Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Eternal Challenge of the Suicide Widow



Last night, after a tough week, a friend and I treated ourselves to a night out at a local comedy festival to have a few laughs and blow off some steam. We had tickets to see an up-and-coming Australian comedian who has acted in a couple of popular local TV shows and I was really looking forward to seeing her live. 

It was great... until she started joking about suicide. My stomach dropped, my face started burning, my throat tightened and my eyes were pricked with tears.  I couldn't believe it.  There I was trying to forget about being a suicide widow for a night and the topic was being shoved in my face. 

I tried really hard not to spiral into the grief, to just breathe and push it aside, but I just couldn't loosen up and laugh properly again after that.  At the end of her suicide bit she may have noticed a few blank looks in the audience (there were a few laughs too though) and finished it with 'come on people, lighten up, I'm joking!'.  Making me feel not only sad and self-conscious, but also like I was some kind of uptight downer who couldn't take a joke.

Driving home, I kept thinking about it.  I know it's not uncommon for comedians to push the limits of social decency for the sake of a joke. But is suicide EVER funny?!  Even for those who haven't been touched by it?  

Dan's suicide has been weighing heavily in my thoughts this week.  I don't usually focus on it, but have found myself heavily distracted with questions around why and how it could have happened to him.  

A few days ago I was searching for something on my computer and found a link to his wedding speech.  I'm going to share it here for anyone who might be interested.  We were married a little over six weeks before he died.  So this man, standing up in front of a room full of people who care about him, brimming with happiness, love and gratitude, was 45 days away from taking his life.  I want to track down people who say 'suicide is a choice' and show them my husband's wedding speech.

It's probably been a year or so since I've watched it.  Seeing him standing there, talking about how meeting me was like finding his home, brought on a wave of disbelief that hit me like a tsunami.  I didn't see depression in him that night.  

Looking back, I can see times throughout our relationship where he was a bit quieter than usual or seemed a bit withdrawn.  He never pulled away from me or held anything back between us, so I had made assumptions that it was his personality to sometimes be a bit detached from the hustle and bustle going on around him.  I had no way of knowing what he was battling.  Any silence or space in the months before he died was most likely filled by my own excitement about our wedding and starting our life together.  He was always fully there with me, never giving me reason for concern.  But what did I know?  I had no idea what to look for, I just didn't see it. 

In his speech my husband says: 'Our lives are just beginning and together there is nothing we can't do.  We can take on the world, it's me and you and nothing else matters.' 

These words have echoed around my mind and torn at my heart since I heard them again this week.  I want to feel angry.  I want to rage at the injustice of him dying like he did.  It's not supposed to happen like that.  How is this my story now?  What on earth happened?

It can be so easy for those of us left behind by suicide to get lost in that torment of what should have been. I have worked incredibly hard to find a place of acceptance in the way Dan died.  This is the only way I can move forward. There will never be answers to the questions that I deserve to ask.  No good can come from fixating on them, I have to let them go.  

This is my eternal challenge, because even though months can go past where I feel like I understand how depression took him and I'm at peace with it, they will never be resolved and I will always have to work at the 'letting go'.

It's so very difficult, this extra layer of grief that suicide hands us.  The stigma that it brings can cast a shadow on the memory of our loved ones that makes the burden slightly heavier to bear.  I never could have imagined that this might be part of my story, but it is.

I have to keep reminding myself that he died from a disease.  Looking at him standing there, in his beautiful wedding suit, the pride and happiness beaming from him, I can't see this disease.  This in itself is the problem.  It's invisible, tormenting and sneaky and would have caused him to doubt himself in the cruelest of ways.  I hate this disease. I am petrified of it and I hate it.  I think of it as the demon disease that fed lies to my wonderful husband until his brain was poisoned beyond his own recognition.

When I look back on photos from our time together I sometimes see a shadow here and there, a flatness in his eyes in some photos. And these break my heart.  But I'm glad I couldn't see it in him on our wedding day.

