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To those faithful readers…

I know that it’s been more than a year since I’ve updated here. After my mother’s death, things became difficult in ways I was not expecting. It made it difficult for me to update properly, and quite frankly, I just wasn’t motivated to do it anyway.

It wasn’t that I stopped grieving over Jon, or was too busy. But losing my mother brought out a side of grief in me that I wasn’t expecting. In short, I became somewhat numb. I could really only handle the basics. I took care of my girls and my household, but otherwise, I had a hard time dealing and accepting her death for awhile.

Without Jon and without my mother, the isolation became something almost too hard to avoid. I found myself in a place where I didn’t quite know where I fit. My in-laws have moved on, along with my other family. Everyone I know is pretty much tired of hearing our sob story, (and they’ve made sure to let me know.) To put it bluntly: my girls and I are pretty much on our own, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. Some days are definitely better than others, and I’ve worked hard to maintain a comfortable lifestyle for my daughters.  We stay involved in church and stay close to those who make the effort. This is our new normal.

Over the past five months or so, my body started to react to all the stress of the past five years. Anxiety and depression came on stronger than I ever thought it could, and it put my most creative outlets out of commission for awhile. I felt that I had no choice but to go back to counseling, and seek out treatment. I am happy to say that I’ve come a long way in the past two months. I still struggle with anxiety and some other things, but I am much better off than I was before. The good news is that my prayer life is stronger than ever, too. 🙂

Anyway, I feel like it’s time to say that I no longer feel like writing in this blog anymore. I don’t believe I’m “actively grieving” as I once was, even though I’m clearly dealing with leftover emotional fallout. Instead, the things I’m dealing with are more private in nature, and I would rather not talk about them here.

I’ll probably start a new blog one of these days that’s more general, as far as my life and thoughts go. I don’t know when that will be, however. For now, it’s just contemplation.

I don’t plan on deleting this blog and if my previous entries are of any comfort to anyone, please feel free to comment if you need to. I’ll do my best to answer when I can.

Thank you all for the past five years of support. It’s definitely been the hardest five years of my life, but I’m glad I was able to vent and discuss things here, without real fear of judgement. When I look back on some of the things I’ve written, I can definitely see how far I’ve come since Jon died, and how much better my mentality is. I’m happy to say I’m a lot less petty than I used to be, and I’m a lot more compassionate. Regardless of the difficulties I’ve faced, I’m happy with who I’ve turned out to be.

With that said, I wish you all peace, love, prosperity and comfort.

God Bless you.

Maria

I know I haven’t written much in the past few months. Dealing with my mother’s death so close to the saddiversary made things difficult to process. Writing about it has been hard. That being said: A post is forthcoming regarding the four-year anniversary. I just have to write out this idea, right now.

In regards to the on-going debate over whether or not widowed people have it better or worse than divorcees; there is something that both parties often overlook. We explain the experience, (most of the time in vain, because the description doesn’t quite convey the actual feeling), but we don’t put a word to our distinction.

The distinction is the lack of closure. We have to practically make it up ourselves. There isn’t a paper to sign to admit defeat. We don’t have a tangible break point from which we can launch our rebirth. Instead, we are left wandering in the dark, fumbling around to get our bearings. We have leftover affection, love and need for our spouses, that up until the point of death, is usually returned. Similar to divorcees, we have to figure out what to do with these feelings. We also have anger, frustration, a sense of abandonment, confusion, a sense of worthlessness, depression and a struggle to believe in a happy future. And we cannot blame anyone for them. We know that blaming our spouses for abandoning us by death is ridiculous, but we feel that way anyway. We know that being angry at our spouses for dying is pointless, but we feel it anyway. And it has no where to go. As a divorcee, I had plenty of blame, not just for my ex, but for myself for being so stupid and selfish. As a widow, I know my husband never wanted to just leave me here to face life alone. He died and it wasn’t his fault. I can’t blame myself, because I didn’t kill him. What then? I have spent four years having to let that go. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

A conversation with a very intelligent friend of mine really opened my eyes to this. As a group of confused and hurting people, we often turn to “industry standards” when dealing with similar symptoms of two very different life experiences. It is impossible to do. As a person who has been both a divorcee and a widow, I know the differences and how I perceive them. However, I also know that they shouldn’t be compared. In order to appreciate the difficulties of both, you cannot compare them. They are both hard. Is one harder? I think so, but that’s subjective. It’s also not up for debate.

I know that this is all a matter of opinion. And I realize that there are people who would argue without end how much better I have it because my spouse didn’t choose to reject me, (or vice versa. A choice a widowed person doesn’t get either, by the way). But I think it’s important for people to see the distinction, whether they are equally as painful, or not.

