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It’s been a long time since I’ve written here.

I sort of abandoned this blog a few years ago, when I really started to feel the effects that my years of grief had cost me.

I didn’t think I’d ever be able to write in this blog again. It started to become too difficult to see the pain of my early years. It was too easy to relive them again; remembering how broken I was, and how broken I still felt. Depression and Anxiety beat me down and I was unable to form a healthy thought, let alone a string a bunch of words together to make them sound like I knew what I was talking about. I was messed up. I had hit my bottom. I lost my mother and my husband within four years of each other, and I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

So.

I went to therapy. I made it a point to conquer my demons. I did not want to live under their control anymore. I struggled especially with Anxiety and the idea of leaving my children behind, knowing that the World they lived in was growing more cruel everyday. I felt as though I was cursed or somehow deserving of a horrible future, because all my dreams had turned into ashes before my face.

I was giving up on myself. I was desperate.

I used to dwell on the worst possible scenario all the time. I don’t really blame myself. I lost huge parts of myself when my husband and mother died. I didn’t believe I had a lot of things to look forward to, besides death. And suddenly I realized how real it could be. I didn’t want to die. Not when I had two little girls to protect and care for. But I couldn’t count on the idea that I had dealt with enough. Does anyone? I don’t believe in the concept of “Fair” as others do. I didn’t think I’d be safe from the very worst things that could happen and it was thoughts like those that destroyed me.

And I missed my Jonathan. I missed him like missing fresh air. I had nothing real to look forward to, and to be honest, I was just trying to survive long enough to see my children to adulthood. They were truly my only motivation for living, and continuing any part of this life, good or bad.

And through all my therapy, and experiments with chemical assistance, (SSRI), I only realized that there was no way out of my grief. I couldn’t wait it out and hope it would go away. I had to process it. I had to feel every pain, and experience every heartache. I had to accept they were all important. I had to validate my feelings because they were important. Jon was important. The fact that I was mourning and grieving his loss was important. I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t, anymore.

And still, I felt that I had absolutely nothing to look forward to, for myself. No love, no future, no plans. I just had to keep going. I just had to get up every day and mother my children, as broken as I felt, and then force myself to sleep at night, just so I could do it all again the next day.

I had conceded that it would always be this way. I believed that I would always be alone, missing someone who I believed I would see again…but only at the cost of losing everything else.

It wasn’t a way I wanted to live my life. I was tired of it. The fight was becoming overwhelming. My future was depressing. I had nothing to hang on to; and no one really cared anymore, anyway. Most of my friends were sick to death of my grief. I just pretended I was fine, because I couldn’t face the look of annoyance on their faces when I said anything about it. I was sick of it, too.

I was so tired of feeling heavy-hearted. I was so sick of being jealous of all the happy families I saw at church, or at my daughters’ schools. (There’s really nothing more discouraging than having other parents realize you’re a single mom at Open House) Somehow, my status made me feel guilty – like I had failed at happiness.

I was so isolated. I didn’t fit in anywhere, and I was tired to trying pretend I had a place somewhere.

In retrospect, grief felt very much like a long, dark, dirty tunnel. It’s low and underground, making it hard to stand in. Like the ceiling could push down on your shoulders, just for looking at it. I struggled. I drank. I popped pills when I could. I prayed. I stumbled backwards. I lost my rationale. I lost my temper. I was broken. I truly never thought I would ever find my way out of it. I thought I would always be there, stuck in a tunnel of despair, just trying to make the most of it.

Sometimes, that tunnel would bring a person along the way. They would be like water. A relief in the darkness, where my eyes would struggle to adjust. Sometimes, they would grace me with a hug. And I would remark to myself how wonderful it felt, just to be held for 3 or 4 seconds by someone who didn’t mind my broken-ness. Because when Jon died, all the affection he gave me on a daily basis simply stopped cold. It was gone, and people were afraid to touch me. I was afraid for them to touch me.

And I would forget just how wonderful a hug could be, until someone would squeeze me and remind me. It would keep me going. I would motivate me to not give up.

And I continued forward. In the dark, going forward to what I couldn’t see. I would keep going, for my children, my family, my friends. For myself. I never wanted to give up, because I can’t help but believe in the proverbial light at the end. It’s probably the best part of my nature. I am at my baseline, optimistic. Even in the tiniest way. There is a green little sprout in the bottom of my soul that believes it will all work out in the end. And if it hasn’t…it’s not the end.

