Google+ Followers

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?


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tipping Point

     There comes a time in everyone's life when they have to make decisions.  For some, they come easy.  For me, not so much.  I am a worrier.  Always have been.  I go to a catastrophic place all the time.  I what-if myself out of a lot.  I listen to the negatives that everyone throws at me, but none of the positives.  I also have a really bad track record with making decisions.  Most of the time I want to do something so badly that I just jump in. Headfirst. With no lifejacket. So now I find myself here, at my tipping point, making life-altering decisions.

I'm in a new relationship.
I just signed a lease for my own place.
I will be unpacking all of the things from my previous life and putting them on display.
I will be really starting my new life over, in a new location, just myself and my boys.
I am going with my gut for the first time in a long time.
I am scared out of my damn mind.

     This comes at a time for me when so many things in my life are in flux.  I am on the path of my second firsts and it was just right.  I cannot be a scared little girl under the wing of my parents anymore.  They have done so much for me, and for that I am FOREVER grateful.  As scary as this tipping point is, it is something that needs to happen.  I cannot and will not spin my wheels in the mud any longer.  I have to allow myself to know that I can do this my myself, and the only way I will learn that is to just do it.

I need to learn how to live again.
I need to learn how to love again.
I need to learn how to be loved again.
I need to learn that it is okay to go forward.
I need to learn that going forward does not mean forgetting.
I need to learn that change is good yet uncomfortable.
I need to learn that comfort for the sake of not changing isn't necessarily a good thing.

Like I said, there comes a time in everyone's life when they have to make decisions.

Today, I have made mine.

   



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sense Memories


     My weekend was filled with these kind of memories. While meeting with my son's therapist, I could have sworn I caught a whiff of his smell...that mixture of cologne, outside, and cigarettes that always hung around his person.  Not exactly unpleasant, but an odd smell to be in the office.  As quickly as I noticed it and pointed it out, it was gone. Friday, I finally got my memorial tattoo, a drawing that B did for me on our wedding anniversary.  It was unfinished, as he passed away before it could be completed.  The artist was kind enough to add sunflowers to the drawing, which were my wedding flowers.  Then, as I was sitting down in the chair, his favorite Jimmy Buffett song came on. Monday, I was gifted a photograph of sunflowers by the artist himself because I had such a strong connection to the photo...visually it took my breath away, and emotionally I was tied to it because he had taken the photo on my family's farm, in the sunflower field planted specifically for my wedding.  Sometimes these experiences happen in groups, sometimes they are a single, fleeting event.

Sometimes it is a song.
Sometimes it is a smell.
Seeing his favorite video game in a store.
Watching our favorite movie.
Seeing the same look in his sons' eyes that I used to see on him.
Running my hands over the brim of his most well-worn baseball cap.
Passing the street corner where he kissed me and told me I was beautiful.
Running across my wedding albums.
Going to the same fair with the kids where we had our very first date.

   These small, fleeting, insignificant things can dredge up memories so powerful that they can take my breath away.  The tears steal down my cheeks faster than I can stop them. Ive gotten better at controlling it, but not always.  Sometimes the memories will trigger a smirk or a laugh or a giant smile that is too hard to hide.  Even now, after 18 months, the emotions tied to my sense memories are incredible.  Positive or negative, the feelings that are dredged up let me know that no matter how far out I am, or how far I feel I have come in moving forward from the greatest loss in my life, there will always be that hole in my soul that will never ever quite be filled.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This S**t is HARD!!!

     I suppose for anyone who is suddenly thrust into a new life without warning, the change can be somewhat jarring.  There are things to learn that you never had to do before, emotional places you'd never thought you would reach, friends you make, friends you lose, relationships you start, relationships that grenade on you....all things you never thought you would do before.  For me, from the unique perspective of young widowhood, I can plainly say that this shit is hard. It sucks.  I lost my best friend, the one I would run to and talk to when all of the hard stuff happened.  When I grieve, I'm not just grieving for me, but two young, impressionable boys who now don't have a dad.

I grieve for the loss of my hopes and dreams for my little, complete family.
I grieve for the milestones I am going to have to see and do alone.
I grieve for the loss of the one person on this earth who really, TRULY understood me.
I grieve for the loss of fun, happy-go-lucky me.

     I'm even trying the dating thing again, and damn does it suck.  I never realized how intolerant I have become of other people's crap.  Or how fiercely independent I have become. Or how I apparently constantly have "mad face" (aka resting bitch face) on.  It seems like everything starts out okay and then WHACK! The controlling, damaging, negative behavior rears it's ugly head in them.  I get that some, if not most, of the people available out there in the dating scene right now have some baggage. I have more baggage than most, but if there is one thing I will not tolerate is someone throwing their overstuffed baggage at me, expecting me to lug it up and down stairs through an entire airport. Not happening. Own your own crap.  If I care about you, I will help you unpack that baggage, but if you are going to start repacking your baggage into mine, we are going to have issues. A wise man once told me that love should lift you up, not put you down.

So do I just take it in stride that everyone is inherently broken and I should just settle for something that I think isn't right?  Do I just accept that my life from November 8, 2012 forward is just going to suck and I just have to deal with it?  How did I turn from the girl who saw the world through rose colored glasses the the woman who is the world's biggest people pleaser?  Have I really become that bitter, jaded person I was always afraid of becoming? I can't really be that desperate for love, can I?

  Sometimes I wonder if I do these things to myself on purpose...if I get into a headspace where I feel as if I am not good enough for anyone, so why bother pursuing something that I am so sure is going to blow up in my face anyway. Talking doesn't help. Yelling doesn't help. Stony silence doesn't help.                                        

This shit is hard.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Solo Parent Suckiness

          Last week I had the INFINITE (insert sarcasm here) pleasure of having an IEP progress meeting for my oldest son.  I had asked for his therapist to be there, but, as she was unable to attend, she spoke with the learning support teacher the day before.  An advocate was not able to be assigned, so I had to do the meeting by myself. Now, normally, doing these things by myself induces a bit of anxiety, but not a whole lot, as I have done it a couple of times before.  This time, it was different.  A few of the teachers turned it into less of a progress discussion and more of a "your son is not doing any of his work and is totally unfocused and I can't take it anymore" session.  Now, I understand that he is a handful, and I suppose letting me know that there is a huge disconnect between home and school is important, but there are better ways to go about this.  Where I run in to difficulty is being talked to like I am a 12 year old.

Just because I am a solo parent does not mean I am a moron.
Just because I do not have a partner to back me up does not mean you can bully me.
Just because I do this all by myself does not mean you can do a better job of it than me.
Just because I am sensitive does not mean I am not an effective parent.
Just because I am alone does not mean I need to have a man here to fight my battles for me.

