Posted in grief, widow

March Madness

There’s so much going on in the world right now I think we all feel like we are going a little mad. Trying to figure out what we are suppose to do to protect our love ones, take care of our children’s education at home and manage our career at the same time. Time to sit and breathe and contemplate seems like a gift that belongs to someone else. But before all this Corona craziness started, I had already been struggling with my emotions, my focus and management of my time.

I am rolling into the five year anniversary of Pat’s death. March comes storming into my life just the same as it did five years ago. March 23 was D day for us. The doctors had given Pat six months to live with the end date being March 23. Therefore, March was a gloomy, dreary, dark month for me in 2015. I was just waiting for the end to come. He was declining quickly at that point and everyday was painful, stressful and I felt like the world was weighing on my shoulders. I hated the pain he was in. I hated the way our lives were at the time. I hated everything about everything. But I loved him dearly. I didn’t want him to die. I didn’t want to lose him. I didn’t want our life together to come to a screeching halt. But I did want the tornado and chaos of Cancer to be over. So it was a confusing, depressing time. We all know how that ended. On March 23 – of all days – Pat had a seizure and this was the beginning of the end for him. He lived in and out of a comatose state 13 more days. And left this earth on April 5.

Five years. I can’t believe it has been five years!

So when March 1, 2020 came around, my subconscious kicked in and a a wave of darkness came over me. I started to struggle with being okay. There was no real reason for it. It just kind of takes over. I started to simply feel sad. After a few days I started having flashbacks. This kind of thing happened a lot during the first year after his death where I would remember certain moments in time: his last breath, the casket closing, dropping the rose into the grave, But this time it is different. The flashbacks are events that have taken place throughout the past five years. Things I have forgotten about as I have tried to push forward and live life. Things like coming to our house when it was under construction and falling to my knees crying in the gravel of what use to be my home. Or moving into the Homemental ( The rental home we lived in) and having to pack all our belongings up and leave our home. Flashes of when I would walk until my legs gave out or sitting at home trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do with my life after quitting my job. Strange moments like that.

With each memory that would flash throughout the days, I would feel a rope loop around my heart and soul and begin to pull on them. I felt the pain, the emptiness, the feeling of being lost and alone rise back up into me. Horrible feeling. Horrible because I couldn’t understand where it was coming from or why I was feeling this was. Life is good. Things with the boys are good. Things with Bob are good. I am moving forward. I am living again. But it is still there. The ache. The pain. The emptiness. It’s a struggle I go through every March.

So it is my March madness. Another gift of grief. Something I will live with in memory of Pat. I’m okay with that I guess. My past is a part of me. It made me who I am today. Pat is always with me and our love is always surrounding me. That is where all this comes from….our love. Our love together has opened my heart, my eyes, my life to new experiences, new emotions, new love.

Perhaps I should use this isolation, quarantine we are all in at the time as a time to sit with my emotions and thoughts and truly process them like I have never done before. Maybe if I sit with with them for a while I will be able to see they aren’t a punishment or a burden I am stuck with forever, but rather a simple reminder that I am still alive. I am still here. Still breathing, and making it through things I never imagined I would survive for more than a day without Pat. But I am. I am raising these three boys on my own, I am managing the finances, taking care of the household, building a future for all of us and living again. I have love. I have happiness. I didn’t think any of this would come my way after 2015. But it did. I did it. I’m doing it. And maybe, just maybe that is the lesson of my March madness…I’m not really going mad at all. I’m just riding this wave of life and I should remember to embrace the moments that come my way.

Posted in widow

Four and Forty Five

Another year has rolled by. I can’t believe Pat has been gone for four years already. And I can’t believe I somehow arrived at forty five years old. What a journey this has all been. I would have thought by now I would be “good”. That this would be just another day, but nothing ever is the way I think it should be. I miss him. I miss the father he would have been. I miss the possibility of what we would be now. I am not naive though. I know things wouldn’t have been perfect or there wouldn’t have been pain or unhappiness along the way. All my problems are not a result of being a widow. But that doesn’t take away the fact that there is a piece of my life that would have felt a bit more secure. Just having him here to watch tv with or simply feel his presence near me is something I miss more than anything.

Life has moved along for me and I have happiness but I don’t have a day to day partner to share my life with. Not in that way. My kids are my kids. They are my sole responsibility and every decision and every action is put on me. And I worry alone that I am screwing them up. I know if he was here it would have been better for the boys. They wouldn’t be stuck with me just me and my craziness. Pat would have balanced it out.

But that is not my reality and I am beginning to see that I have to let that fantasy in my head, the dreams of what and how I wanted things to be, go. That is my next step in this grieving process. When people said grief was a life long journey they weren’t kidding. It has become easier but still there are days. Four years without him…there have been many many days.

