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

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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Posted in grief, living forward, widow, year of self-care

A year of self-care

2017 came to an end.

I was given a gift of a two-week vacation from school and work. I had hoped that I would have felt recharged, refreshed and ready to start 2018.  I wanted to use my two weeks to reflect and refocus on where I am, where I’ve come and where I want to see myself this year.  Unfortunately, the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 brought my a cold and sickness that I just couldn’t seem to kick.  I came into the year more exhausted then I left the last.  I knew I wanted 2018 to be a bit more about me then the years that have passed, but after the way the year started I now know that it is a must.

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I have been reflecting on the past 2 1/2 years since Pat died and all the different places I have been and the crazy thoughts that have gone through my head.  Looking back is way easier to see what I was doing then when I was actually living it, hind sight is always clearer.  A friend told me that my first year after Pat died would be the year of Denise.  That I would  need to do whatever I needed to do.  I thought that sounded amazing.  I thought that was what it was.  But it wasn’t.  It was a year of survival.  It was a year of grace.  I had to learn how to make it on my own,living in this deep fog that we widows experience.  I had that year allowing myself to be in the pain and the grief and just put my head down and go through the motions.  It wasn’t about me.  It was about survival…for all of us.

The second year I then thought I was ready for a year about me.  I even quit my job and took some time to learn about who I was know that Pat was gone.  I am definitely not the same person as I use to be, but I had no idea who this was.  I had time but it didn’t turn out to be about me either.  It was about learning how to run the household…how to take on all the new roles and responsibilities that were left in my hands.  It was also a year about the kids.  Taking care of their grief needs and school needs and everything else that comes with raising three boys on my own.  It was a year of learning, not a year about taking care of me.

This third year has been about getting back out in the world and finally coming to this new normal everyone has been talking about.  I went back to work doing something different from my past jobs and tried to find a new path for my life.  I have slowly started to get a handle on the finances of the house and making plans for the future.  It’s been about getting the boys back out into life and active with their friends and school activities.  This has led me to devoting all my time and energy to them.  I understand this is what parenting is all about, but I am utterly exhausted not having a tag out to someone, anyone at anytime.  This is 100% on me and boy am I feeling it.

This has led me to my focus on a year of self-care.  I want to change the perception that taking time for yourself and putting yourself from time to time is not selfish…it is necessary.  You can not be good for others if you are drained.  You can not pout from an empty pitcher.  You need to provide yourself oxygen before you can help others reach their oxygen.  It isn’t wrong to care for you…it is the best thing you can do for you and your family.

I realize this is an intentional act I will have to focus on everyday because being a working parent I am pulled in so many directions that I can lose track of where I am headed.  So I am mapping out a plan for myself and I hope others do the same.  This year has to be a little bit about me.  I have to take care of myself; body, mind and spirit.  Everyday I need to take at least five minutes to focus on me.  This could be for meditation, or reading, or walking, or sit ups or writing or anything that I want to do.  Everything else can wait for five minutes.

I am also going to work on letting guilt go.  My kids do not need everything they think they need right when they think they need it.  I am going to give myself the gift of not feeling guilty for not giving them everything.  I am going to put some of my needs and wants ahead of their demands (because they aren’t typically needs anyways).  I am going to schedule some me time to do what I need to do for me.  Not what I need to do for them.  I will take care of me, even if it seems stupid to others and give myself some time to reboot, recharge and refresh my spirit.

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This is hard.

This is so hard with three demanding boys standing over me asking to be driven somewhere, or to buy them something or to make them dinner.  But they can wait.  They can wait for me to get my head together and take a deep breath and remember what life is about.

Life is about love.  It is about finding happiness and peace and love in the smallest of things.  It is not about having the most, or being famous or having the busiest social life.  It is about finding your place in the world and being at peace with where you are.

In order to find this, you have to look.

In order to look, you have to take some time for you.

If all the focus is on others and at the end of the day you are emotionally, physically and mentally drained, you will never be able to find the peace you deserve.  The peace I deserve.

