Day 36: feathers

When it was on the air, I was a huge X-Files fan, an X-Phile if you would. I even kept watching after David Duchovny left the show trying to convince myself it was still good. In hindsight it really wasn’t. I have been thinking back to that show with some fondness for Mulder’s silly poster with the UFO that proclaimed “I want to believe.” I am living that mantra.

A few days ago, I was torturing myself and feeling so alone so I hopped online and started looking up common signs after death that a loved one used to reach out. I kept repeatedly finding that feathers were a sign. My initial reaction was that is stupid, birds are all over and so are their feathers, These are desperate, grieving people that are seeing signs that simply aren’t there. So, partially sarcastically, I said out loud “Alright, if you are around, send me some feathers.” I promise the following is true. Every day since that day I have found the puppy chewing something on the carpet. Each time, I have plucked a feather from her mouth. Today made the third day. Then, a couple hours ago, she had something white stuck in her tail fur. I pulled it out and sure enough, it was a feather. So, could all of this be coincidence? Absolutely. Is it a coincidence? I honestly have no idea whatsoever. One thing I do know if that I want to believe so very much. I can picture him reading as I type this and saying “Quit being so f***ing stubborn! How much more obvious do I have to make it?!” But still, it is so hard to take the leap and say yes, that was my husband.

Good stuff for today: A good friend came and helped clean my living room and kitchen. It looks so much better in here and the air feels less stale.

Day 35: squish

Today, I feel a bit like a bug that had an unfortunate encounter with a windshield. My thoughts are splayed in every direction and I worry that my sanity has scattered along with it. I feel like my husband is missing from memories. It’s like I can recall stories, I know we had a wonderful marriage and were so very close, but when it comes to conjuring being sure about his feelings for me, I come up empty. I know he loved me deeply. One friend said even before he passed that my husband “Raised the bar for what a good husband should be like.” You can’t do that without love. It is a strange thing to have things you know suddenly being so difficult to believe. I feel like I am a crazy person.

I am also struggling with fear about eventually receiving a cause of death. I am so scared that it is going to reveal I missed something I, as his wife, should have noticed about his health. When they did the initial exam, I was so hopeful it was an aneurysm because that would have been quick and impossible for me to notice. He seemed so normal that day. He was laughing, playing, and joking. He had some stress because his mother was moving across the country and was completely financially ill prepared to do so and was running into difficulty. He carried a lot of stress due to his job. I always tried my damnedest  to mitigate his stress by talking things out, giving him fun adventures, and even giving into getting the new puppy right before his sudden seizure. Despite knowing how hard I tried, I can’t shake the feeling I let him down in this respect and maybe my ineptitude cost him his life. It makes me feel like I let down everyone that loved him. So while I had been desperate to find out the why’s and how’s of his death, I worry it will only make me feel worse as I find some way to assign blame to me not having done something he needed.

I don’t know. I just feel so conflicted, confused, and lost.

Positive of the day: I called my dad because I felt so panicked and alone. He came over immediately and just let me cry into his shirt. I have a great dad.

Day 34: a big wad of nothing

I’m backsliding. I have been trying so hard to be positive, to squint to see a hint of dawn in this moonless, starless night. I’m not able to do it. This is the lowest, most lonely, and most helpless I have felt so far. The first week was more varied emotions, but I had disbelief comforting me like a warm hug. The shock is releasing its hold on my brain, which is obviously not the brightest if it thinks I’m ready to fully absorb the magnitude of my loss. I yearned for things to be different before. Now I know they can’t be and am starting to feel just how empty inside I am. I have no idea how to recover from this. I have no plan to get through. I have nothing.

Despite this, as promised, here is the positive of the day: A friend came by and helped me with the small dead tree in my front yard and helped me assemble the puppy’s large pen I’ll be putting her in when I am leaving the house more. It was very kind and so appreciated.

Day 33: exhaustion

I think I may have gotten to the point where I need to go to the doctor and get something to help me sleep. It is the oddest feeling to be so close to falling over from exhaustion yet so unable to give into sleep. I think most of the time I’m in a foggy place in between sleep and wakefulness, dipping my toes into each side of the divide when it becomes absolutely necessary. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I like the fog, but there is some comfort there. I cannot see far enough behind or ahead to be anxious or afraid, I just have to be, which has its own set of challenges but none so hard as the other options.

Today’s positive: The lobster rolls I bought with a forgotten gift certificate have arrived and actually sound good for dinner!