But let’s think of the forty five years I am celebrating today. Those have been good. I look back on all I have done and seen in my life and I feel so amazingly blessed. I was lucky enough to have so many friends who support me. And a family like no other to love me. I found love in an amazing man who gave me the gift of three incredible boys.

And my future looks bright. I have love. I have friends. I have family. A job I enjoy. Students I love to help. There is so much left for me to enjoy. So much for me to learn and see and explore. I look forward to it all.

So four years since I lost my life, my love, all I imagined for my future but forty five years of so much love and happiness.

I can’t wait to see where I go from here.

Posted in widow

Settling into widowhood

The holidays are always an interesting time for widows.  I guess it is for a lot of people.  The holidays have become a time when people start thinking about other people they haven’t thought about all year.  We remember those friends and families who have struggled or lost someone.  People want to reach out and let us know they care and they are thinking about us.  That is nice.  There are other times throughout the year where that would be nice as well, but I digress.

The holidays have changed for us since Pat died.  A little bit of the joy and wonder has disappeared and it has become more of a chaotic crunch time.  A lot of rushing around to see people we haven’t seen and buy gifts for people and do all the traditions we want to save.  There isn’t a lot of time to just sit and be in the wonder of the season like I think we did when Pat was alive and the kids were younger.  Maybe it is just part of the kids growing up that has changed it as well, I don’t know.

For the past few years I have been trying to get my obligation of shopping out of the way early so that I could try to enjoy some time in the moment instead of running around with my head chopped off at the last-minute searching for a gift to give.  I wanted some time to reflect on the year and the joy of the season.  But this hasn’t been easy.  So many things keep getting in the way.

One thing that isn’t getting in the way anymore is the grief of losing Pat.  I think we have found our new place and our new normal and even though we miss him terribly…we have settled into our new lives.  We have new routines, new ways of doing things and have started new traditions.  Some we try to keep alive just because, but for the most part we have found a new way of living without him.  That doesn’t take the pain away or make his memory disappear.  It simply has given us a new start on our journey.  I don’t think it is a new journey, it was just a huge fork in the road that we didn’t see coming.  We never do when it comes to sickness and death.

I wish more than anything the course of my life wouldn’t have gone the way it did.  I wish 5 years ago the doctor told us he had a stomach bug instead of cancer and life would have carried on as it was.  I don’t get the privilege of that wish.  I didn’t get to choose this direction or have any control over the circumstances that were handed to us.  This is where I am and now I have choices.  And I made a choice to live.  To start over and begin again.  Easy?  Nope.  But in my head I didn’t see any other choice.

So choices I made and changes I made and a new life is forming.

So, we are settling in.  It’s been just over 3 1/2 years we have been living without Pat in our physical presence.  I know he is with us in other ways every step of the way.  His love and spirit has guided me in my choices and I am sure he would be happy that we are finding happiness.  Sometimes the road is tough and the pain can be excruciating, but sometimes it leads us to amazing places and beautiful people.  I feel good about settling in and I feel blessed for all that has come to us during this experience.

Posted in widow

Just you and me

November 6, 1999…19 years ago today I said I do to Patrick Mahoney.  This was always our day.  It was the beginning of our story as one.  It was Pat’s favorite day of the year.  He always did it up right.  He would send flowers, plan a special evening and give me incredible gifts.  It’s was a day all about us.  Since he died, I have tried to honor this day in little special ways.  It’s an anniversary.  It has nothing to do with anyone else but him and I.  I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t even remember this day but for us it was the most important day of the year.

There have been anniversaries that other people do remember, such as the anniversary of Pat’s birth.  People send me text messages, write on facebook and even post their favorite photo memories on instagram in honor of Pat’s day.  I love that.  There is also the anniversary of his death.  This day is a little more complicated.  People recognize this day in their own ways.   Some people do send pictures or thoughts, but that day is also my birthday and I think that kind of makes people unsure as how to commemorate the day.  It’s as if they want to acknowledge this as his angelversary or whatever you want to call it, but they feel like it takes away from my birthday.  Or that if they mention it I will remember that it is not just my birthday.  That one sounds crazy to me because really?  how could I forget?  But the thought has crossed my mind.

Beyond those two days, people don’t think about Pat and I in the anniversary sense.  For us widowed folks we know that there are so many anniversaries that we do remember.  The anniversary of the first kiss,  the first date, our first house, the last kiss, the last conversation, the last breath.  And so many in between.  We get to remember it all.  I feel lucky to remember it all.  I was so blessed to get to make those memories in the first place.  I wouldn’t ever want to forget.