This is just a small process of thought that I’ve been chewing on for awhile. I respect the opinion of others, but I do resent the idea that anyone who hasn’t been through this experience feels as though they can identify. Maybe in small things, but you can’t say it’s the same thing. It is not. I also recognize that resenting that sort of presumptuousness does not mean it invalidates someone else’s pain. I’m not saying you can’t hurt. I’m not saying you don’t hurt badly. But I am saying that even if you’re also a divorcee and a widow, you still can’t know exactly how I feel and you have no right to compare.

I’ve written here before about the plight of my mother’s illness, and now, I write of her memory. Since this is a public grieving blog, I feel it is appropriate to memorialize her here, along with my husband Jon.

My mother, Michaelina Bellamy, passed away Saturday morning from complications due to Acute Myeloid Leukemia. She was 59 years old. She fought very hard for over a year, and in the end, was so worn out from all the medications, the chemo and the illness itself, that her body could not take any more. She did not want to die when she did, but I know she is in Heaven, with the Savior she believed in and all her family members before her. She is no longer in pain, and I can imagine her with a full head of her beautiful blond hair. I believe this with all of my heart.

I’ve been trying to write about my mom since she left this Earth and finally found peace. It’s been difficult. When I think of her, I try not to see her lying in the ICU, pale and barely alive, breathing on a ventilator. I hate that memory. I hate that I keep thinking I need to call her, or run by the hospital for something. Last night, when I drove by along the freeway, I realized I had no need to go back there again. As much as I hated having to see her in there, it broke my heart. I have voice mails from her, from a month ago, where she’s asking me to bring her a smoothie. I wish I had the opportunity to do that again.

And of course, as is the nature of the beast called Grief, my emotions have been all over the place. Some moments, I’m OK, and everything is Business As Usual. Then, out of no where, the idea of her missing something she would like, or the daunting task of going through all her things brings it all upfront. I’m crippled with the idea that she’s gone. And she’s gone for good. 😦

I know what I believe. I believe I’ll see her again, and I really do look forward to that day. But after grieving for my husband for the past 4 years, I realize that I need to be here, taking care of my girls and holding down the fort until they can handle things themselves. I have learned it is my place to follow through with my life, no matter where it takes me.

However, there is a huge hole in my life now, where my mom once was. It’s hard to fathom that I won’t be able to call her phone and talk to her anymore. It’s hard to believe that I won’t ever see her sing live on stage, or play with her grandchildren. It’s hard to accept that she is simply gone, even if it’s to a much better place. It hurts, and it’s hard.

My mother wasn’t always orthodox. She didn’t spend Sunday nights baking cookies or making school lunches. She mostly worked through the weekends, and slept in past the first bell. She was prettier and younger-looking than the moms of some of my friends, and thus, she was never quite accepted by the “PTA Mothers.” When I was a kid, I resented that. I didn’t want a mom who could sing and was on tour all the time. I wanted a mom who took us to ball games and was up for breakfast before we were. I wanted a mom who asked me about my day after school and ate dinner with us at the table, instead of serving us and rushing out the door to a gig.

But that wasn’t the type of mom she was. Instead, she was ambitious, but kind. She was motivated, but sometimes distracted. She had the greatest sense of humor. And she was, more than anything: loving. Even though I spent a lot of my childhood waiting for her to come home from being on the road, I always missed her the same. When she was home, things felt better. I could be mad at her for leaving, but so happy when she was finally home. I was always old enough to know what I was missing, but I was so proud of her accomplishments.

She could do anything. She crocheted blankets, sewed costumes, cooked amazing meals, baked amazing pies, canned preserves (her plum jam was to die for!), fixed anything electronic, (Her first MOS in the military was mechanical. Believe it or not,  she was going to train to fix planes), and when we were sick, she always seemed to know what to do. She almost never doubted herself, and sometimes, that got her into trouble. If she didn’t doubt herself, she didn’t doubt others either. And she learned some harsh lessons about who she could trust with her career, as well as with her children.

Our relationship was hot and cold when I was a teenager. I was resentful of her distance, and I would push her away when she would come home. Yet, I always wanted her to be my Mom. There were times when she thought being my friend was better than fighting with me all the time. I chose to resent her for that, too. She tried to get it right, and I didn’t let her. Her methods weren’t always good, but she did try.

It wasn’t until I had my own child and my first marriage failed miserably, that I finally comprehended her perspective on our own family. She tried her best to keep us afloat, while my father’s politics kept us living hand-to-mouth. I have no bitterness towards either of them for that, but now that I’ve seen how hard it is when two people have different ideas for what a home life should be like, I don’t blame her for trying to hold up the roof. That meant that she went on the road, some years for 48 weeks at a time. We weren’t starving, and my sisters and I always lived in nice houses in better neighborhoods. But I never quite understood the struggle she had just to make sure it stayed that way. I have nothing against my father for this. For what it’s worth, he did his best, too. Just in a different way.

