What I Know for Certain~

But don’t you want to be happy? Don’t you owe it to your kids to remember you as happy? Life is supposed to be happy. Maybe you’re depressed. Don’t you want to be happy?
If you’re a widow/er, then you’ve heard the same questions and comments. I know you have. Or, if you’re public about your grief, as I am, you hear it from the general public. Less frequently, possibly, as the years pass. But you hear it. Such comments were more prominent somewhere in the second half of my 3rd year. Apparently, if one is still grieving in the 3rd year, bells of doubt start ringing in the minds of those around you, whispering words like depression complicated grief not moving on not getting on with it medications therapy etc…
I’m embarrassed to admit that, upon hearing these comments (and let’s be honest, it’s thinly veiled criticism because it comes across exactly as it sounds: a judgement, as if I’m doing something wrong), I initially and inevitably ended up defending myself, and trying to explain myself, even as I knew I had no reason to defend myself. But those words made me feel defensive and attacked. So, I defended.
No longer. No. Longer.
Guess what? I’m perfectly content with my legacy. If I were to die right now, this fucking minute, I’d have zero regrets. None. Nada. Zero.
And I owe my kids nothing, because they already have all the Love in the world from me.
I know exactly how my kids will remember me and I know what my kids will remember about me. Whether I die today, or tomorrow or years from now.
Our mom was THE most kickass mom ever. She and pop had a Love story for the ages. They sold everything and traveled the country together and remember when we’d call them up we’d ask them where are you now? She nursed him with so much Love through his first cancer and they kept on traveling and when the cancer came back, she did it all again, and bigger. She ensured that all of us had one on one time with him in hospice and she honored and supported us through our own grief, even as she grieved. She bought a trailer after he died and painted it and her car pink and she dressed in pink and she drove all over the entire fucking country, honoring him and their Love and connecting with people everywhere. She was a connector. She inspired people. She was colorful and crazy and she was the Love Warrior and a Fucking Warrior Goddess and she did all that while she was grieving because she loved pop so much and her life felt empty without him and she fucking did it all anyways. She left an example to all of us and to her grandkids about determination and grit and Love. She cried and she laughed and none of it meant anything and all of it meant everything and she lived when she didn’t want to live and she talked to us honestly about the impact of his death on her and she loved hard because Love was all that was left amid the ashes of her life when pop died. She was unapologetic about her grief and her Love and she lived in spite of it and with it. And we are proud of who she was and what she was because she was real and being real was all that mattered. She was a Fucking Warrior Goddess.
No. I have no qualms about the memories I’ll leave behind for my kids, or for anyone else who might remember me.
My epitaph will read Here lies a woman who lived the duality of Love and Grief, who made everything around her shimmer and sparkle with Love, with a shattered heart, and she did it all in pink. She was a Fucking Warrior Goddess.

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A Yoke and 2 Buckets~

What I knew instinctively as soon as Chuck died, and what I knew I had to immediately institute with myself and my body language, my behavior, my thinking:
Even though my brain was fogged with devastation.
Grief is isolating.
Do every damn thing you can so that you can’t, you don’t, isolate.  Whether you want to or not.  Don’t isolate.  Therein lies your own living death.
Make yourself visible.  You want to disappear.  Don’t allow it to happen.  Make yourself so visible that people will pay attention and, if you try to disappear, they’ll wonder where you are. This will be your saving grace.
When you walk, don’t allow your chin to drop.  Don’t allow your shoulders and posture to sag forward.  You want to do this, but don’t.  Always make sure your chin is up, your shoulders back.
Write. Write about this grief.  Write about this widowhood. Write about the devastation of living without the man you loved more than life. Write, and then write some more.  Keep writing. Always write.  It…this living, breathing, thing called grief, will putrefy inside of you and become toxic if you don’t write. What you write doesn’t have to make sense.  Just write, as if your life depends on it.  Because it does.
Be honest with those around you, whatever their response. It may not matter to them, but it will matter to you, both in the long run and the short run. Be raw and honest and real about it. Even if it hurts. Which it will.  Even if they judge you. Which they will.
Allow yourself to go into the darkness of this devastation.  Yeah, it’s scary to do so, but maybe maybe maybe, somewhere in the darkness, you will find that your other senses will sharpen, and you’ll find your way through this to whatever degree it can be gone through.
None of this is okay and it’s okay to acknowledge that.  It sucks and you don’t have to pretty it up for anyone.
However devastating, unbearable, impossible, lonely, soul-shattering this grief, is…and it is…remember remember remember every damn day, every minute of every damn day, every second of every damn minute, the Love that Chuck left behind for you and fucking make it balance as much as you can every nanosecond.  Carry the bucket of Love and carry the bucket of grief and know that, even though they slosh over during the day, making a mess, as long as they’re mostly equally filled at the end of the day, then it’s been a manageable day.

