A Roar of Defiance~

Along about the second year, definitely going into the third and then the fourth…I just wanted to scream at people.
Not in anger, but in shredded grief and pain…
Why can’t you just let me be sad? Why does it feel like I must defend myself against you? Why does it then feel like I have to defend my grief even to myself? Why does it feel like I can’t just feel what I feel, be whatever I am? Why must I expend all this energy defending my right to feel all that this is? Why is it not okay with you that I can’t find my feet and I’m feeling so disoriented that my stomach continually wants to heave its’ contents? Why are you trying to make me feel like I’m doing something wrong?
Why can’t you just let me be fucking sad?
These are a mere sampling of the piercing reactions that took up so much space in my heart and soul and mind in the first years of grief, in reaction to all the well meaning mostly discussions that people would have with me. To me, really, because they weren’t seeking discussion with me as much as they were telling me where they thought I should be with this, or how they thought I should be with this.
Grief, I mean.
How I was grieving vs how they thought I should be grieving.
They didn’t realize this is what they were doing, of course. At least, I hope they didn’t realize this is what they were doing.
Whether that was their intention or not, shaming is how I heard every word.
And every word from them shattered me more, because I, and we, already judge ourselves so much, when we grieve.
Am I grieving too much? Too little? Am I “okay” too soon? Not “okay” soon enough? What if I break down in public? I’m so exhausted…should I go out or not? They expect me…does that matter? Can I just get in bed and pull the covers over me and not go out for a year? Is that okay or not? Does that mean I’m depressed? Am I depressed? Should I go on medication? I don’t want to go but I’m going to go so that I can show everyone that I’m “okay” even though I’m not okay by any stretch of the imagination but I don’t want them to worry so I’ll go. If I talk about him, how much is too much? How much is not enough and then they wonder if I’m forgotten him? I need to get back to work for distraction/money/I’ll lose my job but I’m so exhausted. I can’t function but I have to. Hold the tears back. Okay, now cry. Breathe hard…
All these questions, and ten million more, are questions and doubts that we hold already in our hearts, when we grieve. And then well-meaning people voice them to us and this widow thing becomes more impossible, more unbearable, than it already is.
I knew I didn’t have to defend my grief, or my right to grieve, of course, even though it felt like I did. My grief would not be denied; it streaked through my DNA and took up residence and I wrote about it and made my writings public so that grief wouldn’t kill me. Which was, and always is, a risk, but it was one I had to take, or vaporize into a mist of non-existence.
Here’s the thing. It is normal to grieve. It is normal to grieve hard. With tears, with tearing of hair, with a closet full of black or a closet full of color as we scream our rage and defiance to the skies. It is normal that exhaustion set in that we think results from the strength of our emotions but is really a more holistic exhaustion that comes from, well, all that is grief. It is fucking normal to react however you react according to your situation, your history, your relationship, your background…your everything. It is NORMAL.
It was somewhere in my fourth year that true acceptance set in with me. Not acceptance of the death, which is what we’re told acceptance is all about. Acceptance, for me, wasn’t about the death. It was about my right to grieve in whatever fucking way I needed to grieve, for as long or as short as I needed to grieve. When people, possibly in true ignorant fashion, seek to instruct me, now, on proper grieving, I say to them thank you for your opinion, and continue on my way.
The ever popular anger stage of grief…which isn’t actually a stage of grief at all, but a step in the process, as written by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, for those who are DYING, having nothing to do with the grief of those left behind so for god fucking sake, people, can we get rid of that..is, I think, anger at those who shame us as we grieve. Yadda, yadda, yadda, give them that they love us, want us to be okay, want us to be, ultimately, who we were before, so that they can feel comfortable with us again.
To which I say….bless you! in the same manner that Whoopi Goldberg, as the nun in Sister Act, said bless you to the guy who was going to blow her head off at the end of the movie, and she wanted to curse at him but the Mother Superior was standing right there and being a fake nun and all, instead of fuck you she said bless you!
I was angry a few times but did my best to respond diplomatically to those who were outright cruel in their words, as I grieved. Diplomatically because I’m not one to be cruel in return, and because, initially, I was in such shock, and it’s only as I look back that I see the intensity of my shock, that I didn’t fully realize then. Diplomatically because I’m not a cruel person.
But what I wanted to say to the family member, who was very close to Chuck is…how dare you bring your bullshit to this sacred space we have created for him? How dare you bring your darkness to this man who is leaving all that he loves behind him? How dare you try to sully his memory with the ugliness that you hold in your heart? Keep that to yourself; there is no place for it here. Ever. Take your doubts and your guilt elsewhere. Not here. Never here. And…bless you!
And to my friend who was loved by Chuck, but who decided, 3 years in, to take confidences that I’d shared with her about the family member and make them her own and cast her own darkness into them and onto them and throw them at me…the friend who told me that I needed to settle down and get a job instead of gallivanting around the country, dragging my husband’s name through the mud…you clearly never knew me, and you most certainly didn’t know Chuck, and, quite simply, you betrayed him because of the darkness you carry in your own heart and in your life and that’s not on me or him, so…bless you!
At 5 years in of this widowhood, I don’t know what I’m doing, mostly, but I’m totally confident about doing it anyways, whatever this is. I don’t give a grand flying fuck about other’s opinions about me or how I’m doing this. I focus on Love every damn day so that I don’t lose my fucking mind because, guess what, folks? In spite of the grief shame you sought to cast upon me, I’m still grieving! You didn’t make things better for me…surprise! I miss Chuck so damn much it takes my breath away…yes, even 5 years later! My nights are unbearably lonely and I reach for his flag that I was given and I trace the stars on it and I clutch it close to my body, with the same passion that I used to draw him close to me. My heart hurts and it aches and I feel numb and I feel disconnected in every way…so I get up every damn day and I wear something pink and I go out and I find the Love.
I find the Love, wherever and however I can. And I miss him and my vision literally blurs with tears that I must live without him but the tears don’t keep me from seeking out Love…wherever I can find it.
You know what I do with my grief, all you grief shamers out there?
I fucking find the Love~