And I prayed. I prayed and prayed for release. As a woman of Faith, I knew that prayer was my only lifeline, sometimes.  It sounds very hypocritical for me to admit this, because I complained a lot. I struggled with my worth as a person and as a Christian. I questioned God, but I never expected an answer. He was obviously very angry with me. I must have done something pretty terrible to have to learn such a harsh lesson. And I accepted that because somehow it sounded more rational than possibly admitting that God had a totally different plan for me than I had for myself, and that I had never once allowed Him to manifest it, as opposed to what I went after.

And then one day….I found it. That light at the end of my tunnel. I can’t even pin point the exact day. I just know that I kept praying and kept seeking God, searching for a way out of where I was. Over the past Summer, something broke. Something let go of me, in a way that I hadn’t felt in over seven years. I started having panic attacks again, because things became very stark. I could see very clearly in front of me all the times that I let myself turn on autopilot and move like a robot through weeks and even months of time. I suddenly couldn’t do that anymore. It scared me, at first. I was hyper-aware of it. Who was I? What had I been doing all this time?? Why was I only just realizing this now???

But then it didn’t matter. As the initial anxiety began to pass, I realized that I wasn’t broken anymore. I was finally set free.

I emerged. It was like coming out of the ground in the middle of a cold, bright day. It both disoriented me and felt wonderful. I breathed in the clean, fresh air and I felt alive for the first time in seven years.

My heart is no longer heavy. My soul is no longer burdened. My smile is finally genuine. My future no longer scares me into hiding in my past.

I am no longer grieving. I am no longer sad. I no longer live wishing I could go back into time, if only for one day.

And it’s really weird. I miss my husband. He was my best friend. He was my favorite person. There isn’t a part of me that wouldn’t absolutely rejoice if he suddenly just walked in my front door like he never left at all.

But I am no longer broken on the inside. And I know I will see him again.

I am writing this because I want people know that I KNOW what grief is like. I know how it feels like you’ll never come out of it. I know how the idea of not grieving feels like the ultimate betrayal. I know how the pain is so bad sometimes, you wish you could get out from under it, and yet, letting go feels like you’ll lose their memory completely. I know.

But I also know, now, that it doesn’t happen like that. That you can miss someone and still be happy. I know that this Life has wonderful things to show you, as it does me. And I know that it’s possible to look forward to the rest of your life without feeling guilty because your loved one won’t be a part of it.

I am no longer grieving. And it doesn’t hurt to admit that. I will ALWAYS miss my Jonathan. Who wouldn’t? He was a WONDERFUL person! He was kind and compassionate. He was motivated by helping his friends. He was non-judgmental and an incredible listener. And he was the ONLY man who could argue with me, prove me wrong and I would thank him for it. (That’s a feat in and of itself!!)

I am such a blessed girl to be the one he loved for the rest of his life. He thought I was worthy of his children and his name. Having such love from someone is a beautiful way to live. It was a wonderful life we had, together. I don’t think he regrets a single moment of it. I know that I don’t.

It’s been almost 7.5 years since he died. And I’ve lived a lifetime of loss in those years. I’ve cried countless tears and spent more nights than I can count wishing he could come back, just so I could sleep next to him again.

But these days…I sleep well. I am consumed with my kids and their little universes. They’re growing up so fast, and I am so grateful to be ever-present as I watch them. They bring more joy to my heart than I ever thought possible.

All I can think is that…I made it. Out the other side. And I am happy. I am truly happy. I had a great love, and I am so blessed just to have had it. I thank God every day for it.

I cannot promise that my experience will be the same as everyone else’s or that everyone else will experience what I have in this way. But I encourage everyone to process their grief, no matter how long it takes. I know it hurts. I know that the hurt is the undertone for every thought and every breath. I know what it feels like to live as a ghost, with someone’s memory around your neck like chains.

Be kind to yourselves. Remember that you aren’t really going backwards. Nothing ever does and you will get to your destination. You will be OK. You will make it, too. Trust the process. The end result can be better than you imagine.

xoxox

Maria – 9/5/2015

When I left the last post, I had just explained how much I deeply missed my husband, and how that had barely changed since he passed. I think that somewhere along the way, I had made the choice to hang on to us, quite by instinct.

I realize that a lot of widow/ers do this, mostly because we don’t want to disrespect not only the deceased, but what we had with them.

I felt, for a long time, that it was my duty to live out our lives as if he was just on vacation, and keep up his legacy as if it was my own. In certain ways, his legacy IS my own. The things about him that made him such an amazing friend and husband are things I have tried to adopt and apply to my own life.

