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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Love Letter

I know I don't usually do this, but this time of year, I am taking things pretty rough. I've tried to be "strong for the kids", tried to be "over it", tried to embrace the "childlike spirit of Christmas", but damn. This truly bites. Like sucks beyond anything that has come before it. So, to get it all out, I am writing a love letter to my best friend, my lover, my soul mate, my partner in crime, my sweetest love so I can tell him all of the things I didn't get to say. But, like an oscar speech, there first are so many people to thank...
     First, I would like to thank all of my widow(er) friends I have met along this journey. We may have all arrived on this path at different times but we all go through the same things, feel the same feelings, and are there for each other when we feel like no one understands us. This last year for me has been super tough and I don't think I would have been able to make it without the love and support that you have shown me. Chins up, fellow widdas; we will continue to make it through as long as we remember to take baby steps forward for ourselves and hold the memories of our spouses close to our hearts.
     Second, I would like to thank my friends and family for being there for the kids and I as we made it through this incredibly tough year.  You have all watched me as I struggled with the crippling loss of B, and steered me in the correct direction when you saw I lost my way.  You watched and supported as I became a single mom and found out about D's diagnoses and all of the struggles that go along with being the parent of a special needs child.  You encouraged me to not turn back to my old ways following the most devastating loss of my life.  You pushed me to go back to school and fulfill the dream I have to get a college degree. You have listened to me tell stories, you have held me when I cried, and you have come with me to movies and dinners so I didn't have to be alone. Most of all, thank you for just being THERE. Those moments when you just gave me a hug or held my hand and watched my tears fall silently and we didn't speak...no advice given, no words of encouragement spoken. Those were the moments where I knew that the love you had for me and my children was truly the most selfless gift anyone could ever give.
     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 A love letter to my one and only.....

My sweetest love,
     There still are so many words unspoken that I didn't get to say.  There are so many dreams we had that are unfulfilled, so many trips not taken, so many of the children's milestones that we will not get to experience together. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of you or speak of you or wonder what you would think about how my life is turning out.  Just the other day I was telling a new friend about our amazing love story and it reminded me of how truly blessed I was to have you be in my life for 30 of the 35 years I have been on this earth. I told the story of our first kiss at the Allentown Fair. I spoke fondly of the surprise picnic you made for me in the woods. The way through all of high school and college we were on again off again until that amazing night at dinner 12 years  ago when we went to dinner and knew, from that point forward, that we would be together forever. I have explained the story of without wax and sparked jealousy from some of my girlfriends whose husbands aren't nearly that romantic.
     I can only hope that you see my life as I keep going for the boys.  I hope that you are happy with the amazing people that your sons are turning out to be.  They are like you in so very many ways. They both have that same crinkly-eyed smile you had when they are truly happy and being their adorably silly selves. They have such amazingly kind hearts, and are so loving and giving...a trait that I know you helped to foster in them.  They love you and miss you so very much, and talk about you and to you all the time.  I hope you hear them and guide them as they grow into the amazing young men you always wanted them to be.
     I know the last months you were here we struggled. I am so sorry that I never got to fix that struggle for you. Every day I hope that you knew how much I loved you no matter what. How no matter what we were going through I always believed that our love was so strong that we could make it through anything. I truly believe you are my soul mate, B, and in another time, in another place our souls will be reunited an the B-shaped hole that is in my soul now will finally be filled. Our love never knew any boundaries, and I am sure it will overcome this one, no matter how immense the space between us is. You were my rock, my balance. You were the dark to my light, the calm to my crazy, and the quiet to my loud. As I have always said, you saved me from myself, and I am a better person for having loved you. You will have my love always and all ways my sweet, without wax.
   

