It’s hitting again…

It’s been more than three years since I lost my husband. And I’m still not past the late nights driving around sobbing and angry and wishing I could understand. Understand why daughter doesn’t have a daddy. Understand why the other moms at the splash park get to have their afternoons chasing around their little ones with their husbands… when my daughter will never know what it’s like to have a daddy… or know her daddy at all!

The thing is this… life is not fair. They like to say no one says life is fair. Well, I don’t think it’s as easy as that. Because life is not fair… but fair was never a factor. It’s never been a thing that was weighed into some equation of life.

Truthfully… I’m at the point in life now that I’m ok. And I hate that I’m ok. I’m pissed that I’m ok. And I’m not ok about being ok. I don’t want to be ok… because I fucking miss him. I miss him so much. I don’t think I want to be ok right now. And in this moment, and in the last number of weeks, I haven’t been ok. But I think that’s because I’m ok and I’m pissed about it. What would have been our 6th anniversary hit me hard. It was the 4th that I spent alone and I still feel so robbed. I never got the opportunity to live my life with him. We got long enough to have our daughter and start trying for our second. That’s it. I want the family that I never got to build. My daughter is my everything and my god do I love her. I just want more. I want the life I was supposed to have with him.

I hate this. This is too hard. This hurts. This is breaking me again. I know I can do this because I will do this… but I can’t do this. It’s just too hard. It hurts too much.

I need sleep.

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A Widow’s New Year 2018

I’m tired. I’m sort of broken. It’s New Year’s Eve and my young daughter is asleep in my bed. I am a widow. I am a mother. I am so many things that hurt.

I am 32 years old… and I have been a widow now for longer than I was a wife. In the time that I was married, though, I lived more than I have lived outside of my married years (which were less than three). I got married to my best friend and the man I would have laid my life down for. I gave him my left kidney. And if I could give him my right, I would. He gave me a daughter who has given me reason and purpose… she is my everything. In those (almost) three years of marriage, we had it all.

We have just entered 2018 and here is my new years resolution: to be happy for the life I live. I have been grateful for my life since I lost my husband. Everything he left me with is more than I would have ever had if I had not met him. But I want more than gratitude. I want to look at the sum of my life and be happy that I am me. I want to look at myself and think “Yes! That is the life a person would want”.

But I am a widow. That is not the life a person would want. That is the life a person gets stuck with when life’s plans fail.

So here I am on New Year’s Eve. Living a failed life. But it’s not a failed life. My daughter is my gift. He gave her to me about a year before he died. He helped me raise her in the hardest times. I think he stayed long enough to make sure that I learned that I could do this on my own. I think he stayed long enough to make sure she would have a safe and secure home. I think he stayed long enough to make sure that I knew that I would always have the support that I need. And I do, I have that.

Tonight is a difficult night. Tonight has been an angry night for me twice over. I learned of an old college friend who has just had twins a few weeks ago. The decent person in me says good for her. Hip Hip Hooray. But the faulty human in me says “fuck you!”. I’ve also learned another friend of mine is pregnant. Again. I found out she was pregnant with her first child after my husband died. Now she’s pregnant with her third. I love her and I want her to be so happy. And I want all the best for this child. But I can’t help but feel a huge “FUCK YOU!” come over me.

I am grateful to have my daughter. She is a wonderful little girl. She’s about to turn 4 this month! But I wanted more. I wanted a whole litter of children. I got one. I wouldn’t give her up to save the world… she is my angel. But I’m angry.

I just hit this milestone. At 32 I have been a widow for longer than I was a wife. This isn’t OK. It isn’t right. But it is what it is. Look at what I have… I have an angel. I have an angel who believes her daddy creates the sunsets and fixes and returns lost/broken toys. I have a sweet little girl who believes her daddy does things that mortal daddies can’t do. And she believes these things because she has never known her own daddy. She was 13 months old when he left us.

I am heartbroken this winter season. But I still talk to the moon. I still look at my daughter in awe and disbelief because her belief in her daddy never ceases to amaze me. I still love my husband the way a wife should. He is mine and I am his. This is the way it is. This is the way it should be.

Here’s to the end of 2017 and May the new year bring new peace and love into the lives of those who need it. Happy New Year.