I hope he had some reprieve that day.  I believe he did.  And so I will carry these memories with me always, using them to bring comfort during the times that his depression attempts to torment me too.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

When Alone Becomes Your Normal

Three and a half years after the death of my beautiful husband Don, and I am still nowhere near ready to accept the concept of dating, relationships, or "someone else." Yes, the very idea terrifies me. Yes, I feel like I am still in love with my husband, who happens to be a dead guy, and I still don't know how to sort out those feelings. Yes, I still very much feel in my heart like a still-married person, even though I 100% realize on every level that I am not. And yes, I am scared beyond scared - not that I won't be able to fall in love again, but that I will fall in love again, and one of two things will happen:

A: The person I fall in love with will suddenly die, and I will have to go through this shit twice before I even reach the age of 45.

B: The person I fall in love with will not be in love with me.. I will put my heart out there again, and end up more hurt and vulnerable than ever.

All of these things are what have kept me from moving forward, even in thought, when it comes to the idea of a new relationship. But let's put all of those very frightening things aside for a minute, and talk about the other big reason (s) that I am hesitant on taking the risk my next great love ....

I'm overweight, and although I'm always attempting to get healthier, I just don't know if there will ever be a time when I'm not overweight on some level. 

I'm a writer, (and a professor, comedian, actor, director, speaker) which means there are some days I stay home for hours and hours, at my laptop, writing. There are times when I am involved in several writing projects at the same time. Right now, in addition to my teaching job, I write for this blog, I write for an entertainment blog, and I'm writing comedy sketches for 2 different local productions. All this while writing my first book, too. When I am in my writing mode, there are times when I might not leave my desk for days. I might get into a "zone" and not even get out of my pajamas, or skip a shower for a day. My breakfast may be cold lo-mein at my desk, and dinner might be some cheddar Sun-Chips and ginger-ale. There are other weeks where I have so many things going on at once that I will be out of my apartment from 7 am to midnight. My life is all over the place, and "routine" is not a word that enters into my world. 

I don't have nice clothes, or sexy shoes, or fancy underwear. Sometimes I wear sweatpants and a t-shirt and I don't really think about it much. I can't afford things. I live paycheck to paycheck. Some of my clothes are from Target or Kohl's. I am not a drinker, and I hate nightclubs and the bar scene. I would rather stay home with my cats alone, than have a night out where the entire purpose of going out is to "get wasted." I don't fit into the typical mold of a 43 year old "single" female, and I don't much care to. 

I fall asleep with the T.V. on in the background. I have two kitty cats and they mean the world to me. I have issues with intimacy because of a trauma I went through years ago. People tell me I snore loudly, although my husband never really mentioned it or seemed to mind. I don't exercise as much as I should, and I eat like crap.  I sleep with a stuffed animal named Bunny. The first thing I do when I get home from work is take off my bra and shoes. 

Before I met my husband, I lived on my own for years and years. I had my own apartment that he ended up moving into before we were engaged. Now that he is gone, I have become used to the way I do things again. After a long day out, I look forward to being home alone and shutting out the world. 

I don't want to be alone forever, but I am so damn scared that it's too late to get used to someone else's habits and energy again. The energy my husband and I had together was so good - we didn't ever have to think about it. I was me and he was him, and we were two very independent people, who loved spending time together. What if you only get that one time in life? What If I'm destined to be alone, grow old alone, die alone? What if it's simply too late to learn the rhythms of someone new? And what if I'm not sure I have the energy for it?