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cobwebs, Fog, and Apathy

        This grief is an interesting thing.  I have lost people, things, and pets before in my life, but none have affected me to such a degree as the loss of my husband. At this point, a little over a year after B passed away, I thought I would be able to function just a wee bit better. I'm not. Well, I am, but not as "better" as I thought I would be.  Of my bad days, I can usually put them into three categories: cobwebs, fog, and apathy.
      My cobweb days are interesting.  Sometimes a memory will just fly up out out of the blue and get stuck in my head. Usually it is a good one like our wedding day kiss, or a day we spent goofing around with the boys, or a day where we had one of those dates or conversations that reminds of why we loved each other so much to begin with. These cobweb days, I'm like the spider. I turn the memory over and over in my web, spinning more and more silk over it to keep it protected. I visit it from time to time, gleaning what goodness I can to sustain me and keep me going.  These cobweb days are my favorite. Then there are the not so good cobweb days. The ones that are so very much NOT my favorite. The stupid, sucky horrible memories that fly up out of nowhere and get stuck. Getting that phone call. Hearing the doctor say those horrible words. Seeing you there lifeless. Our last fight. On these cobweb days, I am less like the spider and more like the fly. I fight and fight and fight to disentangle myself. The more I fight, the more I get caught. Caught up in the replay, caught up in the horrible feelings that go along with it. I try not to get caught, but, like the fly, sometimes you are just going about your day and WHAM! Stuck. No matter how hard you try, you are just not going to get out of it.
     Foggy days have their own "special" quality.  These I know are coming as soon as I try to get up out of bed in the morning.  I am usually that bouncy, bright-eyed, chipper morning person that everyone loves to hate. Up at 5am regardless of the hour I went to bed, ready to go and coffee and breakfast made for everyone shortly thereafter. I know. Just reading that makes you want to kill me, right? Especially if you haven't had your morning cup of coffee yet. If it is any consolation, on foggy days I am very much NOT like that.  Foggy days start with the complete inability to get out of bed. Usually that half asleep/half awake state when your body can't move and your brain is trying desperately to cling on to the last vestiges of that amazing dream you were just having. Once my feet hit the floor, I know it is going to be a no shower, jeans and a hoodie, 5 cup of coffee kind of day.  There are tears in the corner of my eyes the whole day, and more often than not I will find myself in a room of the house with no recollection of why I went in there.  I go through anything I have to do that day in a daze that resembles that of a zombie.  I am assuming I probably look like that to the outside world, too. Unkempt appearance, slow shuffling walk, incoherent speech...yup. Sounds like definite zombie qualities. Surprised I haven't been taken out already by one of those doomsday preppers. Comforting, sort of. These foggy days are becoming fewer and farther between, but man, when they do hit, they are doozies.
     What more and more of my bad days are becoming is full of apathy. Just going through the  motions. Not sad, not happy, not angry, not anything. I could win the 40 bazillion dollar lottery and  just shrug my shoulders and reply "meh". It's like being a 2D figure in a 3D world.  I look all right from the front, but if you catch me at just the right angle, you can see something is missing. I'll participate in activities, but only if I have to.  I might smile, joke, or even, laugh; but if you watch or listen closely you can tell that they are missing their usual luster.  My cooking is less flavorful, my housework suffers, and the general world seems less colorful. I can't even shop properly on these days. I know, how very commercial of me, but admit it, sometimes shopping makes all of us feel better. Especially shoes. And purses. And clothes. And random gifts for other people. I've been told self-care will help with these apathetic days. Going to the gym, going for a walk, stopping and smelling the roses, etc.  The problem is, on apathetic days, I am disinclined to anything that requires even the tiniest bit of motivation. Then my motivation comes home from school. The bright shining moments on these days are my beautiful boys.  Somehow, some way, they usually find a way to inject a little bit of sun into even the greyest of apathetic days.  The older one getting a good grade on a test or telling me how he stood up to a bully.  The smaller one writing his name without assistance or getting excited about seeing a big construction truck being transported down the highway.  They remind me that even flowers can grow up through the cracks in the sidewalk if they have enough will.

 If a flower can do that, then damn....so can I.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Suck-cember

    I have renamed December Suck-cember. This month is just sooooo harsh on my emotions. His birthday, 13 months, Christmas, my birthday, New Years Eve, and New Years Day. That is way too many potentially problematic days to have to deal with in one month. Alone. I think that is what makes it exponentially worse.

Alone.

