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


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.

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.


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*




This Baseline~

It’s a constant dichotomy, this life without Chuck.

The promise (if that is the right way to describe it) that we all hear, after going through a death or traumatic event (sometimes they are one and the same), is about finding that new normal.

This so-called new normal of mine, since April 21, 2013, is a life lived without Chuck.  Which is emotionally and physically exhausting, no matter which way I try to navigate it.  Practical, day to day, living, is a crap shoot.  Emotions…well, life has to be lived, and shit has to get done, so I can’t lie abed all day, I can’t curl up in a fetal position in the corner, so I have to get up and do the living thing.

In these 3 years and 4 months since Chuck died, I’ve been laying a foundation for the next part of my life;  I’ve been writing my first book and putting together my first public presentation on this Odyssey of Love, and thinking. thinking, thinking, constantly, and working every day, creating workshops, networking, reaching out in every way I can to those around me.

And I’m tired.  Bone  tired.  Soul tired.  Exhausted.  Today I realized that my body is strung as tightly as a rubber band right before it snaps.  My nerves are humming along the surface of my skin.  My heart is racing.  I must consciously remind myself to take a breath.  There is a consistent, low-grade itching all over my body.  My mind feels as tightly wound as my body and all I want to do is run shrieking into whatever oblivion I can find.

I can’t do this anymore.  And yet, this is what I have, what I am, where I am, so I must.

So I use my homeopathic remedies for grief and trauma.  Star of Bethlehem.  Ignatia Amara.  Rescue Remedy.  Relaxation essential oil on my pulse points and in a mister that shoots the scent into this room where I sit.

What do you do when you can’t stand the silence and the alone-ness and the missing-ness any longer, but you have to stand it because this is it?  This is life now, simply stated.  Chuck will always be dead, for the rest of my life.

In order to create this part of my life that will bring me into a semblance of financial security, I have to project, in some measure, into the future.  A future I don’t want to consider because it is a future without him.  But I have to consider that future, practically thinking, no matter what I feel at any given moment.

Doing so hitches my breath and causes anxiety to rise in frantic measures to every nerve ending.  It is as if flood waters are pouring through a breached wall.

I allow some of this to happen;  I know the futility of trying to hold it back.  But, at the same time, how much do I allow and how much control do I have with it and over it?

Rhetorical questions, all.   I do what I can to manage it all, but I know it’s a temporary fix.  I’ve done counseling, one on one, and in a group.  I’ve gone through various trauma modalities, and they have made a difference.  But none of it can remove what this new normal is, what it will be for the time I have left living;  Chuck is dead and life without him is empty.

And, honestly, none of this is a plea for sympathy.   I’ll still do whatever needs to be done to create some semblance of a life for the rest of my life.  Nor is this a pity party.  It is, simply, an acknowledgement from me that this life of widowhood is the most difficult, unbearable, impossible, thing I’ve ever tried to do and my heart hurts.  Desperately.

I miss my husband.  I miss Chuck.  The space next to me, where he stood for 24 years, is empty.  And I cannot convey to you in any real way what it feels like, what this life feels like, without him.  It is silence and it is loneliness and it is emptiness, no matter how I strive to change it or accept it or balance it.  It is as if I’m blindly throwing darts at an unseen dart board, with no idea of where or how they land.

That’s all.



When He Smiled at Me~

Sometimes it can be too painful, after a loved one dies, to look at pictures of them.   Not because we don’t want to see their faces and remember back, but because the very act of remembering back is a stark reminder that those times are gone, never to return.

That happens to me when I look at pictures of my beloved husband, Chuck.  It tears into me that those lovely, loving days of being loved by him, of being his special someone…those days are gone, never to return.

And yes, I’m so beyond grateful that I had those years with him.  But that has nothing to do with this grief at his death, or the daily missing-ness of him.

But, even so, I look at pictures of him.  Often.  Even as it causes daggers to my heart and tears choke me.

I look because I know he’s looking at me.