     Having to deal with a kid with special needs all on my own is a daily battle in and of itself, but there are sooooo many more things that suck about being a solo parent.  There are so many logistics issues when you don't have a second pair of hands to help you out when you get caught in a timing issue. Like when both of your kids are in different activities and both of them have to be in 2 different places at the same time and you are stuck in traffic and you are not going to get either of them anywhere, let alone get healthy food in their faces and get homework done at a reasonable hour.  Or when you have a super early job or a late class that runs beyond the capabilities of your child care.  Or when one of them is having a particularly difficult time and you need to focus on them for the time being and feel neglectful that you are leaving the other to fend for themselves for the moment.  Or when you feel selfish because you are trying to go to school to better yourself for the good of your new little family and little things are falling my the wayside....like housework, checking homework, making daily dinners, keeping up on seasonal clothing changes, and keeping the fridge stocked full for 2 quickly growing boys who eat more than a small army.
     So, props to all of you solo moms and dads out there who are making it work!  Any suggestions to keep this harried mom from losing her mind??


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Uncharted Territory

     I find myself today in a new and interesting place. I'm happy. With no guilt.  Yet, there are still a million reasons why I am running away from good, happy joy-joy feelings. You would think by now I would be past the catastrophic scenarios, but no.  My heart and my head are definitely not communicating well at all lately, and I am reeling as a a result.  A current discussion going on with my emotions right now:

Heart:  He's such a nice guy!
Head:  What if something bad happens?
Heart:  He cares about you so much!
Head:  What if it isn't genuine?
Heart:  He is so amazing with the boys!
Head:  If something bad happens, the boys are going to be devastated!
Heart:  He makes you smile EVERY DAY.
Head:  If he ever hurts you, you are going to end up the crazy cat lady.
Heart:  His words and actions and feelings are something you have not heard/seen/felt in a long time!
Head:  What if it is just to get in your pants and then leave you?
Heart:  He cares about you even after knowing everything you've been through.
Head:  He wants you to forget.
Heart:  It is okay to move forward and be happy!
Head:  What if this means you're a bad widow for not being miserable about your dead husband?
Heart:  It is perfectly normal to want to love again.
Head:  It is perfectly awful to want to love again.

     Slowly, I'm beginning to realize that there is a difference between boundaries to keep people from taking advantage of me, and the fortress walls I have built up around my heart and soul to keep people out and to keep myself from potentially ever loving someone.  I think my reasoning is if I love them and they hurt me, where else do I have to go?  I don't think my fragile heart could take much more breaking.  The bandages holding together the broken pieces are not that strong. I'm not that strong. I don't think you get many great loves in your life, and I think I've already used mine up.

Do I give up?
OR
Do I give in?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Reflections on a Month of Great Growth





     There were so many things I loved about completing the A to Z challenge during April.  I met new blog friends, really exercised my writing skills, found a renewed interest in writing a book about my journey, and learned a lot about myself in the process.  I wrote about things I never knew I was keeping inside and was able to get in contact with others who are going through the same things.  My posts connected with other people in my on-line grief support groups, and helped family and friends to know how I was feeling.  I wouldn't post regularly to my blog before, now I have an urge to write even more than before.
     As feedback, there are definitely things that I myself, as a novice blogger would do (and will do from this point forward) differently.  I learned that interaction on my blog comes most when I pose a question at the end (thanks for the advice, Susan!), and visiting more blogs will get me more followers and interactions.  Now that school is winding down, there is definitely going to be more time for me to be able to do that.  I came at this challenge rather late in the game after hearing about it from friend and fellow blogger Katie at The Cyborg Mom.  Next year, I think I will be a little more prepared, prescheduling and at least having a title for each letter before the month gets started.  The twitter chats were great, although more than one day a week would have been great...most days I had a tough time attending because of my own struggles.  Most of all, I would encourage more interaction. I know it is hard when you have one or more blogs that you keep up with, but as a new blogger with very few followers I appreciate the interaction and follows,  as well as advice from others who have been in the game much longer than I.
     Blogging has been a source of great catharsis for me, and this month has led to some very interesting reflections on my life that I hadn't really explored before.  I got in touch with emotions that I had put aside for the sake of being able to function in the real world and processed through them with great ease once the were out of my  head and sent into the blogosphere.  I appreciate the opportunity to have gotten my experiences out there and the refreshed outlook I have as a result of this challenge month.

Much thanks to all who have followed me on this journey, encouraged me to continue writing, and provided advice to keep things fresh...I couldn't have done it without you!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zigging and Zagging

     Sometimes, life throws you curveballs.  Sometimes they are expected, like a new baby or a graduation or a new job.  Sometimes they are unexpected like failing a test you studied for or losing a job unexpectedly, or death of a loved one.  Adjusting to these huge changes, whether positive or negative causes ripples in everything.

Ripples in your schedule.
Ripples in communication.
Ripples in the fabric of your life.

     So you zig. And you zag. You make all of the necessary adjustments as to disrupt your existence as little as possible. Some will zigzag better than others.  Some will just absorb the unexpected and roll with with it.  Some fight the unexpected with everything that they have in their bodies, and the change will bend and twist them in to strange things that they never were before. Like lightning strikes, the zigs and zags can sometimes cause destruction, but open the way for new things to flourish.
     Me? I'm kinda tired of the zigging and zagging.  I have made more adjustments in the last 18 months than I can deal with.  I have tried to be optimistic about it, tried to be open to suggestions and help, tried to accept this new normal as the way things are now, but I'm tired of it.  I just want to put down roots in my own space, for my own life, and make it as I want it. Not as these curveballs have changed it to be.  Nothing is as I always imagined my someday life to be.

Zip. Zilch. Nada.

I suppose that is the price you pay for having a great love.


Yes-woman

     I used to think that the word "no" did not exist in my vocabulary.  Whether I wanted to do something for someone or not, I would do it anyway.  I hated confrontation, I hated letting people down, I hated not being able to do something.  Even if there was a conflict of interest, I would find a way.  I never turned down an invitation or request for anything.  This went especially true for my relationship.  I did anything B ever asked me to do.  If he wanted something, I did everything in my power to do it for him.
     Then I lost him and that yes-woman, no boundaries thing got exploited.  People would come out of the woodwork to take advantage of me.  It was like I had a "please try and use me for something" sign tattooed on my forehead.  I have always been a good person and have tried to see the good in everyone, but people who try and take advantage of the grieving are just despicable.  As I broke out of the fog, it became evident that my yes-woman attitude towards life was going to have to go and I was going to have to learn how to form some sort of boundaries in my life.
   
Yes, I will help you move, but no, I will not pay for it.
Yes, I need to buy a new car, but no, I will not have a $500 per month payment.
Yes, we can go out on a date, but no, I will not sleep with you because you think that I am desperate.
Yes, I know I need help with that, but no, you may not do it for me, you may teach me how.
Yes, I did go to that event alone, but no, I don't need a partner to make me feel complete.

     I still have a little of that yes-woman thing in me, especially when it comes to the kids.  I think I overcompensate for their lack of another parent, so even if it drives me bonkers and I will have not slept for like a week, I will make sure that they have everything that they need.  I do say no to things that are particularly extraneous, but they get a lot more leeway than anyone else in my life right now. It actually surprised me at how easy it was to say no once I go some practice at it.