So this is my challenge to you…make it a year of self-care.  Make an intentional effort to be about you, just a little bit and then let’s see where we are in year from now…or even a month from now.  I’m ready for some time to discover me and do what is best for me.  I believe that if I am happy and settled in my life, then everything else should fall into place.  I will be a better mom, a better daughter, a better friend, a better employee…just better.

It’s a worth a try, at least that’s what I think.

 

 

 

Posted in grief, widow

Writing Chapter 2

So I think I have found my chapter 2…that sounds all good and everything, but it isn’t.  It doesn’t make everything good.  My life isn’t magically recreated into a blissful ending.  That’s for the movies, not reality.  Dating mid-life is a challenge to say the least.  Establishing a relationship is almost impossible.  Trying to balance work, children, grief and a new relationship seems to be something not meant for the weak.  There are long stretches of not seeing each other without six children around.  There are stretches of not being together at all.  There are days when I don’t think I can do it anymore…it’s too hard.

It’s not like dating when you were young and had your whole life ahead of you.  Back then you had nothing but time to hang and be together.  You had nothing and started a life together.

 

 

You went through the struggles of day-to-day life together and created something new together, just the two of you.  You made plans for the future, you tried and tackled the hurdles together and you always had the other by your side at the end of the day.  Just having their presence was enough to help in the smallest way.

Jump ahead 20+ years: two established careers, two homes, two sets of routines and traditions, learning to be a single parent and oh yeah, six kids.  This is just the obvious challenges dating as a widow brings.  There is so much more.  For one, there is nothing to establish together.  You both have your lives.  You have built all that with someone else.

You both have children who are demanding your time and energy with all their needs and wants.  You both have jobs that have their own time demands and energy suckage.  And at the end of the day you are all alone dealing with the aftermath of your day and the day to come tomorrow.  Yes there are phone calls throughout the day and brief moments for small conversations when dropping off kids or being in the same place at the same time, but actual interaction with one another is lacking.  There is no peace and love at the end of the day when it seems like I need it the most.  This is a huge challenge I face.

Sharing my life with someone is something I want.  I want a partner, a best friend; someone to have to lean on and to simply be with.  This isn’t something I expect to come easy.  If it is something I truly want, I need to be patient and stay the course.  I am well aware of this. precious

I just keep waiting for something to come easy for me.  This whole new book of my life hasn’t started out with any exciting plot twists, or simplistic undertones.  No, this new book has been a lot of tragedy.  A lot of crazy nutty things happening all at once.  Maybe that will make for a good middle where the main character learns her strength and what her purpose really is in this life leading to a very exciting, unexpected end.    I could handle that I think…as long as the unexpected ending isn’t another tragedy or cliff-hanger.   I need some time of peace and calm.  That is where I am hoping this story is headed.

See, I miss the comfort of having my person.  Just being able to be with him whenever I wanted, whenever I needed…every day.  I always got to just be with him.  I think people take that for granted.  They get to be with their person all the time and don’t remember what is like to not to be able to be in that position.  When I have the opportunity, if even for a short period of time, to be with my new person, I take it.  I wish people could understand that and see that I am not being selfish, or pushing them away or putting him before them.  I am really on my own the majority of the time.  When the opportunity to put in some writing on my chapter 2 shows itself, I want to take it.

We have stated that we are dating backwards.  We have everything and we have the children.  We will have to wait to get our time together on the other side. I hope we make it to that time and place.  Life is a struggle and I don’t think anyone should have to face it alone.  Being alone and being lonely in life is not something I want or wish upon anyone.  I have stated before that I believe the purpose of life is to love and to share it with others.  That is all I am wanting to do.  Just want to be giving the chance to really see this through.

I have found my chapter 2…This I know.  I thought that would be the hard part.  But writing our story together is turning out to be the next big hurdle in my story.

 

Posted in grief, widow

Barely Breathing

dandiI try.  Every single day I am doing my absolute best to hold it all together.  But I am not doing so well.  I feel trapped.  I feel like I am suffocating.  I am barely breathing.  I’m unsure as to how this has happened.  Somehow my life took a turn that left me completely out of control.  I feel powerless to all that is happening to me.  I feel stuck in a place I am unsure as how to get out of.

