Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Can I be honest with you?

Expo Seu Sami - MAM

I feel like it's a "come clean" with my reality time once again.

I have been terribly unhappy. Okay, no big surprise.

I'm so burdened by my grief these days. I feel like I am carrying an enormous piece of baggage, and I'm getting so tired of the excess weight. I can feel the weight bearing on my heart, and on my shoulders. It makes any type of movement all the more strenous. And, for the most part, I only carry it around while at work. The rest of my time I come home, sit it beside me, and choose to take the easy way out, meaning go nowhere with it.

I am alone.

Yes, I do have my kids, yet only one at home at present. He is twelve, and at this point that means forced meals together, and some side by side computer time. He is quite content to be out with his friends, and that is the way it should be. As for me, I just want him to be busy enough to not notice how depressed, and stagnant his father is.

I feel like a cloister.

I live in a world of silence these days. There is little person to person interaction in my life. The whole world has moved on, yet I am still here, mourning, and somewhat giving up. I go to work each day, and do my job. I have a little interaction here and there, but most of my opportunity to talk with another person happens on the phone, or in person, with clients. I tend to work long days. Not because I have a lot of work to do, quite the contrary, I have too much time on my hands at the office. I'm finding that it is not as challenging as I would like it to be. But it, like me, is a work in progress. I don't rush to leave, as there is no real pay off in returning home.

The days go by painstakingly slow. Lunch time comes, and though I may be hungry, I'm in no rush to do anything about it. I quietly walk out the building, and get into my car. Most of the time this too is in silence. I sit in my car, then realize I have no where to go, and no one to go there with. I think that because my position is that of a floater, it makes it hard to connect with other folks at work, and more difficult to maintain friendships. Just when I think I'm getting to know people, or them me, well, it's time to move on once again.

You know, people may hear this of me, and think that I should just stop dwelling on the past. Most have no idea that my life feels so empty. I don't know what others think I am filling my time with, but all I can come up with is empty space.

That's it. My life feels so empty.

This is not a cry for help. Lord knows I did enough of that in my car today. It's just me, trying to be real with my readers. 18 months out, and I'm a real fucking mess. I've thought about getting back into therapy, which I most likely will do, so nobody needs to leave me a list of shoulds. The reality here is this. Life is shit. You give your heart to someone, and that someone is taken away.

Oops. I think he took my heart with him. Maybe I should have asked for it back before he left.

How do I explain this. I was very happy. Even after the devesating news that he would die of a brain tumor. I still had him, so I managed to find happiness while I battled that damn tumor. Now I have nothing. About now most are scratching their heads. Nothing? Well, yes. Nothing. Nothing has replaced the pain and emptiness that placed upon me 18 months ago. And, remember people, 18 months is not that long ago. So many people expect me to be different at this point. What point? My husband died. Wouldn't you be different if your spouse died? Of course you would be, and not for the better.

Last week my mother gave me a gem. I don't even know is she realizes it. My brother is having a birthday party for my sister in law. I love my sister in law, in fact I just call her my sister, as that's who she is to me. Yet, I can't see myself at a party with a bunch of couples, laughing and having a good time. What they don't realize is that one of Michael's most happy memories together was having party/gathering at their home. It was the first time he was meeting all of my family together, and my brother and sister made him feel so much at ease by their joyous nature. I can still picture him smiling, and laughing in their patio.

Back to the gem. My mother was talking to my sister, and explained that it would be unrealistic to expect me to go to such a party. My mother reminded her that while the rest of them have kept moving forward, life for me has moved extremely slow. She said that the rest of my family just doesn't realize this. She is so right. If they did, they would realize how slow, and quiet, my life continues to be.

Well, this was not meant to be a woe is me type of post. I just don't want my newly widowed readers to think that at 18 months, Dan, in real time, is doing exceptionally well. It just doesn't work that way. I know what people want to hear. I know what people don't want to hear. And, I know what people would prefer for me.

Sorry folks, that's not my reality.

My reality is that it is a hard and difficult road. It's also a very long, and lonely road. Sometimes I wish it was a dead end, but it's not. I know that I must keep walking. And, I know that I will to continue walking. Just not as fast as you might think.


  1. Dan,
    You keep walking at your own pace, in your own time. And we will be right there with you. I know your loss is a burden only you can carry, but those of us who care about you will always stand alongside you. You may be lonely (and in the same situation I would be, too) but you are not alone.


