain things are said to me, and prompted by some of my fellow widda brethren, I thought I would give this a shot.  If these apply to you, please stop saying them.  It REALLY doesn't help.

"Your husband/wife is in a better place."
No. SO MUCH no. No they are not.  Buried in a casket 6 feet underground or in a jar on my desk is not a better place. Right here with me is a better place. Right here with our family is a better place. Hell, right here doing something we completely abhor is in a better place. Not to mention the religious overtones that come along with this one.  How do you know I believe in said "better place"? Moreover, even if I did, how to you know my spouse was a good person? He could have been a closet serial killer for all you know, and I'm sure those people don't go to your "better place".

"God only takes the best."/"Heaven has gained another angel."
Even more NO. Unless you have sat next to me in church every day for the last 20 years, do not presume that I believe that God/Heaven did anything. Even if I did believe, these words are NOT COMFORTING. It just reiterates that whatever I do believe in totally took the ONE person that was supposed to be in my corner until we grew old and gray together and died within hours of each other like all of those stories you see on the news. You get to go home to your spouse and believe whatever it is that you want to believe. I get to go home to a big empty bed, 2 grieving kids, tears, and not a whole lot of anything else.

"I'm sorry."
I detest this conditioned response.  I tell my toddler to apologize when he takes someone's toy. I apologize if I bump into someone or interrupt someone. Please don't tell me you're sorry, tell me it sucks.  Don't be sorry, be present. Listen to me if I want to vent, hold my hand if I want to cry, and try to be there. Month 1, month 10, and month 67.

"I understand. My cat/hamster/snake/cousin's best friend's dog passed away last year and it was awful."
Hm. No. I get that the loss of a pet is devastating. I really do. I too have lost pets before. NONE OF THEM compared to the loss of my spouse. Not even a little.  I grieved for a little while then replaced them. I can't even put a timeline on grieving my husband and just STARTED dating again in March, which was 18 months later. Empathy is good to a degree, but comparing my husband to a hamster?
Not so much.

"I hate being a *insert husband's hobby here* widow. I have to do so much by myself!"
I don't think I have enough words to express the rage I feel when I hear this.  I get that this might be a sensitivity thing, but in this ridiculously PC world that we live in, how is this still an acceptable thing to say?!  You are not a widow.  In giving credit to one of my widda sisters (who, incidentally, inspired this post) she stated it perfectly:  If your husband is coming home, you are not a widow.  I'm sorry that your life might be moderately inconvenienced due to the fact that your spouse/SO is missing for a few hours a few days out of the week, but c'mon. Widow? NO. Not even a little bit.

"It's been *XX months*. Don't you think you should be moving on?"
Really? I didn't know you were the grief police.  Please, tell me what is an adequate amount of time to get over my soul mate.  How about you just keep time frames out of it and let me do things at my own pace.  I don't tell you how long you should grieve the loss of your beloved hamster, don't tell me how long I should grieve the loss of something I thought was going to last forever.  If I feel like taking a week, a month, a year, even a decade...that is no business of yours.  It's not like Im a grieving the loss of just a person, I am grieving the loss of all of the hopes and dreams we had together, and that takes a little time.

"You're so strong. I couldn't ever do what you do."
I don't have a choice. I really am not strong.  You don't see the daily breakdowns that I have in the bathroom when no one is looking.  You don't see my tears behind my sunglasses, or hear the gut wrenching sobs that come out of me in the middle of the night after a particularly poignant dream.  You don't hear the anxious and doubtful thoughts that run through my head constantly about how I am ruining my kids' lives because I can't be everything that they need me to be.  I am just about the weakest person there is, but I put on a super brave face because I have to.  Because if I don't, there is no one else who will.  By the way, you don't know that you couldn't do it because you have never had to even try. I hope to hell you never have to.


There are SOOOOOO many more things that my fellow widda brethren and I could add to this list, but here I stop.  This list is not to anger or piss off anyone, but just to give a reminder as we go into the holiday season that the bereaved people in your life might already be feeling a little sensitive, and these things, if said to them are sure to evoke a less than pleasant reaction.  So, think before you speak, and reach out to a grieving person today.  A hug, a cup of coffee, and invitation to go do something fun.....at this time of year these things mean more to us than anything.





Monday, November 3, 2014

Seconday Losses



     The loss of a spouse is one of the most stressful things a human can ever go through.  One day your life is just as you expected it.  You may be struggling, you may be happy, you may have your McMansion, house in the 'burbs, or apartment in the city.  You may have kids, or fur babies, or no babies, and your life is going on predictably as planned.  Then it changes in the most drastic way possible.

There is no more forever for you.
No someday house.
No someday kids.
No someday car.
No someday anything.

You do gain some things, however.
You gain financial insecurity.
You gain stress.
You gain grief.
You gain a big empty bed that you never want to sleep in again.
You gain a bunch of people in your life....but then, just as quickly as they come, they go away again.