Day 32: 1000 oceans

Today has probably been the day I have cried the most since the first week. If I wasn’t sobbing and screaming in despair, my eyes were just silently leaking tears. I went through three large bottles of water just in the morning but still ended up with a splitting headache. I think a bit of the comforting layer of shock is beginning to fray at the edges and reality is seeping in. So since I obviously wasn’t depressed enough, I decided some sad music was in order. I settled on 1000 Oceans by Tori Amos because I could relate to some of lyrics, such as:

These tears I’ve cried
I’ve cried 1000 oceans
And if it seems
I’m floating in the darkness
Well, I can’t believe that I would keep
Keep you from flying
And I would cry 1000 more
If that’s what it takes
To sail you home

Sometimes a song can take everything from your heart and explain it more beautifully than you ever could, so the song being put on repeat told my story for me so I could just let the tears roll.

In other news, after how much my list yesterday helped me shift my thinking even for a little while, I have decided to start adding a positive or an accomplishment, even if it is small, to all of my posts going forward. Today I am sharing a small accomplishment. I straightened my hair for the first time since before everything happened, which made me look slightly less like a depressed hobo.

Day 31: one month

On this anniversary it would be very easy to let myself wallow in my misery, but instead I’m going to list out 31 of the positives that have happened over the last 31 days. I’m sure there will be plenty more self pity in the days to come. After all, my blog is about documenting my journey through grief in the most honest way I can and for now, most days the journey is depressing and difficult. My hope is that some day in the future my good days will outweigh the bad and my writing will reflect that. But for today, my choice to be positive is to celebrate me and my completion of the most difficult month of my life because my survival deserves to be celebrated.

1. I found out more people than I imagined actually did understand how important my husband’s contributions were.

2. I received support from both expected and unexpected quarters.

3. I have reconnected with friends that life became a little too hectic to connect with before all of this happened.

4. My parents have been amazing.

5. My faith in people has actually improved.

6. I finally successfully killed a scorpion all by myself. My new method is to toss a rubber mat on it from a distance and then dance on the mat. Unconventional? Sure. Effective? You bet!

7. I truly understand how good my life with my husband was, and it was such a gift!

8. As much as I HATE “Let me know if there is anything I can do”, I have learned some people actually mean it and sometimes when I swallow my pride and ask for help I actually get it.

9. I never knew how much love I had from friends.

10. My goal was to have a service my husband would be so mad he missed and I feel that I, along with so much help from friends and family (especially my sister-in-law), achieved that.

11. I’ve been easing back into cooking and am planning on sharing some of my “cooking for one” finds and inventions as I find more of them.

12. I’ve started to learn how to ask for help on some things. I have a long way to go on this, but I am trying.

13. I have connected with many other young widows who feel much of what I feel and make me feel a little less alone in this.

14. I had one amazing dream about my husband that I choose to believe was him really reaching out to let me know he loves me.

15. I have a crazy puppy that makes me laugh, smile, and along with my other dogs gives me a reason to get up in the morning.

16. I have recently gotten back to being able to listen to music again and it is so therapeutic.

17. My job is so incredibly understanding and seems to genuinely want me to take care of myself so I can eventually make a full time return.

18. I feel closer to my wonderful sister-in-law than I ever have before. We went through the gauntlet together and she is one tough lady that I am so proud of and grateful to have in my life.

19. I finally was able to be in the master bedroom long enough to take a really long bath instead of a quick, efficient shower.

20. When the funeral home dropped the ball on communicating with us, friends stepped up and expanded their responsibilities and roles in the service to make sure everything ran smoothly.

21. I had a gift certificate from my husband I forgot about and used it buy Maine lobster rolls. They should be here later this week.

22. I’ve started to enjoy food a little again.

23. Sleeping is improving. It also has a ways to go, but it is getting better.

24. My couch turned out to be worth every penny that I was concerned about spending at the time.

25. Some acquaintances have described my husband as humble because they had no idea just how much he did to try to make the world a better place and this has made them want to leave a similar positive mark on this world. I can’t think of a better, more fitting legacy for him to leave behind.

26. I have gotten back to writing like he always wanted me to do.

27. I have been reminded just how many awesome experiences I packed into our all too brief ten years together. We saw the world, did crazy things, and left nothing on the table.

28. I have managed flashes of productivity at work. I know it will keep getting better as time goes on.

29. I have tricked people into believing I am strong. Sooner or later, maybe I will be able to trick myself into believing it too.

30. I have found some insightful books to help me along this journey.

31. He made me feel special enough in his short life to make me feel special for the rest of mine, no matter how long that ends up being.

So there you have it. I had to really reach to think of some many positives, but decided even the small stuff adds up to there being a lot of good still left in my life. It is so easy to be consumed with thinking about what I lost, and truthfully I still am consumed with it, but stepping outside of my grief bubble and recognizing how much I still have was a worthwhile exercise.