I blamed her for a lot of things that I had no understanding of. The dynamic between us in my twenties was strained because she refused to be blamed for what she thought were the best decisions, and I was too immature to realize you can’t go on blaming your parents for a past you wish you had but didn’t. And when I finally grasped that, our relationship began to heal. I let her into my life, and she finally answered me without bitterness.

She was in my corner for every struggle I had as a single mom, and after I remarried. She took care of my oldest when my second daughter was born, and helped me regularly, whenever it was needed. She was there when my husband collapsed in our bedroom and protected my youngest from all the scary paramedics and police officers traipsing through our apartment that early morning. And in the year that followed, she saved me from losing my mind. She cooked, cleaned, babysat and even just held me. She slept in our bedroom with me during the first month after Jon died. She refused to leave me alone. She petitioned people to pray for me, and often prayed over me herself. Those were some of the hardest and most painful days of my life, and she supported me through all of them. I could never ask for more than what she gave, and she gave more than I could ever ask for. And I never had to ask.

I think that’s the hardest for me, now. The fact that someone, who is such an integral part of my identity, has passed is incredibly difficult for me to process. You’d think it would be easier after losing Jon, but it is its own sort of hard. Similar, but different.  I have to figure out how to deal with it on my own, without the benefit of her experience or wisdom. Everything in my life is really up to me, even though it technically has been for years. I still feel like I’ve landed once again blind in an unfamiliar landscape. Nothing is impossible, but without her, it’s going to be difficult.

I know have a loving family, and wonderful friends. I know that I will be blessed by their support and love, along with my sisters. I am so grateful for that.

And mostly, I’m grateful for the fact that a young woman, 24 years old and single, decided to have me regardless of what anyone thought. She was on the verge of becoming a star, performing with celebrity after celebrity, dancing and singing on the Las Vegas Strip, for US Presidents and recording with the prestigious Airmen of Note. My existence put a pause on that life and she didn’t care. She wanted me anyway, and welcomed me, despite the difficulties it presented. I was wanted and loved. Always.

My last real words to her were of gratitude. I made sure that she knew how grateful I am to be her daughter. I made sure to tell her how much I appreciate her sacrifices for me over the years. I plan on living my life with Joy and Triumph, just as she did. It is the least I can do for everything that she has done for me.

I love you, Mom. Thank you for everything.

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Michealina Bellamy

June 13, 1952 – April 7, 2012

Once again, my subconscious or whatever was keenly aware that I had reached the halfway point between three years and four years. For whatever reason, things seem to happen at sixth month intervals for me. I don’t try to do this. It’s just how things tend to happen.

Which meant that Thursday wasn’t my favorite day.

However, I got a double-whammy for that Thursday morning that I’m still trying to recover from.

I’ve been debating how much I of my life I want to share here. I originally wanted to use this blog strictly for the purposes of documenting my grief over my husband’s death. While I’ve succeeded in doing so, I’ve also had to cut out a lot of my life as it happens. While I’ve spent the last three and a half years raising my girls, keeping up a house and weathering the changes, I’ve grieved in the background, missing my husband with every hill and valley.

It’s been difficult, but nothing I cannot manage.

That is, until now. And I won’t even say that I can’t manage it. I’ll just say that I am anxious. I am frightened. And I am asking for those that read, to pray.

My mother was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia last Spring, and has spent the last six months going through chemotherapy. It’s been a difficult process. She’s lost all her pretty blonde hair, and is thinner than she’s ever been. She is a singer by trade, and has barely been able to sing at all, which breaks her heart. There are other things that happen as they do, but because of her illness, they seem harder to deal with.

In the past six months, I’ve put large amount of my life on hold to help her with the immense details that come with suddenly having a serious illness. That means a lot of my grieving has been more like a by-product that I have struggled to attend to. I guess hoped that because I wasn’t focusing on it as much, it wouldn’t be as hard to deal with. In some ways, this is true. I am much stronger now than I was three years ago. However, as things get more serious with my mother’s prognosis, the old shadow known as Grief warns me that it’s not quite done yet.

My mother needs a stem cell transplant (aka bone marrow), and she needs it as soon as they find a match. We were all hoping that my Uncle Reno would be a match for her, as he is her brother, but he is not. So, now it’s the luck of the draw. They are trying to cross match her with someone as fast as they can.

Thursday morning, the doctor very frankly told my mother that she will die without this transplant, and that the clock is ticking. She gave my mom a time frame that isn’t as long as we’d hoped for.

Just the idea that she may not be here next Summer makes me sick inside. Despite our many personality clashes, she has always been my mother. She was the only person who stayed with me in those first few months after Jon died, cleaning my house and making sure my kids had eaten and were clean. She hovered around me when I wouldn’t listen to anyone through my anger, never leaving through my frustrations. It was a very difficult and painful time for me. Probably the most painful. And my mother was with me the entire way.