And manageable is okay~   yoke2[2458]

Grace Absorbed~

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This picture expresses it all for me.
Where I am in this widowed life.
It was taken 3 years ago, but even then, without knowing….I was determined.
Determined that Love must be bigger than the devastation.
Determined that if I knew nothing else, if I remembered nothing else, I would know and remember the Love that Chuck left behind for me.
And I would make it shine forth from me so brightly that it would rival the sun.

And it does. It shines and it shimmers and it glows.
It isn’t any easier for me than it is for anyone else in this widow life.
What you can’t see in this picture, what is invisible to the human eye and completely visible to my eye, is the humongous shape of Chuck’s absence that is always with me.
His physical and tangible absence right there to the left of me.
That’s the side he walked on, always, because of deafness in his right ear.
The day this picture was taken, I very consciously chose my clothing, wanting them to reflect the fucking warrior goddess that I was determined to be.
I chose a clear crystal to wear around my neck, on a strand of pink beads.  Clear crystal, so that the light would shine through. Pink because, well…pink, and Chuck said wear pink to mourn for me, not black.  Pink is your color.
I wore leggings that I laced with pink thread. They were a bit ragged, which suited me.  I was ragged and torn up. I still am.
A lace shirt to remind myself of softness and light and my femininity. What I was, what I felt, when Chuck and I were together.
A laced suede vest denoting armor.  Widowhood is not for sissies.  Life is a battle for me, everyday.  I make the decision every day to get up and suit up and show up, and I armor myself in pink, for strength.  For Love.
A sword. But a sword for Love, not violence. A sword because a fucking warrior goddess must have a sword.
I purposefully went barefoot that day, as I crossed streams and climbed red rocks to get to a rise above the earth. I wanted my feet to sink into the ground.  I wanted them dirty and natural and bare.  Bare and as stripped down as I felt.
And, as I posed and lifted my face to the sun above me, I felt, even as my shredded heart beat beneath my lace shirt and suede vest…I absorbed the grace descending upon me.
Grace.
What I needed then, what I need now, to carry me, along with the Love that is the only real and tangible thing to me in these 4 years and 3 months of without-ness.
I lift my face to the sun, still, and I lift my face to the moon and stars at night, as I travel my Odyssey of Love.  I speak to Chuck and I ask him to send even more Love here to me, more Love to hold onto, more grace to continue on.
Love…the Love that Chuck left behind for me, the Love that I feel for him now and always, is the very breath of my existence. It fuels me, it gets me going, it keeps me going.
I lift my eyes to the skies to absorb Chuck, wherever he is, if he is…and I breathe the Love from him into every step I take, every mile I drive.
It’s all I have.
And it isn’t enough.
Except that..
It is.

It must be.

Dark Veil Included. Of Course~

My Odyssey of Love began almost 4 years ago.  Chuck died April 21, 2013, and 3 weeks later I loaded our belongings into our red Ford Escape, gently placed his cremains on the shotgun seat, the jacket from his BDU’s on the back of the seat, climbed into the driver seat and turned the ignition.

I’ve been on the road ever since and I’m just shy of 100,000 miles, having crisscrossed the country 8 times. Not bad for a chick who had no idea of how to tow a trailer, or camp.  Directions were never my strong suit, which has worked out well, because my only plan all along has been to head north, south, east or west. Once I learned to back up my rig, I lost all fear of getting lost and having to turn around and getting stuck because I didn’t know how to back up. Mostly, I’ve gone where my heart has led me to go.  In so doing, I’ve met hundreds upon hundreds of lovely and loving people who have reached out to me and I’ve given and received as many hugs. Love has been my compass. It will always be my compass.  My Odyssey of Love will always lead me.