Day 30: scaling Mt. Everest

I’ve had some speed bumps lately. Actually, they aren’t even speed bumps, they are the even less steep speed humps. But for me in my current state of broken mind, they feel like a mountain that only the most skilled and prepared experts would dare to attempt to climb. I am no expert. I am neither skilled nor prepared.

I have never had need for an attorney before, but now facing the uncertainty of the probate process there are some decisions that must be made that I am ill equipped to handle. This is scary. I had been operating under the assumption that my primary responsibility would be wading my through this impossible grief journey and all the other details would sort themselves out somehow. That sort of thinking was naive and uninformed. It is time to get my hands dirty in paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork.

I keep asking myself how this can all be happening. My life was pretty damn good. I had a wonderful husband that expressed every day how much he loved me, that thought of me first above all others, including himself. He was a good man. I know it is natural when someone passes to raise their life and contributions to this world to the level of a near deity. My husband was not perfect, but that doesn’t matter. He was perfect for me. I always felt like I took care of him and required someone to look out for in order to be happy. These last several weeks it has become clear that we took care of each other in a positive, symbiotic sort of way. We were never alone because we had each other. We made each other laugh in even the most stressful times. Every time we fought I always told him “We are not fighting because I don’t love you, we are fighting for our relationship because I love you so much.”   Now I have nothing left to fight for besides myself, and I don’t even know who that is any more. It is just another leg of my journey up Everest.

Day 29: bugs

I hate bugs. HATE them. I understand they maintain the ecosystem and have a purpose, but their purpose needs to be served outside of my house and yard. My husband was the bug warrior. I’d find some sort of creepy crawly and pitifully call out to him to serve as my bug hit man because despite my deep seeded hatred, I hate killing anything, especially if its death is only happening to secure my own comfort. He had no such qualms and would eagerly pursue and execute anything foolish enough to scurry across my path and receive the finger point that marked it to meet an early demise. I miss my enforcer.

Recently, new homes have started to be constructed in my area, which has kicked up all sorts of intruders into my no bug zone. A few nights ago, I spotted my greatest nemesis crawling near my patio door- a scorpion. There were very few creepy crawlies that my husband could not handle, but scorpions were one of them. I found a dead one in the house a few months ago and his response was “Well, it was a good run but I think it is time we burn the house down!” So seeing this scorpion trying to get into the house and knowing even my mostly fearless bug warrior would find the situation daunting made it about near impossible for me to even consider handling, but this was unacceptable so I pulled on my big girl panties and searched for the bug spray. I came up empty handed. I still have no idea where the spray is. The only thing I could locate to spray was orange scented Pledge so I doused it until it was a scrambling pile of white foam. It ran off into night so I will never know if my Pledge attack was successful, but if it wasn’t that scorpion is the shiniest, sweetest smelling scorpion on the planet!

The next morning, since the scorpion incident was not traumatizing enough, there was a dead wolf spider in front of my fridge. I briefly considered and dismissed the idea of picking the ugly thing up with a paper towel. I went over various options in my head for what to do with it and ultimately decided on a broom and dust pan. I flicked it with the broom into the dustpan much more deftly than I would have thought I could manage, but then saw the flaw in my plan. I was going to have to pick up that dust pan and carry it outside. I stared at it for a while, trying to identify if it was just really good at playing possum and would pick the moment I picked up the dust pan to spring to life and charge toward my hand. After five minutes, I felt reasonably sure it was no longer alive so I tentatively picked up the dust pan, sprinted to the door, and flung it into the gravel. Mission accomplished.

Despite my unorthodox methods, it did actually feel like an accomplishment to handle these small problems myself. I can do this, I just have to go about it all in my own unique way.


Day 28: four weeks

It is hard to believe it has been four weeks for completely opposite reasons. First, time has slowed to an uncomfortable, never ending crawl. I feel like if I spent my days watching the hands of a clock tick by the hands would stutter in protest with every single move. The other reason is that before this happened, I thought there was no way that if anything happened to my husband that I would survive a single day without my heart simply giving up. It didn’t give up, despite my utter indifference if it had decided to do so.