 And how does someone like me even go about finding someone anyway? I feel like the very few times I HAVE felt even a tiny connection with a human of the male species, (usually it was another widower that I would meet locally through support groups or at Camp Widow), I am automatically written off as the "funny friend' - immediately I end up in that "friend" zone with guys, because I am not skinny and hot and girly and all those other things that guys SAY they dont care about but actually, they do. These are all the same things I went through for YEARS before I finally met my husband. I hated dating back then, and I hate it now. I hate dating sites. I hate bars. I don't feel like my life fits into a simple box on a match.com profile page. I don't know how to do this. I am terrified that not only am I too set in my ways post-loss to be able to live with another human male again, but that no human male would ever want to live with me. A huge part of me feels like what my husband and I had was SO rare , and that he accepted every ounce of me in a way that doesn't seem plausible to happen again for one person. Maybe it seems over-dramatic or pessimistic. I am not trying to be that way. To be honest, I just feel very lost when it come to future love. I wish that my attitude about it could be in a better place, but every time I think about it, my heart gets really sad and I feel overwhelmed, panicky, and exhausted before I even begin. 

Where do I go from here?

Dancing Anyway

An evening out with friends to listen to my new guy’s band on the water’s edge here in Kona.

Drinks, laughing, dancing. I catch myself: what am I doing here? I can’t believe how much my life has changed. I gaze out to the stars hanging over the ocean waves and mentally reach out to Mike, as I so often do.  Are you out there, honey? Can you see me? I think how he would have gotten such a kick out of the lively and eccentric group of folks I find myself in the midst of. How he would be relieved I have found my smile again. How he would have loved swinging me around the dance floor. And how much he loved this place.

Yes. To me, our island will always be imprinted with his spirit. He will always be everywhere I turn - but I have to admit: it is a pretty amazing place. As crazy as it sounded to move here all those years ago now, I admit again: he did know what he was doing. If I ever doubted it along the way, wondering about spending my life way out here in this remote place, I sure know that now.

I saunter down to the restroom.

A handful of ladies about my age giggling together like kids. Waiting for a stall, one of them asks me, are you married?

I pause a beat. Decide simply to say: no.

Sometimes these days I just don’t want to go there.

But then, after another pause, something about her moves me to add…I’m widowed.

She looks at me and says: You are? I’m widowed too.

Three months. Oh my goodness. I’m so sorry, I say.

She says: and I have twelve children. 

Twelve?

She starts to cry. Her friends gather around and we all hug. They ask me about my loss; I tell them. I ask about hers: cancer. 

They are in Hawaii together to take their friend away for a break. 

Later, I see them again, on the dance floor, laughing and spinning and swaying to the music.

I gaze out once more over the ocean.

A favorite song begins to play and a friend pulls me onto the dance floor.


I have no other answers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Red Rock Love, and Grief~

My brain is in overdrive these days and all day today I've been contemplating what it is I'll write about for this week's blog.  I usually let my writing happen viscerally.  So here goes.

Last Sunday our oldest son got married against the backdrop of Sedona Arizona.  One of those milestones of life that will cause our grief to rise up in us, we're told.  But what is it when one of those milestones doesn't cause the grief to rise up because it's already there all the time anyways?  I think, perhaps, what happens is that I restrain my grief and then there's times when it just can't be restrained or constrained and out it comes.  That would be a more apt description of it.

We brought Chuck's presence into the ceremony by twisting his military ID tags into the buttoniere that our son wore on his suit jacket.  Touching and beautiful.

I was, and am, so very happy for our son.  My love for him and his new bride and her daughter and all of our family there over-flowed.  But what do you do when even the love doesn't begin to diminish the missing-ness?  What do you do with the emotions when all the attempts in the world to only allow happiness just don't work and your heart and soul just weep for his not being there too?

Afterwards we all went out to dinner and that's when the enormity of Chuck's absence reverberated through me.  I felt it start to happen in my gut as the server approached me to take my order and I barely got through it.  I was ordering for one.  And, yes, I'd done that before in different places but never has it hit me with such intensity.  He should be my my side.  We should be ordering together. In the midst of our kids, extended family, friends...I felt completely and utterly alone.  That feeling runs steadily through my blood.  Surrounded by people.  And alone.  I don't say that out of self-pity but more out of a sense of disbelief.  It feels un-natural to not have my husband in my world and I suspect it always will.  The enormity of it overwhelmed me and sent me into the ladies room to melt down.