I Am A Widow, I Am Still Healing

The journey through grief is a wild ride. It ranges from the most brutal and treacherous blows that life has to offer to the most beautiful of moments. And in between you even get the full spectrum of mundane. It’s strange to say it, but it’s a gift to finally get to the point of healing when you start experiencing the mundane. Mundane is what the newly bereaved ache for. They cry out wishing for the mundane parts of life back, wishing for the chance to have that one last argument, or that Friday night doing the dishes and folding laundry and bickering about the right way to fold the clothes. 

I am a widow of two years and 8 months. And in December will come the moment that I will have been widowed longer than I was married. I do not look forward to that day. That day hurts me already. It’s not fair. I find myself thinking that it shouldn’t have been him. I am hurt when I watch the news and hear about the despicable acts of someone who lived long enough to steal away loved ones from countless of people. I get angry because I don’t understand why that person got to live when my husband had to die. I find myself thinking why him, why not me… I start to feel as though he could have contributed to this world so much more than I ever could. I wonder what the hell am I doing here

I recently made a life change that has been very hard for me to adjust to. Why has it been so hard? Honestly, I’m still working on that. Without my therapist it’s so much harder to work through things than it was with him. My therapist saved my life in ways. Not literally. I was not on the brink. But because of him, I became whole again. Because of him, I had unconditional, honest, compassionate support and that allowed me to heal. That allowed me to find myself. That allowed me to learn to look deeply within myself and dissect who I think I am so that I could find myself. I have moved and no longer have him to walk with me through my life, my grief, my growth. I miss him.

I am a widow of two years and eight months… and the pain doesn’t go away. It is not paralyzing anymore, and for that I am grateful. It is not agonizing… most of the time. But it is in my bones, in my veins. I am a widow and this is part of my identity. It is not all of who I am, or even the most prominant part of me. I am a mother, that is the most important part of who I am. But I am a widow and, to me, that is as much a part of me as being a wife was when my husband was alive. 

But what I am above all else is a mom. And the only real piece I have left of my husband is my daughter. She’s three and a half. She’s amazing. The bond I have with that little girl is stronger than it ever would have been if he hadn’t died so suddenly the way he did. That is not a silver lining, by no means is that some silver lining that makes this terrible loss ok, but rather I feel like it is the universe balancing things out. We no longer have him, so to each other we are everything. 

I miss my husband so much. He is still part of my life and part of me, that will not change. I find myself getting angry because it is not fair that I don’t have him with me. It is not fair that he left. I get angry with him sometimes because he left. And I know he didn’t choose this, his body simply quit. It betrayed him. It betrayed me. I counted on him. I loved him. I still need him. I miss him. And I love him so so much, and always will. So why did I draw the short straw here? What did I do? What did he do? I, to my knowlege, never did anything to anyone to justify this! So WHY

It can be so hard to process everything. And as a widow, life is not the same as it is for everyone else. For everyone else, emotions seem to be tied to the current events of their lives. For a widow, it’s so much more complicated than that. And I know that all of these questions I find myself asking are unfair to me, because the answer is that I didn’t do anything to call this upon myself and neither did my husband. This is just a thing that happened. That’s all it is. And it just so happens that this thing that happened, happened to him. Happened to everyone who loved him. That is the truth. But I can’t help but ask. I can’t help but feel. I can’t help but die a little inside, because it is hurting again. And I hope to get relief soon. But it hurts. 

Two Practices That Helped Me Survive My Grief

There are two separate but related, and equally important, practices that have helped me through my grief journey. At the beginning of loss, you are simply trying to survive. You struggle to keep your head above water and try not to drown. But eventually you will have to learn how to live again. These two practices have helped me move from survival to living.

Gratitude

When I lost my husband, the earth collapsed and I shattered. Time stood still. Everything was wrong and nothing was right. I wanted to go with him, and it felt so unfair to know that I couldn’t. I didn’t know how I was ever going to make it through this new life of sorrow and pain, but I knew one thing – I knew how grateful I was, and always will be, to have had him in my life. We never even made it to our third wedding anniversary. I had him for such a small amount of time and it wasn’t enough! That small amount of time wasn’t enough time for us, and yet it was. Because he changed me. I lived so much life in that small amount of time, and in that time I felt so much love. It was enough to last through his death and through my life. For that I will always be grateful.