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And. Not Or~

We all know the power of words, especially in widowhood.
Words stream at us in loving support, with awkwardness, clumsy grace, and, unfortunately, in judgement.
We hear these words and phrases and they make us stronger or they make us want to hide.
We begin, as time passes, to hide ourselves. To isolate ourselves.
We present artificial selves to protect ourselves from judgements and maintain our daily lives, while our hearts and souls go underground.
Early on, in what I will presume was good intent, a friend told me to just fake it til you make it.
Instinctively, I knew that wasn’t an option for me. It felt like an unhealthy response to a genuinely traumatizing event.
As these few years have passed, I’ve spoken about life without my beloved husband, and the struggles of widowhood, in as real and authentic a way as possible.
I refuse to hide myself from it. I refuse to allow the world and its’ judgements to force me into isolation. I can’t, for my own sanity’s sake.
And I’ve also had to create a life and do my daily tasks, which I can’t do if I’m sobbing my way through my days.
So I’ve put on the face, so to speak, in order to get shit done, like we all do.
But this isn’t a fake it til you make it face.
In what I consider a healthy response, I’ve morphed into two people. Which, as a Gemini, is no big deal to me, honestly.
And I’ve learned that this widow life isn’t an either/or proposition.
It’s an and situation.
I am this person AND I’m that person.
I am devastated empty lonely yearning sad missing him AND I am creating and creative engaging being and showing and receiving Love…daily.
I am a shadow of myself AND I am shining more brightly than ever.
I don’t want to be here on this earth without him AND I am more determined than ever to carry our Love story every day.
I feel empty AND feel so full each and every day.
I am this AND I am that AND I am perfectly okay with this duality.
This duality, for me, is how I widow~

Let~

Let the moments stop. Let them stay where they are.
Let them take me back in time.
Let them morph into the unknown future.
Let me be present.
Let me disappear.
Let me be numb.
Let my emotions riot my heart.
Let shock quiet my system.
Let me remember times past.
Let me see only the joy.
Let the pain recede.
Let him see Love.
Let our grief morph into Love.
Let our hands touch lightly.
Let our eyes speak our words.
Let our voices murmur gently and softly through the night.
Let our Love shine and shimmer.
Let your body release your spirit.
Let my tears fall.
Let the blankets cocoon you warmly.
Let my hands reverently lift your spirit gone body to the gurney.
Let its’ wheels carry you away from me, down the corridor.
Let flowered bouquets cover you.
Let my hands be steady, gently pressing the switch of the crematorium doors.
Let my last service of Love for you connect me to you, wherever you now go.
Let my Love for you rage as brilliantly as the flames that take your body from me.
Let Love live.

Measureable Time, and More~

My dearest, my most beloved husband.

Chuck. Sarge. D.  My heart, my heartbeat, the oxygen in my blood, my very breath…

You were many names to me over the years.  You were many things to me, as I was to you. You were everything to me, as I was to you.