    The word just sounds depressing when you say it. Looks depressing when you type it. Feels depressing when you experience it. I was out last night having a cupcake for my cupcake's birthday and a little rhyme kept repeating itself in my head...."couples, couples everywhere and no someone for me".
     Not that being with someone is necessary to be happy, or would make December suck any less, but sometimes it is just nice to have someone to come home to, have a nice cup of hot chocolate with, snuggle and watch the kids play. Nice to have someone to go Christmas shopping with. Nice to have someone wish you a happy birthday. Nice to have someone congratulate you on completing your first semester back at school in 15 years. Nice to have someone to play Santa with. Nice to have someone to kiss at midnight on New Year's Eve.
     Suck-cember is fraught with remembrances, which is why I think it sucks so much. Remembrances for everyone, not just those of us who are grieving. How many times have you reconnected with an ex right around the holidays? How many times has one of your family members brought up specific memories while you are all enjoying dessert after a fun day of togetherness? How many times have you decorated for the holidays, remembering the story that goes behind each and every decoration or ornament? More often than not, these memories bring back warm fuzzy feeling of wistful longing, right? Well, multiply that longing by about a million and you get a sense of where a grieving person probably is this time of year. At least this grieving person.
    So, if you come in contact with me or any other grieving person this year, be gentle. Realize that while you may have moved on from the loss, we haven't.  At least not as much as you think we might have (we are REALLY good at faking it).  We might be a little grouchier than usual, a little more sensitive than usual, and a little more lonely than usual. If we have a significant day (like maybe a birthday, wink wink) try to make it bearable by including us.  If we invite you somewhere, it is not because we are trying to insert ourselves into your schedule, it is because we are trying to fill a really big hole in our heart with someone whose company we enjoy and makes our sad hearts smile for a moment.  Phone calls are awesome, cards are great, a lunch or dinner or even a cup of coffee is an  excellent way to show us that we matter and are an appreciated part of your very busy life. We know Suck-cember will pass, but for some of us, it doesn't pass soon enough.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday season? What holiday season?

    Apparently, the "holiday season" is upon us. Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. Food, family, football....what's not to love? Then a big chunk of my family went missing. I barely remember last Thanksgiving.  This Thanksgiving, things are a little different. There is no one big gathering. My mom and stepdad are in one place with one uncle and one set of grandparents. My dad and stepmom, sister, and aunt are in another place. My FIL and BIL are hosting dinner at their place for my BIL's girlfriend and her parents. I have friends who have invited me to their gatherings.  Everything feels fractured to me, just like my little family.
     So what do I do? I do what I used to do when I was younger, before I had a whole family of my own. I go everywhere. I put on my happy face and visit with my dad, my in-laws, and my friends. I show my kids that we can have a happy holiday even though we may not all be together. I show them that there are many different kind of families....some that are whole, some that are broken, some that are made up just friends, and that everyone in your life can teach you something. Teach them how to manage to eat a little at everyone's house as to be able to join in all festivities. Watch some football, play some games, and have some laughs.
       Just because there is a big hunk of my soul missing doesn't mean I have to take away part of theirs. I will try my best to keep Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. I will try not to drink to much and fall to pieces. I will be cheerful and thankful and everything else everyone expects me to be because I am "strong".
****POST THANKSGIVING****
      I made it. It was interesting.....three mini dinners, and nothing quite felt right. It wasn't wrong, but it wasn't right either.  You know how it is when you try on a shoe that looks good on the outside, but pinches your little toe on the inside? That is what Thanksgiving felt like.  I was all helpful and happy on the outside and tears and angry on the inside. I missed B terribly but found comfort in his favorite football team playing on the TV spending part of the day with my in-laws and another part of the day with one of his closest friends. The signs are always there, sometimes I just have to be no so wrapped up in my grief to appreciate them.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