Recently, I've read numerous articles by so-called experts who state, of course, that there is no timeline for grief.  Contradicted a few paragraphs later by the words if, after 6 months, you're still having more bad days than good days, you may be experiencing depression.   Are any of you as confused as I am?  Instinctively, and by training in bereavement, my intellect knows that I'm on a healthy grieving track, but, in many ways, as I approach the 2 year mark, there is a subtle but clearly recognizable message that perhaps I need to be getting on with it.

Mostly, as at our son's wedding, I allow whatever emotions I experience, to just be whatever they are. It's too exhausting to fight them off in any case, and I don't know what to do with them if I start faking it for the general public (enough of that goes on as it is).

We all judge ourselves so harshly in our grief, don't we?  And the outside world, with all of its' what I'm assuming good intentions, doesn't help.  Too much, too little, too late, too soon...it's all I can do to let this grief happen naturally.

Here's my bit of honesty for the week.  Our son's wedding?  It was filled with so much love for him, seeing him so happy, knowing that he has his own love story going on now with this wonderful woman.  And, watching it all happen, I was filled with agony, missing my husband and wanting him next to me to watch with joy as this son who has led such a tough life, came full circle.  I wanted to scream my devastation to the red rocks surrounding us.  This sucks in every way imaginable and no matter how I strive to transform it and only look at the love, it fucking sucks and I miss him and the ache in my body makes me feel centuries old.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Making Room

I've posted in the last couple of months about going through Ian's things and starting to move stuff onto new homes that can go to new homes, or tossing stuff that can't be moved on.

That's because there was one thing I couldn't discard after he died...

Our seven frozen embryos, left from our IVF cycles to have John.   As part of the IVF process, under local laws, we'd given each other rights to make all decisions regarding those embryos, which included rights to use them, in the event of the incapacity or death of the other.

The knowledge they were there kept me sane during Ian's illness and in the aftermath of his death. I also knew I had a couple of choices.  Discard them either immediately or when I was legally required to, which felt too much like tipping Ian down the drain.   Or attempt a pregnancy, knowing based on the technology used to freeze them was slightly older, and the odds of success therefore much lower. If I got a single confirmed pregnancy, I'd be damned lucky.  We'd already had plans to attempt using them later in the year he died.  Based on our pre-existing plans, the decision to attempt was easy for me, and was one I'd made even before Ian died. 

After the required counselling, getting my health on track, and my head in the right space, over the course of 2014 I had three attempts at achieving pregnancy with those seven embryos.

The first two attempts in the first few months of the year were unsuccessful, and resulted in the loss of four embryos in the thaw process, and two unsuccessful transfer attempts.

I sat on that final embryo for 8 months, convincing myself that with such a poor track record with the other six, it was most likely to be just John and I.  And I'd come to peace with that prospect.  Towards the end of the year, knowing that single embryo was there had become a burden, no longer the positive thing to hold onto. So I geared up for the final attempt, timed so I'd know if it hadn't worked by New Years, and I knew where I stood going into 2015.

Well, wouldn't you know it.

I got a successful thaw - they nearly had to pick me up off the floor of the clinic with that bit of news.

And a pregnancy.  That's stuck. 

My Facebook announcement - complete with uncooperative 4 year old.
Ian and I's second child is due in August, a little over three years after he passed away.

I'm still a little gobsmacked.  And now need the space where much of Ian's stuff was, to fit a baby and all the paraphernalia that goes with them.

John, in typical 4 year old fashion, just wants pizza.

I appreciate that this will be confronting news to some, if not many in our community.  Some will disagree with bringing a child into the world so long after their father's death.  Others will wish they had the opportunity.  Others wishing they had, or will have, the same success. 