But today…what would have been our 19th wedding anniversary is something that is just for him and I.  Something only we remember, well I guess now it is something only I remember.  That’s sad to even write, but it is the truth.  I am the sole owner of the memories of what was once us.  I alone hold the stories of us; every special moment, every intimate conversation, every dream and even every regret.  I’ve got it all inside of me.  And I am thankful for that.  He was mine and I will forever hold him in my heart.  Not just on this day that is ours, but everyday of my life.

Posted in grief, living forward, widow

One Day More

Pat died at the age of 44 years, 6 months and 1 day.  That’s all the life he had to live and boy did he live it.  Today marks my one day more.  One day more is something he would have wanted more than anything.  And now here I am… I have been living one day more than he was given to live.  Its a day that is bringing me mixed emotions.  One, I am realizing how young he was when he had to leave this world.  I couldn’t imagine having to say goodbye to everyone and everything right now.  I am too young.  Two, I am feeling the pressure to truly live life.  I feel like from this point forward I need to embrace life and take every opportunity I have to live and love.  I am doing this for the both of us.  I know I have felt that way since he died, but right now it seems more real than ever.

thankful

The past three and half years…I can’t believe we are there already…has been such a crazy roller coaster for me.  I have been in the depths of hell and I have found my way out again.  There were times I didn’t know what in the world I was doing, where I was headed, what I wanted or if I even deserved any of it.  I have been completely lost, alone and frightened.  And then there were times of great clarity.  Times were I could see an amazing future for myself.  I saw opportunities and ideas and dreams that I had never deemed possible before.  I was given a new perspective on life and the world in which we live.  I discovered my inner strength, realized I don’t give a shit about what others think about me and my choices and started to try to live my life again on my own terms.

This hasn’t always been an easy path…it definitely was not a straight path that my journey has taking me on.  But looking back I am amazed at all the self discovery and soul-searching I have done to lead me to where I am right now.  I had crazy ideas and thoughts about where I was headed at times.  I tried so many different things and routes to take before I came full circle and found my peace again.  I found my place.  I didn’t think that was ever going to happen again for me.  I thought I would be a lost soul forever.

But here I am.

Three and half years later, I am finally in a job that I love, working with people I truly enjoy, comfortable (as much as any parent can be) with raising three boys on my own, I have cut people out of my life and I have found someone new that makes me happy.  I am proud with how far I have come and I am aware of the fact that I am just beginning.

beginning

I am 44 years, 6 months and 1 day old.  I am barely mid-life at this point (at least I hope).  There is so much living and loving and learning left for me to do.

And now I am going to do it not just for me, but for Pat…in his memory, in thanksgiving of all he gave to me, for the life he deserved to be a part of….I am going to try to make him proud and truly live.

One day more may be all I get and I don’t want to waste it a single minute of it.

Posted in widow

Not just another birthday

I’ve been feeling empty these past couple of weeks.   I have felt like something is wrong and I didn’t know what it was.  Something has been bothering me.  I have thought it was the stress from the test I just took.  Or maybe it was my job.  Maybe it was just this solo parenting thing I’ve got going. Mostly I am just so damn tired.  Tired of the day-to-day.  The running around for the kids and trying to do it all alone.  And then I started to think about it closer.  The date on the calendar….April 5th. It’s my birthday.  I should be happy.  But we all know it is not just my birthday.  Three years.. it has been three years today since Pat died.

Even though I have come to terms with so much in my life, this day looms in my unconscious and bothers me.  I miss him.  I miss him so much.  I miss everything about him.  But mostly I miss our life together.  I know it is easy to say looking backwards, but life seemed easier when he was alive.  We had a rhythm of life together and it worked for us.  It was comfortable.  It was supportive.  It was something we had built together for 20 years.

And now.

Now I am still struggling day-to-day to figure it all out.  There is a piece of grief that just lingers there and settles into the nooks and crannies of day to day life that you just can’t shake.  It is there all the time.  Not in the forefront of your mind or in the things you do, but it’s there behind the scenes.  In the little moments.  And it likes to make its appearance at the strangest and sometimes most inopportune times.  You never know when it is going to come out of the shadows and place a dark cloud over your heart.  It just shows up and tears you down.

So that is where I am.  This day isn’t a day of total sadness, but it is a day that just hovers over me.  It lays a fog around my heart and my mind and my soul.  It brings an uncomfortable feeling that I want to be rid of desperately.  I hate feeling this way.  I hate being brought down to my knees again with despair.  I hate feeling so alone and so unsure of what I am doing.  Not that I usually don’t feel a bit of this, I think that is normal.  But on days like today it rains down hard and reminds me of all that I have been through these past 3 years without Pat.  How far I have fallen from who I was and what my life was like.  And in a lot of ways the change isn’t bad.  But it is still change.  It is still a complete evolution of what life use to be.  I forget about that as I battle my way through each day on my own.  I put my head down and do what I have to do and just keep going.  I just keep breathing and I just keep trying.  I forget to look up and see where I am and all that has gone by.