All day, everyday, I keep it together.  I put on a happy face and I do what I have to do.  But the second I head home, I break.  The mask comes off and the truth is revealed.  Unhappiness overtakes me and I cry.  I’ve done a good job at holding it together, but it is getting harder and harder.  I am unsure how to get out of this one.  I don’t know how to escape the pain; the confusion.  I don’t even know what the problem is.  I just feel so lost..so alone.

When will it all end?  When will I find my way back to a life of happiness?  Is this even possible?  I can’t do it anymore.


I wrote this some time back and just recently came upon it again.  I was in a bad place.  I was not happy with anything that was going on and I was basically pissed off at the world.  I was lost in my own mind and in my own world and it left me feeling utterly hopeless.

Hope is something we all must continue to have in order to fully push forward in life.  Without hope, without a chance of there being something better, the future seems bleak and meaningless.  I know this feeling intimately.  Sometimes we get so caught up in all that is swirling around us that we stop to see where we are.  I do this all the time.  I get lost in the midst of the daily grind of life.  I get caught up in the discomfort of my world and lose perspective.  It doesn’t seem like it is all just flying around me, but rather that I am being thrown about with the mess and out of control.

hopeBut I have hope.  I honestly believe there is a reason I am still here.  I know that tomorrow will bring me something new as long as I keep reaching for it.  Hope is what keeps me getting up and doing what I have to do each and every day.  Hope is what motivates me to try again and again and again.

I hope for so much.  I hope to find my place in the world again.  I hope to find peace and comfort and joy.  I hope to find love and happiness.  I hope to find my purpose and feel the passion that comes from living that purpose.  I believe it is all possible.  I believe that as long as there is air in my lungs and blood pumping through my veins, I have a chance at an amazing life.

Widowhood changes us.  It changes our view of the world and everything that goes on, but what I am finding to be most important is that it changes our view of ourselves.  I think this can be one of the more difficult parts of the grief process.  For some reason if we face the loss of our spouse head on and go through the darkness of the tunnel and somehow manage to come out the other end, we can find acceptance with their death.  Not closure, not forgetting, not letting go, but acceptance that they are gone and that is how it is.

I grieved the loss of Pat.  I understand that he is gone and I have been heartbroken and sorrowful and miserable.  But I have found that acceptance.  I understand the reality and although it absolutely sucks, I have come to terms with that being a part of my story.

But what I have not done is to face the grief towards the collateral damage that came along with his death.  I am not the same; my life is not the same; my dreams are not the same…everything changed.  And even though I can roll with things and see that it is different and try to make a new life from the pieces that are left, I have not faced the anger and disappointment and grief that I feel towards losing the life I had and the life I had planned.

This is my main focus now.  I have always used the phrase moving forward rather than moving on because moving on sounds like once you have dealt with it you forget about it forever.  I will never forget Pat and our love…hence moving forward.  But what is holding me back now is something I think I need to move on from.  The anger, the disappointment, the resentment towards people, things and circumstances that are far beyond my control.  I need to face them head on and then let them go…and move on with my life.  Otherwise I may stay stuck in this place forever, and who would want that?

hopesI am happy with where I am now.  I read what is written above, which was written not that long ago, and see how far I have come; how much I have grown.  I have a plan laid out for my future; for the things I want to do and things I will do.  The darkness isn’t as blinding as it once was.  I see the way to what I am looking for and I know it is just a matter of time.  Each day, each positive thought, each moment of hope brings me closer to the life I never knew I wanted.

 

Posted in grief, living forward, widow

Tomorrow’s happiness does not erase the past

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I love Pat.  I have loved him since I met him at the age of 21.  I spent half of my life with the man.  I fell in love with him, I married him,  I carried his children…I took care of him when he was sick, I held him as he took his last breath in this world, I love him still today.  These are the facts and there is no denying any of them.

But time keeps ticking.  Life continues on.  You have a choice to continue to live without your love beside you and search for a new path…a new future, or you can choose to sit in sorrow, missing your late spouse forever feeling alone, lost, confused and desperate.