But I know, even if I hate it, that I cannot keep living for him as if I was the one who died. It’s as if I’m trying to keep writing the story that I know should end. But letting it end seems just as devastating to me as losing him in the first place. Bottom line: I can’t let him go, even though I realize I need to do this. In fact, I need to do this soon. The idea scares me, and every time I get close to it, I lose my head. I procrastinate. I talk myself into saturating myself with his memory to make up for the idea that I might just have to move on.

Which brings me to a very odd place.

I can no longer placate or lie to myself. I can no longer pretend that this isn’t an issue. Why I defended it before, and cannot do it now is beyond me. Maybe this is a newer step in my grieving process. I have no idea. I’ve tried to document each one, to find some sort of pattern, but all I have discovered is that it’s so very subjective to each person that there can be no real pattern. Only that there are stages. And only that each person usually goes through each one, at a different and at different times.

That being said, I’d like to admit that I’m toying with the idea of…someone else.

It’s hard to admit, but for the sake of growth, I need to.

I’m honestly tired of trying to do it on my own, but I also don’t want to go into something blindly, being needy and looking for something to fulfill my life, instead of adding to it. I’m of the belief that loving to get emotional satisfaction isn’t real love. And frankly, I don’t have time for it.

I wish I had more answers.

In any case, as I gain momentum towards my second year in Widow Country, I’m starting to see significant changes. The fog I was in, the emotional confusion, the dislocation of reality – all these things which kept me incubating in a womb of denial,  are fading away. Things are becoming very obvious to me. I know I need to leave a certain part of my life behind me, in order to move forward. The concept feels powerful, and terrifying. I’m not sure I even know how to do it.

It’s almost like a rebirth. I used to think that was horribly cliche, but now, I prefer irony.

When Jon was little, his dad played this song often. He and his brother grew up with it a part of them. When it would come on the radio, he would turn it up and listen, remembering the good things from his childhood.

We met in person the first time, in 1999. The same year that he graduated and the same year that my first daughter was born. It was a good year.

Sometime in January, I thought about releasing 99 red balloons in his memory, and because he would think it was really cool that I managed to pull it off.

Well, today I did. With the help of about 60 friends and family members, we remembered Jon’s legacy, and his life. We were grateful that we survived a very hard year, and we promised to never forget who he was, and what we knew of him.

And I think I came to terms with MYSELF this past week. I finally accepted that I don’t have to be anything more than what I want to be. I don’t have to find someone to replace him, I don’t have to pretend that I’m not still grieving, and I don’t have to do this by myself.
As much as my friends and family have been saying; it’s been difficult to accept on my own. But I make my own rules. I follow the faith that I want to follow, and I know that regardless of what happens or how long I live, I’ll see my husband again someday. And we’ll be reunited for an Eternity.

99 red balloons
99 dreams I have had.
In every one a red balloon.
It’s all over and I’m standing pretty.
In this dust that was a city.
If I could find a souvenier.
Just to prove the world was here.
And here is a red balloon
I think of you and let it go.

I keep thinking of poor Natasha Richardson’s family and having to make the decision of pulling the plug. I keep thinking of how her birthday is the day they took Jon off of life support and the last time I saw him alive (technically, anyway), as they wheeled him into the operating room for organ donation.

I cannot begin to describe how incredibly difficult it is to watch someone breathe because of a machine, and then know that you’re sending them to a certain death by taking them off of it. To have to accept their death but not really accept it until you see them like a wax figure, lying in a casket you picked out because it was something you think they’d like.

Right now, Liam Neeson knows how I felt last May, when they told me that my robust, youthful husband of only 10 months was gone. That’s how the doctor said it. He came into that stupid little room, asked who the wife was, sat down next to me, and then said, “He’s gone. I’m sorry. He’s brain dead”

I already knew. But I didn’t believe it.

I still don’t. Even if I know that Jon is dead. Even if I live my life in his memory all the time…I don’t believe he’s gone. I don’t know if I ever will.

And I’m sure Mr. Neeson feels the same ache; the same sink-hole feeling in his chest that I did then, and still do now. And I am so sorry for it.

Time really messes me up. I keep writing May on paperwork, and I keep getting confused with the numbers 9 and 5.

Jon has been gone for nine months. Not ten months, as I’ve written before.

I wonder why I keep doing this? Is this evidence of the denial that keeps me sane? Because I know I’m wading in that river, not willing to get out.

I’m not ready for him to be gone yet.