525,600 minutes

It has really been a whole year.  I know it has been a while since I have posted, but I have been adjusting to this "new normal". As much as  I hate that term, I guess it truly does apply. In the last year I have become a lot of things.....a widow, a single mom, a parent of a special needs child, a student, a new friend, a confidante, a partier, a gym rat, a best friend, an ex-friend, a girlfriend, and  a serial first-dater.
     A year can make you realize a lot of things. I am both a lot stronger and a lot more fragile than I ever thought possible. I hold on to things a lot tighter than I ever did before, but also have a low tolerance for things that are not worth my time. I focus so much more on the things that will move my life forward, yet still cling to vestiges of my past life with Brian. I am happy I am doing as well as I am, always wishing I had someone to share my successes with.  I am trying out the whole dating thing,  but still walking around with a heavy heart.
     Being a walking conundrum isn't fun. My mind is constantly spinning while trying to point my kids in the right direction and follow the right directions myself. While I am currently following an awesome path, it is very easy to get off course without my anchor, my rock, my balance....my soulmate. I am, however, working on it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Random musings on widowhood

In sharing and supporting some of my fellow widows and widowers, it came to my attention some things that were a common thread that we were all going through besides that one horrible thing in common that made us all widows and widowers to begin with.  These are things that we want or need, but hardly ever have the guts to say. I compiled a list which goes in no particular order. I am sure others have their own version of this list, so feel free to add things in the comments below!

     1) We don't want or need space.  There is a huge gaping hole in our lives and we sure as hell don't want it to get any bigger.

     2)  If we start canceling all of the plans we make with you, this is a good sign we have gotten wrapped up in our own heads.  Please don't take it personally.  Call us out on it and check in often. We will greatly appreciate you for it.

      3)  Please talk about our spouse with us.  Especially if you were friends with them too. We love to hear stories that we may not know. Everyone has their good, bad and ugly moments.  Share, laugh, and cry with us.  Remembrance is good, silence is not.

     4)  Understand that many of us are on a learning curve with this new life and there are a lot of things that we now have to do that we have never done before.  If we ask for help, please teach us, don't do it for us.

     5)  Conversation only offers suck.  We will not "call if we need anything".  We don't want to feel like a burden, so if you do offer to do lunch, dinner, drinks, coffee, whatever....please follow through so we don't have to chase. It is exhausting and it makes us feel needy and worthless.

     6)  If we have children, realize we are grieving for them and ourselves. We are worried about how we are now going to pay for their upbringing, college, activities that they would like to be involved in, how they are dealing with the loss of their parent, how they are going to deal with their own coming of age without that parent to turn to. Listen to their worries and do what you can to help...anything from having a play date to babysitting to organizing a community fundraiser. Remember the old adage "It takes a village"? In times like this the widow(er) could use all the help the village can provide.

     7)  Listen. This may be the umpteen millionth time you have heard a particular gripe from us, or the thousandth time you heard a story, or the hundredth time you have seen us cry, but please, be patient. To you, time has gone on as usual. To us, our lives are in a sort of suspended animation and it bothers us. Sometimes we don't need or want advice, just a friendly hug.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Constant Countdown

You know how when you are getting ready to go on vacation, you do a countdown? Or countdown to the day you are getting married? Or having a baby? Even small things like the first day of school, or a party you have been looking forward to? My whole life is now broken up into these little tiny countdowns.  Countdown to that stupid day every month. Countdown to birthdays. Countdown to my wedding anniversary. Countdown to important milestones in the kids' lives.  Countdown to the big one year. countdown to the family holidays that we are now minus one. It is like one of those big red digital countdown clocks in my brain that is constantly resetting.
   To try and counteract this lovely countdown, I make plans. Plans that inevitably always get broken. So I try something else. I try to concentrate on schoolwork, but the closer the clock gets to zero, the harder it is to concentrate. So, again, I try something else. Maybe the gym. Maybe my favorite bar. Maybe a kickboxing class to punch out my frustrations on a heavy bag. Maybe taking a nice long drive with the windows down and the radio up. Maybe a date (yeah right). Anything that makes the ticking stop.
     I assume that sometime soon the march will stop. Sometime soon the constant countdown will be towards happier, more productive things. Sometime soon the bright red digital clock in my brain will shut off. Or at least dim a little.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Dating Game