Because of the pregnancy and the fact I know it will raise grief responses I'll need space to process, I'm making room here, too.   From next week, I'll be writing on alternate Tuesdays, sharing with a recent widower, Mike Welker. 

As a pre-curser to his first post next week, Mike would like to introduced himself:

Three months after my discharge from the Marine Corps at 22 years old, I met my wife, Megan, on December 10th, 2002.  The very next day, I was drawn like a moth to a flame into dealing with a long term, terminal illness.  Megan had Cystic Fibrosis, and after 8 years of declining health, she received a double lung transplant, and a new lease on life.  Our daughter Shelby was born in 2007.
In early 2014, those recycled lungs, which had brought our little family three years of uncomplicated health and happiness, finally began to give out.  She died from chronic organ transplant rejection on November 19th, 2014 while I held her hand and let her go.
I'm a single father and widower at 34 years old, and no one has published a manual for it.  I don't fit the mold, because there is no mold.  I "deal with it" through morbid humor, inappropriateness, anger, and the general vulgarity of the 22 year old me, as if I never grew up, but temper it with focus on raising a tenacious, smart, and strong woman in Shelby.  I try to live as if Megan is still here with us, giving me that sarcastic stare because yet again, I don't know what the hell I'm doing.
 

 
 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Living Perpetually In Fear


 I have built my entire life around the fear of loss.

 I’ve had a string of losses, in my adult life, perhaps more than most. Each loss dug deeper wounds into my heart. Each loss wove more fear into the sorrow I felt. Each loss added layers of protection to my spirit.

 I came to England in a flight from grief, after the loss of my sister and my mother, within a year of each other. Twelve months and two weeks after my mom died, we lost my sister-in-law. All the women in my family. Gone.

I lived a lonely life, here, in England, in the beginning, visiting places and travelling largely on my own, protected from the pain of relationships, isolated in a city of millions, but safe. Cocooned.

Then I met the man who would change my world.

And from the moment I fell in love with Stan, I lived in fear of losing him.

Realising I loved him filled me with excitement and joy, but that joy was tinged with an underpinning of fear. It felt like I was jumping off a great cliff.  

I worried about his health. He did not have the healthiest of habits, though he was working to change his lifestyle. I used to lay my head upon his chest, when we were in bed, and listen to his heart, secretly counting the beats, checking to see if they were irregular, or too slow or too fast. If I came upon him sleeping, I would creep up next to him, and listen for his breathing.

Sometimes, he’d hold his breath, and wait until I got real close, then jump up and holler. He thought it was hilarious.  “Don’t be so ridiculous, BooBoo, I’m not going anywhere,” he'd say.

When we went to see him at the morgue, I looked at his cold, still body on the table, and I hoped that perhaps he was just holding his breath. I hoped he’d jump up and holler, like he used to, and tell me it had all been a joke. There was no logic in these thoughts. But there is no logic in the face of such great loss.

In the aftermath, consumed with guilt over the things I had done wrong, or not done well, I thought that perhaps my constant worry, propelled into the universe, was a factor in causing his death. There are those new age gurus, out there, after all, who preach about how our thoughts create our reality, and even the Buddha said that our thoughts make the world. I wondered if it was true. I wondered if my neurosis killed him. It was not logical thinking. But logic does not figure into the shock and trauma of early grief.

I have a dear friend named Barbara, who lives in Seattle. She and I, and her sister, Nancy, were travelling buddies in our 20s, crisscrossing the country, more than once. Barb and I attended the same college, for a while, and embraced sobriety, a few months apart. The three of us remained close friends, through the years, sharing our lives in snippets, short visits, and phone calls, while living on opposite coasts. Our lives seemed to echo each other’s—they lost siblings, and their mother, too. Barbara met and fell in love with someone, and married him, two months before I married Stan.