A majority of my time now is spent alone. Some people still call and ask if they can come over. The answer to that (unless it is a rare day where I actually have to leave the house) is always an enthusiastic yes. Mostly, I get a lot of “Call me if you need anything”. People mean well when they say this, but what I actually need besides the impossible obvious is to be asked to spend time with me with a specific time and place so I can say yes or no. I am very bad at asking for help and it would be humiliating to call someone up and say “I’m not doing anything, but I need another human being to sit with me as I do nothing so I can experience someone else simply breathing around me.” Other people have the blissful advantage of still having their lives in tact with one missing factor so getting back to the usual is easier. For me, everything I do, every thought I have, and every decision I struggle to make is accompanied with the thought “My husband is dead.” I am consumed with this fact and it governs my entire existence. I don’t know what to do.

Last night was actually nice. A friend of mine, her husband, and two year old asked if they could come over and have dinner with me. Like I said above, that is the way to do it! I said yes because I had no plan and Fridays have been tough since his seizure began just before midnight Friday, July 25 so it is kind of like having two death anniversary dates. One for when it started and less than an hour later when it ended technically on July 26.

My first thought upon accepting their invitation to keep me company was it actually sounded good to cook. This involved my first trip to the grocery store by myself since he died, which is a testament to just how much shopping was done for me in the early days to stock me up on everything I may need. I used to shop alone all the time, but this time besides buying the components of a basic meal, I was also shopping with only my own needs involved. There was no looking for an unusual item to buy in order to surprise my husband. It was just essentials. It was depressing. But like everything else I do nowadays, I just popped on the auto pilot and got it done. One more hurdle down, a few million to go.

It did feel good to cook. I had been not doing it because even though it seems simple to just cut what I would usually make in half, the idea of doing that has been a huge mental stumbling block. This was a chance to cook for several people. It was kinda perfect. I hope they let me cook for them again some time and it was nice to have help cleaning up.

I keep looking for some deeper meaning to everything that has happened and have decided there is none. The impact of his absence on me and his sister, the sudden ceasing of his important, selfless work, and the void he left behind cannot be attributed to any greater plan or purpose. It is a cruel joke no one is laughing at. My goal is to just ride out this wave and figure out how to give my own life greater purpose, to have a plan for me, and decades from now go to my own grave laughing. For today, I will simply sit as I am accustomed to being, completely and utterly alone.

Day 27: @#$%&!

Frustrated, upset, devastated. Those are not typical words for a Friday but the day started off rough. My “normal” night lately entails falling asleep around 11pm, waking up at 1am, falling asleep again around 2:30 or 3am and waking up at 4am, going back to sleep quickly and waking up between 5am and 5:30am, then not being able to get back to sleep at all and just resigning myself to be up for the day. At my 1am wake up, I had an itch on my back I couldn’t reach. I have a notoriously itchy back and my husband used to scratch it for me for five minutes at a time. I was smart enough to know even at the time such a gesture was heavenly. Last night, I was on my own. I tried rubbing my back against the corner of the bathroom door like a cat. No dice. I redoubled my efforts to make my fingernails reach to a place they were never meant to reach. Predictably, no success. By this time I was not only itchy but also in tears. After briefly considering dirtying a spatula and deciding that was unsanitary, I finally had the solution. I grabbed a towel and rubbed it back and forth over the offending area and finally had sweet, sweet relief. I really need to invest in a back scratcher.

I’m doing my best to be organized in getting the right paperwork to the right places using the right method. Some places require a scanned copy of the paperwork and some inexplicably require I fax it. Who the hell uses a fax machine anymore? It is antiquated and the quality of the received document is ridiculously degraded compared to an emailed scan. I also really feel that there should be a database accessible by companies to get the death certificate, marriage certificate, etc. themselves so grieving, irrational, scatterbrained widows aren’t trying to keep everything straight. If congress ever requires witness testimony as to why this should be a no brainer, feel free to get a hold of me!

While all of that is annoying, it is not my big paperwork frustration of the day. Three weeks ago, I provided my and my husband’s employer (we worked at the same company) with a notarized affidavit so they could release his last paycheck to me. They sat on it for several days. It turned out, they needed more paperwork, which is fine and I provided it eight days ago. Today, I get told that the form I filled out was filled out incorrectly and that I needed to fill out and scan a brand new copy. Now, here is the thing. Since my husband passed, i have gotten two paychecks of my own but not his final check. The delay would be manageable, but they cannot even tell me how much money it is going to be. How do I make a budget with this giant question mark no one seems to be in a hurry to help me with? I can’t. My household income has been cut more than half with no warning and no plan. I have no cause of death so any benefits are months off. I just need something, anything, to be simple for once. I need help, not delays and a lack of urgency.

While all of this is going on, I’m attempting to work and failing at it because I couldn’t go ten minutes without crying. I feel like I am in a worse emotional place than I have been in a week, maybe two. What happened to things getting better with time? I feel like I’m stuck in reverse and I don’t know if I can pull out of it.