BOOM.

Gone.

No warning, no nothing.  Just gone.  Not everyone goes, but I think it is the incredible influx that people that show up after a loss suddenly disappear. I belong to a lot of widow groups, and this seems to be a common theme.  I'm not sure if death makes people uncomfortable, or I make people uncomfortable, or this new person that I portray that seems to wear my skin but isn't really the me from 2 years ago is unlikable, but it is what it is.
     I would like to say that the secondary losses don't bother me much, but they do.  Sometimes it's just nice to be able to have someone to grab an impromptu drink with. Or someone's shoulder to cry on. Or someone to share silly stories with. I don't think I have ever felt as lonely as I did when the losses started, and especially now, coming up on the 2 year mark.  How lonely a room full of people can truly make you feel. How much it super duper sucks to ask for help and not get any.  Having someone new in my life helps too, but it is almost worse.  Since all of the secondary losses, I feel like I dump my grief on him, thereby forcing him to have to deal  with part of me that I am sure he would rather not.  It almost feels like bitching about an ex to your current love....and that is still against the rules, right?
      Secondary losses don't just extend to people either.  Some of us lose our houses, cars, utilities, pets, parents, siblings, children....and after the loss of a spouse all of these losses can compound grief tenfold. I've even lost my empathy.
     I've tried curbing the losses...being less needy, trying my own coping skills so I don't rely on everyone else so much, self-care, getting involved in school, and cutting the people out of my life that don't really belong there, but really, it isn't necessarily enough.

Then I stop and think...are some of these secondary losses really losses? When I break it down...if all of these people are gone, did I really need them in the first place?  Sure, it stings that they up and bounce with no notice, or that their lives have become too busy to fit me into it, but it forces me to confront my stuff head on, with no one to lean on but me.

I learned how to go out by myself. Eat alone. Buy a single movie ticket. Make phone calls to ask for public assistance. Negotiate. Save money. Take control of my addictions. Take control of my habits. Re-learn how to be myself. Not necessarily move on, but move forward.

By myself; but with the support of those I know really WANT to be there.







Friday, October 10, 2014

Death Changes EVERYTHING


It happens in an instant. One moment they are there, and then the next moment, they are not. Then EVERYTHING changes.
Your identity as a wife.
As a parent.
As a caregiver.
As a human that was bonded forever to another human.
You get a label that you never EVER wanted. Widow.

Then, you begin to see things differently.
You see how insignificant some of the worries that you have always carried are.
You begin to hold on tighter to the things and people that matter most, and let go of the things and people that don't matter.
You are quicker to temper and slower to love.
You realize that there is only one you, so you better take care of yourself.
You wonder how your world, your kids' world, the world in general would be different if he was still in it.
You see how death has changed not just you, but the people around you.  How they look at you, talk to you, care for you, and support (or don't  support) you.
You get pangs of guilt when you begin to enjoy something alone that you always did together.
You cry shopping for groceries because a wave of grief hits you when you pick up a box of his favorite cereal.
You laugh when you drive past a street corner where he told you a funny joke as you were driving.

Then, your life starts to move forward.
You get a new job, or a new house, or a new love.
You make new friends.
You begin to see who truly deserves to be in your life, and who does not.
You stop counting the years, months, days, hours, minutes, and seconds since he has been gone.
You celebrate birthdays and anniversaries instead of mourning them.
You stop being angry and start being compassionate.
You start doing things that you have always wanted to do.
You begin to make changes in the world.

Now YOU change everything.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fear of Being Forgotten

     Did you ever wonder what would happen to you if you were ever gone? Every single time I see one of those fundraisers in memory of someone, it always makes me think of it.

I wonder if anyone would do that for me.
If anyone would show up at my memorial.
If anyone would miss me.

I think it is because I feel like the memories of B are slipping away.  The boys and I are left hanging on to the few memories we had of him that were tangible....but the memories are becoming foggier and foggier.  The dates are becoming less and less clear. The countdowns are stopping. The offers of company are drying up, if they haven't stopped already.  I am moving forward with a new person in my life. Does this mean that the opportunities for help have missed their window?  
     I always wondered how that worked. Why one tragedy is so much worse than another. Why the loss of one life is somehow deemed less worthy than that of another.  Why there is no more "village" to rally around grieving families. Why are the grieving left to find their own way now,  to forge their own path? I'm finding the lack of community support profoundly disturbing.  Have we really all become so absorbed in our own lives that we can't reach out to those who need help?
     I've even checked into the local hospitals to see if there are bereavement groups for widows.  Do you know that they actually have an age limit? There are one or two kids groups, maybe a tween/teen group, and groups that you must be over the age of 45 to join.

Yep, 45.

