Today is my 36th birthday. My husband and I had birthdays that were ten days apart so we used to refer to September as birthday season. Today is also seven weeks since he died. I knew it was important to stay busy today and for the most part I was successful. My brother and his wife paid for me to get a massage and facial so I went with my mother. Apparently my mother had warned them in advance about me because the masseuse asked if she could give me a hug when she took me to the room before she left me to situate myself on the table. When she got back, she slipped a tissue into my hand in case I needed it. I did end up needing it. I have thought a lot about missing being touched, and having someone touch me was so unfamiliar and welcome, even in a clinical setting. I understood why some widows go wild and become promiscuous soon after their husbands’ deaths. Touch is addictive, primal, and necessary, but that that path is not the one I would want to walk down.
When it came time for the facial, I had a bit of a moment when the lady was going over which tools she would use. She held up an electric device with shiny, metallic balls and explained it had a low electrical current and would only be an issue if I was pregnant or prone to seizures. I had a visceral reaction to the word seizure and explained I couldn’t allow her to use it on me. She then gave me a few minutes to myself to collect myself. I hate being this fragile, weepy creature. I want so badly to be as strong as everyone keeps saying I am, but in truth, I’m still just as broken as ever.
I also got the normal birthday well wishes, to which I expressed my thanks. At that point, people started commenting on my post about not feeling right about saying “Happy Birthday” because they knew how hard this day must be for me and “happy” didn’t seem like the right adjective. Yes, I have become the pariah people don’t even feel comfortable saying “Happy Birthday” to because they are afraid to offend me. I find it odd because I have never at any time expressed that anyone has said anything out of line, even when they have. I simply accept the support as it comes and make decisions to distance myself if all they seem to be able to say is the wrong thing (usually self centered or completely insensitive). I don’t need toxic people right now, so out of my life they go, and very few people fall into that category.
I want people to stop walking on eggshells around me. If you aren’t being a jerk, then I’m not going to decide you are toxic. I think most people are so afraid of upsetting me they avoid speaking to me at all. That is the last thing I need as I am alone enough already. I don’t know.
Good thing for today: A couple friends that are not afraid to talk to me took me out for drinks tonight. It was a nice time.
When I decided to write this blog, I had two specific goals. The first was to honor my husband’s wishes and get back to writing. If I am honest with myself, that is why, for the time being anyway, I make the time each day to write a post. When I do this, I feel closer to his memory somehow because I can imagine his pride that I continue to stick with it. The second was to document my journey through find a life after him. Some days it is impossible, some days there are hope, and every day so far has been simply exhausting. When I first started hitting the internet in the days after I lost him so very suddenly, I found some resources, online forums, and articles. What I wanted more than anything was to to find someone that understood. I decided to become that person that understood for other women like me to find. Through this blog, I have met the goal of finding people that get this pain, and I am equally grateful and sorry for that fact, as I do not wish anyone this pain, especially people who are so brave and eloquent.
When I find someone’s blog, the first question I always have is “How long has it been?” It’s not morbid curiosity or even a desire to know details of their spouses’ passing (it doesn’t matter, all widows are part of the same awful club, just some circumstances make our journeys different), but rather the completely selfish reason of measuring my state of mind against theirs to see if I am reading something from someone further out that can perhaps inspire and give me hope or if I am reading something from someone closer to my own time frame who may be able to relate right now with some of my struggles. This is why I number the days of each entry. I have wondered if it makes me seem obsessed by the number of days, but in all honesty I always pull up my previous entry to make sure I have the current day correct since I really don’t think about time, except on Saturdays which is the weekly sadiversary. So, every time I put the day at the beginning of the entry, I picture my desperate self weeks ago finding this and taking the journey with me. I have no idea if this will ever happen or even has happened, but I hope it can help someone in this crap club.
If you have stuck with me so far in this post, thank you for bearing with my narcissistic reflections and thank you for sharing this journey with me, whether you can relate or not. Either way, it makes me feel less alone for which I am incredibly grateful.
