Braving Love After Loss

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For a while now, I have been nurturing a relationship that has become one of the most important parts of my life. Which has wonderfully overwhelmed me with gratitude and love for a man I wasn’t expecting. Something I truly believed would never happen because of the level of heartbreak I have endured.

Within the first year, a few people said to me, “Oh, honey. AT LEAST you’re young, you’ll find someone else”. It implies that my loss didn’t really matter because I’m young and that finding love is easy as pie.  When you lose your spouse and you lose the future you had planned, you can’t just go on and believe that you will find someone else one day because apparently when you’re widowed young you have “time” on your side. And it’s next to impossible to believe you will find someone that will make you happy again, at least happy in the way you were. I wanted to add this part in this post for anyone tempted to say this to someone who has recently lost their person. I’m sure your intentions are good, but it’s not helpful to the one hurting. Let them feel their pain because their loss matters.

When I thought I might be ready to “get out there” again as they say, I really had no idea if I could handle it. First of all, dating now days is so much different than dating when I was last doing it. There are apps you can download to find a date, which is so scary for someone like me. I did try a dating app for literally 5 days. I never met anyone in person because every dude seemed way too aggressive and one was even rude about the whole me being a widow thing. Basically, it seemed like too much of an obstacle for him and his agenda. BYE BYE then! In short, it was not a positive experience for me for those short 5 days, so I deleted the app and decided that if this would happen for me, it would have to happen organically. Which is even harder to do these days. I am not saying there is anything wrong with online dating, I know a TON of people it has worked for. Just for me personally and with my background, it wasn’t going to work for me at the time. I felt terrified and vulnerable because opening your heart up to someone new comes with risk, risk of all kinds of heartbreak. I didn’t think I could handle anymore heartbreak of any form. As a widow, you know the unrelenting pain of losing your love. So, as a widow, the idea of falling in love again can cause paralyzing fear because you are brutally aware that you could lose it all over again.

Right after I decided to not focus on dating is when IT happened. Thanks to some amazing friends who had been respectively yet passively encouraging this “meet” for months. And, to these friends I am now forever indebted to. You know who you are.  😉

When I met Mark, he stood out to me right from the beginning. There was a safe energy about him I can’t explain. For both of us, it was our first date after our marriages. He had lost his marriage, not because of a death but it was still a monumental loss that he had been working through. We both had been grieving at the same time. We both were mourning the loss of the life we had plans for and yet we were both choosing to take a risk at the idea of someone new. The idea that maybe there is a chance to love after loss.

As I was saying, there was something different about him. It almost felt like I could hear someone (I wonder who?) telling me, just go for it, be brave and try. So, I did and I haven’t looked back.

Because we’ve both been through some seriously tough times, it has made us that much more aware of our gratitude for each other this second time around at love. There is a perspective we both have. We understand the bigger picture, we know what we want and what is most important. Had we not been through hell and back we wouldn’t have found each other. So, with that, I can say I am grateful for the unbearable heartbreak because of where it has led me. It has led me to become the person I am today, which turns out to be a person who can be loved by someone new.

Every single day I am filled with even more gratitude for where I’ve been, what I have now and where I am heading. If you don’t have gratitude, you have nothing. Taralee, a cherished veteran widow friend of mine has said from the very beginning of her widowhood, “Gratitude MUST win”. She is so right on with that and I don’t think I really understood it fully until I became widowed. It goes right along with that perspective I’ve gained in all this. I think that works especially in relationships. It’s so easy to get bogged down by the “everyday grind” of life. So, make the effort and look for the things, even the smallest of things you can find to be grateful for. Lately, I have noticed how much more I say “I am grateful”, so you all will probably be reading it a lot more too.  Because a grateful heart is the key to true happiness. It really is that simple.

With all that being said, I am abundantly grateful to Mark and to myself for choosing to be brave enough to try. We had no idea that this would work out as well as it has, but had we not tried, we wouldn’t have what we have now, which is something more beautiful than I ever could have hoped for. Diving head first into new love after loss is probably the bravest thing I’ve done to date.  My tragedy will not determine whether I get to be happy again. Because of my bravery and his, we can have it all.