No, you cannot "borrow" money.
No, you cannot call me your girlfriend after 2 dates and some online conversation.
No, you cannot treat me like that and expect me to still be talking to you tomorrow.
No, I will not make a 2 hour round trip for a 10 minute visit.
No, I can't do that for you, I have school/finals/kids/life of my own that I have to take care of.

     I like this new no-woman, but I hope that I can keep it in check.  Sometimes my boundaries need boundaries.


Xanax and other drugs

     In the first few days after B died, I persisted in a state of numbness.  I think it was my brain trying to protect me from the soul crushing grief that had just invaded my life.  There was this pervasive feeling of not living, but merely existing.  There are few memories of these days, but one thing I do remember is how many doctors tried to get me through the grief by prescribing me something.

Xanax.
Ambien.
Lunesta.
OTC sleeping pills.
Lexapro.
Valium.
Trazadone.
Prozac.
Zoloft.
Effexor.
Alcohol.

     The list went on and on and on as they tried to bring me out of the hole I was sinking into.  Looking back, while I appreciate the effort, nothing was really going to help except bringing B back. Since that wasn't going to happen, I guess everyone figured the best way to fix me was to trick my brain into thinking it was happy.  It might have worked too, if not for the amputation of a part of my soul.  For a while, I subsisted on xanax and coffee. The OTC sleeping meds worked for a while too.  Then I used food as my drug.  Then sex as my drug. Not the best at helping one to feel better about themselves, but for the moments before you started to feel really crappy, it was awesome.
     Then it was almost like misery was my drug.  I was relishing in feeling awful.  Then came therapy.  Equipping myself with the tools to move forward.  It took me almost 7 months to do it.  I had tried online groups and in-person groups, but sometime, they just made me more sad.  It was nice to know that I was not alone, but I need not just support, but advice on how to move forward.  Blogging has been a wonderful drug.  Knowing that I am getting my story out there and giving a perspective on grief that is different is an amazing feeling.
     It was love that brought me to this journey, and love that will get me through it.  My friends and family who were willing to share in my grief with me.  They listen, and love, and hug, and support me and the boys no matter how many times they have heard the stories before.  They have handed me tissues and held my hand in silence while I was sobbing so hard that no words would come out.  They  have held my hair back when I was puking from drinking so much to drown out the sorrow.  They are the one constant that was there then, and is still there now, even when my life is in complete upheaval.
   
LOVE is the greatest drug.

What-ifs

     Sometimes, when the depression over the loss of B gets particularly bad, the obsession over the what-ifs start.  There are always left over questions that you have when a loved one passes away, and it is the unanswered echoes of the what-ifs that can keep me awake at night.  I have wondered on countless sleepless nights if there was anything that I could have done differently.  The last months, days, and hours replay over and over.  I scan my memories for some clue that it was coming, if there was something that I could have prevented, something that I could have done that would have changed the course and kept him here with me.

What if I would have made sure he took his medicine every day?
What if I had INSISTED that he quit smoking?
What if I made sure he went to every doctor appointment, even if I had to drive him there myself?
What if I would have made his lunch every day so that he ate healthier?
What if I wouldn't have pushed him so hard to work so hard and to be a good provider?
What if I would have been there?
What if we would have not fought the day before?
What if I would have insisted on a second opinion when the doctor wouldn't perform a bypass?
What if I was the reason?

     I know that no amount of what-ifs will bring him back and the endless wondering will someday drive me nuts, but sometimes, I just can't help it.  There is a tremendous amount of guilt that I subscribe to because there were so many factors that were so seemingly preventable.  There are feelings of failing him as a lover, as a friend, as a soulmate, and as his family.  I should have been keeping a better eye out for him, as I know he would have done for the kids and I.  What will I say when the kids get a little older and start asking specifics?  How will I explain to them that yes, it could have been prevented, but it wasn't?
   
Could have been.
Should have been.
Would have been.

What if life had a rewind button?







Victories

    What has been most challenging for me so far in this journey is trying to find the will or the time to celebrate the little accomplishments in my life.  There are so many things that everyone else takes for granted that I realized I accomplished lately that deserve a shout out.  There are victories in every day, and if I learn to embrace them and reward myself, it can be a great stepping stone to moving forward.  I think that as the journey progresses the accomplishments will get bigger and bigger, but for now, I'm working on giving myself permission to celebrate the small things.

Getting the kids to school on time with little to no drama.
Getting up and showering and getting out of the house every day for a week.
Passing an exam with flying colors.
Telling someone how I really feel about something they did without being a cold hearted bitch.
Being able to support other people in their times of need while processing through my own hurt.
Sticking with a particularly difficult task, no matter how much I want to quit.

     Sometimes I fail to realize that although my journey through grief has been difficult, there are others whose learning curve on being a newly single person, parent, and overall widowhood has been even more difficult than mine.  To those of you who learned how to do something you never had to do before like potty train a child as a single dad, or learn how to drive, or fix a lawnmower, or balance a checkbook, or buy a car on your own, I applaud you.  Take the time to celebrate the little victories in your life, you deserve it.

Right now, you are all you've got!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Under Pressure

     Aside from being one of my favorite songs, under pressure is a constant theme in my life.  I am under pressure to be a good mom, a good daughter, a good student, a good widow, a good single person who exposes herself to the  *gasp* horrors of dating, and a good friend.  So far, I don't feel like I am succeeding in many of these endeavors.  It's like I have to pick and choose which ones I want to be at certain times, not because I want to, but because I have to.  The stress of trying to keep up appearances for everyone is going to drive me crazy.  The problem lies in which ones do I pick?

If I strive to be a good student, the good mom in me suffers.
If I strive to be a good mom, the good daughter suffers.
If I strive to be a good widow, everything suffers.
If I try to be a good single gal, the good mom, good student, and good daughter all suffer.
If I try to be a good friend, the good student and good single girl suffer.

     Sometimes, pressures are good.  The pressure to be a good student is keeping my GPA at a 4.0.  I am well liked by my professors, I have been invited to participate in the honors program, and am on track to graduate with my first degree by this time next year.  The pressure to do so well has me so motivated that all I want to do is continue to go to school and continue to excel.  It is the perfectionist in me that keeps reaching and reaching for the starts.  I loathe the day that will come when I do something in school less than perfect.  People seem to think it will break me.  I think it just gives me more motivation to add positive pressure to my life.  Only, at what expense?
    For example...today, my youngest asked me to play baseball outside when we got home from school.  I had to tell him no because I have finals to study for, papers to write, and housework to finish.  The crestfallen look on his little face just about broke me into a million pieces.  I was lucky today and his big brother stepped in to help me out with him, but I hate having to rely on him to take up the slack on things that I just can't all manage to squeeze in to a 24 hour days. Henceforth the good student vs. good mom pressure.
     I know my paper could probably wait an hour or so.  My blog could wait. The laundry could pile up. No one would think the worse of me, but I would. I would obsess about all of the things that I should be doing.  Maybe I have my priorities a little skewed?  Could be, but if I don't excel and provide these boys with the best life that I can, no one else is going to do it for me.

All of those hopes got buried in a box in the dirt along with B's ashes.
   