  2. At about 30 months, things are still pretty much as you have described. Perhaps not so much empty - yes, maybe life is - but I guess I would describe it as being on the outside looking in. Most couples are inside their houses, seemingly happy and doing okay, but I am standing on the outside, alone. This standing alone, waiting, gets a bit tiresome after awhile. Yes, my days are filled up quite well, but at the end of the day, I'm still here on the outside. The one change that seems to have happened is that I don't seem to care as much anymore - at least, most of the time. But I also realize that I really don't care to be around couples too much either. I thought maybe I was past that, but a couple of weeks ago, my best friend was over here with his wife and I noticed he was hugging her and touching her hair more than usual. I noticed that I was feeling annoyed. Not jealous. Just very annoyed that I had to watch them being happy. That probably sounds rather ridiculous, but it just is. Anyhow, I guess the point of this comment is that I agree. Life can feel pretty empty - or like you are on the outside, standing alone, looking in at a warm, fuzzy world that you don't belong to anymore. No answer. Just that, as time passes, being on the outside gradually feels more normal and kind of okay. The focus of what-it's-all-about seems to change - or at least, for me it has. The spotlight has turned away from happy domestic life, to something else. Doing my own thing. Being creative alone. That's probably not for everyone, or where you will want to be this time next year, but it's where my own path seems to be leading now that I am alone. Anyhow, yes, 18 months out is not very long - in spite of what others may think. In fact, 30 months out isn't really that long either.

  3. Hi Dan. Thank you for your honesty. I understand how hard it is to show people how broken you are inside, how much pressure there can be to act like you're ok. I've come to realise over the past week or so that I won't get to the one year mark and be miraculously happy and healed, and I think it's important to know that, to not have unrealistic expectations. Maybe 5 years will see me starting to cope with this loss, maybe not. It's a mistake to put any kind of date on this grieving journey, I think. Hugs and strength from afar.

  4. *raises hand at 25 months* ditto all you wrote, Dan. silence reigns here. i perform at work. i am wiped out when i get back. nothing tastes good, feels good, or is good.

    if i lived close, i would come sit with you. i would bring Bunny and make you laugh. i would sit and listen to you. i would cry with you. maybe we would go sit outside in your garden, or walk a nearby beach. i would chatter if that is what you seemed to want. i would sit beside you in silent contemplation if that is what you wanted. most importantly, you would not be in sorrow alone. for a few moments every couple of days, i would come visit and you would not be as alone in your grief.

    i wish you peace.

  5. AMEN. Not that I am happy for your pain, but I will say there comfort for me in hearing that truth. I just got off the phone with my mother, who in her gentle way, thinks I should really be just fine by now, and what exactly am I doing with my days? I feel that everywhere I go, spoken and unspoken - others lives have gone on, it has been 20 1/2 months - get on with "it" already.
    SO. Incredibly. Jarring. I *just* watched my love randomly and accidentally die. And I am supposed to be Jolly By Now? Or at least find what is left of this world interesting and gratifying? Um, not happening. Such incredible discomfort all around.

    Sitting next to you in grand suckage and oddness.

  6. Dan,
    I sent an e-mail to your AOL address. Hopefully that's the right address. If it's not please let me know and send me another one so that I can share something with you.

  7. Other people's expectations are just that "other people's", but the reality is that for the most part no one is paying attention to any life that isn't their own. Unless we tell people how it goes with us, they don't know, so kudos to your mom for noticing and saying something.

    Time is just a construct that humans have superimpose over life. By itself, it has not magical powers. It will not change our lives in the short or the long term. Only we can do that and we do it when we are ready and no sooner.

    Being single and a parent and holding down a job is life having three full-time jobs at once. And you've moved, changed jobs and had out of the ordinary parenting issues. Don't be so hard on yourself.

    And don't worry about scaring newbies. Those who can relate will feel more vindicated than frightened and those who can't relate - will ignore you.

    Take care of youself. Don't worry so much. Life is not a race.

  8. I want to thank everyone for chiming in. It's always so validating to hear that you are also experiencing life this way, have experienced it this way, or have found some relief ahead. I get so caught up in feeling like the bad widower who is stuck in the mud.

    These connections are really life saving.

  9. Don spent 22 years making me happy. 22 months after his death I really need to figure out how he did just that. I too am miserable so I think about Don and Michael and how unhappy they would be at the two of us. I love you.