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The Re-Birth that Widowhood Welcomes

 

There’s no explanation needed when talking about why my life looks and feels completely different than it did when I was a wife. Almost literally, nothing is the same. I even have one less parent. However, lately, it has been surprising me that there are so many things about my new life and the new me that could not have been present during my wife life. And I am joyfully and genuinely embracing them.  

There was a time when I thought I would never truly feel happy again. In the beginning, imagining life going on without Justin was impossible. Here I am nearly 16 months out (woah), and I feel very content with where my life is and is heading. Seriously guys, this blows my mind! If you’re a widow reading this you know what I mean, the impossible became our truth and living on through the loss is yet another impossible we have to make possible. And let me tell you ladies and gents, IT IS POSSIBLE!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I miss my husband more than I can even put into justifiable words and I always will. I have just accepted that the hole he left in my heart will always ache, and it’s an ache I can live with because it is all I have left of him, and that ache reminds me of the life I once had. Even though I have experienced incredible heartbreak, I can honestly say I have gained so much after losing so much. I will always treasure the memory of my life with Justin, but I am living on with loss and can still make room for all kinds of possibilities in my life.

My circle of friends here in Colorado has even changed and expanded significantly. My widow besties (AKA my Wids) are for sure one thing I could not imagine my life without and I probably wouldn’t have known them if it hadn’t been for this unbelievably shitty life circumstance we share. And since we can’t change that circumstance, we have chosen to help each other mend our broken hearts and embrace our new lives, together.

I also have these new circles of friends now. Some I have known for years but was never really close to them, and it somehow took my new reality to bring us together and I LOVE these people and am beyond grateful they are part of my life. A simple philosophy I inherited from Justin was, always surround yourself with quality people. With everything I have been through, it’s OK to be picky about who I let in.

I have even become more social and have tried doing new things, going new places, being more spontaneous and exploring more of this beautiful place that I am fortunate enough to call home. I am doing more and saying YES to more because why the hell not?

Without getting into too much detail out of respect for Justin, I believe the last few years of his life were pretty dark. I know I provided him with the light he needed to get by but after the abrupt loss of his parents, he became submerged into a deep pain and didn’t have the tools to dig himself out.  Those of you that knew him probably didn’t even know this because he was really good at making everyone believe he was happy 100% of the time. However, looking back on our life and seeing how different my life is now, I have to believe he was in more pain than I was capable of realizing at the time. When you’re living with someone every day, what is actually going on may be hard to recognize.

Grief has many different faces and one of his was shutting himself out from the world outside of him and I. I’m only sharing this because I can now actually understand why he was the way he was during those last few years of his life, and it breaks my heart. He seemed to want to be home most of the time and socializing was the last thing on his list of desires. This is why I choose to be open and honest about the truths of life, I cannot shut out the world. I think it would kill me too. Recognizing how shut in he was, which in turn made me a shut in, had an impact on our daily life. I do know there was only so much I could do for him. I know it wasn’t anyone’s fault other than grief’s nasty hold that it had over him. I am not saying he didn’t handle it well, I just truly believe it took over a part of his heart and he didn’t know what to do with it. He didn’t have the support from people who could relate to that loss, he had me. I was basically it, but at that time in my life all I knew what to do was be his wife, love him and provide whatever I could to make life a little lighter for him.

When I met Justin, I had just turned 22. Now, being a 30-year-old woman starting over I am getting to know ME again and I have never loved myself more because of the heartbreak I have endured. I am who I am today because of it, and I am grateful for that. I believe that’s why I have been able to welcome all this beautiful newness in my life. I am surer of myself than ever before because I have been to hell and back and survived. With confidence, I can literally do anything!  

I am living with grief but I am daily finding things that I absolutely LOVE about my new life. I am at a point where I can find gratitude for what I have gained after this unimaginable loss.  Part of me died along with Justin, there is no doubt about that. But now, I am experiencing a re-birth of a woman who I am proud to be.