I am now living the life of a widowed parent, a life I never wanted for myself, yet here we are. It would be easy to spend my days frustrated and bitter about never having a break or the chance to get proper sleep, about the messy house I have neither the time nor the will to deal with appropriately, or about the inevitable loneliness that sneaks up on me when I’m exhausted from life. And then, of course, there’s the parenting… alone. Everything about parenting alone is hard. Now pile that on top of the grief and what you are left with is a mess. Frustration, anger, and bitterness are easy to fall back on, but they don’t help you. They don’t make life easier, they just making living harder. I have my days when I fall into the trap of self-pity and focusing on what I lost, but I try to keep those days few and far between. Instead, I try to focus on all that I have and who I am – an imperfect mess who tries hard and falls a lot but, despite the fear and exhaustion, tries again anyway. Because I had him, I have an amazing little girl who reminds me not of what I lost, but of who I was blessed to have had. And because I have her, I will always have a piece of him here with me. Every day I remind myself how grateful I am to have known him, and to have had the chance to share that part of my life with him. He is now part of my story, and even death cannot steal that away.

Leaning Into Pain

Because of my writings, many people have commented on my strength. But I am not always so strong, and I certainly don’t often feel that strong. No one can be strong all the time. I believe it is important to allow yourself time to break under the weight of your grief. The idea that we need to suck it up and deal with the pain by pushing it down and hoping it will go away, or by simply pretending it isn’t there, is not only detrimental to our mental health, it’s a lie. Losing a loved one can be deeply devastating to our lives and to our own sense of self and belonging. Instead, you need to bring this pain into the light, acknowledge it, feel it, let it devastate and break you. You cannot tend to a wound you won’t acknowledge. I think of the pain as a black hole in the center of my life. I could keep walking around the hole, avoiding it, but it wouldn’t make it any less there. So, I took the advice of someone who had faced grief long before I did and I leaned into it. I leaned into the pain I felt every overwhelming, mind numbing, piercing bit of it. At first, I did this every night after I put my daughter to bed. I would put on music that made me cry and I would sit on the floor and talk to Matt and cry. I would cry so many tears that I stopped bothering to dry them up with tissues, I wanted them to fall as far as they could fall. 

No matter how you do it, you need to reach into the part of you that is dying and give it a voice. Give your pain a voice. Let it speak those terrible words and feel those awful truths, because they are your truth. The overwhelming brokenness and the feeling that you are drowning in grief, those feelings are real. This is not permanent, but it is real now. And to get past it and away from this terrible truth means giving it a voice, leaning in, and then being able to stand tall in your gratitude for having had something that is this hard to lose.

Once Upon A Time: A Widow’s Tale

Once upon a time, there lived a young woman who lived an ordinary life. She was married to a man whom she loved with all of her heart. Her husband was ill and in need of a new kidney so she gave him one of hers, and he became healthy again, and so he gave her a daughter. They were happy living their ordinary lives, planning their ordinary plans, and dreaming their ordinary dreams. Man, woman, and baby.

And then one day, everything changed. 

On an ordinary day he would have come home, but this day wasn’t ordinary. On this day, she didn’t see his car pull into the driveway; instead she watched red and blue flashing lights draw near. It was that moment when their ordinary dreams died, because it was then that she knew that he wasn’t coming home.

It turns out that ordinary so often goes unappreciated, unwanted, undesired. No news is good news, they say. If only we took more time to appreciate the lack of news on those ordinary days. 

Life became different for her and that baby. Each day was filled with pain and sorrow. The grief took over everything and instead of living an ordinary life, her life became something else. In the beginning she felt as though her ordinary life had been stolen and in its place she was left with a tragic one. This tragic life of a widow with a baby. This new life where tears, sorrow, and loneliness were everything she had to look forward to.

But, as it turned out, this wasn’t so.

It took time but she learned that her story wasn’t over, it was just beginning. The little baby he left her with became her everything and she would do anything to make sure they both lived to make him proud. She found the strength inside herself to ensure that his death would not become bigger than his life, she loved him too much to allow that. So she decided that, in order to survive his death, she would have to raise that little girl in a way that would make him proud. She would need to be the kind of mom a young woman can look back on and be proud to call Mom. She needed to be the person he saw her to be.