I’ve been wondering…
All the wrong things to think. Would you have died so young had we not been together? Would you have died alone?

I have concluded that maybe I was something of a disappointment to you. I know that feeling. But I also know you loved me, despite the fact that I let you down, time and time again. I’ll never know why. I’ll never understand why I had you when I did, and why you chose me over everyone else.

And I’ll never understand why I only had you for the short time between us.

I miss you, and I’m sorry I wasn’t better at being with you than I was. I could have done better. I should have.

There are some things that I shouldn’t have to explain, and only you would know about them anyway.

My nine-year-old just led a bible study for the both of us. She taught (!!!) out of 2 Kings Chapter 6. (Yeah – I’m kind of flipping out and speechless right now, too!!)

 

Vs. 17: “Don’t be afraid.” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Sometimes, I don’t see what God has put around me, and I don’t know that He is protecting me, and protecting my daughters. I know He says that He is, but I forget, because I cannot see. But He is keeping His promise to me that he made, approximately a year before Jon died. I haven’t spoken of it to very many, because I’m still trying to believe it myself, and it happened to me!

But I can say this, because no matter where I have stepped, or what I have done since Jon died, I have been COMPLETELY protected and covered. No bill has gone unpaid, and no need has gone unfulfilled, (with the exception of the needs I have now that Jon is gone. I think God is giving me time to adjust to being a his widow right now.)

So why do I fret? Why do I worry about what is going to happen to my daughters and how we’re going to survive the rest of our lives without our Big Daddy?

My daughter told me that the lesson she learned from this passage was to NOT be afraid. That God is ALWAYS in control, and with her, like He is with me.

OK, Aurora. Mommy won’t be afraid. Even when I fight the urge to tremble, I will trust God. I will trust in what He has in store for us. Surely, He has something wonderful in mind.

I find it strange and unbelievable. Jon will have been dead 92 days on Sunday, and although I knew it was coming, I kept thinking I had another week. Officially three months to the date by Calendar, and two days beyond three months by count.

But my body and mind have told me otherwise.

I don’t understand the phenomenon, but in the week before that stupid date hits, I fell like I’m under a magnifying glass, and God is aiming the sun in my direction.  I’m remembering minute details about the moments before and right after he died. I’m remembering what he said to me before, and how I actually started to panic before I found my cellphone, or how I said “No…don’t go to sleep, honey. Wake up – lets take a shower.”

Yes, I actually said that.

He fell backwards on to our bed, with Weslee to his left, still asleep. “Ugh, I’m gonna pass out”, he said, and put his hands to his head. He closed his eyes and started to snore. His arms fell slack at his sides, and I said “Ok.”

And then I tried to wake him up. I still can’t believe that he didn’t wake up. I shook him and called his name.

And then I think I screamed. I woke up Weslee and she screamed with me, scared and confused out of sleep.

 

I’m tired of thinking of that morning, but it is as clear today as it was three months ago. I can’t believe I’ve been living the worst nightmare I can imagine for the past three months. I’m sure there are worse nightmares, but I have not imagined them.

And when this day comes up, I’m starting to see a pattern. I relive that day, along with all the days after it, a week before. It’s as if my subconscious knows time better than I do, and feels the need to warn me. To remind me that my life REALLY SUCKS RIGHT NOW.

And it really does.

*sigh*

Three months. I still need you, Jon. I still miss you. I still love you as much as I ever did. And I still wish you were here before I wish anything elseIt doesn’t matter what I do with the rest of my life…it just doesn’t feel the same without you in it.

This is a weird time for me.

I can’t explain what is happening inside of me. I am still grieving, and I miss Jon as much as I ever have.

I don’t know what to do with all this leftover love I have for him. It’s confusing to me. Where is the outlet? I love my children differently. I love them as much, but differently. I don’t know what to do with all this leftover love, despite that.

I’m leaving it at the alter, because I don’t know what else to do with it. I still love him as much as I ever did. I still wish I could have him next to me, as I have before.

But something inside me is changing. I am seeking God with everything I have. I can’t help it. Suddenly, it’s the only thing I can tolerate on the radio, the tv or to even talk about. If I’m not talking about Jon, I’m talking about my faith. I’m explaining it, and trying to explain it to myself.

It’s…interesting, to say the least.

When I said a few weeks ago that I am not the same person I was when Jon was still alive, I didn’t realize what I was changing into. While I am in deep, overwhelming pain, I am also excited. I feel like God is doing something in me. I can’t explain it, but I’m curious to see what I will be like a year from now, and a year from then.