Positive of the day: My mom stopped by and surprised me with a lemon bundt cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Today is definitely a reminder that there are things in this world that are bigger than my pain. Thirteen years ago, I was on my first trip to Vegas as an over 21 year old with a group of friends. I was still three years away from meeting my husband. It was surreal to be away from home and trying to figure out how to get back to Phoenix with the Hoover Dam closed.
Although at the time and years since I had thought about the families left behind after the death of their loved ones, I never really got it. I still don’t think I really do because next July 26th there will not be news coverage and television specials commemorating my loss. There will be no nationwide moments of silence to acknowledge he once walked the planet. Yet the widows of 9/11 share their loss with the nation, have their grief and steps they have taken to move on with their lives picked apart and scrutinized. People may even expect these women to remain broken to remain symbols, not actual people with lives to rebuild.
It makes me wonder about my own life and if people will expect me to stay frozen in time to honor my husband’s memory. Obviously, all of this line of thinking is completely hypothetical as that pile of underwear he left behind the bathroom door still sits unmoved and untouched. However, some day maybe people will be right and things may get better and I may get to a point where I would want to move on, no matter how inconceivable that idea is right now. I wonder if I ever get there, will another layer of friends that peels away much as one layer has already nearly disappeared as some people have been unable to deal with my grief? I really don’t know. Luckily, I have a lot of time before and if that even happens.
Today’s positive: I got plans nailed down for my birthday this Saturday so I don’t have to be alone. It is a relief.
I have never been religious. I wouldn’t call myself an atheist, I have always been an agnostic. In the absence of proof, my personal belief if that it is audacious to say with certainty there is or is not a God and I have never been prone to audaciousness. One would think this experience would have swayed me one way or another, but really it just confuses me more. So, here are my current thoughts on God filtered through my experience of losing my everything.
The comforts in believing in God:
- If there is a God, there is likely an afterlife and my husband is not truly gone.
- My husband may be reunited with his grandmother who meant the world to him. She died before he met me, so this also means some day I could finally meet this special lady.
- There is some sort of reason or plan this happened. It wasn’t random and senseless.
- If I prayed for comfort, maybe I would receive comfort.
The problems if there is a God:
- Many believe that admittance to heaven is based on faith, not deeds. My husband was an atheist, but he did so much to make the world a better place through his battle against child pornography. He was selfless and genuine, but he lacked the requisite faith. Due to this, he could be a wonderful man doomed to suffer eternally in hell.
- What sort of plan would possibly involve him to be taken from the planet so very young when he was doing so much good? I don’t think I want anything to do with anyone that endorsed that.
The pluses of there being no God:
- No God means I was not preordained to be left in this hell on earth.
- He would not be judged for a lack of belief
The downside of no God:
- Most likely my husband would be right and that when you died, that was it. Darkness. Nothingness. I want to believe he is not completely gone.
- With no plan or purpose, I don’t have faith I will make it through this.
So there you have it in a nutshell- my current crisis of faith. All arguments are equally compelling, infuriating, and scary. So I guess it comes down to what do I want to be true? As far as God is concerned, I don’t know. But here are my basic wishes:
- I want him to have a spirit and that spirit to be happy and, at least sometimes, near me.
- I want the rare dream visits I get (two so far) to be real.
- I want him to reunite with his grandmother.
- I want him to be waiting for me.
- I want him to be rewarded for all of his hard work.
Since that all implicitly supports my arguments for there being a God, perhaps I am leaning that way but not the God described in the bible. Perhaps I want a God that rewards people for worshiping him through their deeds, not how much time they spend in a building with a cross on it each week. Either way, I once again will defer to Tori Amos- “God, sometimes you just don’t come through.”
Today’s positive: I got a lot done at work today so my normal emotional exhaustion is accompanied by a day where I really earned my paycheck. It is a good feeling.
I have tried very hard to overcome a natural propensity for procrastination. I’d tell myself I did better under pressure, but really that was a bunch of crap. I would put things off because they were unpleasant and I simply didn’t want to do them. I would like to think my reputation at my job has been that I do not wait until the last minute or rush to meet a deadline. To do this, I simply had to give myself a deadline that was sooner than the one asked of me and treat my self imposed timeline as the actual one. As a result, unless there were a ton of fires to put out, I would always be early. However, when it comes to taking care of the paperwork nightmare of my husband’s estate, I’ve rediscovered my inner procrastinator.
