Thursday, May 28, 2015

Widow's Voice has a New Home

Dear Readers,

We are excited to share with you that our Widow's Voice blog has a new home!

We've moved our blog platform to our parent organization's (Soaring Spirits) website. You will find all the writers you love, as well as an archive of over 2,300 posts written by our team of widowed men and women, here:

Here's a few things we think you will love about our new home:

  • the ability to search our archives by topic, and by author 
  • the chance to get to know our past writers by viewing our author page
  • easy comment, share, tweet options at the end of every blog
  • immediate access to the many programs Soaring Spirits provides for widowed men and women
  • the photos on the new blog are vivid and beautiful!
We will still be writing every just click this link to find your Widow's Voice post for the day!

Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing your hearts with us. We so appreciate the opportunity to create a community of support through our words...thank you for being a part of this community. 

Your Widow's Voice Writing Team

Where are you?

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, because it never changes: Mike is ALWAYS on my mind. He doesn’t go away when I’m working, when I’m busy, when I’m cleaning or shopping, when I’m hanging out with friends old or new, when I’m listening to music or watching a movie…he doesn’t go away even when I’m thinking of my future that cannot include him. It’s like this little corner of my heart is, and always will be, reserved for him, and only him, and that awareness is constant, and eternal, at least as long as I shall live. 

BUT - at the same time - he is not here. He is never here. He is GONE. He is NEVER coming back. Sometimes I sit and concentrate on him - I call up my memory of him, how he looked, how he walked, what he wore, what it was like to be around him…I try and place him in my now, maybe as some kind of comfort, or maybe as some sort of reminder, hoping I will never forget all the little details. Trying somehow to keep him alive somewhere inside of me. In that sense I know he is truly gone, and over time it gets harder and harder to bring it all back.

Yesterday driving around town running errands I suddenly heard myself cry out loud, Mike, where are you?? as I pounded my hands on the steering wheel. No tears; just something more like frustrated disbelief. I just haven’t felt him around; I haven’t dreamed of him or seen any of the silly little signs I convince myself could be him poking me from beyond. (I am lucky I’ve had quite a few very incredible dreams of him since he died but none for a long time.) And I truly did wonder where he really WAS. Is he out there somewhere? Is he just gone? Despite my faith, I still wonder about it all.

So last night I had a dream and lo and behold, there he was. It was a silly dream; nothing earth-shaking. Just a silly little vignette that included him. He and I were in a parking lot of a local shopping area here in Kona; I could clearly see him standing there beside me, dressed in his favorite camouflage cap and t-shirt, holding a cup of Starbucks. He was clean shaven and not quite a gray as he was when he died; he looked somehow a little younger…very alive, and vibrant, and happy. He was going into the store and I was going to wait at the car for him. While he was gone I saw people coming out of a door behind the building so I went to investigate; sure enough I discovered a new little marketplace back there I hadn’t known existed before. A little drug store, a fruit market, and various food stands with various ethnic cuisines we simply don’t have here in our little town. I got really excited about my discovery and proceeded to try and call Mike to tell him.

My phone had no contact information for him, but I remembered his number so punched in the digits. When I connected it wasn’t him live; it was like I was listening in on a call or maybe a voicemail where he was talking to some friend of his about martial arts training, assuring him he could teach him what he wanted to learn. When I got back out to the parking lot he was also not to be found again. Then I woke up.

I lay there thinking - ok well thank you, THERE you are, Mike. It was good to see you. Then at the very same time - where the heck ARE you REALLY?? And the sad, sinking realization, for the millionth time, that I will never, ever see him again. At least, maybe, until I go where he is, wherever that is, if it is. Until then, I have only memories, pictures…a few of his camo caps…and the haunting embers of my dreamtime visions.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Total Mass Confusion~

Quite frequently these days, as I begin my 3rd year without him, I find this particular quote sent to me, or posted on my timeline. Grief is a stage through which we pass and not a place to linger.  Okay, I get that. I even agree with it.  But it doesn't help me a damn bit to read it.   

We are told that grief is an individual process with no timeline.'s a stage. Don't linger.  How do we know when we're lingering, is my question.  And even more so, when we're dealing with it in as many healthy ways as we can conceive, and the devastation remains present, how do we get from here to there? And anyways, aren't those two statements contradictory to each other?