Today marks three years without Pat.  I hate the sound of that…without Pat.  He is always with me.  I know this.  But you also know what I mean.  I miss him.  I miss him so much.  But it’s my birthday.  And I will enjoy the day for that reason.  But I will also remember today as the day that I lost Pat.  And somehow, someday I hope to find peace with it all.  I hope that the lingering pieces of grief shape me into something or someone worthy of all the love he gave me.

Posted in widow

Monster of Doom

It’s been a while since I have written but I do have a good reason.  I have been working hard on something that has sat in front of me as an obstacle, an excuse and a fear for many, many years.  You see, I graduated with my Masters in Counseling back in 2006.  Since then my life has taken many twists and turns and lead me down many different paths.  I never took my national boards for counseling after I graduated.  I had just had my third baby and was recovering from bacterial meningitis…life was taking over.  Time just kept going by and I continued to put it off.  It soon became this giant monster standing in front of me and I formed an irrational fear of it.  I didn’t want to take it.  I was convinced there was no way in the world I could pass this test, especially after all this time.

When Pat first got sick and we were spending the majority of our time sitting in the hospital, I decided I would give it a try.  I figured I had time just sitting to study and I could use the distraction.  But as we all know, nothing can distract you from cancer and death.  Son I continued to put it off.  Five years have passed since that first half-assed attempt.

Pat died and my world has been turned upside down and I totally lost direction.  Everything changed for me and I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life anymore because I didn’t know who I was anymore.  It’s been a quite the journey.  I have taken these past three years to try to figure all of these things out.  This year, I got a new job which I though would simplify my life and bring me some peace.  I thought I wanted a job that was just a job, something that I could leave behind at the end of the day, but it hasn’t turned out to be what I had wanted it to be.  I have spent a great deal of this past school year complaining about the position I am in and wanting out but I didn’t do anything to fix it.  I hate that!  I hate when people complain and do nothing about it.  If you aren’t going to try to find an alternative or a solution, than stop complaining.  Either fix it or deal with it.   And here I was doing that exact thing.

I took a little get away; a break from the kids, the job, and life in general.  I went away for a few days and thought about where I was in my life and where I have been the past few years.  I thought about what I wanted my future to look like.  I started weighing my options and what I may want to do.  When it came down to the foundation of all the things I thought I may want to do, it led me to the same place.  It seemed like the one thing I really needed to do was to take the NCE and finally be a fully licensed counselor.  Oh my God, did this terrify me.

But I took the first step and signed up.  I paid the money which I knew meant I was going to work my butt of to prepare for it because I hate wasting money.  This was a little step, but for me a huge leap.  I had put into motion something that scared the hell out of me.  I waited a bit before I set the official test date and made myself a study schedule.  I tried to take each step slowly and think it through.  I studied and studied and studied for 5 months.  The day finally came and I was so scared.  I can’t even explain to you as to how scared I was.  The morning of the exam my anxiety was through the roof.  My hands were shaking and I could hardly breathe.  But you know what?  I did it.  I sat there for two hours and when I hit the button DONE, I simply held my breath and said “It is what it is.”

No matter what the result was, I had done something that scared me.  I had done something that I had been putting off for 12 years.  I did something.  I took a risk, a step in a direction and waited to see what was going to happen next.

And I am happy to say, I passed that test!  This giant obstacle that has been looming over me for so long is now officially gone.  What a flippin’ relief.  I cried tears of joy and happiness.  It felt so good to have set a goal and actually do I it.  I am so proud of myself.  Not that I passed the test, but that I did it.  I put my mind to something and actually followed through.  I did it without Pat pushing me to do it, though I know he was cheering me on from above.  I did it without giving an excuse as to why I couldn’t.  I did it without anyone else helping me.  I did something for me, about me and all by myself.  I didn’t back off or run scared, like I usually have done since Pat died.  I stuck it out and that is what I am proud of.

But now what?

That is where I land now.  This obstacle, this monster of doom, my excuse is gone.  I can’t use that to stop myself from moving forward anymore.  It has left me with many more decisions to make and directions I can go in.  It makes the next step easier, but also a bit tougher because I actually CAN do these things now.  There is nothing holding me back except for me.  I am now that monster of doom standing in the way of where my life will take me.  This may be scarier than that silly test!

 

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