The funny thing about widowhood is the apparent case of social leprosy it gives you. It is like people are afraid they will catch it or something. Yes, death is a squirmy and uncomfortable topic. No one likes to come face to face with it. A fantastic example of this is in this this fun new place I find myself.....the world of dating. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband, but I am not in a spot where I want to become the crazy cat lady. So, apparently, at the age of 35 and with two small kids, I find myself dating. This is where things start to get interesting. Where on earth do I even meet people?  B was my high school sweetheart an we knew each other for 30 years. We were best friends. How do I not compare? I know for sure I don't want to find someone in a bar or a club, all of my friends are married with kids, so where does one turn? Apparently the fun filled world of Internet dating.          Seriously.
     The first horrible hurdle is filling out the profile. I hate selling myself. I firmly believe one should like me for me, not some blurbed version of myself, but the only way for one to get to know me is by me filling in the blurb.  Paradoxical.  Then there is the single/separated/divorced/widowed choice. Well, the obvious choice here would be widowed, right? Except that NO ONE wants to date a widow. So, I am definitely not divorced, technically I am separated (albeit by death) and I suppose also that I am single, but I don't really classify myself that way.  So.....which box do I choose? Against my better judgement, I choose widow/widower, only to come to find out no one reads the damn things anyway! I could be the three boobed alien woman from Total Recall and as long as my picture looked good, I would get all the responses I could handle!
     Then comes the first contact. The pretend witty banter. Or the obnoxious " heeeeeyyyyy sexxxxxxyyyy waaat's up?" from a supposedly well educated 38 year old man. I'm sorry, but if you can't even spell "what" correctly, you do not dignify a response. Call me old fashioned, but I like a man who, at the minimum, can form a grammatically correct sentence.
     The first dinner. These are always interesting.  My favorite part is when I tell them I have kids.  The next question is usually "does your ex have them every other weekend?" When I reply in the negative, the next inevitable question leads to me revealing my widowhood, which generally leads to that uncomfortable shift-in-the-chair-glance-at-their-watch-look-into-the-distance and token "I'm sorry". Right then I know there is no date number two.
     I have run into some pretty interesting first dinners. Just a few of the more fun statements I have had to utter..... I am a pretty easy going girl, but I can order for myself. And no, I will not be having a martini or two before food. And no, we will not be going for a walk or a drive afterwards to some secluded spot. And no, I will not be committed to you after two beers and a plate of sushi. And one more no, I will not come back to your place to catch a movie....how dumb do you think I am? I am not a prude, but really? Apparently the goodnight kiss has gone the way of the dinosaurs? I think I might just be out of touch with reality.
      I have been used as fodder for someone's stand up show, greeted by a barefoot "hippie" in a restaurant, been told I was too young (thank you), been stood up, been approached to convert, been used, and been hurt. I think it is time for me to just date, well, me.
   
 

Friday, August 30, 2013

The In-between

The best way I can describe how it feels to be in this situation is that I feel like I have an in-between life. There are so many choices to make, so many things to learn; and yet I can't/won't make any choices or learn any new things. I am afraid to commit to anything because it can be gone in the blink of an eye. I am finding it hard to commit to an outfit or a pair of shoes, let alone a future, a home, a person, a life....
     The in-between isn't a bad place to be, it is just frustrating. I feel like a newborn; dependent, scared, unable to do much. There is a big old world out there and when you go from charging ahead in it with a partner to navigating it alone, it can be a bit overwhelming. I am amazed at how many decisions I never made by myself. Even the simple decision of what to make for dinner can sometimes require a steeling of will not to ask for advice.
     The in-between can also make you feel needy. You never feel like you quite fit in any situation. Even a simple walk in the mall can drive you crazy. Couples holding hands, families with small children, husbands/boyfriends buying jewelry for their wives/girlfriends, not having anyone to tell you that you look great in that outfit or that those shoes make your ankles look fat.  So instead of taking the plunge and doing what you have to do, you grab a soft pretzel from the guy at the stand, a soda from the vending machine and pretend you forgot something in the car. You hate to call and ask your friends to join you because they all have their own lives, their own families, their own errands to run. You don't want to need to have someone with you, but you can't help it. You are in between the old you and the new you, and for now, the old you has won the battle.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Baby steps