Life was daily living for us both, of course. We had our jobs, our individual friends and interests, and we had our friends in common and interests in common.

But beyond and above and alongside of, and with, we had each other.

You were my life.

What is my life without you? Without my breath? Without my heartbeat?

That madness of the souls that is Love.  That Love we shared that was a single soul inhabiting two bodies…

What to do with all of that now that you’re dead and we are forever separated?

The calendar says that you’ve been dead for 1,735 days.  I have to look on my app to see the exact days but my mind tracks the years.  Four years and nine months.

My heart? My soul? They tell me that you’ve been dead forever.  As the heart measures is the true measurement.  You were dead forever the moment you took your last breath and you will always be dead forever, even as human time apportions out minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years.

The fractured splinters of my heart shimmer as dust in the wake of who we were together, in the aftershock of your death, in the vague remembrances of who I was with you and because of you and your Love.

I try. And try. And try again. I swear to god I do. I get up every damn fucking day of this life without you and I keep my chin level as I push and muck through and absorb and am at one with and allow and let go and hold on and welcome Love and let Love in and put it out there again.

What will it take to make this life without you worth it?

I’m brave. I’m determined. I look around me and see beauty. I do everything I can. I fucking swear I do. I have to, so that our Love is honored. So that I live a life that honors yours. I live my life because you can’t live yours.

And the splintered, slivered bits of dust that are my heart after your death…they shine in the light of day and glow in the dark of night.

The stars in the inky dark of every galaxy, glittering in skies around the world, shining over my head here in the desert…they are you, I think.  You, shimmering down on me. Maybe. But they are also the particles of my heart, no longer claiming space in my chest. Those far away beacons, too distant to touch, are the dust of my heart, scattered in the unreachable points of the Universe.

My heart cries out to you, my beloved.

I will love you into forever and beyond measureable time~

 

These Mirrored Eyes~

I was struck, recently, as I perused join requests on a fb group I began a few months ago, for widows who live on the road, or camp. I vet each request to ensure that each woman meets the requirements for our particular group. Within the group, we discuss, not surprisingly, intensely emotional topics around widowhood, and the challenges of being on the road solo. So, as I’m able, I scroll the pages of those who would like to join, in addition to messaging each one to verify information.
Sometimes it’s a fairly simple thing to discern the answers to the questions I ask, so I’m able to approve the join request even before receiving a response. A picture, comments on the page, posted memes…I’m not particularly psychic, but I nailed it on one by simply finding a selfie picture as I scrolled.

One picture, a selfie…nothing unusual there, right? Except that I paused the moment I came upon that picture, because I immediately noticed her eyes. More specifically, what her eyes showed.

Agony, pain, grief, uncertainty, desolation, devastation, dislocation…
Her eyes were a widow’s eyes and I stopped scrolling because I recognized those eyes.
Her eyes were my eyes, in the days and months and years after Chuck’s death. I still see those eyes when I look in a mirror, combing my hair or applying my makeup. The uncertainty and grief and pain is more masked now, I think, but the light is gone and my eyes reflect, at least to me, the abject loneliness that streams from my heart and soul into my blood stream. They reflect his missing-ness from me.
Eyes are the mirrors of the soul. Never has that quote so resonated with me.
My eyes, in the 24 happy, passion-filled years that I had with Chuck reflected all that I was with him; confident, loved, nourished, fed, strong, joyous, content…all the words of rhapsody that describe a woman in love with the man in her life.
The eyes of this widow that I don’t know sent me to pictures of my before and after to study my eyes. Chuck’s eyes. Our eyes as we looked into one another’s eyes. Pictures of my eyes looking up at him as he snapped a picture of me. At the beach, on a pier, right after we’d had wild and crazy sex…
And then I studied my eyes mere weeks after his death. A quick selfie as I began another day of driving, and one more as I posed for an FWG photo shoot.
Wife eyes and Widow’s eyes…my god. It’s shocking, even to me.
In one series of pictures, a woman looks into her lover’s eyes with a sparkle that has clearly traveled straight from her heart and soul and there is a light in them that could, possibly, light up the entire Universe.
In the Widow series…well, the eyes speak all that cannot be spoken because words have become impossible. The present, the future, all that was lost, is lost, will never be again. It is all right there in the eyes.
I almost recoil from the before pictures, from those eyes and what I see in them and the stark contrast of light and shadow from the after time.
My eyes and, yes, what they mirror…
And I wonder if that sparkle and clarity will ever show again~ untitled