She has certainly suffered through her own mistakes and tragedies in her life. But her accomplishments will never be overshadowed. I still believe that she has things to do, and there are six grandchildren that love her unconditionally.

And really, I need her. When things get really bad, she’s really the only person that I can trust to help me find a solution. My list of people who I know I can count on is dwindling. And I’m not talking about good friends. I have many wonderful people who I can call my friends, and they are all awesome.  I’m talking about the people who know you so well, they never give up on you. They make your issues their issues and because they can see from the outside in, are able to help you find your way out. The type of people who define the word family, regardless of whether or not you’re actually related to them. My mother is the champion of that type of relationship for me.

I am not ready to say goodbye to her. I know as well as anyone that Death does not often give us a choice. But I also know that if she succumbs, I will have forever to miss her. Right now, I am not ready to mourn.

I have chosen to fight with her, knowing how devastating or how rewarding it could be. And we really need your prayers. She needs a match, and it needs to happen soon. We are not ready to give up. We are not done yet.

This three-year mark passed very quietly. I didn’t make a huge spectacle of the third year of your passing. I didn’t plan an event or even write you a public letter, as I have done in the past. (until now, of course.)

It’s not that I didn’t think of you. In fact, I think I thought of you every second of that entire day. I think we were in constant conversation, as I struggled to finalize what I thought would be proof of my great healing. I wanted people to see that I can handle my life without you, and that it didn’t take that long to get here.

The truth is that I CAN handle life without you, but it’s taken some serious effort. And that effort still hurts. But for the Grace of God, have I strived to face each day with a grasp of any hope I can find. Because I miss you. And because I love you, still.

I have a learned a few things, and they have re-shaped my entire mentality. When this all started and you left me behind, I felt more alone than I had ever felt in my entire life. I couldn’t look forward to my future, because all that I had ever wanted selfishly, was taken away in one horrible, tragic moment.

Simply stated: my world was destroyed. Not my ENTIRE world, but everything I had built-in my little universe that I felt would fulfill me and make me happy for the rest of my life. You were the root of that happiness and the plan of my future. You were the love of my heart, and the soul of my identity. It took your carnal graduation, (for lack of a better term), to break down the false idealisms I had built around myself. I wanted to be responsible for my own happiness. I did not want to relinquish control of my life, even unto God, without making sure that you were part of my existence and our life would continue together.

But God always has other plans. And I’ve learned over the past three years that He doesn’t always share them with us; especially while we are making our own. Instead, He waits patiently while we contrive and operate our little systems of thought, for us to finally ask Him to step in and take over. Like us, He won’t accept simple navigational responsibilities. He wants the entire operation, and His place is the Captain’s Helm.

Does this mean that He took you away from me to teach me how to trust Him? No. But I believe He allowed you to be a part of my life because I could learn this lesson no other way. Your time on this planet was short, from the time you were born. In retrospect, all of our time is short. But in comparison, you were born into a life that would not last as long as others. Your affliction was genetic. You were born with weak veins, that had weak walls. Like your father and paternal grandmother before you, you would succumb to their weakness, unless you somehow found out about them before they gave way.

Like an ill-fated house next to a river bank, your levees were not strong enough to contain the flood.

This had nothing to do with me. This had nothing to do with you, really. Had you been able to control your aneurysms, you might have prolonged your lifespan. But not without much suffering and high risk. It does not make your life any less lived, or any less important. But only that your time was shorter than mine.

And even still, I believe that we were brought together to love and comfort each other. To procreate and bring our daughter into the world. I believe that we were meant to be together, even for the short time allotted, if only to teach each other what it means to love unconditionally, despite circumstance.

I do not believe in marriage after death, therefore you are no longer the husband I married. But you are still my family, and I look forward to the reward of seeing you in eternity, someday. This was my very first hope, and I clung to it like driftwood. It brought me to the possibilities that hoping in a promise such as this might bring. It was a seed that birthed my faith. Not a platitude of random words and pretty pictures, but a real faith, in something that I either have to deny fully or accept fully. I chose to accept, and thus, my healing began. It never stopped, even in the midst of my pride, my anger and my complacency. Today, no one can shake me from what I choose to believe. My faith in God, His plan for our salvation through Jesus Christ and the promise of living forever in His presence was essential in helping me accept what I have lost on this Earth. That faith will never be shaken.

And despite all that I have learned. Despite the strength I have gained, and the hope I can no longer shake by the mention of Death or anything else, I have not lost the love I had for you from the very beginning. I do not understand how this will pan out in God’s great plan, but I am not worried about it. For now, my heart remains oddly sated, even though I have not heard you speak my name for more than three years.

