Sunday, February 28, 2010

One Small Step for a Man...

Walking the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral
Originally uploaded by

Today I have been thinking a lot about the fact that in two weeks it will officially be 6 months since Michael died, meaning 6 months that I have been in mourning, grieving as a widower. As I wrote this last sentence I stopped for a minute to google a question that came to mind. What exactly is the difference between grief and mourning. I had my own ideas, but was curious about how others described it. In a nutshell, here is what I found. Grief is an internal response to loss. Mourning is taking the internal grief we have and expressing it externally.

With that in mind, what exactly am I doing here, meaning on this blog? I am writing about my internal process. I suppose you could say I am externally expressing my internal process. Can you tell that I'm a bit focus-challenged today?

In thinking about the 6 month mark, I began thinking about where I am in my grieving process. I have been feeling like it is time to start moving forward, maybe taking some small steps in letting go of the things I use as crutches in my clinging to Michael. What I thought I would initially do was begin sorting through his clothing. When Michael's mother visited last month we went through most of his belongings, mostly talking about what he had, the stories behind them, and what was important to her, what was important to me. When it came to his clothing she said to take my time with it. She said that when I am ready I could put aside what I wanted to keep, then box up the rest. She will allow Michael's brother, and nephew, to pick out some items, then donate the rest to her local hospice thrift store.

All weekend I have been looking at Michael's clothing, pretty much already knowing which items hold the most sentiments for me, but I didn't actually touch anything. I decided that it is something I'll perhaps start tomorrow, or next weekend, but not today. Since I was on the computer I realized I hadn't checked his email in some time. During these past months, I have been checking his email account a couple of times a month, just to see if there was any forgotten business to attend to, or to make sure there wasn't anyone trying to reach him, not knowing he had passed away. After combing through all the new email, I decided that there was nothing new of significance, so it was time to close the account.

Before I could close Michael's email account I needed to find out how to back up the saved folders in the account. Michael had a lot of important information in there, especially from all of his prior genealogy research. I doubt that his brother, or nephew and nieces, will do anything with it, but perhaps another relative may ask one day. There may also be a point where re-reading old email will be important to me, and I want to have it saved. This led me to doing some research online about how to copy and save the various folders, each of which contain hundreds of email messages. After reading many approaches to this task, I made a choice, and moved forward. I was quite pleased with myself once I had completed the task. And, after checking, and re-checking, the saved folders, it came time to click the tab that closed the account.

I took a deep breath, and gently pressed the cursor. Closed.

I was calm. I knew it was a good choice, and it was the right time. Exhale.

Okay, I'm lying. It was nothing like that. Just thinking about closing the account had me in tears. Each time I started the process for each folder I would be glancing at the various emails, and wanting to find a piece of Michael that I may have not noticed before. My heart was racing. My anxiety increased. My breathing became labored, and I cried some more.

Before deciding to address the email account I was considering closing his Facebook account. I decided that it too was perhaps keeping me from moving forward. I decided that it was time to change my relationship status from married to widowed, but that required that I either close his account, or sever our Facebook relationship. I had decided that I needed to make a decision, so I clicked on the link from my account to his. And there, on his wall, was a recent note from one of his cousin's daughters, telling him how much she loved him and missed him.

I couldn't do it. Tears. More tears. How can I deprive someone, like his cousin's daughter, from posting him a message? Thus the decision to say, "sorry Hotmail, off with your head!" Well, perhaps it wasn't that dramatic. But tears were involved.

The block
Originally uploaded by

Next on the chopping block, the closet! And, no. I haven't been in there for quite some time.