I have had a probate attorney’s contact information since last Thursday and have yet to make an appointment. I need to send death certificates to several different places and am letting any inconvenience become a stumbling block preventing me from getting it done. I know there are at least a couple reasons why I am slacking off. First, once the probate train starts really rolling, this all becomes real. There will be obligations, even more paperwork, and due to me not being able to afford our house, a whole lot of stress and uncertainty. I feel I am already stressed and uncertain just trying to maneuver my way through my grief. Everything else just adds onto the already heavy burden. Second, I still have trouble deciding whether to take a shower or a bath. How am I going to possibly make the decisions I need to make? I know I need to get my crap together and face reality, but I just need more time.
Today’s positive: I stopped by my parents’ house and had a lovely dinner. I actually overate!
Living in the Phoenix area, rain is a rare treat. I remember my first day of school in Arizona following our move from Upstate New York. It was raining and when we pulled up to the school, I saw something I had never seen in my short 10 years on the planet. All of the kids were out in the rain with no umbrellas just running around manically as though they had never seen rain before. Even the teachers were out in it, partially keeping an eye on the crazy throng of hyper children, but also enjoying it themselves. It took less than a year for me to assimilate into that throng.
So today, when I awoke in the middle of the night to crashing thunder and a shaking puppy, I was delighted. I managed to get back to sleep for a few hours and was surprised it was still raining when I awoke again. Then I started looking at the news and saw the city was pretty much underwater. By the time the governor declared a state of emergency, I was thoroughly glad I am still exercising my option to work from home.
My thoughts turned to my own state of emergency due to a different kind of flood- a flood of emotions and tears. I feel swept away by a sudden rise of water with a current so swift I have been powerless to resist. But, here’s the thing about today’s floods. They were sudden and devastating, but the waters have receded I know it will take much more time, but my own flood will recede as well. Instead of being swept away, I will instead be able to begin to paddle until my feet can once again touch the ground. There will be erosion left behind as evidence and some paths may be permanently washed out, but I will survive. I will not drown. I will walk forward. I just have to let everything wash over me and take its course.
Positive for the day: I went to a friend’s house for a few hours and brought the puppy. She became instant friends with one of her dogs and is thoroughly worn out! The friend was kind enough to listen to me being crazy and I am very grateful not to have had a night alone.
I’ve been suppressing some really ugly urges to make inappropriate comments lately. I’ve always had a little bit of a filter problem, but that lack of filter was more directed towards making a joke and apologizing for any offense later. Now, I feel like shouting from the rooftops that anyone who believes in anything permanent is a damn fool. These urges tend to rear their ugly head when someone else is celebrating happiness, especially in wedding planning or engagements.
I noticed someone posted a funny video making fun of the trials and tribulations of wedding planning. The caption read something like “Congratulations! You found the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with!” It took everything I had not to litter insane young widow comments about the presumptuousness of that statement. I also noticed three separate friends of friends that have no concept of how to update their Facebook privacy settings showing up in my news feed naively showing off new engagement rings. All I see beyond that sparkling diamond is the wretched, painful, terrible ending.
The fact of the matter is, if you are lucky enough to have a wonderful marriage that beats the odds and doesn’t result in a divorce and you avoid being taken out simultaneously in some accident, one half of that oh so happy, optimistic couple is going to end up in my shoes. And if you really overachieve in life like me, you get the horrible experience of losing the love of your life before you exit your mid 30’s.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not regret the wonderful, blissful years I spent with the most awesome person I ever met. I can’t feel bad that there was someone that made me feel so incredibly special and lucky in life. I don’t want to take back investing my entire life in giving him the best life I could. I just want to give these women a disclaimer on the fantasy or some sort of warning that life and death are so very unfair. But I know if I had a disclaimer when I went in I would have just assumed that disclaimer applied to someone else.
Today’s good thing: After my alone-fest of yesterday, I got the nerve to call a friend and ask for help. She spent several hours with me, shared a meal, and went to the store with me. I have to get better at asking for help.