I read a post today written by a woman offering life coaching, dealing specifically with widow support (the author is herself a widow), and she offered support in letting go of negative emotions such as sadness, loneliness, etc. Which sounds great on the surface but why are those necessarily negative emotions? Why are we as a culture so reluctant to give space to the darker emotions and recognize them as normal? Why must we march herd-like through life feeling only positive? Why are we pressured to move quickly through so-called negative emotions into the land of happy, happy, happy? Why must we always be tip-toeing through the fucking tulips? What about giving space to the darkness so that we can reach the fucking light?

You know what would be helpful in the midst of this confusion for me? If you're going to send me something about moving through grief, include step-by-step instructions as to how to do it. Don't just do a hit and run, along with a handy little tidbit about growing from grief or allowing it to destroy you.  Give me some solid shit I can hardwire into my brain and do. Because I will. I'll do whatever I need to do because I hate being this person I don't even recognize. Haven't recognized since the night my husband took his last breath.

This widowhood is the most confusing thing I've ever gone through. Ever.  I don't recommend it to anyone.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tailor Made

Today, as I sit down to write with tired eyes, I must admit that although I miss Megan as much now as before, it has shifted over these past few months from an intense grief at the thought of her death to more of a longing for her to be present to witness where life has taken me since that time.

I have just returned from an extended weekend in Kentucky with an amazing woman named Sarah, who also happens to be the same Sarah the writes here on Widow's Voice every Sunday.  We met at Camp Widow East in February, completely by chance and/or fate, depending on your beliefs.  Neither of us had any intention of finding someone new at that time, but here we are. Three months after meeting, Sarah and I are a couple.  Not a day has passed since February 5th that we have not talked, and this past weekend, we were finally able to close the 1400 miles of distance, and bring our lives into the same physical space for a few days.  It was wonderful.  

 It's an odd thing, not only being a widower, but being with a widow.  Both Megan and Drew are eternally present in our lives and hearts, but now, after endless hours on the phone or Skype, I can almost feel Drew as a friend of mine.  It's as if I know him personally, and there are even moments where I mourn his loss.  There is no jealousy when Sarah speaks of him. In fact, I love that she gets that wide eyed, contented joy when describing an event or memory with him.  

Of course, there is always the thought that had Drew or Megan not died, neither of us would have met the other, but there is also the thought that had they not existed, it would have also prevented us from meeting.  The two of them made Sarah and I who we are.  I am thankful for Drew's love towards Sarah, and her love for him, because she would not be the same person without him.  I took Sarah to a restaurant on the Ohio river immediately after picking her up at the airport called "Drew's", simply because of the name.

Just as I feel a connection with Drew, I can feel the same connection between Sarah and Megan.  There is no competition between them.  They are not the same person, and although there is a multitude of similarities, there are just as many differences.  Megan would love her and her attitude (primarily because they both make fun of me).  That's how I knew that Sarah was not a "band-aid" or a "rebound".  I have not once looked at her and thought "well, Megan did it this way, and that means Sarah's way is wrong"

Although I am filled with happiness about Sarah, I am struggling to find a poignant, teachable moment.  I can't suggest that any widow or widower who is ready to date go out and find another widow, because not only are there good people outside of our "club" that could be just as compassionate and understanding, but there also remains the fact that I wasn't ready to date.  Fate happened.  She sat down at that table at Camp Widow, and we clicked.  I had no choice in the matter, and now we've fallen for each other.  We may have been tailor made for each other, but it's not because we're widowed.

I guess that the smartest thing I did was keep my eyes, and my heart open.  Just as I knew that I wasn't ready to go looking for someone else, I also knew that I shouldn't prevent a good thing from happening.

I hope that Sarah and I's relationship can give some hope to other widows and widowers, and inspire people to realize that although we may have lost the loves of our lives, that when they were lost, we were given a new life, and a chance to have a new love.  


Monday, May 25, 2015

This, Too, Shall Pass

Near the Retreat Centre, Adhisthana, in Herefordshire

When my husband and I were 'new', and so full of love for each other, he would caution me that this aspect of our relationship, the euphoria and the intensity, would change. "It won't always feel like this," he would say.  Extremist that I am, my heart opened and softened by his attentiveness, I did not believe it for a moment. I had found, finally, the love of my life, I thought, and the boundless love I felt for him would remain, and express itself, always, in exactly this way.

But, as with so many things, Stan was right. Our relationship shifted. We became more comfortable with each other, and able to focus on other parts of our lives. We grew to understand each other's rhythms and ways. We learned each other's triggers and soft spots. We shared past and present joys and sorrows. We learned how to live life, not gazing, constantly, into each other's eyes, but hand in hand, and facing the world. Together. Our relationship changed. It deepened. It grew, and developed, and got better, with the passage of time.