If you are looking upon me, as your earthly wife, and the mother of your children, I hope you see a woman who is healing, and finally at peace with our separation. I truly believe God has great things in mind for me, and for our girls. And despite what people may interpret, I still believe you peek in on us, even now. I know you are around. Just as I know that the Holy Spirit comforts me, guides and gets rather frustrated with me on a daily basis 😉

I still have a lot to learn. I still have a lot to go through and to process. But I have The Peace that passes ALL understanding. It is a current of hope within my heart that reminds me that everything will be OK in the end. And if it isn’t yet OK, it’s not the end.

I love you always, my Jonathan. I know you know this. I still cannot wait to see you again.

Maria

Weslee woke up with me this morning, and we were silent for a minute. I did what I always do, and read through my Twitter feed to help stimulate my brain  and wake up. (Don’t judge – it works)

I read www.penmachine.com/2011/05/the-last-post and it choked me up. My favorite part was the last: “I loved you deeply, I loved you, I loved you, I loved you.”

Suddenly, after I was following some of his tags, Weslee spoke for the first time that morning.

“I miss Daddy. I wish he was here. How come he can’t come down and visit us?”

It’s so hard to explain to her what death is, and why it happens the way it does. For now, she knows that his head got sick, and the doctors couldn’t fix it. I told her that they did the best they could, but sometimes it doesn’t work. And she likes to think that he’s in Heaven, building her a castle to live in when it’s time for her to go there. I told her it won’t be for a long time, (which was as much for myself as for her), and she said she knows.

It’s funny how this type of thing happens during this time of year. Since the first year out, there’s a part of my subconscious that knows the date is coming, and reacts to it. I can be totally preoccupied with my mom’s health, or the girls or anything else, and I can feel it. I feel run down, and my mind is distracted.

More so than normal.

Aurora brought it up to me the other day, too. She misses him. And like me, she wonders where we would be right now, had Jon never died. Like her, I have no idea.

This year, the pain is less. It’s not that I don’t miss Jon, or that I’m getting over it, so to speak. It’s more that the missing him doesn’t hurt as much. I was so afraid to get to a place where it didn’t hurt as much, because I thought that it would make me miss him less. I thought it would make me lose him.

I was wrong. I miss him just as much as I ever did. And there hasn’t been a single moment where I don’t wish he was with me.

But the pain of all those wishes and the pain that usually resides in the emptiness he left is going away. I wait and wait for that ever-present kick-to-the-gut feeling I normally get when I miss him and need him at any given moment….and it’s no longer there.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t get triggered. I do, in the weirdest ways. There are still places I haven’t gone, and things I haven’t done that I know remind me far too much of how much I have lost, and how much I love him still. And sometimes, just thinking of those places produces that same gut-wrenching feeling of loss, that same painfully dry emptiness, that I have become accustomed to, and have learned to avoid like mines in a field.

This is year three. And I’ll be honest, I never thought I’d be able to say how much easier it has been, but it has. Perhaps it has to do with the things I’m dealing with in my present life, or just that I have made decisions to progress, even when I didn’t feel like doing so. There have been so many times when I haven’t wanted to get up and face my life, and so many times when I had to over-caffeinated myself just to follow through with the basic stuff. I have to be honest and admit that being a parent hasn’t given me the choice to wallow, and it’s been the best excuse to keep going. But I shouldn’t need one, and I know this.

Lately, I haven’t had to use an excuse to get up and live my life. I won’t use some ridiculous platitude to explain it way, either. I don’t feel like I’m learning to “dance in the rain” or any other such nonsense. Instead, I think I’ve done the most basic, simple thing: I have accepted.

I keep saying that I’m learning to accept, or that I’m in the process of accepting…all these things were true in the past. It was a process that I had to either follow through with or continue waiting for my Prince to walk through my front door and tell me the “The truck is runnin’ woman! Lets go!”

How nice would that be?

That’s not going to happen, though. And as I continue on with my life, I realize that it’s OK to let Jon go, more and more. As I do, I have discovered something remarkable to me, that I had never expected: I can miss him, and love him and think about him as much as I want, and let him go at the same time.

Really. It sounds contradictory to those of us who never want to let go of what we had with our spouses, but it’s the truth. I still love him very much, and I still miss him always, but he is there, and I am here, and it is OK.

Really, it is.

I even notice him around still, in his daughter’s eyes or catching his scent on a passing breeze. I know he is there, and I know we are OK. I know that I can keep going, knowing I can take the best of us and what we were, into my future, whatever it brings. Being Jon’s wife was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and it has permanently adjusted who I am, guiding me into being who I want to be.

My new normal finally feels like just normal. And for the first time in three years, I can’t wait to see what my future looks like.

“Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo” – H.G. Wells

If there was ever a result of widowhood that I did not expect, it is the casualties of relationships that lie tattered in the roads behind me.