Memory has been an issue for me. Forgetting my husband’s voice, things we did together, and how much we meant to each other. Oddly enough, I am not concerned about my lack of memory. He’s in my head, he’s just hiding for now so I can get through the day. I have faith I will recall things as I have been, in bits and pieces that I string into a whole.
Today it has been 6 weeks. I can’t decide if it feels longer or shorter than that. I think it may feel longer because days have been passing excruciatingly slow. Today also marks another significant day. It is the day that not one single, solitary person called up so I could hear another human being’s voice or stopped by to visit. I disappoint myself with how much those calls and visits really mattered to me and kept me going as far as feeling slightly less alone. I know I should just call someone and beg them to talk to me, but I can’t bring myself to because I would feel like I was putting them out by inflicting the sad reminder of my existence on them. This may or may not be true, but my silly widow mind is convinced of it so it seems better to just not remind anyone I am still here and still need support. Besides, I guess this day was inevitable and will undoubtedly be followed by many more days like it so I may as well battle through and come out the other side perhaps a little more self reliant. I still hate the feeling abandoned.
Today’s accomplishment: As I had an abundance of time on my hands, I started puppy training. I guardedly believe she may have learned the word “sit”.
My Social Security office appointment was today for me to collect that huge sum of $255. Every penny counts right now as I went from living comfortably to not being able to pay my bills with just my income alone. My father told me that the amount of $255 was the same amount he was given in 1978 when his father passed. Nice to know that some things never change?
I felt I was doing pretty good being out in public and keeping my emotions under control, however, then it came time to review my claim statement. The following sentence wrecked me: “The marriage ended by death on July 26, 2014.” When I read that, I lost it. I took deep breaths and tried to steady myself, but my head started buzzing and I got light headed. Nonetheless, I decided I was NOT going to crumple in that office. I stared at the floor and marveled at how a place could feel both sterile and dirty at the exact same time. I thought about anything but that sentence and switched on my old friend autopilot to confirm I was swearing under penalty of perjury that the information I had provided was true to the best of my knowledge. The problem was, I know marriage is until death do us part, but I don’t feel nor believe my marriage is over. I understand by everyone else’s standards it is, but my commitment to him remains unchanged.
The administrator continued and explained that I’ll be eligible to apply for further death benefits at age 60 if I remain unmarried. “Remain unmarried.” I do know I am no longer married, but having some representative of the government really drive that message home was painful, even if I had tried to steel myself in advance. I had the sudden urge to to remove my rings right there in that office because suddenly wearing them felt like a lie. I didn’t, but it was just another irrational thought I have learned to talk myself down from. I have far too any of those.
Today’s accomplishment: Last night, I slept the entire night in our bed. I hated it and it felt wrong, but the hurdle has been overcome. I don’t know if I will try it again tonight.
Today is my husband’s birthday. He would have been 35 years old today. Predictably, it is a very emotional day for me, but in some ways the day has been cathartic. Lately, I have been struggling with conjuring up memories of the ways I was a good wife to my husband. His birthday has brought a flood of memories of all the surprises, crazy adventures, presents, and trips we did to make his day special. My husband LOVED his birthday, which is why I tended to treat it like a national holiday. It has been an additional layer of strange not to have spent August stressing about how to give him the perfect day.
One unexpected surprise was receiving a picture of the new therapy dog at work whose first day was today. Having a therapy dog available for employees was one of my husband’s dreams and he used to talk to anyone at the company that would listen that we needed one. My husband and those that reported to them investigated and viewed the worst of the worst that the internet had to offer and this took its toll on them. My husband strongly felt that a therapy dog could help on the bad days.
Right after his unexpected passing, I got calls from various people from our mutual employer and I was told to let them know if there was anything I needed. Now I know this is one of the most dreaded phrases for a widow to hear because especially in the early days we have no idea what we need and are even less inclined to ask anyone for anything. However, I was able to communicate to them on those calls I needed his therapy dog dream to become a reality. It is fitting that it finally happened on his birthday.
Today’s happy: Besides the therapy dog, a group of friends is getting together tonight with me to celebrate my husband. It means a lot to me that people still care.