We didn't have enough time together. Only three and a half years. I so wanted to grow old with him by my side, to enrich our relationship as we aged. As the first anniversary of his death nears, I grieve, not only for him, but for us, and for all that we could have been.

This, too, shall pass. He would say that to me, often, in many different ways. He had a wisdom and a knowing that came from somewhere beyond this mundane existence. His wisdom came, not only from years of practise and formal study, although he did that, too. It came from his life experience, his willingness to be open to what that experience had to teach him, his ability to dig deep, and reflect. I appreciated all those aspects of him, when he was alive. But I see them more clearly, now, as I come to know him in a different light. 

Our relationships with our loved ones continue to shift and to grow, even after their deaths.

As my relationship with him changes, and I integrate him into the new life I am taking on, my relationship with the house that we shared has also begun to shift. When he first died, I was adamant that I would remain here, where he was, where we were, together, forever. I made all the arrangements to assume the mortgage, as a widow, as the house was only in his name, when he died. I couldn't imagine living anywhere else. I wanted to be surrounded by his things, in the midst of his community, comforted by his spirit. 

But recently, I have begun to notice a shift in my feelings. It is difficult for me, sometimes, to live where he was, where we were, together. It is so painful. I see him walking down the steps, one at a time, in the evenings, after his bath. When I come in from work, I still want to call for him, and tell him I'm home. I remember sitting with him, on this sofa, the last night of his life. I am immersed in him, every moment, when I am in this house. Sometimes I use the noise of the television and the distraction of internet to escape the constant onslaught of memories. Sometimes it is just too much.  And all that distraction is not healthy for me, either. Sometimes I feel imprisoned by this place. 

Yet the thought of letting go of it is also excruciatingly painful. What if I move somewhere else, and I lose him? What if I can't find him anymore? I tear up just thinking about it. 

This weekend, I gathered with my sangha at a retreat centre south of here. It was a beautiful setting, and the sun warmed my face as I walked amongst the fields of buttercups and dandelions. Away from the home we shared, freed, for a moment, from the visions and memories, I felt a sense of peace. 

He was present, too, at the retreat, with all of our sangha friends. We remembered him, and collected money for the fund set up in his name. People gave generously in tribute to him, and to carry on the work that he had begun to implement, at our centre. I felt his presence among us, and I knew that, had he been alive, we would have attended this retreat, together. But the memories were not so overwhelming, and constant. I was able to breathe, and relax, and reflect on how I am to carry on, in this life, on my own. And I began to consider the possibility of selling this house.

Yet, when I arrived home, I felt, too, a sense of comfort and peace. I was happy to be back. I made myself a warm drink and thought of him. I tidied up, and talked to him, as I often do, at night. Then I went to bed. Our bed.

I don't know, yet, what the future holds. I know that, if I am to stay here, I need to make some changes, and make it my own. It has been left virtually untouched since the morning we left here, together, for Gavin's funeral. I haven't had the heart to alter it. 

I am not going to make any rash decisions. There is so much to consider. But it feels good to be open to the possibility of change, to not hold hard and fast to my earlier, rigid stance. I am changing. My relationship with him, and with our house, is changing. 

All things change. And this, too, shall pass. 

Our living room

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Into A New Darkness

Well, here I am in the caves region of Kentucky. Last week I shared about the trip I would be on with my new guy - seeing each other in person for the first time since we met several months ago. As I write this, we're a few days into our trip. He is lying next to me now, munching away on donuts while I write. I'm finally ready to share a bit more about this person with you all... particularly because you may know him more than you think - or at least his writing. He is our very own Tuesday featured writer on Widow's Voice - Mike. 

We met at Camp Widow East back in February. I sat down beside this guy at the meet & greet on Thursday night, and for the entire rest of the weekend we were inseparable. We shared our whole stories with one another and laughed more than either of us had in ages. Something certainly clicked... although I had no clue then that it would end up meaning I would fall for someone new and be sitting here states away on some whole other adventure. 

I've been saying for three years now that Drew would give me a really obvious sign about someone new coming into my life. And Mike and I have had many, many obvious signs. One of my favorites was just a few days ago, within hours of arriving in Cincinnati for our trip. He surprised me with a short ferry ride across the Ohio river, and on the other side was a little restaurant he took me to... called Drew's. Imagine the delight on my face, and the love in my heart. Those are the moments I know that Drew will always be a part of us - just as his wife Megan will be. And speaking of Megan...