Peace, Love and Death

 

Having a wealth of experience when it comes to death, I have learned quite a bit about living. I know there is a bigger picture to all of this. A picture that we as simple human beings are not meant to fully understand here in the physical world. I’m not necessarily talking about God, but this bigger picture could include some form of that. All I know is that there HAS to be more to this than what our simple “humanness” is capable of comprehending.

After a lot of personal growth and self-discovery, I have come to realize that life is about maintaining our love and peace with those we still have in our lives. Sounds too hippie dippy for you? Let me tell you how I got here…

Having been raised in an intense, ultra-religious church that some say had cult like tendencies, religion is just not for me. Religion has only hurt parts of my life than it has helped. That’s not saying I didn’t take away some incredible friendships and life principles from growing up that way. I absolutely did, and those relationships and morals are some of the things I hold closest to my heart. It’s just that religion itself, is just not for me. I believe , in a way it was created to bring peace of mind in humanity for what happens in the afterlife. (Not trying to offend anyone who still practices a religion, I have absolutely nothing against it. If it works for you, I am so grateful it does. My new found beliefs are just the result of my religious trauma.) 

It’s been over 12 years since I left the church. In that time, it has been an uphill battle to map out what it is that I believe in. I have had to deprogram my mind from believing that if you die and aren’t baptized in this church you will burn in hell for all eternity. Yikes right!? Because of that, I had an unhealthy fear of death as a child. To be fair, I think everyone fears death to an extent because it’s the ultimate UNKOWN. So of course, there is a level of fear in it. However, in the 12+ years I have been free to have a mind of my own I have finally come to a place that I believe that ‘anything is possible’! Cliché? Maybe. However, it’s the absolute, simple truth of life. We as humans are so limited, who am I to say things aren’t possible? Who am I to say there IS or ISN’T a God? Who am I to say there isn’t another version of myself somewhere in another galaxy? Sure! Why not? Who the heck am I!? I’m just a simple earthling after all. 

Now, with this new-found perspective on death and life and that it is so much larger than we know, I also believe that LOVE is more important than we are aware. Yes, of course love in any form is essential for quality of life, but I think its so easy for us to take it for granted. The major losses of my life have been of course my beloved husband, my babies, my father and my in laws. You could say I see how important it is to love those I still have in my life, and also probably why I tend to be so forgiving, not that it always comes easy to me. Our time here is brutally temporary, and wasting that time is criminal. Regardless of what you personally believe in, everyone can believe in love.

With all that said and all the loss I have suffered through, I have finally arrived to a peaceful state of mind when it comes to death. I have to believe we are all eternally connected, even in death. After all, the first law of Thermodynamics is that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. And I believe love is an energy form indeed! So, just because someone isn’t here physically, doesn’t mean their love for us dies right along with them. 

If we all could just use our time to love each other and be grateful for those that remain, life would simply be easier.  Maybe it’s the “hippie” mentality I have, but I truly believe in the power of love. You and you alone can choose to love, even when it can feel hard to.

Experiencing the kind of loss that changed the entire course of my life in an instant, I am painfully aware that the time we are blessed to have with one another is preciously finite. I honestly wish I could beat this into the brains of some, because I constantly see people I know and love wasting it. Which absolutely breaks my heart. We only get so much time to love each other, something that easily overlooked.

My advice to EVERYONE, live your life in love. It really is that simple. Death comes quick and I don’t want to waste any time.

When “Widow Brain” Strikes Again!

Widow brain is no joke. It clouds every aspect of your head, which makes it nearly impossible to be a normal, self-sufficient and productive human being. This last week I have been struggling trying to think of something to write about. Even though I have an endless list of topics written down that I could discuss, I can’t seem to focus on any one thing.

I have attempted to write about four different things this week and all of them I have stopped halfway through because I just wasn’t feeling it. I believe in order for me write about something that people will want to read and will be able to connect to, I have to actually being feeling whatever it is in that moment for it to feel successful and worth publishing. So, after all those attempts, and with a little help from my friend who encouraged me to embrace the fog, here I am, talking about what I am feeling and battling right now.   

I am going through some new heavy life circumstances with my family that I am sure I will discuss at a later time, when I feel it is more appropriate but it has made the grief in my mind even more present. I need Justin to help right now but he cannot and that is making this more difficult on top of an already horrible situation. His absence through this awfulness has created a fog to slowly creep in and take up the majority of myself. 