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Temper and Tolerance

     I have such little tolerance for other peoples crap.  I know I am supposed to be cognizant of everyone else's journey, and really, if I expect people to be cognizant of my journey, shouldn't I be tolerant of theirs?  Sometimes, though, the pure ignorance that comes out of a person's mouth brings me quick to temper.  I have ALWAYS been a fairly temperate person.  I would look at both sides of an argument, weigh the good points and the bad points and offer my opinion. Now, I know the old adage, opinions are like a$$holes, everybody has one. Mine just tends to rear it's ugly head more often than not anymore.  As I think about it, my quick mouth may be the reason that people don't wish to associate with me on an intimate basis.  As my stress level goes up, my tolerance for other people goes down.

Oh, you're too hungover to go to work? Deal with it. Im not working a double to cover you. Drink some water, take some tylenol, and get over it.

You failed your history test because you had better things to do than study? Too bad. Don't let your parents argue with the professor to change your failing grade.

You call me to cancel plans last minute after I've gotten a sitter and wonder why I won't go out with you again?  It's called having respect for myself, too bad you didn't have any for me.

You hit me up with a text message and you have not spelled one word correctly? It doesn't even dignify a response.

    I suppose I could be more zen, learn how to meditate, go hit a heavy bag, practice self care....all of those therapeutic tools I have been equipped with, but sometimes, it just feels good to lose my temper.  I absorb so much from everyone, not to mention dealing with my own day to day struggles with kids, school, and grief.  I don't know how I manage to keep my temper for as long as I have.  My fuse is definitely shorter and shorter.  Some of the only times I feel like myself anymore is when I can let my hair down just a little.

Go to my favorite bar and have a few drinks.
Go to my favorite art gallery and spend time with some of the most creative people that I know.
Go shopping at my favorite boutique shops that no one else knows about.
Plug in my headphones and listen to some of my favorite records (yes, I actually mean vinyl records).

Have you ever gotten to that breaking point where you have lost your temper? Weathered the fallout? What do YOU do to de-stress?



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Surviving

   Surviving. That word holds a lot of weight for me now.  I always though it odd to see that word in obituaries..."he/she is survived by....".  I didn't survive anything when B died.  We weren't put in a life threatening situation together where I made it through and he didn't. He just went on without me. Now, my day to day life is a survival.
     Every night when I go to bed I have survived another day of the "new normal".  Every day I wake up I have survived another night of sleeping alone in a big empty bed with nothing but my rambling thoughts to keep me company.  Every day (at least for this month) I have tried to write something about this journey through young widowhood. Then that gets me thinking about all of the other kind of survivors that are out there: Survivors of cancer. Survivors of tragedy. Survivors of the loss of a child. Survivors of the loss of a parent. Survivors of war. Survivors of trauma.

Is their surviving different than mine? Is it better? Is it worse? I wonder what they think of their survival...do they feel like heroes or do they feel cheated? Does the word survivor mean different things to different people?

     I have always thought that the word survivor should be used when one overcomes something horrific.  One doesn't SURVIVE a bad day at work, you just deal with it.  You SURVIVE a car accident that you were injured in. I suppose it is all in the wording, and since I am considered a survivor, I have a tendency to not use the word very lightly. I suppose I can see the confusion surrounding it though.  My mom always told me that just because I don't find something incredibly stressful (having been through all of the crap I have been through in my life), doesn't mean others feel the same way. It is all subjective. On a scale of 1-10, what is a 2 for me could be someone else's 10.  I suppose it is all a matter of perspective.

     Tell me, are there any words you feel can be used in a subjective way? What do you feel about the word SURVIVOR?

Rewind and Remember

     Sometimes I wish that I would have taken more pictures or videotaped our wedding or walked around with a recorder permanently attached to my hand.  Even better yet, wish I could invent a life remote that would allow me to rewind to the best parts with B and play them over and over again so that I would never have to forget.  Then I think that it would be like a slow form of torture to live in the past like that.  Remembering is okay.  Going through old pictures is okay.  Reminiscing with old friends and family over coffee is okay.  Reliving and rehashing only the good times over and over is not okay.  It leaves you a shell of yourself.
     Sure, there are days when I cry and can't get out of bed. There are days when I wear his favorite sweatshirt and snuggle his pillow and look at his picture and wistfully think about all of the what ifs.  These are the days when having all of those recorded remembrances would come in handy.  These are the days when I know I would watch my wedding video over and over again...fixating on the look on his face when he first saw me, our first kiss as husband and wife, our first dance...all of this special fleeting moments that you take for granted until one day you realize that the rewind in your head is all you have to remember your loved one by.
     So go ahead, rewind and remember. Record your loved ones. Take a million and one pictures. Record your feelings in a journal. Videotape those special moments.

Because, one day when you least expect it, those recorded memories are going to be all you ever have.

Questioning

     I never used to question anything.  I took for granted that I would graduate college, get married, have kids and be happy and content for the rest of my days. 
 
Then life happened. 

    Things didn't quite turn out the way I had planned.  There were struggles and illnesses and money problems.  There was lots of moving around, lots of diagnoses that were not in our favor.  There was death.  Now there is more struggles, but of a different kind. These new struggles lead me to question lots of things.  Who wouldn't question things when life as you know it changes in the blink of an eye?

I questioned my mortality.
I questioned my ability to do things on my own.
I questioned why he had to go and not someone else.
I questioned whether or not his love was my one great love and if I would ever get another.
I questioned why our tragedy didn't mean more to people.
I questioned why I was stuck trying to raise two kids on my own.
I questioned why I was stuck with nothing, cleaning up the mess that he left behind.
I questioned if any of this was all worth it.

     The answers certainly aren't coming easily.  For the most part, the questions are still hanging out there.  Some provoke quite a visceral reaction from me in the form of anger.  Some provoke feelings of intense anxiety.  Still others provoke feelings of anxiety.  Sometimes I wish that a few would get answered so that I would have some feelings of closure.  I'm a year and a half into this journey of the new normal, and still closure is hard to come by.

I wonder if there is a such thing as closure when it comes to this level of grief?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Performing....constantly.

     Shakespeare had it right when he wrote "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players..." I act all the damn time.

I act as if Im ok.
I act as if it doesn't drive me completely nuts that I don't have a partner any more.
I act as if I know what I'm doing when it comes to being a single parent.
I act as if being a single person doesn't bother me.
I act as if I know what I'm doing when it comes to being a middle aged student.
I act as if not having my own space and my own stuff doesn't bother me.
I act as if being left in thousands of dollars in debt is a workable problem.
I act as if I enjoy living this life I was so abruptly thrust into.
I act as if being so fundamentally lonely I cry every day doesn't bother me.
I act as if I am 100% okay with moving forward with my life even though it scares me to death.

     I suppose to one degree or another we are all acting in some form or another.  Putting on the perfect parent front at school functions, the extrovert at parties, the quintessential hostess at family holidays...what are some of the performances you put on daily?

Surely I can't be the only one...