It’s hard to believe that something so harsh can be so inevitable, but the truth is; that is what it has become. If I had my choices, I don’t think I’d lose a single friend; but the word friend has become refined and redefined. And some people no longer fall under my own definition.

In all fairness, I no longer fall under theirs.

I once wrote that it is incredibly hard to live with a grieving person. This is a cardinal truth. The reason is because while we are in our OWN state of grief, be it active grieving or beyond, it is OUR OWN. It is not measured by someone else’s ideal of what a widow should be, or any person grieving someone they loved. Unless someone is resolved to accept a person’s grief journey with out prejudice, they will find it very difficult to interact and stay connected to an actively grieving person at many times during a relationship. There is not much to be done about it, other than to support them.

Death is so incredibly final. Up until this past Spring, I could not bring myself to admit that my Jonathan was gone. He’s never coming back to me. It hurts so much to say this and I know I’ve said it before, but it’s true.  Yes, I believe in a Judeo-Christian Afterlife, which ensures that we will meet again in a different realm, dimension, universe, etc., and we will be happy there. And yes, I am aware that I am HERE. I am not where Jon is, and that is precisely why this has been so hard, and is so hard for those grieving. Until you have lost someone you loved so deeply, no matter who they are, you cannot know what that is like. I could never have known. And I don’t expect outsiders to understand this. Those that haven’t deal with Death’s powerful grip on their lives cannot understand why it takes someone so long to let go of a lost loved one. They have moved on. Why cant the grieving? Why can’t a widow get over it already? Why is she still grieving? Why is he still single? Why do they idolize their spouses??

I don’t expect to have to keep up appearances and live up to impossible standards. No one has the right to tell anyone grieving that they cannot feel the way they feel, or react the way they react. Grief IS about the GRIEVER. It is not a sabbatical, or a retreat. It is not a picnic and it sure isn’t a vacation. It is an alternate state of being, where everything that once was is no longer quite the same. AND IT STAYS THAT WAY. It’s never going to go back. It’s never going to be the way it was. And I hate to disappoint people, but that takes awhile to get used to. Like it or not.

And in the same way, no one can expect a widow/er or grieving person to go back to who they were. I am no longer who I was. I used to be (in my opinion), very arrogant and forthright. I reveled in my false intellectualism and my pride as a wife and mother. Do I think those things are wrong, now? No. But I do think that the emphasis put on a projected facade, and then used to destroy someone else’s character, in the guise of offering opinions or “advice,” is a serious personality flaw. And like all things in life, I have learned a very harsh lesson.

I am no longer concerned with the petty, useless lifestyle I once lived. I don’t think my husband would even recognize me, anymore. But I do think he’d like the improvement. I do think he’d appreciate the new-found ability to recognize a defect that I no longer wish to be a part of.

Unfortunately, this is a cause for many losses on this journey. Mentalities that I no longer share with people have caused many riffs and odds, where there is no longer any common ground.

I’ve lost friends and even family members, because we cannot see eye to eye, and our lives are too different to connect. It’s a very sad thing, to realize that people I once counted on for support are tapped out. I don’t blame them for being who they are and wanting what they want. I only wish they didn’t feel the need to judge or slander instead of just saying: “I’m done with this.”

But I, too,  have drawn my own line in the sand. I no longer want certain people in MY life. Most grieving people don’t realize that we have the power to exclude those that are not supportive to our lives, and we are not obligated to continue friendships and relationships that are detrimental to our progress. It sucks to say it, but there are those we simply don’t need to be around anymore. It’s really just a part of life, and at what stage you are at in it. In my entire life, I have learned one valuable lesson: Nothing lasts forever. At one point, in almost all things, we will all have to say goodbye.

I recently came across a quote on Facebook that read something like: “Giving up doesn’t always mean you are weak. Sometimes, it just means you are strong enough to let go.”

I feel strong enough to let go of the things that hinder me. I feel strong enough to move on with my healing process. I know that I have true friends and I am so much more grateful for their friendship, because I see how rare and real it can be. I will heal, and everything else will happen as it will.

So, another anniversary has passed without you. We didn’t quite make it to our first one, and I had to take the girls to the baseball game by myself. Those were such painful days. That first anniversary was excruciating.

I cannot believe how long it has been since I’ve been part of a couple. I was out with a friend the other night, and we spoke of how nice it is to be in that comfort of relationship. Another friend called it “The New Car Smell” that happens during the beginning of a relationship. It was then that I realized…we never lost that feeling. Despite the trials we faced as a couple, especially in the beginning, we never stopped feeling so in-love with each other. I’ve heard people say “Well, you guys worked on it…” or “You were only together for five years…”

The truth is, we never had to work on it like other couples did/do. Our relationship was so easy, sometimes I had to check myself to make sure we weren’t glossing over reality. Sure, we had fights, and sometimes, I thought we weren’t going to make it…but our fights consisted of you leaving for 15 minutes to gas up the truck. You always came back, calmer, annoyed still…but ready to stick it out with me. You always told me I was stuck with you. That I had no choice, because there was no return policy on us. You could be frustrated with me, and still kiss me goodnight. And I learned, because you taught me, that I could still love you, even when you threw your dirty socks all over the place. Indeed, I love you, still.