Widow brain, grief brain or just good old brain fog from stress is absolutely real. It prevents us from being a normal functioning adult. When the fog sets in and inevitably occupies every part of my body, I feel like I start to lose it a little.  I can be driving in my neighborhood and by some miracle get lost (yes, this has happened) or forget where I was supposed to be headed  in the first place after driving for a solid ten minutes…”Oh right, I have to go to work right now!”. I can have a long list of to do’s but be crippled, sometimes literally, with anxiety because of all the “to do’s”, when they are simple things like getting the car washed and picking up dog food. And then when I do try, I get lost going to PetSmart…which is down the street by the way. Even as I am trying to write this I am losing my train of thought, getting easily distracted by the dishes in the sink and then my eyes catch the basket of laundry full of clean clothes that has been sitting there for 3 days and I just start staring at it, unable to move, I can’t seem to walk over there, pick up the basket and start folding. GET UP CRAZY LADY AND FOLD!!!! So now, I start to feel like there is no point of even sharing any of this because I feel like it has no direction. However, this is real and this is part of grief and life, so here it is folks. Foggy, widow brain word jumbles in all its glory by yours truly.

I am trying to manage everyday life, grief and death all that the same time. No wonder I feel like a crazy person who can’t focus and probably isn’t making any sense. It’s OK to feel foggy. Is it fun? Not in any way, but I know there is no way around it. It just is. I know deep down it’s temporary. Hopefully soon, I will regain control of my brain and be able to feel like a somewhat regular person who can contribute to society again. However, when you’re in it, it’s horribly frustrating because you can’t see an end in sight. You just have to wait it out until the fog clears.

 

Humor within Grief

Being a widow isn’t funny. Grief isn’t funny. But you know what!? Finding humor within the weight of grief is absolutely necessary because otherwise you will drive yourself nuts, and that’s just a fact.

Since becoming widowed, I have noticed this acute grief comes with a morbid sense of humor. For example, anyone who has lost someone knows how much crap you have to take care of when someone dies. So, when people would ask me what I was doing on a certain day and if I happened to have a ton of stuff to take care of that had to do with the fact that Justin is dead, I just started saying “Oh, I just have some Dead Husband Stuff to do”. It was more interesting and less exhausting than going into all the details of what the “dead husband stuff” involved, which was a TON and no one would even believe me if I told them all of it. At first, people would give me that awkward guilty smirk paired with the even more awkward head tilt when all I wanted from them was to chuckle because to me, it was hilarious.

There are some people from my life before that get this humor. My sister in law is one of them. A few weeks ago, me and my family all met up to face some more awful life circumstances but for a completely different reason than “dead husband stuff” (<– see it’s funny!). When she arrived, she brought a gift for us, they were socks with silly phrases like “Fuck this shit” with small animations of people getting electrocuted and my personal favorite “I hate everyone too” with a little girl petting a pony. Not going to lie on this, but sometimes it can feel like I hate everyone. Only because of everything I can deal with in a moment can make another’s existence and their “problems” feel so insignificant.  Then I remember, everything is relative and I try my hardest to grant some grace. So, with that being said, I obviously don’t literally hate everyone. It’s a JOKE. She came in with her funny fucked up socks and bag of Seattle chocolates to help lighten the mood. To try and get a laugh out of all of us which was EXACTLY what we needed. If that’s something that offends you, you need to lighten up. It’s funny and fucked up which is just what we need sometimes because that’s life.

Me and my Wids constantly talk about how almost comical it can seem when referencing all the things we’ve lost and all the things that one loss comes with.  Like, really, its funny guys! How does all this happen to one person right!? This grief can be so unbearably heavy that we try to find ways to make it lighter, because if you can’t do that, the weight will eventually break you. And how can you break something that is already broken? The humor is there to pick up our brokenness.