Grief is isolating, something I well knew from my hospice training, so I set out to fight back against isolation.  I painted my rig pink to draw people to me. Telling one’s story is a necessary component of grief, and I’ve told my story to as many people as I’ve met along the way. Creating a new life for one’s self after being widowed means trying new things and I’ve pushed as many comfort zones and boundaries as come to mind and I say yes to most everything, endeavoring to find something that grabs me, hoping for something to make me care about life again.

So many times, I wish that I had the luxury of hiding under the covers.  I wish I’d had the time after Chuck died to do that.  To just grieve. To fall apart and have someone care for me while I fell apart. I’ve had moments, of course, and my kids have been so amazing as they’ve sat with me through those meltdowns.  But you have to stand back up again, right?  So, I did.

As I approach the 4-year mark of widowhood, as I consider mygodhowhasitbeen4fuckingyears, I marvel that I am alive at all.  How has a broken heart not killed me? The answer is, of course, that it isn’t as easy as it sounds.  I wish.

I consider, too, what I’ve learned in this time.  Nothing great, really.  I don’t value life more. I’m not more grateful. I have not become a better person; I’m pretty much the kind and loving person I was; just sadder and heavier feeling now. I’ve had no great epiphanies other than life can suck a great deal and, yep again, it isn’t as easy to die of a broken heart as I’d heard.  My life is not better for Chuck’s death; on the contrary, it’s quite a bit tougher financially, emotionally, and physically. 

I am amazed and taken aback at how I keep going. 

I’m also amazed and a bit dispirited at the realizations about the social aspects of widowhood that I didn’t know about before…because, well, I wasn’t widowed, you know.

Mostly, the people in my world have been supportive and I don’t know where I’d be without our kids. Yes, I do. I’d have driven into the desert and disappeared.  My support community is pretty awesome, fortunately.

Chuck and I had a conversation while in hospice, about what kind of widow I’d be.  Dark humor, you know. We talked the pros/cons of tragic widowhood, merry widowhood…but never about being a dark widow, the title that seems to have become mine simply because I’m not the happy, cheerful person I once was, and the world is very unforgiving of that.  Not that I chose the dark widow title; it sort of just became an awareness on my part that I have become that, and there is a degree of pariah-hood that comes along with the title.

Grief now, for me, is more personal than ever, in that it has gone deeper, no matter how much I’ve tried to keep it in the open, because who wants to hear about it constantly, right? Or even sometimes? Christalmighty, I’m tired of me.  But I’m in my body, so, yeah, and believe it or not, you can’t just flip a flipping switch to change grief, despite what the positive living gurus tell you.

Grief isn’t just sadness; it is everything else that goes with the death of your person.  It is your entire life, and it takes more than 4 years to recalibrate the obvious shit, never mind the hidden bugaboos and treacherous grenades that explode in your face without warning.

I get it, though.  I admit and acknowledge and understand that it’s tough to be around me and in my world.  I wonder if that’s why, in part, widows way back in medieval times entered convents. A life away from society at large…it’s tempting, actually.  No need to put on a happy damn face.  No need to talk, really. Just meditation and quiet.  I swear I could do that.

Here’s the thing. I know that everyone who loves me would love for me to be grief-free, pain free, happy go lucky, embracing the world, joyful, connected to life…call it what you will. Call it everything you want to call it.  Basically all the things I’m not. mea culpa mea culpa mea culpa, etc…

But I am so many other things. I’m determined, unafraid to challenge myself or accept challenges. For god fucking sake…I have gone out and done shit I couldn’t ever imagine doing in these 4 years and I’ve done it in fucking pink.  I haven’t let grief and trauma or sadness or fear stop me from anything. I’ve gone out and done 4 years of shit instead of burying myself under the covers.  Not because I didn’t want to bury myself, not because I’m running from this sadness, but because I knew that would be a downwards spiral for me. Instead, I’ve fucking done new shit left and right and up and down.