Unknowing the Known…Not~

I stare into the distance of everything and nothing many times during a day’s measure,
And, as I stare, I see everything and I see nothing
I feel everything so much that I feel nothing.
Pain and grief have morphed into emptiness
Which is funny and humorous except not
Because my life is incredibly full
With family, with new friends and old
Driving new roads and old roads, literally.
Continual adventures
In all directions.
How can a life so full feel so empty?
How can it feel so heavy?
Why is it so exhausting?
How do I change it from that to something different and not as heavy or empty?
Is this just part of the package resulting from the death of a beloved?
Just as we can’t know something until we know it…
So, too, we can’t unknow something that we know into the marrow of our bones.
I guess. I suppose. I don’t know.
I would give all that I am to unknow what I most regretfully now know and will never not know…

Widow Speak~

There really is no explaining it
In words that either convey or make sense to anyone
WIDOW
The depths of the word change daily and minute by minute
Depending on the day or the minute
In the beginning, it means devastation conflagration incineration annihilation
Each of those feeling remain or don’t,
Depending on the day or the minute
It’s going to bed alone and leaving the TV or radio on low so that the hum of voices distracts you as you wake through the night and if you don’t have the distraction your mind hums with memories and the grief that no more memories will ever be made.
Grasping his pillow close and arranging your body sometimes unconsciously to the side you slept when you slept with him so that he could curl his body around you his arm curving under you his other arm draping over you his hand curled around your breast.
It’s waking each morning and wishing that you could have that unsuspecting moment that you’re waking to your old life like you hear people speak about but your body and mind are instantly aware that he’s still dead and this is another morning and you’re exhausted because your mind has been going all night long even when you slept but really didn’t sleep.
And you make the decision to get up anyways because you can’t just lay abed endlessly, right?
Go through a morning routine getting ready shower don’t cry or yes, do cry try to push away the thoughts that I just can’t do this again but you do it again anyways because what other choice is there?
Breakfast even though you really aren’t hungry but what does hunger have to do with eating its habit more than anything or eat because you aren’t hungry but you have to do something and the clock says breakfast time and you eat but you don’t taste because food doesn’t matter to you anymore.
It’s going through your day whatever your day used to mean but now doesn’t except that distractions help sometimes but not really because there underneath everything is your new pulsebeat of dead dead dead he’s gone gone gone.
Try to get home early if you’re out because there’s just something about that time of the early evening that makes missing him more powerful than all the powerful moments of the earlier part of the day.  Once you get home wherever home is now home was when I was with him wander around the kitchen the bedroom the house turn the TV on for noise eat food out of the fridge because who cares eat junk.
Go to bed because you need the day to end or don’t go to bed because you can’t bear being alone in bed so sleep on the couch somehow the back of the couch against your back helps you feel more secure.
One season follows another and the days drift and bend and each season carries its’ own cuts and bruises of remembrance and oh he would love the colors of the flowers the trees the snow the ocean that gust of wind feel that feeling in the air and he isn’t here and my soul can’t bear this beauty and I’m not ignoring the beauty but the beauty hurts because I’m seeing it feeling it being it on my own and that cuts into me again like a chain saw.
We’re supposed to be grateful we had what we had and I am and we’re complimented on being so strong and I am but also exhausted from being strong encouraged to remember and I do but what does that have to do with anything I wonder and told that look you have your kids and your grandkids and your life and other people who love you and I do and I know that but what the fuck does that have to do with anything and how on god’s green earth does any of that change anything or make up for anything most especially the fact that for god’s sake he’s dead?
What do you say when there are no words in our language to fully and really and completely tell you that I say what I need to say and do what I need to do and I’m whatever I need to be to meet this fucking real life challenge but none of it means a damn thing and I’m not pretending anything to anyone but life does fucking go on and I have to support myself and shop and do all the daily tasks that constitute living but if you really really really want to know the truth with no qualifications and no prevarications…
My heart is broken and I’m not really strong and I hate living without him and life is unbearable and I’ve run out of words and I have no energy for this and I’m really not okay but I have to be okay so I try to be okay but my soul inside this body that shows up every day even as I’m doing and talking and going through each day is just missing him as he is missing from me and it hurts and there isn’t one damn thing that doesn’t remind me of him including the very act of breathing.  And all the milestones and holidays and anniversaries and birthdays amid the everydays make me miss him even more and I want nothing more than to be held by him feel his arms around me his lips on mine feel safe again feel secure again dance with him sleep with him have wild sex with him wake with him share nothing and everything important with him live again knowing how special I am to someone in this life just have him back please please please…
Be his wife his lover again.
Not his widow.