     So what about those of us in the 20-45 age range? There are quite a few of us. Husbands and wives whose married lives never really got started. Never really thought about life insurance. Never got to buy that dream house or family car or plan a family Disney vacation. Never celebrated a 5 year anniversary. Or a 10 year anniversary.  Most of us with kids and this whole new falling apart life and no support? Well, in the midst of our grieving for at least one (more if you have kids), figuring out how to run a household, trying to solo parent, and still work/go to school, we have to try to go it alone.

Forgotten about.
Left to go on with our lives because we can "handle it".

    To be perfectly frank, some of us can and some of us can't. Some of us pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and go on. We sob in our cars, or locked in the bathroom where no one can see or hear us, then we pull ourselves together and go about our day.  Others of us sit alone in our big empty beds, wishing and hoping that there was something else, some other reality where this huge giant bomb that just went off in our lives doesn't exist.  It is for these fellow widow brothers and sisters that I will create support where there is none.

I will make my mark so that you know that you aren't forgotten about.
I will set an example and hope people will follow.
I will, so I can for just one fleeting moment, feel like I will be remembered for something.

     What will you do to be remembered?




                                                           

Friday, July 25, 2014

Trigger Happy

  Grief can bring to the forefront all sorts of interesting conditions, exacerbate existing ones, and conjure some out of thin air.  For me, stress is a huge trigger of existing conditions, and what is a bigger stressor than GRIEF??

My OCD  has definitely kicked into high gear. I can't eat a meal if my food is touching, and my bathroom floor is so clean and sterilized, I could probably eat my own non-touching meal off of it. I think I locked and relocked my front and side doors so many times I think my kids think that I have lost my mind.

My mood swings have been particularly interesting.  One minute I am singing and happy and laughing...the next minute I am chewing someone's head off.  Sometimes I am running on 2-3 hours of sleep a night, sometimes I want to sleep for a whole day.  Ever have one or more of those days where you are so depressed that you can't even shower?  Yeah....try 3 or 4 of those in a row.  Shortly followed by 3 to 4 days where I want to shower about 6 times a day.  Fun, right?

The panic attacks are SUPER FUN too!! Ugh. Right. Nothing like going along blissfully through your day and then...WHAM! Heart pumping, thoughts racing, face flushed, breath short.....all in the middle of doing something that should so not have prompted it.

     It has also brought to the forefront a intense fear of commitment.  It is crazy.  I have this wonderful thing right in front of me, and I am doing my best to sabotage it.  Being standoffish, picking fights, needing my space, balking at any kind of talk of together-type things, and obsessing over the most insignificant things and turning them into huge issues.  The fact that he is sticking around surprises me every single day.

      Moving and unpacking I'm sure has not helped either.  There I am cheerfully unpacking boxes that I think belong to my son, and I come across B's wallet.
Then I come across some old Father's Day cards.
Then I find his picture in a frame.
Then one of his collectibles.
Then I cry.
Again.

     Triggers are unavoidable, I know that.  I know that the grief monster loves to rear his head at THE most inopportune time.  I know that over time these triggers will not overwhelm me so much.  I also know that, for the first time in months, I am grieving FIERCELY.  One other thing I know is that i will get through this.

Eventually.

     What triggers do you have? How are you getting through it?







Monday, July 14, 2014

Unpacking



You unpack lots of things.

Boxes.
Luggage.
Feelings.

Sometimes it is a relief.  Other times, not so much.

Sometimes those boxes, or that old luggage holds a lot of memories.  Good ones, bad ones, ugly ones.  Sometimes the things in the boxes make it to the new destination. Those things you gently unwrap.  Giggle and smile at the memories that they bring up.  Place them on the shelf and feel a sense of accomplishment that you did something by yourself.  Sometimes they might have a few dings or scratches, and sometimes they are broken beyond repair. What do you do then?  You gently gather up the broken pieces, wash them with a fresh new bucket of tears, stuff them into a trash bag, and throw them away.

Right?

If only it were that simple....

     Every broken thing reminds you of another piece of your broken life.  There is no way to put those pieces back together and have it be exactly the way it was before. Every scratch and every dent reminds you of the nice stuff that you used to have that isn't so nice anymore.  Every piece of luggage that gets lost reminds you of your own loss. Every feeling that you unpack and share with someone that is not reciprocated reminds you of what you had and desperately want to find again.

Then you realize that there has been someone there helping you to unpack all along.

     It might not have been the person or people that you expected. It might have taken a crap ton of hard work to get to this point.  It may have been something that you wanted for a while, or something that just snuck up on you.  You realize that while you were unpacking the boxes and the luggage there was that one person or people who helped no matter what they had going on in their lives.  They made room in their busy lives for you and your unexpected breakdowns and stress.  They never told you that they couldn't help. Or wouldn't help.  They didn't take advantage of your stressed out state to get what THEY needed from you.  You asked and they said sure. Not when it was convenient for them, but when you needed it.

Those are the people that are going to make unpacking your new, scary life that much easier.
For that, I am FOREVER grateful.

Who are you grateful for?