There are times when I want to scream to the world, to people in this world what the fucking fuck do you want from me?  I’d be proud to know me.  I know Chuck is proud of me, if he’s anywhere where that matters, and I’m not sure that he is, but, whatever. I’m a damn amazing role model for my daughter, for my sons, for my grandgirls. I’ve touched the lives of more people than I can count as I’ve driven this Odyssey.  I know because they write to me to tell me. They tell me that they tend their marriages more consciously because of what I write about the Love story Chuck and I shared. They tell me that I inspire them to suit up and show up, because that’s what I do everyday. They tell me that they’ve learned to live more simply, because of how I live. When the time comes that I finally die, I know I’ll leave behind a bigger legacy than many can own to. No, I’m not joyful, no, I don’t give a fucking damn about life. Yes, I’m sad, yes, I find life overwhelmingly lonely at all times, yes, life sucks without Chuck and that has only intensified in this time since his death. But so fucking what, right?  It hasn’t stopped me, it doesn’t stop me, and that’s what matters.

Godalmighty, world, just fucking accept me as I am, for who I am: a woman who does shit even as I’m weighed down with missing my husband.

The fucking dark widow, if you will.  *Dramatic black veil available upon request.*

 

Pink in the Midst of Black~

The colors of widowhood.

I reflect on them sometimes.

The colors we wear.

The colors we strive to wear personally and the colors social structures put on us, or expect from us.

Maybe not so much in words, maybe not conscious.

But still there.

Black widows are the female spiders that kill their mates after…mating.

It is the term used to refer to human women who kill their mates.

Or families.

Interesting, isn’t it?

I, of course, didn’t kill my mate.  My husband.  My lover.

But as time passes in this widowhood, I feel the pressure of widowhood and it colors my perception of self and I feel like the Black Widow.

Though I struggle to not let it color who I really am, who I strive to be in the days and months and years since my beloved husband died.

I freely admit that I am dark.  Darker than I’ve ever been.  I’m the party pooper, the one to rain on your parade because I’m not me anymore.  Or, at least, not the me I used to be.  And I have no idea who this me is now.  The lightheartedness that used to make me the life of the party, the joie de vie that guided my life…that’s gone dark.  The smile, the humor, the sparkle in my eyes…gone.

Oh my god.  Have I become the Black Widow?

To counter all of this, I wear pink.  Chuck said that to me, you know.  Before he died.  Black isn’t your color.  Mourn for me in pink.

And I do.  Not a gentle pink, though.  The pink I wear is such as the great female warriors of times past might have worn.  If they wore pink.  Which they didn’t, to my knowledge.  Though glowing pink armor would be totally radical, dude.

Pink is my armor.  My clothing.  My hair, on occasion.  My car.  My trailer.  Whatever bags I carry. Jewelry.  My boots are brown, but they need to be.  They are my Fucking Warrior Goddess boots.

I’ve been asked why do you need armor?  Why do you call yourself a Fucking Warrior Goddess?  Isn’t that all kind of a violent perception of yourself? Of widowhood?

Um..yeah, it’s necessary. What do you think this is, this widowhood?  What do you think it takes when your world is incinerated around you and it’s now just you, after having been two for so long? I do this not to protect myself from anything, but because this widowhood, the grief and the Love that propel me daily…it’s a battle.  A struggle.  For my sanity, in some ways.  To hold on when I don’t want to go on.  A reminder, daily, to myself more than others, that I am a force to be reckoned with, though I don’t feel very strong most days.  An outward symbol, perhaps, and maybe hopefully, that this pink…this pink…it’s kind of like the S on Superman’s chest.  An outward symbol of strength and determination. Yes, I’m a widow, but I don’t need pity.  I’m not needy.  I’m not here to be taken advantage of or to take advantage of anyone. 

I’m sad, yes.  I miss my husband desperately, yes.  I need to talk about him, yes.  I even need to talk about how he died…because his dying was one of the most powerful things ever to happen to me. It is part of my history now. His death and his life and everything else that has changed, continues changing…this is my life.  This is what I need to talk about with whatever warm body happens to be near me, because I don’t have my warm body near me. It’s as simple as that.  And as complicated, I guess, to the outside world.

Perhaps the term Black Widow exists because that color best describes what happens to our world when our person dies.  It goes black.  The black holes in space have nothing on what happened to my world when Chuck died. Perhaps, too, it exists because people don’t know what to do with widows.  What to say, how to respond to them, either in words or actions.  Perhaps it best describes their discomfort with us, with our intensity, as we navigate a new life.