And I still miss my husband. I may be healing, but he is never far from my thoughts or my heart. In fact, I cannot stop thinking of him. But I am also focusing on God, too. I feel like…I have things to do. I hope so. Having a purpose for all of this pain would be greatly encouraging, and I wouldn’t have that nagging thought that I’m just trying to make sense of what I’m going through.

It’s not that I don’t believe that God doesn’t have a plan. I know He does. But it seems..so early in my grief. It seems like I should be better prepared for the footsteps that I am walking. I know – I don’t make any sense. But I’m trying to. I’m trying to figure everything out, and at the same time, trust that God won’t leave me stranded on this planet without Him.

Yesterday was bad. I thought of suicide and it almost sounded good. Just to rest, because I can’t sleep.

But I could never do that to my girls. And I fought those thoughts, because I know better. I know that I’ll go when I am supposed to, and not before.

So I’m waiting. I’m waiting on God, and I’m waiting for my heart to accept what my mind struggles to believe.

I’m still a grieving widow, with two small children and an entire life to live. I learning how to do that. Maybe that’s what God’s doing to me. He’s teaching me how to survive.

Praise the Lord.

 

The good: Church is helping me. I still miss him terribly and seeing our pictures and remembering our experiences are still so hard. I miss him. I tell God this everyday, and I cry. I weep because I miss being his wife so much. I miss being who I was when I was with him. But Church…is helping. God is changing me. My interests are changing, before my very eyes. I feel stronger. Not BETTER, but stronger. I don’t feel as weak as I have been feeling. I still wish I could be under the ground with him, instead of walking this earth, like I am right now…but those feelings are starting to heal. I am looking forward to the healing journey, because it’s a journey and not a stagnent place. I don’t know who I will end up becoming when I am finally healed through my grief, but I am looking forward to becoming someone. Someone who is forever changed by what Jon taught me, and showed me, and knew I could be.

The Bad: I want my friends to know something that I think some of them are missing. It’s ok, because I didn’t understand true grief until I experienced it. But the fact is, I will never be the same person I was before. I am forever changed, and not in a small way. My ideals, my standards, my entire life is completely different. I never realized that taking one ingredient out of the picture can change an entire recipe. But that is what has happened to me. I miss myself. I miss who I was when I was Jon’s beautiful bride, as he often called me. But I am no longer that woman. She is gone.

This means that a lot of things have changed and are continuing to change. As I re-identify myself in my new life, I will stumble, fall, weep, mourn, writhe and cry. I will laugh, smile, joke, sing, dance and love. But I will do it in a new way, and because of my new life. You cannot expect things to ever be what they were.

The Unfortunate: I am noticing a defining line between those I thought I was close to, and those that are quickly becoming close.

It’s isn’t an uncommon thing. Our friends who were close in our old life often have a hard time staying close now that things have changed. It makes sense, because certain friendships have certain dynamics between them. Sometimes, becoming a widow/er changes the very things that held those friendships together, and sometimes, people find that they no longer have anything in common. That’s ok. It happens.

And I think it is happening to me. Where I once loved to give advice, because of my ginormous ego, I am no longer interested in having one-sided conversations with certain friends, because they can’t see past what is going on in their lives enough to realize that there is more to life than who said what. And while there are those that are constantly stumbling in their words when they speak to me, or say the wrong things and realize it too late, the point is that they make an effort talk to me. To just see if I’m ok.

And it does hurt that there are those who can’t do that. Who feel so separated from what it is going on in my life, that they can’t even talk to me anymore. I don’t blame them. I realize that some of these relationships that I once had were actually pretty superficial, and were based on my ego being stroked because I could give them “my advice.” And in the same way, they benefited from my attention to their problems, because that is all that is important to them. And why shouldn’t it be? All of us are preoccupied with our own lives. I never realized just how prideful and arrogant I used to be, because I was such a know-it-all. And I never realized that the reason some people became friends with me was because of how I made them feel about themselves, or how I enabled them to prolongate their parades. I’m not saying that I am perfect, because I know more than ever that I am not.

But I am saying that for those relationships fading out of my life, I am ready to let them go.  I don’t have the energy or the time to worry about maintaining friendships that are…simply timed-out, so to speak.

And I hold no unforgiveness or grudges. I will always love and pray for these friends. The bible says not to “trade evil for evil” and I will not. With me, there will always be love and friendship. But I have to draw the line at certain things, for my own hope.

It’s Good. It’s Bad. It’s Unfortunate. But it’s also life.