In most of the pictures I have of him, he’s smiling.  And I know that he’s looking directly at the camera…at me…the woman he loved, as I snapped a picture to preserve that particular memory.  So even as the tears come, I smile, because I know he’s looking directly at me, smiling at me with all the love in his heart showing in his eyes as they crinkle, and on his lips.  Sexy smiles, devilish smiles, smiles of love and joy, his eyes glinting at me, sharing secrets that we carried between us. Smiles that conveyed promises of passion and enjoyment for both of us, later on when we’d be alone. Smiles of love.  I half expect him to wink at me from those long ago moments…

I’m the recipient of that smile.  I was the recipient of his smile for 24 years and what a gift it is to me to know that little ol’ me brought such a smile to his face.

I love you, D.  Always.  Collage1Collage2

The Pulse Beat of Love Over Everything Else…

I have to remind myself, as many of us do, I expect, that this widowhood is, as I learned in AA, a matter of progress, not perfection. Because I, for one, consistently seem to expect more of myself than is realistic. By which I mean, I continually scan my body and mind and heart to see where I am in this grief and why I’m not further along, even as my mind tells me to stop such nonsense and lays out all the reasons why I need to stop such nonsense.

Still it continues. But I’m getting better at just letting it be and not gauging my grief by anyone else’s grief.

So…progress, not perfection.

In the months after Chuck died, I remember writing on my personal blog about an issue that arose in terrible ugliness while he was in hospice. Without getting into gory detail (because family issues are rife at such a time for many of us, I know), what I’ll tell you is that in the 2nd week of our hospice time, which was the week before he died, I was told by his daughter that he’d asked her to be his medical advocate. Instead of me.

Because my career was in hospice, death/dying/grief were fairly regular topics at our dinner table. Chuck and I had done all the paperwork of wills, advanced directives, etc. I’d written particulars down on a piece of paper so that I’d have an easy reference sheet.

Once he and I went on the road, and most especially after his first cancer, he and I spoke even more frequently about such matters, clarifying our individual wishes. I was as clear on his wishes and desires as he was with mine.

The day previous to being informed of this matter, he and I made a personal pact: whatever he needed, I had his back. I recall him holding up his pinky finger (which he’d never, ever, done), indicating for me to do the same, wrapping mine with his in pinky swear. I promised that I would have his back and kick ass and take names as needed. It was intensely emotional.

And then the next day I was told what I was told. And, no, as implausible as it sounds, I never questioned him about it. I believed that, if I did, it would further agitate him because he’d feel caught between me and his daughter and I would not, would not, would not, add to his agitation.

There were many comments and actions in his hospice time and the weeks and months after his death that pretty much sent me over the edge, and, though I don’t wish to be overly dramatic about it, the added trauma seeped into my bones and marrow.

What I recognized even amidst the devastation of this conversation with her was that my husband had needs to be met in regards to his daughter and it was my responsibility as his wife, as the woman who loved him, to ensure they be met to the best of my ability. It wasn’t necessary for him to articulate those needs to me; after 24 years together, my instincts regarding Chuck were sound….so I stepped aside, I stepped back, and gave space to his daughter.

Now, lest you start crowning me with halos, let me quickly disabuse any notion of saintliness or such nonsense on my part. I struggled every day and night with the decision I made to step back and was talked through it every day and night by my sister, who called me daily.

However, because I’m not a fucking saint, stepping aside as I did, though done with and for love for him, also raised in me a sense of helplessness and rage…and rage while in the insanity of grief is what I felt when I lifted the cover of the box he was in for his cremation and it horrified me that this was my last feeling for him, when I’d never in all of our years together felt such an emotion towards him.

Today’s EMDR therapy took me into the depths of that rage and helped me delve more deeply into the layers of it. I realized that Chuck’s supposed request of her to serve as his medical advocate made me feel betrayed; clearly he must have thought me to be weak and incompetent and incapable of handling his illness.

The reality is that I don’t know what he said to her, if anything, and whatever he said, she heard what she needed to hear and ran with it, due to her own issues and agenda. Chuck and I were square on everything and I suppose, as I think of it, that’s a good part of why I was able to step aside, even as I craved more time with him.

The biggest revelation for me today was this: in our hospice time I loved him even more perfectly than I’d ever loved him. Even as the cancer consumed his body, I made his final few weeks about life and living for him. I encouraged his Air Force buddies from around the country to visit him and made sure he had alone time with them. I encouraged numerous of the men he’d sponsored in AA to come from Jersey to California to bring him meetings and meet one on one with him for final sponsorship and so that he could say his final goodbyes to them, and that very important aspect of his life.