Are we too intense for normal folk?  It really does seem so.  I’ve seen friendships end, family relationships blown to bits, I’ve heard about it all from my widowed community.  It’s kind of mind-blowing, really.

Widowhood is a world and a language that continually presents itself in new ways to me as I navigate the world, post Chuck’s death.  PCD.  There’s a huge learning curve in it for me, and, I suspect, for many.  It’s confusing and bewildering and honestly makes me feel more vulnerable than I’ve ever felt in my 58 years on this earth.

Which is one of the reasons I do it in pink.

I am the Black Widow, in pink…

(I wonder if being a Black Widow involves endless amounts of glitter?)

 

Life in the Hood…

I’ve grieved before.  My brother and my mom died within 6 months of one another, back in 1996.  It knocked me senseless for…hmm…4 years or so?

After the first year I volunteered at a local hospice and sought out one training after another, getting certified in various aspects of grief and crisis response and compassion fatigue.  Which led me to training that allowed me to facilitate bereavement groups for the community.

I knew shit, you know?  Ask me a question about grief and the impact of grief and the many ways people grieve and I could tell you shit that would make a difference in your life. I have stacks of notes and testimonials citing the many ways I helped people.

And then Chuck died.

BAM!

I don’t know shit about grief.  Or rather, I know a shit load of stuff about grief and what I know doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to how I’m grieving and I question my sanity as much as any newbie and I feel the same disconnect between my heart and head as many in my groups expressed to me in their time.

I don’t know shit.

And I depend upon my friends in the bereavement field to tell me naw, you ain’t crazy. You’re grieving.  Make sure you hydrate.  Remind yourself to breathe effectively.  Call me when you think you’re crazy and I’ll listen.

Even more so I depend upon my widowed community.  Those people get it. Big time.  I’ve met numerous widows who fucking rock their widowhood.  Not because they’ve gotten it all figured out but because they are so open and vulnerable about it and with it.  Which I admire to the nth degree.  Honesty also makes a person vulnerable to judgement and criticism, of course, and cries of oh you must be positive you must flip that switch so that you’re happy instead of sad you are choosing this way of reacting…and blah blah blah.

Life in the hood, as my son laughingly called it and I loved that he laughed when he said it, is fucking hard.  I’m beyond blessed that I have a strong, supportive, community around me for the most part.  And by that I don’t mean people who yes me to death how fucking boring that would be but people who understand that there is a difference a ginormous difference, between encouragement and judgement.

Encouragement is I’m right here with you this sucks the big one want to talk about Chuck or would you rather be distracted?  It’s understanding my blunt response when you ask if I’m having fun and I say fuck no because that word and its’ definition don’t even register with me and that’s okay.  It’s just cheering me on in my sometimes huge strides and my more often desperate yet intentional attempts to make something of this new life in the hood.  It’s not just moving your lips when you say there is no timeline to grief but meaning it in your heart and giving me that space while I figure this shit out. It’s working with me on ideas to earn money and stay on the road or just joking with me about how fucked up all this is.  I’ll take care of the emotional shit.  Help me with the practical and/or logistical.  But no trying to fix that, either.  Just work with me.

Look, grief is hard.  I know it.  You know it.  I think you do.  I hope you do.  Except actually not because it means that a loved one of yours died and I don’t wish this shit on anyone.  I’m not going to sit here and compare one grief over another;  it sucks no matter what.  What makes life in the hood just a difference in matters of degree is this:  most often, when 2 adults partner up for life, is that every fucking area of your lives entwine and entangle.  In a good way, not in a and this comes with judgement in tone but as a woman you’re supposed to be your own person even if you’re married!  How horrible that you weren’t your own person! Where’s your own identity?  How could you lose your own identity? 

Fuck that.  Keep your judgements to yourself, right?  Also, let me introduce you to what being really, deeply, passionately, in love is like, hmm?  In that most wonderful way that you feel stronger and more confident in your own sweet self as you have ever felt.  Ever. Because you were married to this incredibly cool guy who pushed you and encouraged you and supported you and your dreams in all the ways that he could.  Because he, you know, loved you just as much, if not more, than you loved him.

