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 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 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.

Day 26: Doubt

“You’re not crazy, this sort of thing is normal for someone going through this.”

I hear that a lot, but it doesn’t make me feel any less crazy. I think it is okay for anyone that is going through the complete and unexpected upheaval of everything familiar to call herself crazy. I think a lot of my personal crazy comes from questioning myself and my decisions.

I used to classify myself as a decisive person. If there was a problem, I had a clear opinion of what should be done. Now, someone asks me something as simple as “Do you want me to help wash these dishes?” and I am baffled. Should the dishes be washed? I don’t know. I guess it is good thing dropped off in the initial days was paper plates and plastic ware so there are not many dishes to make a decision on. It’s ridiculously absurd.

There were a lot of decisions that had to be made early on. Within hours of his death, I had to have a 20 minute phone call consenting to allowing my husbands heart valves, tissues, and eyes to be donated. I consented to everything they asked for and tried not to picture it as they described in detail how it would be collected and what impact the collection would have on his appearance should I opt to have a viewing. To be clear, intellectually I know without a doubt that donation was the right thing. He would have wanted it. But as soon as I got off the phone, I immediately thought “Oh no, what if this upsets his family?” It of course didn’t upset his family, they were happy I did it. When someone hears donation however, they picture someone getting a needed heart, lung, or liver. That was not an option for me to consent to so I was put in the awkward position of having to explain that they could only take certain things, not major organs. After a while, I just stopped correcting people because I was so tired of explaining someone could end up walking around with parts of my husband’s beautiful hazel eyes with new sight.

The next major decision was what to do with his body. This one was really tough. We hadn’t had too many of these discussions and there was no will left behind. He had said once he would want to be buried, but it was in the context of being old and gray. So, say I went with the burial option. Would I have to pick somewhere in the southwest where I live or should it be near his blood family in Pennsylvania? Both had downsides. If he was buried near me, I would feel forever tethered to where I live now. We often talked about moving away and having an adventure, and such a tether would make me feel obligated to stay here for the rest of my life. If he was sent back to Pennsylvania, I would need to fly across the country to see him. It would also feel almost like he was a library book that I checked out for while and then returned back. He is not that at all. He was and still is my entire life.

Another consideration with the burial option would be whether I would want to be buried beside him when my time comes. The idea of purchasing a plot next to him felt almost like I was already giving up on my own life and just starting the clock on waiting to die. I didn’t think he would want that. So, after discussing it with his sister, I made the decision to have my husband cremated. This way, he will be with me no matter where the rest of my life takes me. Also, he and his sister were so incredibly close I was able to get a smaller urn for her so he could also be with her. That part felt right, but cremation in general? I still don’t know. I’ve been haunted over the past few weeks with visions of him being burned, his flesh blackening and disintegrating, and leaving behind evidence that his soul was once housed by matter, and in the end, that matter let everyone down.

My crazy widow moment of the week was also based off of doubt, but not doubt in my choices exactly. I wasn’t able to sleep and my mind started concocting stories to make it make sense that none of this was real and all a huge misunderstanding. I do use the phrase “make sense” loosely. I had myself convinced that since I couldn’t make myself see his body, it wasn’t actually his body at all. There had been some sort of mix up and somehow that was someone else’s body sitting in my urn. So what was my explanation for where my husband was? Well, obviously he was a John Doe in the hospital that was probably in a coma or had memory loss and couldn’t communicate to anyone that I needed to come to his bedside and nurse him back to health. I almost called the friend that took me to the hospital that horrible night and was brave enough to go see his body to tell me if who he saw really was my husband. Ultimately, my intellect took over and told me I was being ridiculous and yes, this was real and yes, that was him, and no, there would be no cheesy soap opera return from the ether.

I miss me. I had confidence and wasn’t afraid of making mistakes. Now, I avoid as many decisions as I can because falling down when I’m already in this hole would be unbearable.