I would love to tell you that her ending was a storybook ending fit for a princess, but I do not yet know how her story ends, and I doubt it would be the perfect fairytale ending because this story is a true one. What I can tell you is that she is happy. What it means to be happy has changed, though. She cries every day. She is sad every day. Her heart breaks once again every morning when she wakes up. But she is grateful every day, and she loves her life every day because she has her baby. And because she once had him. 

How lucky she is to have had him, even if just for a little while.

Sometimes life is what you make of it, but sometimes life just happens to you and there’s nothing you can do about it. So you learn to roll with the punches. I’ve heard that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it. So take it from this young widow raising a fatherless child… whatever you are going through, you can do this. You will be alright. And if you’re not alright now, that’s ok. It’s ok to break – sometimes its necessary – but its always ok. Life can expect too much of you, it can give you more than you can handle, and you might break. 

So you break. 

You take the time you need to be broken and shattered, but then you stand. You get back up and you start moving again. You don’t stop, you don’t give up. You never give up. Because beyond the pain, beyond the rocks at the bottom, beyond the endless days and sleepless nights, there is a world that is waiting for you. It is often the broken people who are the most beautiful, so you are worth the wait. 

To The Ones Who Supported Me Through My Grief

To the ones who held space for me and supported me in the midst of my grief:

You appreciate my patience and understanding, and my willingness to be flexible. But it was you who taught me how to support you in these ways. And every opportunity that I get to support you, I am grateful to you for it. 

When my world fell apart, you were there. Every moment that I needed you, you were always there. You called me just to let me talk, just to listen. You asked nothing of me in return. My life had collapsed and I was in crisis, and while the rest of the world tried to fix me with bandaids, you helped me to heal. Your phone calls and messages just to ask me how I am, just to give me a chance to open the valves and release the pain that continued to build up in my heart,  showed me that I’m not alone. And despite the overwhelming loneliness, I knew that you were always there, and that I wasn’t alone.

You accepted my pain. While most people became uncomfortable with my pain, you accepted it as just another part of me, a part of me that needed to be tended to and acknowledged, yet was often ignored. Others would pretend it didn’t exist. They would avoid me because my pain was the elephant no one wanted in the room. I know they talked about me. Poor Becky. I can’t imagine what she’s going through. I don’t know what I would do if it was me. Just awful. I know they talked about me because they cared. And I know they thought about me because they cared. They wished it wasn’t so, they wished they could help. And they likely would have helped if they knew how. They didn’t know how, but you did.

I can point to exactly what you did for me. You called. You asked me how I was, and when I gave you the bullshit answer you asked again, and I opened up. I poured my heart out to you. I cried, I yelled, I laughed, I smiled, I died inside… and you asked nothing of me in return. And for a long time, I gave you nothing in return because I had nothing to give. You allowed me to be selfish and take up your time and your emotional energy. You took the weight of my pain upon yourself with your compassion and love and you beared the weight of it so that I could take some of it off my shoulders. You breathed in my pain so that I could breathe in a little bit of relief.

You didn’t need to do the things you did, but you did them anyway. You didn’t need to hold that kind of space for me, but you held it anyway. You didn’t need to ease my pain by carrying some of it yourself, but you did it anyway. Your compassion, your kindness, your love – these things changed me. You taught me compassion. You taught me the value of just being there, even if just in silence. You taught me that sometimes the most healing thing a person can do is not to fix, but just to accept the broken pieces for what they are, and to know that it’s ok to be broken. 

What you have done for me means more than you will ever know. Thank You.

A Widow’s Anniversary Tribute

This weekend we were supposed to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. We should have hired the babysitter and gone out to dinner, played mini golf, exchanged corny anniversary cards, then gone back home after the little one was down and celebrated on our own. 

We should have done that, but we didn’t because my husband died in February two years ago. It was sudden. His heart gave out behind the wheel, he passed out, and he never woke up again. Two days ago I celebrated our anniversary alone for the third time, and I have now celebrated more anniversaries without him than I did with him. 

I was 29 years old then. I’m now 31. I have had just over two years to process my husband’s death and one thing I have learned is that why is an unanswerable question, but I still ask it. I’ve learned that I can raise my little girl on my own, but I still wonder how am I ever going to do this? I’ve learned that I am strong enough to make it through this and be better for all that I’ve gone through, but in order to be that strong I have to let myself be weak when I can’t stay strong anymore.