I advocated for him every minute of every one of those days and I made it all about the love he’d brought to so many and most especially to me. And he died knowing how much he was loved.

Death is, in the simplest of circumstances, I believe, traumatic for those who witness it, who bear the grief of it afterwards. Which is not to say we ought not to witness it; I’d do every big and small thing again and again. But memories and words and anger and pain from emotion-wrought times seep into the marrow of our bones and become trauma and it gets carried through our bodies and into our hearts and minds, even as grief swirls around and through us.

If Chuck were here, he and I would have a conversation about what happened and he’d clarify to me what he said to his daughter and we’d work our way through it, as we worked our way through all issues. Ultimately, he would tell me how proud of me he was for what I did and how I did it, and he’d thank me and tell me how much more he loves me, even now. That is the man he was to me for 24 years and that didn’t change in hospice. He spoke highly of me to his friends and co-workers through all of the years of our marriage; his pride in me and his love for me, shone brightly, always.

Grief is indeed a matter of progress, not perfection. We put our own pressures on ourselves even before the world does, to be more, to be better, to be different. Trauma sets into our bones and we may not even be aware how it simmers into that progress and chokes it until it chokes us so that we can’t breathe.

There is a sense of relief in me after today’s therapy. Perhaps as I consider the revelations of this consciousness, the tide of trauma will wash out to sea and the soft lapping of the love he left behind for me will become my pulse beat.

This man I loved more than my own life…he left so much love behind for me. How I miss him with every pulse beat. But maybe now, as I allow the trauma to wash through me and out of me, this grief will have cleaner lines to it.

Maybe this is where the twin sides of simple grief and love can now dwell…with love becoming the stronger and mightier of the two…10685434_807833169271619_169846425441466326_n

What Meds Don’t Do~

Here’s what I now know about medications and grief.  This isn’t all personal experience, at least as far as allopathic medications are concerned; this is what I’ve gathered from other widow/ers.  I speak only of the herbs/homeopathic remedies that I’ve employed to help me with my grief.

This St John’s Wort, widely used in Europe as a mood elevator, works for me in that it almost immediately dropped a gossamer veil between me and my grief.  I picture my grief now as the filter used in old-time movies to soften the features of the actors and actresses.  I know my grief is there but there is very clearly something keeping me from fully absorbing it.  And that is indeed the purpose of St John’s Wort so…mission accomplished on that.

What it doesn’t do is take away or remove everything else that companions the meat-cutter of grief.  There is no filter on the shattering loneliness.  The lost feelings of being someone’s someone.  The steady thrum of starvation from the lack of touch by the man I love.  The empty silence where all the words I want to speak fall not on deaf ears but no ears.  The shuddering absence of the energy that shimmered and shifted next to me through the years.  The hole in my soul.

I don’t believe that there is any medication or herb in the world that changes these realities.

Yes, I can find a group of people with whom to discuss issues.  And I do talk with people constantly in the course of my day. And my kids and friends call, and they give me hugs and I’m so thankful for that. And yes, I have grand-kids and I love them all dearly. And none of that makes up for/replaces what I had with Handsome Husband.

I crave his touch and my body starves, knowing I’ll never feel his hands on me again. I wonder how it would feel to have another man’s hands on me, feel another man’s arms around me, dance with another man, even as I realize it is my husband I desire, not just any man.  And I know that even if I invite another man into my life someday, Handsome Husband will always be my husband even should I fall in love (which I hope to do).  I’ll always be his widow because he was my husband and there is some strange beauty in that in this fucking weird new world without him.

These thoughts spin round and round in my heart these days and, contrary to how I appear, I’m really very confused.  Which is, I know, pretty well reflected in this particular piece of writing.

Really, all I know is that I miss my husband.  I miss Chuck.  I miss him in ways that can only be imagined in the nightmares that come in the deepest, darkest hours of sleep that waken you sweating and screaming and breathless with adrenalin.

Beat, thrum, throb, cut, slice goes my heart…