We walk inside and sit down by the window. It's dead in there, no one but us, as it's around 2pm in the afternoon. I said jokingly "Just watch... our waitress's name will be Megan". And sure enough, this very friendly waitress walks up and introduces herself as... you guess it... MEGAN. We both look right at each other in total disbelief. At the end of our lunch, we told her the whole story of us, including their names, and she was as amazed as we were. We chatted a while and there even ended up being other unreal similarities... so we had to get a picture with her for that first crazy memory of this new adventure.

Yesterday we made our way to Mammoth Cave National Park – the main reason for our trip here. We picked this place because it is something we could not have done with our loves that died. Drew was claustrophobic in small spaces, and Megan was unable to due to her medical condition and the bacteria in the air in caves. It's a hard pill to swallow... but the truth is there. We WILL do things with someone new... Things we never could have experienced had our loves not died. Maybe that's one of the gifts they leave us... the chance to discover new adventures in a way we couldn't have done with them. With new eyes and new hearts. I like to think it is.

We did a few tours yesterday of Mammoth Cave, the first cave either of us have explored in years. As we gazed out into the darkness of the tunnels underground, that feeling of wonder and childlike excitement about the unknown filled us both. As we hiked around some 300 feet below the surface of the earth, I couldn't help but think of the expansive metaphor before us.

Two people who have gone through unspeakable darknesses on our own in life, now walking willfully and quite literally into the darkness together – knowing full well that to love again will inevitably mean to endure pain again. Yet we are doing so with a sense of wonder, not dread. It's not easy to do. There have been moments on this trip when I have broken down crying because of how new love is reminding me of the love I lost, and also of the fears of losing someone else. But even with all of that, with all we have both endured, how amazing it is that each of us is still able to see wonder in the darkness.

I have thought this weekend about enduring the journey through my own darkness for the past three years. I've thought about all the pain and fear I have encountered in the dark, and also all the amazement and wonder I have found there. Treasures that cannot be found above ground, but only in the most hidden depths of ourselves. Perhaps that is what the darkness of grief can bring us... a different appreciation for the dark and the light.

One thing is for sure, today I am very grateful. After traversing the dark alone, it is beautiful to have someone to journey into the darkness with me. Someone with their own darkness who is not afraid of mine. I suppose that is the best kind of person to find – one with a galaxy much like our own inside their heart. One who looks into the dark with wonder.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Oh Happy Day

Something really awesome happened this week.  A very dear friend found out she was pregnant and rather than feel that expected pang of grief that had become standard when I hear of someone else’s ‘happy life announcement’, my first thought was how wonderfully excited I was for her.  This is huge you guys!  For 22 months now, I’ve had a horrible default reaction to the good news of others.  I hear of someone getting engaged; see one of those gushy ‘happy wedding anniversary my darling’ Facebook statuses; or God-forbid, catch wind of a baby announcement – then back comes that wave of grief.  

‘It could have been me’.  ‘Dan and I could have been pregnant by now’.  ‘We didn’t even get one wedding anniversary’ … all of the horrible, self-pitying thoughts that make you feel like a bad person and a really shitty friend. When this close friend told me, about a year ago, that they were going to start trying for a baby, I kept an encouraging smile on my face until I made it home and then let the tears flow.  My poor, broken heart just wasn’t able to feel joy at the thought of others taking those steps forward in life that were no longer available to me.  I wouldn’t wish my own situation on anyone and could never expect my friends to put their lives on hold, just because mine was – but I couldn’t help the emotions that came to the surface. I started to dread the day that my friend would eventually come to me with her happy news.  Would I be able to contain my own selfish reaction so that it wouldn’t take the shine off her announcement?  I was so nervous that this wonderful person, who has been such a support to me and shared my pain, would see through my smile and know that I wasn’t able to fully share in her happiness.  As the months passed, and no announcement came, instead I saw her disappointment and the early stages of worry that they weren’t getting their special miracle. My relief at not having to force my happiness for her started mixing with my sadness at her disappointment.  My friend was experiencing her own kind of loss and my heart hurt for hers.

So, this week, when she received her good news, I was so caught up in my joy for her that, at first, I didn't even realise that any feelings of my own envy were absent!  I was excited, so happy that a new life was coming in to our world.  I can't wait to see my friend go through this special experience and become a mother.  I'm ready to be by her side, every step of the way. And at the end of the nine months, a new 'niece' or 'nephew' will come in to my world and in to my growing circle of love.  

I am so grateful that this is a happy day.  It's funny, how things work out.  I actually wonder if the universe had a plan up it's sleeve when it decided to wait awhile before sending my friend her miracle.  Just long enough for her best friend (me) to get to a good place where my heart had healed enough to share in her happiness.