Sometimes, I wonder if we would really have stood the “test of time” as it’s called, and I suppose I’ll never know. This year would have been our “seventh” year for that old itch thing. Would we survive it? Would we come out of it still as a couple, and stronger? I hate to think that we would be so stupid as to throw it all away, but I cannot be sure. I’ve been down that road, and though I have never known a love between two people quite like ours, I don’t know where we would be if you were here, in this sweltering July, instead of worlds beyond.

If only I could have the knowledge between what is truly sacred, and what is worthless, without having to lose you. If only I would have been less concerned with worry and reputation, in order to have the most of the five years we did have.  If only I knew that my shot at true love was limited by time, things could possibly have been different.

But would they really? Does anyone really know, even if they are privy to prior knowledge? Because I never would have guessed. I never would have seen myself here, all this way into the future, alone on my anniversary, missing you, missing us, and wondering about all the “if only’s”….

Anyway, I’ve completed part of what you wanted for us. I’ve finally secured us a home that we won’t ever have to move from, God-willing. I get my keys tomorrow, and I’m free to move in any time after that.  I wanted you to know, because even though it’s taken me this long, I’ve kept my promise to you, to take care of our girls, and continue with the legacy we started together, on a very hot day in July of 2007.  Happy Anniversary, my love.

FYI: My anniversary with my husband was on July 15th. I wasn’t going to publish this letter then, but I’ve decided that it’s ok to post here. I want to look back and remember it, and I can’t think of a better way to do so.

Where “there” is, I really couldn’t say. But I’m progressing, as it were, and I can tell that I’ve gotten past some of the things I was dealing with over the Spring.

I think this is a good thing, naturally, but the truth is, progress like this is like leaping from one lily pad to the next. I cannot stay where I’m at, and I’m definitely not on solid ground, just yet.

It feels like I go from transition to transition, without really arriving anywhere.  The higher I go, and the farther away I get from who I was before, the more I realize I am not finished with what I have to do, and who I will eventually be.

It’s a struggle, sometimes, to figure this stuff out. I can say that around the different corners I’ve encountered since becoming a widow, nothing has been so bad that I can’t handle it. It’s painful, sure, but I’ve finally learned that the worst probably won’t kill you, and if it does, it really doesn’t matter after that.

It’s made me braver. I’ve taken to changing things in my life that would otherwise cause me to run the other way. I’ve made the decision to step up to the plate instead of wait in the stands and cheer. Regardless of my outcome, I’ve decided to play the game.

Right now, I’m very anxious. I’m in the middle of different prospects and different roads to take. I’m in control over what happens next (mostly), and it’s exhilarating and frightening at the same time. I’m not being impulsive, because that’s irresponsible. It’s much scarier when you know what you’re doing and know about the possibility of failure.

But I know that people have walked this road long before I have, and have made it to the end of it, whether they succeeded in their agenda or not. It’s not that I have nothing to lose, but really, it’s time that I gained.

For now, I’m still in Limbo. I’m still waiting for the next plateau. Or the next landing, if anything.

I have been blessed with patience. All things in the right time.

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback, (both good and bad), in regards to the conversation I had with a woman regarding her widowed friend.

A lot of fellow widows and widowers have been grateful that I’ve posted it, and a few haven’t. Most of my negative feedback comes from people who aren’t widowed, and feel frustrated that they are looked at as people who “don’t get it” or DGI’s.

Here’s the deal, so that we can all go back to healing and learning: I posted the best parts of the conversation, because most of it was rather confrontational and pretty harsh. I was told that someone wanted to meet me, after reading my blog, and talk about my widowhood. I was led to believe it was someone who needed information regarding grieving. When I met this person, they were ready to argue about what I write, and how I am promoting, (for lack of a better term), “a self-pitying mentality instead of a healing one.”

This was said to me after we had much of the dialogue I wrote about. I did ask permission to share the conversation, on the condition that I would not reveal her identity, and that I would not make her look bad. I tried not to do that. I don’t know if I succeeded, but to date, she has no regrets and does not feel offended by my post. I did let her read it before posting it.

It’s hard to hear words like that, and not react to them. My biggest issue has been frustration at the people who think I should have been over this already. I can’t imagine why they would think so, but I have heard a PLETHORA of reasons why my grieving should be at an end, and really, it’s about how sick and tired people are of hearing about it.

