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 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.

Day 23: presence unknown

Today I made an attempt to return to work, but luckily I had training wheels on by being approved to work from home and not being required to work a full day. It started out rough. My husband and I worked at the same company so we’d have lunch and breaks together every day. We also have a chat program that we would chat back and forth on throughout the day to keep our sanity when dealing with little annoyances that seem so much more insignificant now. I opened the chat program and at the very top of my favorites, there he still sat with his goofy badge picture staring back at me. Next to his name instead of offline it said “Presence Unknown”. How very appropriate.

As the day wore on, my tears dried as I remembered how much I actually like many of my coworkers and I actually began smiling and laughing at jokes. I didn’t get a whole lot of work done, but it was a hurdle that needed to be jumped if I am going to find some way to get myself back on track.

I’ve been reminded quite a bit that now is the time to try to find myself, to be creative, and to find outlets like this blog to get myself through this nightmare. It may sound a bit antiquated and not very feminist, but I dedicated so much of my life and energy to supporting my husband as he pursued his noble passion of protecting endangered children. Through my support, I felt like I had a purpose and passion. Now I’m just kind of lost and looking at my own life and not seeing that I have a lot to offer. That may sound defeatist, but really it is a recognition of where I sit now so I can remind myself I need to find things that make me happy in this new chapter whose page I never wanted to turn. And after several pep talks today, I feel like I can find a direction eventually and that is the most optimistic I have been since everything happened.

Day 22: coffee

After being told my husband’s heart had stopped en route to the hospital and despite thirty minutes of trying to bring him back they simply couldn’t, I lost my mind. They wanted to bring me to what I call the “Death Room” where I could process it and be told what I needed to do. I wasn’t ready, I needed air. I went outside and began pacing and hyperventilating. I kept saying “Ican’tdothis Ican’tdothis Ican’tdothis Ican’tdothis Ican’tdothis Ican’tdothis Ican’tdothis Ican’tdothis” and they kept interrupting me saying “Yes, you can, yes, you can”. It felt like being preached a campaign slogan that was just as likely to come true as a politician’s promise. After calming down enough to agree to be taken to the Death Room, I sat on a couch that was neither soft nor hard, but certainly not comfortable. I remember the social worker telling me I needed to avoid caffeine because I wouldn’t be likely to be able to sleep for a while and if it went to long, I should anticipate hallucinations and may wish to see a doctor for a prescription. I thought it was crazy because all I wanted to do was be asleep so I had a chance to wake up from this nightmare. Little did I know, she was right about sleep.

I think, but cannot be sure, three days passed before I could sleep. And even then, it was only a couple hours. I had a brief hallucination at the funeral home while waiting to pick out an urn. A small, insect sized light ran up my arm and shot at my face. I looked a bit crazy when I recoiled back from the table and had to shamefully admit I was seeing things. Sleep still took a while to improve after that. I would pretty much have to get to the point of exhaustion and would pass out typing on my computer or in the middle of a conversation. Sleep has improved now. I wouldn’t say I’m setting an example for proper sleeping intervals, but no more hallucinations.

In light of this, I have stayed away from caffeine. But today, being Sunday, all I could think of was coffee. I don’t know why. Then suddenly I got a casual text from a friend saying he was drinking a cup coffee and relaxing so I told him that was a sign that today was the day I get myself some caffeine. He said he would wait for me to make mine and have another cup with me over text message. So that is what I did. It was such a simple, small gesture but it really made me feel almost normal for a little while.

Day 21: three weeks

It was difficult when I could no longer talk about things we did last week. As time continues to march on without my consent, soon I will be not being able to talk about things we did last month. Then it will creep into not being able to say last year. Time is an odd thing. On the one hand, I am desperate to be past the unbearable pain of my loss. On the other hand, I am terrified of forgetting his face, his voice, his touch, and his crazy quirks. The word I keep coming back to is so incredibly inadequate- unfair.

It’s funny, despite my minute to minute reality, I still feel like this is all about someone else. This isn’t my life and there is no way his life is over. I think of stupid things like he will never get to see some movie he was looking forward to or see the finale of a tv show we watched together. These things don’t matter, but my brain keeps getting stuck on them as though some small revelation will lead to the dam bursting and reality fully racing towards me intent on drowning me in despair.