I have decided to live and find a new path.  I opened my mind, and more importantly, I opened my heart.  I took the risk and put myself out there and I found someone to let in again.  I didn’t think this was possible.  I didn’t think I could ever open myself up to someone or be able to have loving feelings for anyone else…I didn’t understand how this is possible when my heart is filled with so much love for Pat.  I have read about others having what the widow world calls a chapter 2.  I have heard others stories about being surprised by falling in love again.  But I couldn’t possibly wrap my brain around how this could actually happen.  I didn’t believe it.   I think that is what people who haven’t lost their spouse thinks as well.  It doesn’t make any sense…until you are there, living it and then it all makes sense.

 

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I read it somewhere that loving again is like growing a second heart.  I get that now.  Loving someone new has absolutely nothing to do with loving Pat.  It is absolutely amazing and so hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it.  A new love is completely different, completely separate from the first.  It doesn’t replace the love or erase it or mean you are even healed.  It simply means your heart is still beating.  You are still alive and capable of so much.

 

I believe that the meaning of life is to love, as simple as that.  To love and grow and share it with others.  Without love there is no reason for anything.  There is no purpose greater than to love.  I have love in my heart and have enough room in there to love more than one person without taking anything from either one.

I don’t believe that my past defines me.  And I don’t believe that my work towards having a new path in life erases anything I had with Pat.  My future can’t take away anything from my past.  Everything that has happened to me, and everything means Pat and his love, has led me to this exact moment and place in my life.  It has brought me to the door of new possibilities and new love.

Some say it is too soon.  Some say I couldn’t have really loved Pat if I could find another.  Some say I should be alone and in mourning for much, much more time.  Some say a lot.  But the reality of it all is that I am not some.  I am me.  I am living this.  This is my story, my life.  I have experienced it.   They don’t understand…they don’t understand anything, even though they claim they do.  There is no way they could possibly.

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And I am happy that they don’t understand.  I wish on no one the pain and loss I have experienced.  I believe it is time for me to find some happiness.  Let me have love,  let me have my life.  I don’t need to be weighed down with judgments, or thoughts, or opinions.

 

I am tired of trying to make others understand the unexplainable.   This is my chance at tomorrow’s happiness and it does not in any way erase my past.  It only adds to my story.

 

Posted in grief, widow

What a widow means when she says “I’m fine”

I’m fine, I say, smile and look away.  This is the way I have answered people hundreds of times since Pat has died.   Fine is the staple of my conversations and my go-to answer.  Fine makes people feel better.  They receive the word fine as meaning I have gotten it together, gotten over the loss of my husband and I am moving forward.  Unfortunately, fine means none of these things.

What this widow means when she says the word fine is:

  • I don’t want to even begin to try to explain to you how I am feeling
  • I have no words for the struggle I am going through
  • I am exhausted from the physical act of getting out of bed this morning
  • I will figure it out on my own
  • There is no way you could possibly understand how my world has changed
  • My universe has come crashing down around me, but I am still breathing
  • I managed to have a shower this morning and show up…physically at least
  • I have only forgotten three things I was suppose to do today because I can’t think straight
  • I have fifteen things I am suppose to be doing right now
  • I don’t want your pity
  • I am lonely
  • I am scared
  • I am lost
  • I am holding it together for the moment
  • I miss my husband
  • I wish my world could make sense again
  • We are making it through the day
  • We don’t have any major catastrophes happening
  • There are things happening behind the scenes that you will never understand
  • I can’t take my children’s pain away from them
  • I wish I could go back in time
  • I don’t want to do this anymore
  • I don’t know what to do next
  • I want to crawl back into my bed and wait for my world to get better
  • I’ve got this on my own
  • I can only count on myself
  • You don’t get it
  • You never will
  • I am all alone

I am sure there is so much  more that is behind those three little words.  There is pain.  There is sorrow.  There is confusion.  There is loneliness.  It is being completely alone and it is feeling isolated, not understood and lost.

I say I am fine all the time.

I say it’s fine, I’ll figure it out…because what else is there to say?

I am still here.  I am still trying.  I’m fine…honestly I am.