Overthinking

     Part of the reason that I think I feel so alone is that I overthink every little thing.  I text someone and they don't text me back right away, I think that they must be mad at me.  I perceive attitude from everyone, even if it doesn't exist.  I try and try to be a good person, but always think that if people are nice to me then they must have ulterior motives.  It's like I want to get close to people, yet push them away.  I overthink motives, statements, attitudes, delays in response, everything.  It sucks.  I live in this constant state of worry over what other people think.

Do they like me?
Are they blowing me off because I am annoying with my grief?
Why am I there for everyone and no one is there for me?
Are they mad at me?
Why can they say no to me, but when I say no, everyone gets mad?

     I know that these are mostly irrational thoughts and that more often than not, they don't apply, but sometimes I can't help it.  There are only so many times that you can be turned down for plans, or blown off, or not answered before you start to take things personally.  I can be a sensitive girl, even though I may not seem like it all the time.  I might be sarcastic and witty (or at least I think I am) but it is totally a defense mechanism so that you can't see what a mess I really am.
     There's this weird thing that happens when you lose your life partner.  You absolutely CRAVE adult human interaction.  Think about it...how many of you take for granted that you have someone to go home to or that comes home to you at night?  That knows when you've had a bad day and will do something special for you just because? Have someone that will comfort you when you are sick or emotional?  Watch the kids for you for the night so you can go out and do something for you without feeling guilty?  Us widdas don't have that.  So when you are hanging out with someone on the reg and  then....

BAM!!

Late or no returned phone calls, constantly turned down for plans (for whatever reasons, real or made up), we (or at least I) have a tendency to take it to a very weird, overthought place.  So if we (or I) get clingy, standoffish, or just downright bitchy, please excuse me.  My brain has completely gone into overdrive and until I learn how to reign it in I am in for one hell of a ride.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

November 8, 2012

   To me, this date will forever be etched in my memory.  It was the first day since I was 4 years old that B would not be in my life.  He was gone.  9:42 pm my life was forever altered.

I was without a lover.
Without a best friend.
Without a father to my children.
Without my greatest cheerleader.

It's weird what your brain will let you remember about particularly traumatic events.  I remember that I was at my friends' house talking about the kids.  The phone rang and I let it go to voicemail. When I picked up the message it was B's work telling me he was taken to the hospital and it didn't look good. I remember dropping the phone, my friend putting me in the car, and her hauling ass to the hospital.  I remember going to the bad news room.  I remember my dad and step mom being there, my friend being there, and B's dad and brother being there.  I remember the chaplain (sort of). I remember getting the horrible news.  I remember going to see his body (twice).  I remember ripping the coroner's assistant a new one because he made an off color remark.  I remember giving Gift of Life permission to harvest his organs.  Then there is a whole lot of nothing.  I remember posting that he passed away, and making a few phone calls.  I vaguely remember the funeral director telling me that he wouldn't give Brian a traditional funeral because I couldn't afford it.  Then there's nothing again until I got the pictures together for the story boards for the celebration of life.  I remember vaguely people coming to the celebration, and the people that tried to save him giving me a detailed explanation of his last minutes.  Then again, a whole lot of nothing. I don't think I really start to remember anything else until about February of 2013.
     I look at pictures of me in the months following and I look like a shell of myself.  I don't remember any of the holidays that happened in 2012, even with pictures and anecdotes from others.  I  take great interest in stories anyone is willing to tell me about those few months because my brain has literally erased them from my mind.  I always wonder what would happen if this memories were suddenly released.

Would I become catatonic?
Would I cry for days?
Would the pain be so heart crushing that I would literally die of a broken heart?

Sometimes, I wish I could remember.  Then a quick memory will fly up of some time, long ago when we were happy.  A tear steals down my cheek, and I remember why I'm happy that I can't remember.

Musical memories

     Music is the universal language, or so I've been told.  Music has always been soothing for me, from the time I was a very small child.  I associate music with memories, both good and bad.  This can definitely be good, but also potentially problematic.  Just last night I was on a date and a song came on the radio that reminded me of B. A funny memory, but the tears pricked at the corners of my eyes anyway.  I had to look out the window, away from my date, and laugh it off as if he said something REALLY REALLY funny.  Awkward, party of 1? Yeah, that would be me.
     I'm also the girl who will burst out singing along to instrumental music in the elevator, put on really wierd music while I do chores, get lost in a record store (and I mean for HOURS), and can assign a specific memory to every vinyl in my collection.  I define my life periods by music, and some musical memories hit me harder than others.

Our wedding song.
The song that was playing in the car on my way to the hospital to have our first son.
The song that was playing in the car on the way to the hospital to have our second son.
The first song we ever danced to.
The song that was played at the first concert we ever went to together.
Any song by his favorite band.
Any song that is on our road trip play list.
The song that he always said he wanted to have playing at his funeral.
The song that was playing in the car on the way to the hospital when I got the news that B was dying.
The song that my best friend played for me to comfort me when I felt so lost without my soulmate.
The song that I played at his memorial service.

   Any or all of these can bring a smile to my face or bring tears of overwhelming sadness.  There are songs that I listen to now that will make my heart break into a million pieces. Even though he never heard them, and they hold no significance to our relationship, there are lines that just say everything I have been feeling since I was set adrift in this ocean of grief.  It is times like this when I am reminded of some of the best lines written about the torture of pop music:

"What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"
     -Nick Hornby, High Fidelity