Baby steps is what I have to keep telling myself. I got out of bed today! I took a shower today!  I kept the kids alive today! I went out into the world today! I didn't mouth off to the first person that irritated me today! These may seem like small, ordinary things, but in my world, I might as well have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.  It is amazing what worth you give these tiny accomplishments.  Remember to pack the little guy lunch every day for a week? Treated myself to a giant ice cream.  Finished my to do list? Went and bought myself a new pair of shoes.  Cooked (and I mean actually cooked, no take out) dinner every day for a week? Took myself out to my favorite restaurant for dinner and drinks.
     These baby steps were going to help me move forward. They were going to help me to cope. I was at a crossroads and they were going to help me choose my path. Did I want to sit at home curled up in a ball ignoring my life as it progressed without me? Sure. But I couldn't. I didn't. I had my kids to think of. My family. They were why I HAD to take these baby steps forward. They had no one else to take responsibility for raising them right but me. Every choice I was going to make from here on out was going to affect them directly.  That thought was so overwhelming. So I took a poll. I asked everyone I came in contact with on a regular basis what they thought I should do. Choices, choices. School? Work? Domestic goddess? While I would have most preferred to take the way of the ostrich and bury my head in the sand, the a overwhelming response to the poll was to go back to school.        
     Then all of the questions start floating around in my head again. What do I want to do for the rest of my life? What interests me? What is going to provide a stable life for me and my boys? Does stable necessarily mean interesting? Baby steps to the answers, I suppose.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Now what?

Well since feedback has been positive but requests have been for more, here goes.  Upon first starting  off on this journey, I was lost. B was my childhood sweetheart, my balance, my rock, the dark to my light, the father to my children, and now, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.  He was in a box on my windowsill. It sucked. I hid. I cried. I yelled. I formed unhealthy attachments. I tried to insert myself into other people's lives where I didn't really fit.  I ate too much. I drank too much. I stayed out too late.  Slowly but surely, I started to come out of the fog.  I realized that no one was going to help me. I had to do it myself. There was no life insurance. No education fund. No savings to speak of, as we had struggled so much before he passed and recently relocated back home to be near family. So.....what do I do?
     Starting from ground zero is really really hard. The paperwork was overwhelming. Never in one day had I had to come to terms so many times with death. Check this box for widowed. Marriage ended in death. Single, married, divorced, widowed.  Husband is deceased. So many boxes to check. So many bubbles to fill in. So many places to sign. Then it was done. I made it. I went home and hugged my kids super extra tight. Then the reality hit again like a ton of bricks. I had nothing. The apartment we had applied for we got the day after he died. There was no way I could afford it without him. My family was generous enough to transition from the kids and I visiting for the summer on vacation to semi-permanent status in their home. All of my belongings minus a suitcase each were in a 20x20 foot storage unit. What did I know how to do? Cook? Clean? Pack a mean lunch? How on earth was I going to provide for two very hungry, growing, school age boys?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Seriously??

Hi there! This has taken me 9 long months to be able to get to, but I think I am able to share. I am a 35 year old woman whose relatively healthy husband dropped dead of a heart attack a month shy of his 38th birthday. I am now a single girl, single mom, and fairly sarcastic human adrift in this crazy sea of widowhood like a boat with no anchor.
   It is amazing to get that phone call that changes your life. You are sitting there, having a beer with friends, and the phone rings. You let it go to voicemail because you don't want to be rude. Then it rings again. And again. You dial your voicemail to hear an unfamiliar voice on the other end of the line telling you your husband was taken to the hospital. You call his work, and they tell you it isn't good. Your friend drives you to the hospital because you can barely breathe, and when you get there they take you to the "bad news room". 45 minutes later your world changes FOREVER. You are a widow. You have to tell your kids that they are going to grow up without a dad. You talk to someone on the other end of your phone giving permission to harvest your husband's tissue, bones, and corneas. You talk to a funeral director and realize you can't afford anything but turning your beautiful, amazing, love of your life into a box of ashes. You have an amazing memorial service that a few people attend. You come face to face with your own mortality and a new reality.

Seriously.....wtf?