Day 25: life lessons

When faced with the impossible task to eulogize my husband, I tried to concentrate on what I really wanted people to know about him. It started making me think about everything our marriage taught me. Today, I am feeling tired and overwhelmed, so I am going to simply list of the eleven lessons I talked about in my speech. Each one has a reason and story, which I may talk about in the future, but for now, here they are:

1. One person with drive and motivation can take on what others may say is impossible and make a real difference. So for him, if there is something you want to make happen, just don’t accept no for an answer.

2. Life moves really fast these days. Too fast. Often we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to look beyond a first impression.  I can attest that first impressions are not always right and you could find the treasure of a lifetime by giving something, or someone, a second look.

3. Find a perfect moment and hold onto it, cherish it, and let it live on forever because despite everything, thinking of my perfect moment with him still gives me peace.

4. No matter how bleak things may be there is always a reason to smile.

5. Although it can feel like a trite statement, sometimes, but not all the time, things really do happen for a reason. (This one I think I need to add some context to in order for it to make sense. I wasn’t referring to him passing away. Instead I was talking about the blessing of getting a brand new puppy the day before he passed because she was such a comfort to me and all the people that came to visit. She and my other 3 little ankle biters give me a reason to get up in the morning.)

6. An act of kindness that may seem small to you can mean so much more than what you may have thought. 

7. Be who you are and embrace it, even if who you are is a super nerdy guy. There are other super nerds out there that will naturally migrate to you.

8. Love fiercely, intensely, and without wavering.

9. Do not wait to make your dreams come true. Take that big trip you have on your wishlist now. See the world.

10. People love you and care about you more than you can ever imagine. Don’t focus on who doesn’t like you, embrace those that do.

11. Don’t be camera shy. Let as many pictures of yourself with your loved ones be taken.

So there you have it. 34 years on Earth and 10 years together boiled down to just eleven things. It feels so insignificant. I felt at the time I could go on forever with lesson after lesson, but in the moment, those are the things that meant the most to me so it is what it is.

Day 24: one man’s trash…

Confession time. I am no domestic diva as of late. I always felt I was fighting against the tide of things coming into the house my husband was enamored with at the moment. He was definitely a “phase” guy. We’ve got boxes of movies, video games, remote control helicopters,  art books, Warhammer models, board games, action figures still in their packaging, masks, cookbooks,  and his latest obsession, Legos.. If it sounds like I’m talking about a big kid, you’d be right, but his childlike joy was one thing I really loved about him. I let him take over the den to store his stuff and avoided going in there myself because the clutter was simply too much for me and if there was one thing I hated, it was being forced to feel like a nag.

I always said that the single biggest issue in our marriage was the garage. There are rows upon rows of boxes filled with what at some point was obviously a treasure but instead was relegated to unopened, dusty collections of things we probably would never need again. That garage and his den are now my problem and when it comes time to go through those boxes I worry I will mistake trash for treasure. Parting with any of his possessions is unbearable. Changing anything in the house from how it was when he was last here feels impossible.

I see my husband everywhere I look, but nowhere more than in our bedroom. I spend as little time there as possible. I go in the room twice a day. In the morning I shower, put on fresh clothes, and brush my teeth. At night, I brush my teeth and wash my face. I do not sleep in there yet. In the bathroom, there is still a pile of his underwear left behind the door from when he’d get into the shower. I always hated that pile but now I can’t bring myself to move it. So yes, I know it is gross to have month old dirty underwear on the floor in the bathroom, but the reality is if I clean it up, what are my options for dealing with it? I certainly can’t donate old underwear. I could wash it and put it back in his drawer but that just delays the inevitable, which is that I really just need to throw it away. I just can’t do that yet.

Eventually, I will need to deal with all of the byproducts of his horded hobbies, his clothes, and everything that he surrounded himself with to make him happy. I suppose I fall into that last category. Some day I will have to deal with me and my place in this world without it. The more time that passes, the more reality creeps in and I know my soul will be just one more mess to handle.