Monday, April 14, 2014

Letter to my lost love

My sweetest love,
     I miss you.  I have been thinking about you a lot lately...every song on the radio has a meaning, every time I get in the car and drive past somewhere where we went together I get flashes of happy memories, and my eyes well up with tears. My heart feels like it is breaking every. single. day.  There are so many things going on I'm my life that I want to be able to talk to you about.  School is going awesome and I should graduate next spring.  I wish you were here to guide me on my next steps.  I don't know where to go next, what to specialize in...my mind is going in a million different directions and you were always the one who could help me break it down and decide.  We could have conversations that were never one sided..you never told me what to do, but helped me to make a decision that was best for me. For us. For the family.
     We just passed a year and a half that you've been gone.  I'm no closer to filling the B shaped hole in my heart than I was in the minutes after you passed.  I still get asked how we met and when I relay the roundabout way we wound up together, everyone agrees with me that we had an amazingly great love.  I feel blessed every single second of every single day that we got the time that we did have.  I know that our souls are meant to be together, and one day, they will be.  You're never far away from me...I sometimes hear your laugh when I do something silly or see your mischievous smile on the faces of the boys.
     By the end of the summer I should be in my very own place with the boys.  They are excited about it.  Especially Derek.  You would be so proud of him and the man he is becoming.  We are still having a little bit of trouble with school, but I went all mama bear on some administrators today, so that should get fixed right away.  He just started baseball, and has been practicing so hard.  His coaches are great, and are encouraging him to practice switch hitting.  The kids are encouraging, and his self confidence is improving with every practice.  I wish you were here to help teach him mechanics...I am doing my best, but I don't really think it is the same.  I see the look on his face when he sees the other kids playing catch with their dads, and I wish I could fix that hurt for him.  He doesn't really talk about it, but I know it gets to him.  He is already signed up for summer camp with scouts, and is signing up for Y camp for two weeks as well.  He was talking about going to art camp also...he really has his heart set on keeping himself busy this summer.  He talks about you fondly, and often.  Now his questions are more along the lines of what you liked and if he likes the same things that you liked.  What position you played when you played baseball. What position you played when you played football. What kind of video games you liked to play. What you liked to draw, what your favorite food was, what you were like when you were his age...the questions are fun to answer, yet heart wrenching.
     Logan is becoming quite challenging.  He is 100% boy...filthy and busy and mischievous and loud.    He is doing great in school!  The other day he decided he was going to color you a picture and he wrote his name on it...I keep it with my school stuff and when we come and visit your place, I was going to send it up for you.  Logan dreams about you ALL THE TIME.  He will wake up and run into  my room and tell me all about how he was flying with you and you said hi and that you loved him and you took a rocket ship up to the sky together.  And that you tell him to tell Derek and I that you love us.  I know he won't remember these dreams, but I know that right now, they mean the world to him.  He goes through all of our pictures from the wedding telling me how beautiful I am and points you out in every single picture.  Every picture we have of you around the house he points you out by name in.  I wish you would have had more time to be able to spend with him...he is turning in to quite the amazing little man. He is so excited about being old enough to play sports this year! He is going to miss baseball because of vacation but is already talking about soccer and football. I sure as heck hope I can keep up.  His energy is super taxing, but also contagious.  It breaks my heart knowing that you are not here to be able to experience all of his milestones with me.
     You were such a big part of our lives and now even though it might not look like it from the outside, it affects us.  It affects the way we all socialize, the way all function together as a family unit,  the way we interact with other families.  I try to talk to other complete families, but it doesn't work.  I get shy, and I hate explaining and apologizing for our situation.  I won't go to parties where there will be mostly couples or couples with their kids.  I try to keep my head up during mother's day and father's day, but my heart just isn't in it any more.  My world just isn't as bright without you in it.  My dreams have lost their luster, my sun has lost it's shine, my rose-colored glasses are a little less rosy.  You were my perfect balance; the dark to my light, the quiet to my loud, and the calm to my crazy. I'm a better person for you having loved me, and the mark you made on my heart will last forever.

I love you always and all ways, my sweet; without wax.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kids are okay...

     Kids. I always wanted them. Always wanted to me a mom.  I always wanted two, girls, boys, mix of the two, it didn't matter.  When B and I got together, I knew that he was the man that I wanted to be the father of my kids.  We had the same parenting ideals, wanted the same number of kids, wanted to start a family right away. He was such a gentle soul and an amazing father. My oldest got to have 10 amazing years with him, the youngest only 3. Every day I look at them and wonder what their lives are like now without a dad.

Does it bother them that he isn't here to teach them things?
Does it hurt them that they only have one parent and not two?
What are the things that dads teach their sons when their moms aren't around?
How will I teach them how to shave?
How will I teach them how to tie a tie?
How will I teach them how to be men?

Apparently, though, the kids are adjusting quite well. The oldest has peer groups at school.  Going to school dances. Playing baseball.  Doing extra curricular activities. Getting good grades. Going on overnight hiking and camping trips with his friends and fellow boy scouts.  Going rock climbing with friends from school.  Picking dates that he wants to go away to camp.  Smiling and laughing and only talking about his dad is positive remembering ways, not sad ones.  The little one is eagerly awaiting his summer vacation with his grandparents. Playing baseball in the yard with his big brother.  Learning how to read and write his name.  Getting excited to be able to play team sports for the first time.  Making friends at school.  Getting invited to birthday parties.

I've been told that kids are remarkably resilient.  I sure hope so.  If my kids can go through something like this and come out of it fairly unscathed, then I would say that it is the best kind of resilient in the WORLD.


Jealosy

    Jealousy has a way of worming itself into my life no matter how hard I try to keep it out. Broken down most simply: I am jealous of those who have a partner to go home to. Jealous of all the advantages that go along with having a life partner. Jealous of the things that partnered people get to experience every day without even giving it a second thought.

The comfort in making their favorite meal.
Their smell when they get out of the shower.
Coming home from a particularly harsh day at work to your favorite ice cream in the freezer.
The butterflies you still get in the pit of your stomach when they kiss you, no matter how many years it has been.
Getting a text or a phone call at lunch just to check in and say hi.
Having someone else to help with errands and activities and housework.
The completely relaxed feeling you get when you are snuggled up watching a movie together on the couch while the kids are sleeping.
Date nights.

 I don't particularly like that jealousy has gotten into my life this way. It is eating away little bits of my personality. Making me bitter. Making me snippy. Dulling the sheen on my rose-colored glasses outlook on life.

I want the green eyed monster to go back to the cave from whence he came and stop torturing me.

Insomnia sucks!

     I could say insomnia is my new best friend. If that were the truth. I get where people would think that it isn't really that bad, it allows you to get things done that you normally wouldn't have the time to do, etc. they would be right. For the first night. Then comes day two. And day three. After the third day of barely sleeping, one ceases to function during the day too.

You can't remember things. You forget important things like a test, or your son's karate class.

Your room/house is a mess because you are taking what little energy you have left to make it through waking hours to do the things that you can, with the least amount of energy that you can, and that definitely does not include cleaning.

Eating? Yup, cross that one off the list too. When you can't sleep your appetite goes out the window, which then gives you no energy to get through the day - a horrid, vicious little cycle.

Conversations with other people dwindle down to nothing because nothing makes sense. You don't focus enough to listen well, and then when you do formulate an answer in your foggy brain, it usually comes out jumbled.  I've re-read texts I've sent while exhausted and they are not a pretty sight.

     Inevitably, someone will recommend sleeping pills. Which sound like a great solution. Except that they are not. At least not for me.  I find sleeping pill sleep to be not all that restful and rejuvenating. It is like someone turns of a switch and then 10 hours later turns it back on. There is a lot of fogginess and confusion upon waking up, and I am still sluggish during the day. Not to mention the addiction issues.

     Other home remedies are hilarious too...
Tea.
Warm milk.
Meditation.
Reading a book.
Watching a long, boring movie.
Counting backwards from 100. Or 200.

     Finally, maybe around the fourth day of subsisting on MAYBE two to three hours of sleep a night, you collapse at 6pm from sheer exhaustion. Only to wake up at 2 am. After all, you have already been sleeping for 8 hours!! And so the cycle begins again.....

No wonder they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Half-life

     There are days when widowhood feels something like a half-life.  You're going along in your perfectly full life, with a whole family and a happy home and your cute little shared space, content and blissfully unaware of what it would be like if all of a sudden it wasn't there anymore.

And then is isn't.

You become a half.  The left over half.  The left behind half.  The half that will always be missing a piece and will never quite be whole again.  The half that now has all the responsibility of a whole, only with half the will to do it. Half the time to do it. Half the skill set to do it.

I'm  hoping that this half-life, like most other things with a half-life, will reduce into nothing.  My half-life will fade away, being replaced by a full life.  A life where I took the responsibility of raising two impressionable young boys all on my own and they turn out okay.  A life where I graduate from school and do everything with my newfound knowledge that I have ever wanted to do.  A life where I find the time to do everything I have to do and still have the time to do what I want to do.  A life where I find that other half that doesn't fit perfectly, but fits right enough that you can hardly see the cracks. Maybe not a full life, but most certainly a 9/10 life.