Let me be totally and brutally frank and honest here, okay?  Cover your eyes if you need to, peek between your fingers if you wish, clap your hands over your ears, or don’t read beyond this point if your sensibilities are too delicate or you’re one of our kids.

What takes widowhood to that whole different level is, let me put this delicately, or try…the continual exchange of bodily fluids over the course of a healthy marriage.  Passion? Sexing? Doing the nasty?  Okay, fucking.  You know, that thing that married people love doing I hope you loved doing it as much as Chuck and I did sorry if you don’t.  When you have that with your person, when you do that regularly because you are in a really amazing, excellent, loving. relationship/marriage, it brings a whole level of intimacy to the life that you share and is the very basis of everything else  that you share.  Sex, finances, chores, more sex, love, jobs, kids, daily life, sex…it all entangles you, hopefully, in a gorgeous package of intimacy;  legs and arms and hearts and minds and tongues and words and souls and bone and I swear, cells of your damn body and thoughts in a sweaty heap on the bed.  Or the floor. Wherever.

And that is what takes life in the hood to that deeper level.  No comparisons to other grief, I promise. Just sayin’, right?

Did I just veer completely off my original talking point?  I think I did.

Anyways…encouragement is a good thing, okay?  Let’s do a judgement free zone, hmm?

Thank you.

*I blame the raw honesty of this blog on those of my widow sisters *you know who you are* whose favorite word is fuck and the widow sisters who write openly about sex in the widowed community *gasp*.  It’s your fault and, also, thank you*

*Also this does not apply to my own support community because they you, pretty much rock*

 

 

 

Sigh…(what people say)….

A friend of long standing, now a former friend for various reasons, recently accused me of dragging my good husband’s name around.  It is quite shameful, she stated.

Followed with I know things about Chuck, indiscretions (regarding women) but it would be unkind to say things about the dead, plus you wouldn’t believe me.

You think?

I only mention this because I guess I’m still floored when people get viscious to suit their own needs, and passively-aggressively attack Chuck, through me.   And, also, because I’m  a storyteller and such obvious dribble is rich in the telling.

Honestly, reading what she wrote immediately struck me as humorous.  I’m stronger now, 4 years later, than I was when a close family member threw similar ugly words at me, not realizing that she really wasn’t maligning me, but a person she claimed to love.  Similar to this latest attempt.

4 years ago, the ugly words sent me to my knees and it took me years to deal with the trauma.  Not the words that were said, because I knew them not to be true (as I know these words not to be true), but because, back then, days after his death, I was raw and on the floor with grief and I allowed her words to get into my bones for a brief second and I thought are those words trueDid I not truly know the man I was married to for 24 years? Because he couldn’t have been who she described, and be the man I  knew.  There was a clanging dissonance between those two images.  The words, by themselves, weren’t what caused trauma for me.  What caused the trauma was the idea that I’d even allowed a nanosecond of doubt, as a result of her words, to creep in, and that made me feel as if I’d betrayed Chuck, which devastated me.

It’s funny, really, how people, claiming to love a person who is now dead, while claiming that of course they’d never slander the dead….do that very thing, in hopes of destroying the one left alive.   Whoa.  Fucked up humans, right?

I guess I didn’t realize the strength that now resides in my bones and my heart and soul, since Chuck’s death.  These latest words only made me shake my head that this person, who knew of the first circumstance, couldn’t even be original;  instead, knowing my reaction the first time, she made an attempt to piggyback, hoping for….I don’t know…that I’d be destroyed once again.

All it did was make me realize my present day strength.  And more, it made me realize the ugliness that can exist in a person’s soul when envy and jealousy take over.   It made me realize that my mom was right, years ago, when she taught me to always consider the source when ugly words get thrown.

Oh, also…that part about dragging my husband’s name around?  I’m not quite certain what was meant by that.  Am I dragging his name through the mud, as she attempted to do?  Besmirch his reputation, as she’s trying to do?

Each day, as I travel this Odyssey, I honor Chuck’s name and I honor the legacy of love that he left behind, not just for me, but for so many others, and there is nothing about that that suggests dragging.  The love story that Chuck and I had is my story, one he left with me.  I own it.

And to those who would say otherwise, my response is the same as it was to the woman who accused me of the same thing early on…

Find your own damn love story.

*Names purposefully left out of this blog.  The names/relationships are un-necessary*