My mind has been pretty unkind to me today. It keeps replaying his seizure over and over again. It won’t stop. It was suggested that because the scene won’t likely ever leave my mind, just see it, acknowledge it, and go to a happy scene. I knew just the one to pick.

I’d surprised him with a trip to Maui for his 30th birthday and splurged on a convertible. We drove through a road flanked by trees whose branches had grown together to create a tunnel. I looked over at him and he just looked so content and so at peace. I reached for his hand and we held hands briefly under the canopy of leaves. This moment is the one I would always pick when I was sad or stressed as my happy place where there was proof that sometimes the world is perfect.  But today, I see that scene and he suddenly projectile vomits like he did during seizure so it brings no comfort. I think it may be possible that in addition to processing this horrible grief, I could end up with PTSD. Wouldn’t that be the cherry on this whole crap sundae?

Today, to put it mildly, sucks.

Day 20: celebrations and envy

Today is my parents’ 44th wedding anniversary. Considering how long marriages last these days coupled with their young ages at the time of only 18 and 19 years old, it is a testament to how strong their bond is. A marriage that has endured so many years deserves to be celebrated, especially since they still even have managed to keep not only loving each other, but also liking each other. With recent events, they had not bothered to make any plans to celebrate, which I let my father know was simply unacceptable. Being the parents they are, I got a call back letting me know they made dinner reservations, only for three instead of two and also letting me know they would be picking me up at my house.It was not what I planned, but it was made clear it wasn’t up to me so I guess I’m having steak for dinner.

As much as I am happy, proud, and want to celebrate, I am reminded this is an anniversary my husband and I will never celebrate. We made it to seven and would be at eight on October 15th. I felt so secure in our relationship I thought we would be together for decades. Instead, we got a total, including dating, of 10 years. It simply isn’t fair. I think events like this are helping to take away the shock, but considering what creeps in when the shock takes even a short holiday makes me hope shock and I remain friends for the long term.

I read an article today because that is what I do lately, crawl the internet in search of grief resources and those that have had a common experience. The article really spoke to what I have been feeling and is worth a read if you have experienced a sudden death because I almost felt I was behaving normally. See below:

Day 19: dreams and the nightmare of reality

I have been so frustrated that I haven’t even been able to dream of my husband. He isn’t here in reality so my mind should be able to conjure him up as I sleep or maybe, just maybe, have a real visit from him. I don’t pretend to know if such things are possible, but I want them to be.

Last night, the frustration ended and I finally had a dream. We were sitting across from each other at a white table.

“I just want to be able to hold your hand”. I said.

“Then why don’t you?” he replied. I reached out tentatively not thinking I’d be able to touch him but I did. It felt exactly like I remember his hand feeling. His skin was soft with a little bit of roughness. His grip was strong and I could even feel the hairs on his knuckles. Most of all, his hand was warm. I began to sob and tackled him to the ground and let him hold me, his fingers running through my hair. Everything felt so right like reality was the dream and this was real. This was now. This is what it should be. Then I woke up. I was cold.

I looked at my phone and found mother in law drama I didn’t need. Reality came crashing down into the nightmare I know it to be. I tell myself things will get better, but things just keep piling up on my shoulders. I have never needed my husband so much in my entire life as he would be the only one that could help me through such profound grief. Instead, not only do I grieve him, I also grieve his place in my life as my protector, my anchor, and my smile.

Day 18: Storms

Someone told me that when his sister died, colors stopped seeming as bright. Until I heard that, I didn’t realize he was right and that everything has looked off. I live in the desert and this time of year, everything is bright. But even the sky has slipped into a dreary gray. That one is not my imagination though, we’ve been getting storms.

I always loved storms… the wind and rain washing away all of the dust and grime. I love the smell of rain as it is such a rare treat. Whenever it would rain, I’d always force him to come outside onto the patio and watch the rain, even if it was blowing in onto us sideways due to the strong gusts of wind. He’d never last as long as I would and never loved them as much, but he would always humor me and attempt to enjoy it.

I know that it is monsoon season, but I like to think that maybe he is sending some of these awesome storms my way, even if it seems silly.

Day 17: the wall

The theme for the day is exhaustion. I don’t want to get dressed, move, or think. Check and check to the first two items. The final one is inescapable. I told myself until I make my less than triumphant return to work that I would write a post and then put the really ugly stuff in my journal once a day, every day. Today has been the toughest day so far to make it happen. So, maybe I will try again later but for now I’m returning to the fetal position.