Barb’s husband became ill around November of 2013, and they rode the roller coaster ride of his sickness, with ever increasing hospital visits, and brief promises of recovery, followed by further deterioration of his condition. On the 9th of April, 2014, Barbara’s beloved husband died.

I grieved for her. I had never met Chris, but I knew their love was strong. I couldn’t imagine the pain she must be feeling. I cried for days, thinking of her loss. It made me worry, also, about losing Stan. Life felt so tenuous and unfair. I couldn’t let go of it. My fear was exacerbated, later in April, by Stan’s stay in hospital for five days, with a bout of diverticulitis.

He tried to ease my fears. He told me not to worry, that he was going to be all right. He assured me that our situation was not the same as that of my friend and her husband. He held my head to his chest, and stroked my hair, as he always did, when I was afraid.

Two months later to the day, on the 9th of June, Stan was dead.

All the time I wasted, steeped in fear and worry. All the time he spent, calming my fears, convincing me that he would be okay. Precious, fleeting time. All the effort and energy expended, trying to wrestle some kind of control over life, instead of just living it—instead of just loving him.

Barbara and I speak often, to each other, now, and share this, another facet of our echoed lives. We provide a foundation of support for one another, though we live 5000 miles apart. We have lost so much of our family. We have lost our husbands. But we want to be freed from the slavery of fear, to learn to live fully these lives that are beyond our control. 

We'll continue to lean on one another. We’ll help each other stay soft.

Barbara and Me, circa 2000

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Losing My "Widginity"

Ok. So. A LOT of things have happened in the past week for me. And just days ago, one of the biggest new firsts happened. One I have wondered about and feared and dreaded for two and a half years. I can't even believe I'm going to share this... like, PUBLICLY, but it's part of the journey. So here goes.

I spent this past week up in the Alaskan wilderness with Drew's mom, grandma, and aunt. His grandma is 91 years old and had never seen the northern lights, so we decided to take her. The trip was wonderful. We stayed at a remote lodge an hour and a half north of Fairbanks... and by remote I mean there is NOTHING out there but this lodge, some moose, and pure wilderness. No cell service. No internet. All their power is geothermal from the hot springs that run through the area. I had no idea of all this until we arrived, but I welcomed unplugging from the world for a while. So rarely do I get a chance to.

We went out Tuesday night for a viewing up on one of the nearby hills for the lights – and they were out all night long. For 4 whole hours, we enjoyed an incredible show. His grandma got to achieve one of her lifelong dreams. I captured pictures of the entire expereince for her and all of us to look back on. We also did a short sunset flight, a dogsled ride (yes, a 91 year old woman on a dogsled! And she wanted the ride to be even longer!) and got to drink appletinis out of glasses carved from ice. Spending this trip with two generations of my fiance's family was so incredibly special to me. To be there to watch his grandma enjoy a lifelong dream for him – my heart overflowed. To see the lights myself, to watch them dance thru the sky, brought me to tears. Because he brought me there. And he keeps bringing me to amazing places in this “after” life.

But something else happened on this trip. And its crazy and weird as shit to actually write this in conjunction with all I just wrote above... but... a VERY big personal milestone happened.... involving several beers and a VERY handsome young man who worked as a waiter at the lodge restaurant. Yeah, you know where I'm going with this. Everyone... after two and a half years, I officially lost my “widginity” as I am calling it - or widow virginity. 

And yeah that's an entirely appropriate way to say it I think, because the first time after the death of your loved one really is JUST as big of a deal as the real first time. Every first thing is. The first time someone holds you. The first time you kiss someone.  Hold hands. And definitely the first time you have sex. Everyone does this differently. Some folks jump right into it, others have to wait years. I have never been an impulsive person nor have I ever had casual sex before, so, I have ended up in the latter category. Sometimes unwillingly. I cannot express to you how many times I just want to be able to go ho it up. Don't judge, you know if you aren't ho'ing it up, you probably harbor this same secret wish... or you will at some point.