  1. Oh Boy Dan does this hit home for me. I had Erika's clothes(the last ones she wore going to the hospital that day) all laid out for over a year and I would put her perfume on it to keep her smell in the air. I decided to go in the closet a few months back and I shipped her clothes to my sister in law and some that did not fit.. I had her ship back and still in the box. I just kept getting panic feelings. Two years it will be on March 7th and I still have not done anything with her purse. $15 is still there everything. I am moving (well trying to move lets say) so I am packing up the house and her things. Still have not given up on her things. Two years!! I am still in pain. I still can not go to the store to buy food just for myself. I see something she like wanting to pick it up and feel panic... that awful feeling I hate it! Sometimes I just will not shop. Maybe on Michael fb site make it a memorial site for him. I did that for my mom to share her memories and bring grandchildren together. I lost her unexpected right before Erika. Glad his mom was there with you on somethings. I have no one. But to be honest I am not sure I want someone to tell me or help me on what to give up. I sure can not tell you when to let go or even how to do it easy. I keep reading your blog in hopes that maybe out of it I can find something that will help me ease my pain. You cry I cry. You are not alone. Much Hugs and Love Kay

  2. Hi Kay,

    Nice to hear from you. You seem to be doing well enough given that you were served a double-whammy. It's nice to be able to share some of her things with your sister in law.

    So, are you packing up in the event you are later able to move, or are actually moving soon. I know you have been wanting to get back to ...Arizona?

    And, if its crying that eases your pain, then I'm the guy for you. Well, perhaps your not exactly looking for a guy, but I know lots of weepy women.

    Love. Dan

  3. Dan - Your statements about dealing with your Mike's facebook and email accounts has brought up so much emotion in me. Despite my efforts to "move on" in some ways, I have yet to delete his cell number from my phone, or email account from my if all this will keep him close to me. [I even just put some chocolate chips cookies next to the urn of some of his ashes that I have....but thats a totally different topic!) Although it gives me some momentary comfort to keep his cell phone number for example; it also makes me very, very sad to know this its useless to try to call it. Then the fact of his absence come sweeping back with profound sadness. So, I to am torn. Do these artifacts of our digital world really assist us cope with the loss of a loved one??? I have no anwsers on this....but I do know that they bring up much sadness and tears. Craig

  4. I think it's good for each person to do what they find is most helpful, and to not feel rushed to makes changes, give away stuff, or end things.

    As for online presence and email, etc.. Being a photographer, I took a lot of photos of Don and he and my dogs appeared in various posts and on my website, photo galleries, etc... I keep everything up online as it was. Don wasn't much for things like Facebook, but he did email a bit - not so much to anyone, but to write for info on things, order stuff, etc.. I check his email very infrequently. I have our old emails though, but only read them occasionally. I think photographic images are what keep him feeling closest for me - although, and I know I've mentioned this before - I have his ashes next to my bed about a foot from my head - in a box inside the canvas day-hiking bag that we always took along with us on hiking and canoe outings. There are several of his personal things in there too. I bring it along with me on the road. Because I decided to sell the farm last spring, I had to decide whether to keep or give things away. It was at about 7 or 8 months after Don's death that I had to decide what to do with things. I kept a lot of his clothes and they are currently in storage - favourite pieces of clothes. I'm glad I kept that stuff and am looking forward to when I have a place again and can unpack things and probably put them in the closests, cupboards. Over the past 18 months, I have gradually come to the conclusion that I probably won't get involved in any new relationships -- I don't think I can take another similar loss -- so I'm just going to try to have things around me that help me to feel comfortable and at home. I suppose some of this may seem a little odd to others, but it's probably right in character for me. I've always been quite a sentimental person and feel that some objects possess at least a symbolic power, if not something even greater, so it seems nice to keep them in my life, especially as I have made some fairly drastic changes as far as "home" is concerned.

  5. Hi Dan,

    I feel for you as you approach the six month mark. That was a tough time for me.

    I haven't done anything with Elias' belongings. I'm glad they turned me down, but when his brothers first came after he died I asked them if there was anything they wanted. It had only been two days and I didn't really know what to do. But, as we had been away and had just returned home the day he died, I still unpacked the suitcase and put all his belongings back in place. And there they have stayed.

    I gather one day. One day. But I'm glad there is no time frame for any of this. I also know of a few people who have made quilts out of clothing though - incase you were looking for ideas. I also thought of taking photos of random collections of things before giving them away so I would have the photos to last.

    Thinking of you,