  10. Hi Jimmy,

    My life before Michael was okay, but it definitely changed for the better once he arrived. I suddenly knew what I had been missing by being single most of my adult life. What's odd to realize is how happy we were in spite of cancer. It makes me contemplate a time when I can be happy in spite of grief.

    I suppose the problem is, will I ever be happy being single, alone, again. I think not.

    Love back at you.

  11. "How do I explain this. I was very happy. Even after the devesating news that he would die of a brain tumor. I still had him, so I managed to find happiness while I battled that damn tumor. Now I have nothing."

    I probably don't need to tell you just how much I related to this line . . . it brought on the tears.

    Sometimes when it was particularly rough, Elias would look at me and ask me, 'How can you be happy right now?' and I would smile at him and answer, 'Because you're still here. That's all I need. As long as you're still with me, I'm ok. I'm happy.'

    I remember it like it was yesterday, and it was about 2yrs ago that things really started to turn. Crap. Now I can't remember what else I was going to write . . .

    I understand. I hear you. I feel you. I love you.


  12. Amazing post! Thanks for your honesty and realism. Just good to hear the brutal facts of widowed life set out here. I really wish I had had the "facts" early on as I was far too hard on myself for not being more along in the grief process, whatever that is anyway. Now I don't much care what anyone thinks of where I'm at or how I feel. It is what it is... This is my journey. I won't reiterate some of the same comments raised by others, except to add you sure connected with me, I get it and sometimes that in and of itself is a pretty powerful thing. So you blew me away with your thoughts, insights and sharing of your life. Thanks, thanks, thanks. You gave me some good concepts to think about and that is good too!

  13. "Happy in spite of grief." I must say that simple sentence gives me more of a feeling of buoyancy and hope than anything else has in a long, long time. The idea that one can keep on living through this, in spite of it, with it, instead of thinking that you have to be OVER IT to be happy, because that is a long long way away. You know, if ever. Thank you. I love these conversations so much.

  14. I feel we are all walking similar paths and are on switchbacks, so that we are plodding along, and can see the other's positions, but may be on different levels. It's a club we never wanted to join, but join we did.

    At nearly twenty-eight months out, things have improved for me. I'd be dishonest if I said it hasn't. I don't cry very often any more and I feel mostly comfortable living alone, something I have never done well. I tell friends I am content. I have prolonged periods of relative happiness. Friends and coworkers say I have done well. I have. He would be (is) proud of me.

    Last evening, I was in the bedroom and looking for something the dog had brought in the room. As I knelt down, looked under the bed and didn't find it, I was getting back up, when I lay my head down on the bed and just began to weep. I don't have the faintest idea of what set it off. I said out loud "Baby, I am so lonely", over and over. I lay down, and my two dogs and the cat, who was HIS baby, all came to keep me company in a ritual they all know by now. I just lay there thinking about how I miss being loved, being held, and being part of a WE and not just a ME. I miss loving someone too. We have many friends, but we always sort of made our own weather, We worked together, commuted together and lived together basically 22/7. We rented a house in Taos and celebrated our 25th anniversary and George's victory over Leukemia and then an unrelated anal cancer the next year. We deserved that vacation and we reveled in each other. One month to the day from our anniversary, we came home from work, he sat down on the closed commode to put his shoes on to go work out, and died instantly of a blood clot to the heart. He was still sitting upright, only his head at a strange angle. He was gone and I knew it the moment I saw him. We got to the emergency room and they worked on him for 30 minutes until I told them to stop. I gave them a robust body of an athlete, and they gave me a platinum ring and paperwork in return.

    I had over a year of counseling, and as I said, I have done well, but it's like the line from Steel Magnolias at the cemetery, where Sally Field says, "My brain understands it, I just wish somebody could explain it to my heart. We were truly and deeply in love as we had been at the start, and we worked at our marriage.

    Knowing that there are others in the exact same situation, knowing that you all built your lives around your spouse as I did, and understanding that we will never fully get over the aching void in our hearts and that we are a group of people whose relationships to each other changed, but did not end with the other's death, gives me courage to keep on going, because there ARE others trying to do the same thing.

    We can strive to get on with it, but we don't ever have to get OVER it.

    I find comfort in all of your stories, and Dan, the photographs are just lovely. Peace to all of us who love.