So as it goes down, I'm on the last night of my trip, at the lodge bar having a few drinks with the staff as they wind up for the night. Before long, an especially delicious looking waiter ends up joining me for drinks after his shift. I mean this guy could be a model. There is not an ounce of fat on him and muscles galore. Seriously not someone I would ever attempt to approach... then again, the new me lately seems to be full of surprises.

We chat a good while and get to know each other. When we leave the bar, we run into each other out on the trail back to our rooms. We chat a moment there in the cold, snowy wilderness, and I just think to myself “it's my last night, it's now or never, fuck it!”. I grab this gorgeous man and give him a kiss. Which leads to some heavy making out. Which leads to my asking to go back to his cabin.

Yeeeep. That's where it all happens... right there on the mattress... which is on the floor. Yes, the floor. It was like a Dirty Dancing sequel y'all. All we were missing was that "Hungry Eyes" song (which I so should have played since I have the soundtrack on my phone - damn the delayed realization!) This story is made even better by the fact that he had no bathroom... so I am forced to run the 30 or so feet to his outhouse in the cold (NINE degrees) in nothing but a blanket and my snow boots. Yes. You are welcome for the visual. Ah where life takes you when you live in the present moment - lol. 

All joking aside, the amazing thing is, it was nothing like I feared it would be. It wasn't traumatic. It didn't trigger me drastically. It didn't feel shallow or empty or like I was pushed into anything. We laid in bed, drank chocolate milk, watched comedy specials, laughed together, shared stories, and took our time with all the rest. I told him back at the bar about losing Drew, so that was out there already. Before anything happened, I was also very up front that this is the first time for me since he died. I wanted him to know that beforehand, because I was pretty sure I'd get upset at some point, and he needed to know why. I also said it so he could know this was a very deliberate and conscious decision which he needed to handle carefully and respectfully. 

Sure enough, shortly after we began to make love, I got overwhelmed. We stopped, and he just held me, and I cried in his arms for a few minutes while he reassured me that it was okay. I didn't have to say a word. In that moment, even though he barely knew me, all this man cared about was making certain I felt safe and cared for. And even though I barely knew him, and he was not Drew, I allowed myself to be cared for by him. I allowed myself to be cared for. That is HUGE. It was strangely beautiful to think - while in the arms of another man - how much it would make Drew happy to see me being cared for so lovingly. I swear I could feel broken pieces of my heart melding back together. 

We made love on and off for a few hours that night before he finally walked me back to my room. I say “made love” because it felt surprisingly like that, despite the fact that we barely knew each other. We weren't two broken people trying to use sex as a band-aid, we were two healthy people who made a conscious choice to share something beautiful together for a night. I've never had casual sex before this, so I honestly had no idea there could be love between near strangers that way. I was left so surprised by this - and even more surprised that I did it. I mean, who is this chick?! Ho'ing it up now whenever she damn well pleases, on her own terms,  and not beating herself up one bit about it? Whoever she is, I think I like her. My god I am full of surprises in this damned "after" life. 

The most wonderful part of this entire experience though was something even bigger. Seeing how it fit together with my love for Drew. It didn't make his space in my heart smaller. It didn't move him farther away from me or erase him or make my love for him any less. He was there in my heart, just the same, even through this experience. And when it was all over, and this sweet man walked me back to my room, kissed me one last time with a coy smile, and we said our goodbyes... I knew in a brand new way, that no one will ever be able to move Drew from my heart. No one will take his place. No one will erase him or take up more room than him in my heart. I learned in a brand new way that my heart will only get bigger to accommodate others, but that it will only begin to grow when it is healed enough and ready to. I think because I have not rushed this, and because I have waited until I truly felt ready, it has allowed it to be a positive experience. In the past few days following all this, it has only more deeply solidified the understanding in me that Drew isn't ever going anywhere. And I never have to be afraid - because I will not ever lose him twice.