So, when we make a morbid widow joke, LAUGH! Please for the love of all that is good and departed <–😉, LAUGH WITH US! We are trying. We are trying so hard. We are trying to brand our heavy life with some lightness and that means you don’t have to feel depraved or guilty to laugh at a dumb, morbid, grief induced joke! All I know is that Justin would be laughing his ass off at my jokes, no matter how fucked up they are because what else is there to do other than to LAUGH!

 

 

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Me and my Wids laughing at something most likely fucked up over the weekend of my husbands death anniversary (7/15/18) Love you Katie and Sierra, thanks for always laughing with me.
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You can’t deny…these are silly and great.

 

 

Memories

Memories are building blocks that shape us into who we are.  Regardless of the emotion each memory carries, they are tiny pieces of our hearts that create a whole person.

I can turn on a certain song, close my eyes and go right back to my happiest memory of experiencing that song with Justin. Or how the power of your smell sensory can bring you back to a certain memory. Smell memory (as I like to call it) is the reason I picked out a few of Justin’s shirts from his clothes hamper and sealed it in a plastic bag hoping it will lock in his aroma, you know that special individual smell everyone has. Justin’s smell was so nice, and he prided himself on personal hygiene so he literally never smelled bad. He just smelled like my Justin.

Oddly enough, social media has become this sacred time capsule for our memories. I share my Facebook memories frequently because they are the things I miss and they are all I have left. I lost my person and I lost my future with this person so I no longer have the ability to make new memories with him. So, I share the ones I do have. It’s not any different than when I talk about him or share something that reminds me of him. 

I have noticed from personal experience and from fellow widows that those around us sometimes think that when we share these memories we are not doing well, in a dark place or that we are dwelling on the past and I guess that makes others uncomfortable. That’s right…it makes OTHERS UNCOMFORTABLE! HA! This makes me laugh because its absolutely ridiculous. A fellow Wid recently said that their family was concerned their sharing of memories could be scaring off potential love interests. Which is so outrageous in my eyes because us widows are not even slightly concerned with this thought. Probably because the next person I choose to be with will be mature enough to handle my grief, and that means I will share memories of my past because they are monumental parts of who I am today, and who I am today is the person my next partner will love. So, they WILL care about the memories I have, as I will care about the memories they have. Because, its those memories that are part of their heart that I will choose to love.

When you haven’t experienced loss like this I think it tends to come easy for outsiders to have an opinion or a concern with the way someone else may be grieving. But in fact, they have no idea what this is like. So, if we are getting up every day, taking care our kids, walking the dog, going to work and talking about our loss, not hiding it away because it makes others uncomfortable, then I’d say we’re doing our damn best…OK? If we want to share our memories, let us share our memories, that is something that should be celebrated, not shamed.

So, to my fellow wids out there or anyone who is grieving anything, keep sharing your memories. Don’t let anyone make you believe you shouldn’t. Be open to making new memories, but delight in the ones you do have from your past. After all, the memories are all we have to hold onto.

About Me

For whatever reason you find yourself here, I welcome you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for stopping by to gander into this life of widowhood I have unexpectedly found myself in. This is for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation or just wants to get an idea of what this is really like. I know the lot of you will be fellow members of this shitty club, but I hope that the many others will never have to know what this is like.

Losing a spouse is not for the weak and wearied, even though at times that’s all that I feel. The thing is about widowhood, you’re not given a choice. You HAVE to get up and keep going. Even when it feels impossible, and those impossible days are way more frequent than not.

Learning to live every day without my beloved Justin has been like trying to live with without all of my limbs. You’re trapped and have nowhere to go other than to just sit in the painful and horrid mess that is your life. I cannot do justice for what this is like because it is the type of hurt that you cannot truly explain. You have to feel it yourself to really understand. But hopefully, I can help my fellow widowed tribe or anyone who just wants to try to gain an understanding of the daily life of someone who is living with heavy grief. It’s now part of my new identity, and always will be. The girl I was before Justin died is long gone and I now am piecing together what this new me looks like. I am not sure what that will look like entirely but hopefully here is where I can put myself back together again.

Thank you for taking an interest in my journey. It is because of all of you that I have kept going.

“Well, I’ll keep on moving, moving on. Things are bound to be improving these days. One of these days.” -Jackson Browne

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