Duly noted. I get that people are done hearing about how much it hurts that my husband died and I miss him. I get that they know that I love him still, and that I am not interested in dating, or that it still depresses me in ways I can’t explain. There have been many people who have politely excused themselves from my company, and at this point in my life, I am ok with that. And I’m ok with the people who simply say: I have no idea what to say, but I’m sorry.

But the people who have chastised me for having a pity party, or ridiculed me for using it as a means for gaining attention needed a serious wake up call. I used parts of that conversation to do it in a way that maybe they can understand. I was hoping the outcome would show them that this isn’t an easy road to walk, and even though they aren’t walking it, it’s not something I can turn off to make other people feel better. I thought that by sharing it, I’d be able to direct those who argue such points, to it, and not have to engage into another explanation about why I’m still not ready to go back to their idea of “normal.”

And after plenty of thought, and plenty of false-start responses in the past week, I’ve learned a few things.

For instance, when people get frustrated with the grief over another, it’s usually due to their lack of understanding. This does NOT mean these people are jerks, or should be treated with hostility, no matter how frustrating they can be for the widowed or grieving. But accepting that they’re not going to understand how a widow/er feels ahead of time is essential. They’re just not going to get it. Do you really want them to? I know that I don’t, if it means that they only way they WILL understand is by losing a spouse or a child themselves. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, least of all, my friends and family. As long as we agree to not be able to connect on that level, everything else is ok. (And for the record, I DO NOT believe a non-grieving person can identify on any level. I simply don’t. And I’m not going to change that perspective.)

Which brings me to another point: When a friend or family member is frustrated, it’s usually motivated from two different places of self-involvement. The first one is more acceptable than the second. Empathy is common and comes from love. If someone loves someone enough to start to worry and fret about their well-being, we’re going to be more understanding of that person. With my own family, I’ve had to realize that they simply love me and seeing me hurt this way is very hard for them. They can’t reach me, nor can they fix me. It’s awful to feel such helplessness, and sometimes, it brings out the awful in people. Subconsciously, they’re reacting to the feeling that they cannot help in a way that they think would make a difference. A bad reaction would be to blame the hurting. A good reaction would be to accept it, and help in ways that DO make a difference.

The other motivation for this type of thing would be control issues. Most people have them, even if they aren’t willing to admit it. I know that I have them, and when I’m faced with a situation that I cannot control, and I feel powerless, I get angry. I get frustrated and I sometimes have to whine and vent in order to release that frustration.

However, from an outsider’s perspective, this can cause a person with major control issues to blame the victim, so to speak. In other words: “Your grief is bothering me. It makes me feel bad for you, but I cannot do anything about it. I do not like feeling this way. Stop making me feel this way. This is your fault, since it happened to you, and I don’t want it in my life. Change it. I want things to go back to normal.

People who have mourned someone who wasn’t their spouse or child, (and I’ll add parent here, because that can be incredibly devastating. Ok, anyone whom they felt VERY bonded to), tend to accept the death a lot quicker, and go back to their lives. It’s easier for them to do so, because the only thing that changed for them is that the deceased is no longer around. But their lives can go on without much interruption, or constant reminder. They don’t live with it everyday, regardless of how they think they do. Widows, grieving parents, children etc. live with the loss every single day, if not every single moment. It’s profound effect changes nearly everything in their lives. In my opinion, a widowed person is never the same. I think the same goes for a grieving parent and child. It’s absolutely life-changing.

No wonder those on the outside get frustrated. They did not change. They grieved, but it was a detached grieving. It was a loss they could accept more readily, in varying levels. It was not something that halted the future they expected to have, and changed it forever. Seeing us change makes things seem insecure. Will we still be friends? Can we still joke about things? Can I still include this grieving person in my life? Should I exclude them from things that I might feel would hurt them?

It’s become very clear to me how hard it is to maintain a relationship with a grieving person. Often, I only look at how hard it is to live day-to-day, but for the people living with me and around me, I can see how much it hurts them.

I’ve concluded that it all comes down to what you want to accept, and what you want to handle. As a widow, I have to learn to accept and live with the fact that my husband, whom I still love as much as I ever have, will never be with me again. And for the people who are around me, and choose to keep me around, they have to accept that I’ll always miss him, and it’s going to take a while for me to get used to it. A while can mean years, and none of us can change that to make life easier for anyone. That’s just the way it is.

Life is harsh. That is the truth. It is not easy, and I do not lie to my children, telling them that it will be. I don’t believe that I am entitled to the good things in life, simply because I was born. But I am grateful for them, however long they last. No matter how much it hurts, I choose to be grateful. That is something I can control. I just have to handle everything else the best way I can. That’s all anyone can do.

I hope that this clears up some things. I do not regret my perspective, and I am grateful that it has expanded. Maybe things will be smoother and easier to handle from now on, because I’m learning to change my thought-process. I certainly hope so.