Losing my husband meant also losing a part of me. I lost the part of me that cared too much about what other people thought of me, and not enough about what I thought of myself. I lost the part of me that tried so hard to become the person I wanted to be by trying to play the parts. I now know that you can’t be the person you want to be if you’re playing a part.

I spent this anniversary weekend doing exactly what I should have been doing. I spent it with my daughter. And for the last three days I spent the majority of the time smiling and crying. And though it hurts worse than I could describe to feel the way I have been feeling over the last few days, I feel good. I feel calm and content about the way I handled this very difficult moment in time. And I feel blessed to have been able to spend this weekend completely dedicated to my daughter. We got her a brand new haircut (which is adorable!), spent time at the playground, did some shopping, built a bookcase together (though let’s face it, she’s three so mommy did the work, she just handed me the tools, unless she was distracted and then mommy played Twister trying to get to them when she walked away!). We even went to a farm and met some baby animals. And at night when she was asleep, I cried harder than I have cried in ages. My heart felt bare and broken, and the tears that I have cried this weekend have been raw, emotional energy that needed to be tended to. It was hard and awful, but it was oh so cathartic. And though my days were dedicated to my daughter, my nights were dedicated to my husband. This was the way I needed to love him on what should have been a small milestone that we celebrated together. This was the way I needed to hold him in my heart in order to keep his memory and his love safe there, while also allowing me to keep living and loving and rebuilding. 

I am healing, and healing takes time and patience. It’s not always easy to be so patient with yourself. Our modern world has a way of trying to always get us back up on the horse. Something goes wrong, well buck up and keep on going. No use looking back now, the past is behind you. And in many ways this is true. You do have to get back up on the horse, you do have to keep going, and you can’t change the past. But if you need to jump off the horse to go hide in a corner and cry, then do it. It’s cathartic and it’s necessary in order to heal. Just don’t forget to get back on. You do have to pull it together and keep going, you don’t get a choice about that. You didn’t get to choose this life that you have been handed. You chose a different life and that was stolen from you, it was ripped right out of your hands. And there’s nothing you can do about it. So, you do the only thing you can do and you keep going. You pick up your broken pieces and you try to put them back together. And you keep moving until you need to stop and scream or cry, just break. And when you get it out of your system, you pick yourself back up and you keep going. 

I have always been one to feel my feelings very deeply, and I find that now I feel them even more strongly. I can rarely tell my daughter how lucky I am to be her mommy without tears welling up in my eyes, and I tell her every single day. When I hurt, it feels like agony. And when I am happy I feel like I’m floating. Life is different now. It is not better, but it is not worse either. It is different, so much different. We, my daughter and I, are on a different path than I ever anticipated for us. And we will be ok. She will never get to know her daddy, but she will always know she is loved. Kids grow up in a million different circumstances in a million different ways. She is no different than anyone else, she just won’t know her daddy. But how lucky she is to be so loved! 

I can’t tell you that I’m a perfect mom without lying to you, because I’m far from the perfect mom. I used to think I could be Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way, but I know now that I can’t be. But I can try my best. And sometimes my best is Eggo waffles for dinner 15 minutes before bedtime because oh my god I forgot to feed my kid! And sometimes my best is a little too much yelling and not enough stopping to listen. And sometimes it means movie marathons because mommy just can’t today. And I’m learning that that’s ok. As long as I know when I misstep, which I am not perfect at but I’m trying, and as long as I apologize when I am wrong, and hold her up to those same expectations herself, then we are doing just fine.

So it’s been two years now from the day that I married my husband. My life looks nothing like I thought it would when I walked down the aisle that day, but I still have so much. And because of her, I still have him. I will always have him. He will always be mine and I will always be his. This little girl is the most important thing her daddy could have ever given me. She is my hope, she is my reason. She is my everything. So for our anniversary I got as close to my husband as I could hope to get by being as close to my daughter as I could. This is what it means to be a widow. It means still being a wife when you’re no longer married. It means still loving the person who can’t be there anymore. It means learning to love in ways that seem impossible, but aren’t. It means learning to find love and hope inside the pain. 

Life will always continue. One day you will die and someone’s heart will break. They will have to find a way to heal and keep living when you are gone, so be their example. Teach them how to not just survive, but to live. And to love life even in the midst of unfathomable pain and sorrow.