That would certainly be better than the half I'm living in right now.






Getting On With It

Getting on with it....this statement can have both positive and negative connotations.  I think the way I look at it depends on the mood I am in for the day.

Positive...I've woken up. I've taken a shower. I actually managed to get dressed and take on the day.  I realized today that yesterday was a year and a half since B was gone and it didn't really affect me in the way that I thought it would.  There was no ridiculous countdown clock blinking in my head like I thought there would be.  Things went on just as normal. Life (and I with it) were getting on with things.  School, homework, activities, dinner, family time, bed time. Same stuff, different day.

Negative...I don't want to get up.  I didn't sleep well.  Bad dreams.  Anxiety at a new high.  Im not showering today.  I'm not going to school today.  I heard today that someone told another one on my widda brothers/sisters that they should get on with it. Start dating.  Get past it.  When are people going to realize that there is not getting past it.  You might have gotten past it, but we haven't. Your life goes on, ours stops. Obliterated by a train that apparently destroyed our lives and kept right on trucking.

Getting on with it happens at different paces with different people.  For some it happens right away.  They find a new relationship, new meaning for life, new purpose.  For some, it takes a little longer.  They are wary of new relationships, finding instead different avenues to getting on like going back to school, or getting super involved with a new job, or kids, or fur kids, anything that absorbs the loneliness.  For the rest, they aren't quite there yet.  There isn't any getting on with it right now.  The grief is too rough, too raw, to dreadfully painful to even breathe, let alone get on with life.
Give it a minute.

You too, will get on with it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Friends and family

     The kids and I were lucky enough to have a wonderful support network of friends and family as we started on this crazy new life.  My mom and stepdad were gracious enough to let us move into their home on a full time basis so I didn't have to be alone. Very good friends of ours let us stay at their house every weekend so I had some social interaction.  One of my best friends convinced me to go back to school and helped me to find my path there.  My dad and stepmom take the kids on vacation and give me some breathing space.  My in laws help me discuss boy things with the kids that I wouldn't even begin to have a clue about.
     In this support system, I am truly lucky. It is nice when I am having a particularly rough day to be able to grab a cup of coffee with a friend and just chat. Or know that when I need help because I have over scheduled or run into a snag with school and kiddo activities that I have people who will help me out. To all of the people that have been there for us over the last year and a half ....I thank you. From the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul, I thank you.  There is no way I could have gotten through any of this, let alone be going back to school and doing as well as I am and keeping the boys in a relatively active lifestyle without you.

XOXO

     Moral of the story.....if you know someone who is struggling (it doesn't even have to be with a loss), reach out. You never know when that smile or cup of coffee or simple "are you ok" will make a difference.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Everything in excess

      One interesting thing I have discovered about myself now that I am navigating this interesting new life I have is that I do everything to much more excess than I ever did before.  This is both a huge positive and a huge negative.

I latch on to friendships much more fiercely. 
I obsess about trivial things to the point where they induce so much anxiety in me that I cannot sleep. I go out too much for a month, then I will hibernate in my room for a month.
I will go days without communicating with anyone, then it will be all anyone can do to get me to shut up. 
I make mountains out of molehills.
I talk too loud and drink too much. 
I binge eat.
I work out in obsessive fits and starts.
I have a lot of first dates, not a lot of second dates.
I emotionally latch on to people that should just be casual acquaintances and push away people that should be lifelong friends.
I am too cavalier with who I share myself with.
I forget that not all people who smile at you are your friends.
I look for the good in people, sometimes making it up when I can't find any, just to not have to remove the person from my life.
I'm so obsessed with maintaining a perfect GPA that anything less than an A puts me in the foulest mood imaginable.

The word moderation isn't even in my vocabulary anymore. 


Death vs. Divorce

I know this may ruffle some feathers out there, but if feel it needs to be discussed. What I see as a common theme in many of my widow support groups is the comparison thing. It is like the "keeping up with the Jones's" of grief.  I know that it is the non bereaved trying to comfort those of us who have lost the loves of our lives by trying to be empathetic, but trust me when I say it is SOOOO very different. Yes, loss is loss, but to those of us who have lost a spouse, it feels less like empathy and more like the trivialization of the worst thing that has ever happened to us.
     I do have a fairly personal angle that I can bring to this.  I have now experienced the loss of a spouse twice, once to divorce, and once to death.  My divorce was not particularly acrimonious, but I did lose a best friend.

A confidante.
A partner in crime.
A travel companion.
A person who, despite all of my flaws, loved me.

     When it was over we didn't speak, and I nursed a broken heart for a while, but I knew, deep down, he was still out there somewhere. That maybe, someday, we would be able to see each other again.  We would be able to speak again.  We would be able to share a beer, share a laugh, share a wink and a smile, hell, maybe even share a bed. It's a loss, but certainly not a permanent one.

     The death of B was also not particularly dramatic. He went to work, and never came home.  I lost a best friend.

A soulmate.
A cuddle buddy.
A fantastic father of two very impressionable young boys.
A person who, despite all of my flaws, loved me with his dying breath.

      When it was over, I felt like someone had amputated a part of my soul.  I knew, deep down that he just would never walk through the door again.  No matter how hard I wished, my someday life with him wasn't going to happen.  We wouldn't ever speak again.  We would never again share a beer, a laugh or a bed ever again. It was most definitely a loss. A VERY permanent one.

     So, to offer a small bit of advice when you are in the presence of a person who has truly lost their soulmate in that very permanent death kind of way....don't compare. Be supportive, listen, agree that it really truly sucks, and offer a comforting ear.




Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-CHANGES

Change can be fun. Change can be different. Change can shake up your world like nobody's business. Some people embrace chance, some people begrudgingly accept change as a necessary part of life, and some people shy away from change as if it was the plague.  Me, I used to avoid change as if my life depended on it.

Cancel plans?
 I wouldn't talk to you for a week.

Move the due date for an assignment?
I'd usually turn it in on the previously agreed upon time.

Flight delay and/or traffic that causes me to be late?
I would be a crab for the rest of the day.

Then my whole world got turned upside down in the blink of an eye.  I still have my moments, but I have grown to accept change as a necessary part of my every day.  Don't get me wrong, there are still days when a canceled date or late appointment or traffic jam will make me crazy, but those days are fewer and farther apart.  I've come to realize that life is too short to sweat the small stuff, because sometimes, with a moment's notice, everything is different.

You're alone.
You're a single parent.
You're a widow.
You're no longer living in your own space with your own things.
You're wondering what happens next.

Sometimes, change is for the better. Sometimes, it's not.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Backsliding

The worst part of this journey had to be the fact that it doesn't travel in a straight line. You go forwards, backwards, sideways, upside down, inside out, and around in circles.  You are working on your grief, going to therapy, dating, participating in events, going out alone to movies and dinner, then

BAM!
WHACK!
NINJA GRIEF ATTACK!!

You wake up in tears with no explanation.  You realize you haven't showered in days, the kids have been eating instant mac and cheese or chef boyardee out of a can for dinner, and you haven't written or texted or really talked to anyone.  You can't listen to the radio or watch a tv show or drive anywhere  because your anxiety is overwhelming.

Your sadness is overwhelming.
Your grief is overwhelming.

You could be one day, one week, one month, one year, one decade out and there is still backsliding.  There is always that feeling of one step forward, two steps back.  What's worse is that once the backsliding starts it is really really hard to make it stop on its own.  You try to turn to friends and family but they have already heard your complaints a million times and you don't want to burden them with any more of your stuff. You practice self care like your therapist tells you to.  Nothing seems to work.

Then the tears seem to dry up.
Your heart hardens a little.
You get in the shower.
You get out of bed and make dinner.
You take one more step forward waiting for the next inevitable backslide, hoping it will be a while.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Adventures in Widowhood

Ahhh....April 1st is here!

I would say that young widowhood has definitely been an adventure for me.  An adventure that I very unwillingly went on.  I wish I could say I never started out on this adventure, but at times I am glad that I did.  It has showed me so many things about myself that I never thought possible.

How "strong" I am.
How much I can actually do on my own.
How much stress I can actually handle.
How far I can actually be pushed before I break.
How much regret I can actually live with every single day.

It is an adventure being an unexpected single mom.  One day you wake up married with a partner who can help you with getting the kids from place to place, help with homework, go on boys-only scout outings, and by the end of that day you are handling it all by yourself.  I have become a master scheduler.  Between boy scouts, karate, baseball, after school activities, my school, therapy, and attempting to have a social life, it is a wonder I actually have time to sleep.

It is an adventure trying to move forward. Every day I am confronted with the option to move away from my life as someone's partner and go towards forging my own path.  I am doing amazing at school, which was something I never felt supported enough to do.  I am doing amazing in being able to support myself, live on a budget, saving for my someday house, and still have enough to splurge on something every once and a while if I want.  I am doing amazing at going out and meeting new people without the need of a safety net.  When I take a step back and read these words as they are written, I realize that I do really accomplish more than I give myself credit for!

It is an adventure trying not to let the "what ifs" consume me.  What if his nitro would have been readily available?  What if he never would have gotten sick?  What if we would have been together?  What if he would have spent his last day with the kids like he was supposed to?  What if we wouldn't have fought the night before?  What if I would have been more vigilant about making sure he took care of himself the way he was supposed to?  These are the questions that run around freely in my brain all the time, and so far no amount of socializing, therapy, friends or family have been able to make them stop.  As time goes on they have gone from a roar to a whisper, but they are still there.

It is with thoughts like this that I am often reminded of B's favorite quote from Peter Pan:  "To die will be an awfully big adventure."

I hope you are truly having an amazing adventure, love, wherever you are.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bitter and Jaded

     I think that there are times in everyone's life where they can look back and say "Yup, that's where life broke me".  Some of us are lucky enough to experience this only once, get up, brush it off, and continue on; none the worse for wear.  I however am finding it harder and harder to get up. I swear..I think Karma has me singled out to make me her bitch.

There is just not much more this girl can take!!

   B always told me that I saw the world through rose colored glasses. I do. Or at least I did. I look for the good in everyone and everything, sometimes blind to what it is doing to me as a person until much much later.  I have become much less happy go lucky since B died. My bullshit meter is always on high alert.  I have all of these negative emotions that I never really had before.

I'm bitter about being ignored.
I'm too jaded to form new relationships because I know, inevitably, they will end, so what's the point?
I'm angry that my tragedy got lost in the shuffle.
I'm sad that no matter how many times I wish that this is all untrue, it's not.
I'm annoyed that we will never get to resolve our last argument.
I'm heartbroken that my boys will grow up without the experience of having such an amazing father.
I'm devastated that we never got to say "I love you" one last time.

Negativity is not a good head space to be in. On the flip side, super positivity never got me very far either.  Is there middle ground somewhere? A place where I can have good days and bad days and not feel bad about either one? A place where I can find that balance that B brought to me?

I sure as hell hope so.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Paralyzed

    Ever have one of those days when you couldn't leave your bed? Today was one of those days for me.  My anxious brain has kept me paralyzed for the last few weeks. Paralyzed from being able to get up and participate in life.

In my kids' lives.
In school.
In writing.
In anything, really.

 These are the days when I miss B the most. He used to get me out of my head, into the shower, even sometimes out into the real world. I might not have been able to stay that long, but he made me do it. On the days where he couldn't help, he would just crawl into bed with me and stay there. We didn't have to talk about anything. He didn't harp on me, he didn't say mean things to guilt me into pretending to feel better. He would disappear and come back with a pint of my favorite ice cream and two spoons. He would just let me lay there and cry and snuggle into my "nook"in his arm until I could move again.
   Now, all I have is some pillows. It is so very much not the same thing. There is no one to stroke my hair to get me to calm down and tell me that it is going to be ok. No big strong man arms to hold the weird world at bay. No one to walk through my worries with me and point out how we could fix them together. No one to just hug me and whisper that this too shall pass.

I do the therapy thing.
I try to do the friend thing.
I would do a support thing but there aren't any.

     There is a difference between the obsessive thoughts in your own head and trying to share them with other people. Especially other people who haven't walked your path.  When they are in your head and you are rolling over and over them, all the what ifs, every possible catastrophic outcome rears it's ugly head.  When you try to share them, you feel like you sound ridiculous. You realize you have complained about this same thing to these same friends a million times. Then you realize that maybe your incessant need for support is draining on everyone around you. Then you wonder why you are just realizing this now.  Then you wonder why you bothered to try to share them at all. Then you wind up back in your own head.  It is this horrible cycle of badness. Learning how to break this cycle by myself without my biggest supporter just isn't cutting it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Caution: filter missing

     I've never been once to mince words. Many, many who know me know I am quick of wit and sharp of tongue. I'm seriously thinking about getting a tattoo on my forehead that says "caution: missing filter. Engage in conversation at your own risk". How many of you have ever said you'd rather kill yourself than deal with another snow day? Did people rip you a new one or judge you because you are being offensive to those who have lost someone to suicide? What about being so angry you said you wanted to kill someone? Did the police break down your door and arrest you?

Probably not.

     I don't say things with excessive vitriol. What I will do is be honest. Sometimes brutally so. Not that this is an excuse, but if you don't want to hear my honest answer to a question, don't ask. I find that this is happening a lot more since B died. Yeah, I say died.

Not passed away.
Not in a better place.
Not gone.
Died.

     I've been told that my honesty is a rather jarring concept. Everyone is so PC about death and things that we don't like to confront, even when it is right in our faces. My view is that life is too damn short to not say what you think or feel. You never know when the time you talk to someone will be the last time. I relive my last conversations with B in my head all the time. It never brings me comfort. There are always things I wish I could have said.

I didn't mean it.
I can't wait to see you.
I wish you were here.
I love you.
I'm sorry.

Always be honest. In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss:  "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind".