Monday, June 30, 2014

Nightmares

The night before Rick's funeral, I had a nightmare. It was related to the suicide and my best friend woke me up because I was crying out loud.

Apparently the nightmares are back, trigged by early Independence Day fireworks. 

I think it started at my parents' house last night. I was there for dinner, we were all inside, and somewhere outside a firecracker went off. I jumped, visibly shaken, and was suddenly jolted into an idea of Rick's last moments. A gunshot I didn't hear, but know occurred. I guess that's enough. I recovered in an instant, but the noise really shook me inside my head. As a social worker, I understand that these things happen, but on a personal level, I wasn't expecting it.

The random early firecracker faded into nothingness and I went on with my night. I went home. I blogged. I watched some TV. Then more early fireworks started in my own neighborhood. I jumped when they started - much more than the scenario called for, but easily relaxed as the night wore on (and so did the fireworks). 


The cats and I went to bed. And just like that, the nightmares were back. I had at least four last night. I had horrible ones during which I couldn't wake myself up, but wanted to desperately. I had ones that caused me to wake up yelling or crying. I felt like I had to keep catching my breath last night.

I'm hoping the nightmares will dissipate again...or perhaps present themselves one at a time. The cluster of nightmares last night was too intense and unbearable. I thought I was past the timeframe that would cause such resurfacing of trauma. I thought my grief had taken over in a softer, less extreme way. 

I guess grief still has surprises. 

I don't want to remember the bad or the scary. I want to remember the good. I don't like when things are out of my control. 

I don't like being caught off guard. Actually, I don't like grieving. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Poems of the Heart

On April 19th, 2008, the day I was married, I gave Rick a wedding gift. It was a compilation of all the poems I had ever written for him, hardbound into a book. It was the very last thing I ever did as Arielle Lee Becker.


I remember how amazed Rick was when he opened it and how touched. My writing was one of the things that brought us together. He spent Christmas of 2006 alone at home, reading everything I had written on my old website, falling in love with me through my words... or so he said. Once we became a couple, I showed him the poems I wrote and he marveled at each one, so proud of what I could do and so stunned that so many of the poems were for him.

He never tired of my writing and always treasured each piece of paper I gave him. He saved everything. He had a box of every email we'd exchanged, every note, every card, and every poem. He taped his favorites to his desk. Long after the hardbound book of poetry was created in 2008, Rick saved my poems, because they kept coming. They tapered off as the newness of love dissolved, but still I wrote them, because ours was a steady love that was always there, even when excitement faded away.

Instead of a traditional obituary for Rick, I stayed true to myself and included a poem with the obituary I wrote for the newspaper. It was almost $1,000 total, but I didn't care. I didn't want an obituary that read like a resume - every place Rick had worked, where he went to school, etc. I wanted to show the person I married, the person I loved, and the emotion behind his life. I wanted to do what Rick would have wanted.

The poem I put in the obituary was one of mine, and it was one of Rick's favorites. It sums up what my heart needed to say.

I looked at the red book today, the one I gave him as a wedding gift over 6 years ago. I held it in my hands for a long while before opening it. And when I opened it, before I even realized what was happening, I started reading the first poem out loud.

When I had finished the poem, I wiped my eyes, closed the book, and told Rick I'd read him another one tomorrow. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Now

I spent the day at the beach with three friends: Sarah, Beth, and Lindy. I felt so lucky to have them with me. Stuck in PA, we went to Mauch Chunk Lake at the suggestion of my friend, Daniele. It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of laughs. 


It's funny - on any other day before Rick's death, I would have felt relaxed and at ease after hours of laughing with my friends. Now, post-death, I feel strangely accomplished and proud. I was able to laugh and enjoy things. I feel as though I achieved great success just by going to the beach for a day and laughing like a normal human. At the end of the day, instead of relaxed, I feel mentally tired, like I was at a conference presenting research or acting on stage in a play. Laughing and living life when the heart is sore takes so much energy, even when that laughing and living is real. I didn't even realize what a feat it is to laugh and be normal for a day. 

Still, I wouldn't change it. I love my friends and I need them. I would rather be accomplished in the feat of laughing while grieving than afraid to live.

There were so many times today when everything felt normal, when over a decade of friendship took center stage and made me forget that Rick was dead. It's the shock of remembering that he is gone that always feels so unbearable. He should be waiting at home... We're just at the beach...

All three of my friends are getting married in the next year. I hear them talk about their plans and smile. All three of them deserve so much love and happiness. I am so excited to share in their joy and to see their lives unfold. It is a stark contrast to my own life, though, and it couldn't be clearer. They are starting their lives with the men they love and my life is just a blank page. If their plans cause me to think of my past - my own wedding dress, my own wedding colors, my own honeymoon - I try to turn off that part of my brain and think about the future instead. The problem with the future is that I see myself alone at their weddings. Wedding after wedding, alone. Bridesmaid or wedding guest, it doesn't matter. I'll be alone and thinking of Rick...reminded of what I had and lost.

So I turn off that part of my brain too, and I stop thinking about the future. Instead, I think about the now. Just this moment. Just this hour with my friends, laughing and listening to their happiness. I can do that. I can live in the hour, chattering about plans and details with genuine interest, happiness, and excitement. I can live in the hour, remembering that I am a normal person who does not have to think about anything but the conversation that is currently taking place. I don't have to think about my life pre-death or my life post-death. I don't have to draw a marker down the center of the timeline that is my life. I try to put a positive spin on the hand I've been dealt: I'm a writer, so a blank page has always appealed to me. I can do this. I have to live in the now, because there is no other way.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Answered Prayer

As the title of this blog is The Cat Widow, I have to talk about my cats again.

The vet called me personally today to see how Juice was doing and to give me Tumbler's kidney results to see how he is fairing with his advanced kidney failure. In a nutshell, Tumbler is a miraculous cat. In April, when we found out he was dying of kidney failure, he had 2 kidney values tested. The first was creatinine and it was 6.6, which is insanely high and terrible. Today, his level is 2.2 which is WITHIN NORMAL LIMITS because the vet said anything under 2.4 is fine!

The other value tested was his BUN (blood urea nitrogen), which was 98 in April, and again is terrible because it should be below 38. Today, Tumbler's BUN level is 48, so it's still higher than it should be, but it's VASTLY improved. The vet was very impressed with him. The vet did not realize that Tumbler is the most persistent cat in the world.

I told Tumbler to live the dream and he did. He still has kidney failure, of course, but he has a much better prognosis now. Now we just have to get Juice feeling better.


Speaking of Juice, I was supposed to head to Philly for the weekend to spend time with my friends Beth, Lindy, and Sarah. Beth lives in that area, Lindy comes from Virginia, and Sarah comes from Connecticut. Well, with Juice sick and needing medicine so often as she gets better, I had to opt out. There's no one to give her medicine and fluids if I'm not home. I forgot, however, that I have the best friends in the world, so Beth and Lindy are on their way to me as we speak. And tomorrow morning, Sarah will be here too. My house will be full of friends with funny stories and cats with kidney failure.

Despite all the bad that permeates my life, I really am so lucky. When the vet called me about Tumbler today, I smiled so hard and fought back tears because I just knew that Rick was looking out for me and the cats. For all I know, he's coaching Tumbler from the spirit world.

Last night, I cried. For Rick. For both the cats. For myself. I held my pillow and used it to wipe my tears. I asked myself how I have been able to live these last 40 days. I asked Rick to look out for me. I told him that I didn't want an empty house. I cried over my empty house.

Today, my cats are doing so much better, it doesn't look like they're going anywhere anytime soon, and I have 3 friends coming to stay with me. I'm sad but I'm alive, I'm sad but I'm hopeful, I'm sad but I'm grateful...and out of nowhere, I have anything but an empty house.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

39 Days

This blog is 1 month old today. It's amazing how in such a short time, I have gathered my army of support around me, obtained a base of readers, and developed a ritual of nightly writing in order to cope.

Today I am 39 days a widow. 39 days of weirdness, pain, discovery, adaptation, fear, loss, grief, introspection, and sorrow. 39 days without Rick. 39 days of re-remembering every morning that my life is now different.

When I realized that I have been a widow for 39 days, my brain took me on a journey of numbers. I determined that I was a wife for 2,220 days exactly. That's all. 2,220. It sounds so insignificant in the scheme of life. Only 2,220 days. It turns out, that's all 6 years and 1 month amounts to: 2,220 days. 

The number of days I was a wife will forever remain stagnant, unmoving and irreversible. 2,220. But as I live and move forward in my new life, the number of days I am a widow will gain momentum, increase, and eventually surpass the number of days I was a wife. The days I am a widow will leave 2,220 in the dust. It startles me to realize that. And it hurts.

Being left behind is never a good feeling. I've been left behind with a memory box of a mere 2,220 days and a ticking day counter of widowhood. 

Speaking of being left behind, I took Juice to the vet again today and the vet is pretty sure that Juice has kidney failure like Tumbler. Hers is earlier stage than Tumbler's, but kidney failure at age 4 is not a good thing. Moral of the story: my whole little family is either dead or dying. Sooner than I would like, I'll be officially all alone.

That's not to say that Tumbler and Juice can't live for up to another year, but that's just 365 days. And when 2,220 seems unfair, 365 seems miniscule. I'm distraught and trying to think positive. There are positives: Juice finally ate something tonight after a long stretch of nothing. Tumbler gained weight at the vet when I thought the best case scenario would be for his weight to remain stable rather than lose. He continues to persist at life, just as I told him to do. I bought a cat pheromone diffuser plug-in for my house. It's for stressed out kitties who are dealing with transition, adjustments, or grief. The pheromones let them know they are safe and secure.


The vet suspects that due to the kitties' young age, it's a genetic abnormality that caused them to develop kidney failure. Since they are brother and sister from the same litter, their cat mom was ill, and Tumbler already has a birth defect (cerebella hypoplasia), the odds were just against them for some reason. 

So here we are, a household of miserable creatures...snuggling, crying, and inhaling the pheromones. Just a cat widow and her cats, waiting for the odds to be in our favor.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Scared.

I really needed Rick tonight. I got home from a work conference followed by annoying death errands to find cat throw-up all over my house. Then when I fed the cats, Juice wouldn't eat, confirming my suspicion that it was she who was sick. I was just getting frantic when my good friend Jennifer showed up at my house for dinner as planned.

We took Juice to the vet. She was acting so sad and wasn't herself at all. She has the beginning signs of pancreatitis and some elevated kidney levels, but they think it was just because she was dehydrated. She got subcutaneous fluids and some meds. I have to give her meds for a week. She is not a happy cat. We all want Rick.

The vet bill was steep and I am really worried about Juice (she hasn't eaten), but I was glad Jennifer was with me tonight if I couldn't have Rick. We left the vet in the pouring rain, with thunder and lightning booming. Poor Juice had such a hard night. Jennifer and I got soaked.


Pizza and mozzarella sticks are in the oven, we're wearing manly sweatpants, and she's letting me blog.

If Rick was here, he would tell me that there's nothing to cry over, because I did exactly what I needed to do. I took the cats to the vet, I got medicine, and I'm back home eating dinner at 9:45 at night. If Rick was here, he'd give me a pep talk. If Rick was here, he'd take care of me.

Now I have to take care of myself. And I'm perfectly capable. But sometimes I would rather throw a tantrum. Or cry. Everything seems scarier without Rick.

I'm so scared of bad things happening and not having him here to be with me. To comfort me. To hold me. To talk to me. To listen to me.

Bad days seem so much worse now that he's not here. Staying positive is easy for me, but when I go to sleep at night, I'm still alone and I'm still sad. I'm still scared.

The word "scared" covers so much of how I feel. There is so much unknown territory, so many challenges waiting, and so much emptiness. I want to feel happy again. I want so much to feel like my world isn't a dark abyss of fear and loss. I know I can rise above that dark abyss, and I know that I can do it with a smile - a genuine smile. But tonight, it's so hard. I just want my husband to touch my hair and kiss my cheek and tell me that Juice will be okay. I just want a life that doesn't exist anymore.

But right now, it's time. Time to stop crying. Time to eat dinner. Time to move forward in this new life.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Reaching for the Sun

My mom called today from her cruise. She's been gone since Thursday and today was the first day she was able to use her phone at a port. It has been strange not talking to her or seeing her for 5 days. They'll be gone 5 more before they return. When she called, she said, "Guess what the name of our Captain is."

"What?" I asked.

"Rick."

It made me smile.

I love messages from the Universe.

I've been reading the envelope my mom left with me in her absence: 10 Things I Remember About Rick... One for each day she is away. I just retrieved today's "thing" from the envelope.



Rick really did love the sun. Every year, he would lie in the sun in our backyard as soon as April hit. If it was 65 degrees, you could find him outside in his short shorts from the 80s, soaking up the rays. I can remember so many days sitting next to him outside in the sun. Sometimes I was wearing a sweatshirt and rolling my eyes at his sun-worshiping ways. Other times, I was writing a paper for grad school, setting up shop next to him for a couple of hours. Sometimes I was in my bikini, chatting incessantly to him or reading a book.

Rick could stay in the sun for hours...no book, no magazine... just him and the sun. And he loved the beach. Before we were married, we went to Florida to stay with Rick's brother and his family. Later, we went to Seaside Heights at the Jersey Shore. On our honeymoon, we relaxed in tropical St. Lucia. After that, we went to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Then, we went to Ogunquit Beach in Maine...more than once. If there was a good view and a beach, we didn't need anything else.

It didn't matter where the beach was located, as long as the sun could find it.

When he wasn't sunning himself, Rick was in the water. The water in Maine was about 50 degrees during the times we were there...and my husband was out on a raft in the middle of the sea. He swam. He dove. He came back to me on the sand with his thumbs blue and numb from the cold, but he was smiling.

I loved him so much when he was out in the sun, enjoying life. I was so happy when he was happy.

Now that he's gone, he's not in pain anymore, so I try to imagine him happy and free. I picture a smile on his face and a peaceful look in his eyes. And when I do this... when I imagine him happiest...I always seem to find myself imagining him lying in the sun.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Relief

My keychain feels lighter. 
My driveway feels emptier.
Rick's car is gone.

It gives me a twinge of pain to know that it's gone. I did have a sad drive to the notary to do the title transfer. It felt weird to be driving Rick's car...and more, to be driving Rick's car for the last time.  It felt weird to think that he will never drive it again. That I'll never see it on my street again.


But I also felt a new and surprising emotion: relief. After jumping through several hoops, completing paperwork, and registering the will, I have the money to pay for the funeral and some other bills. It's done. I don't have to see Rick's car, parked forlornly on the street, waiting for an owner that is never coming home. I feel lighter. Less weighed down.

I am only one person, and now I only have one car. I am only one person, and now I only have one set of keys. I feel freer. Relieved.

When I got home tonight after selling Rick's car, I fed the cats and immediately got in my car to run an errand. Rick's sunglasses still mingle with mine in the dashboard tray of the car. He sometimes drove my car, so he always left a pair there. I picked them up and drove into the sun, wearing Rick's sunglasses instead of my own. I smiled. I breathed a sigh of relief. Said a few words to Rick. Smiled again. I actually felt...good. So you know what I did?

I turned on the radio.

And I sang along.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Empty Spaces

There are so many empty spaces in my life now.

There is an empty chair in my living room. Sometimes I sit in it...especially when I blog...but most of the time, it remains empty. I feel like it is mourning Rick the same way I am. Even the cats don't sit in it unless I'm in it. When I sit in Rick's chair, sometimes I pretend he's in it too. I move my body so that I only take up half of the big chair, or I lean my head to the side the way I would if I was sitting in Rick's lap. It almost feels like the chair is holding me. I want to pat it comfortingly and say, "It will be okay."

There is an empty towel rack in his bathroom. It may have a towel for guests at times, but usually it mourns Rick too. His bathroom looks stark. It's too clean and it's devoid of life. No more evidence of shaving or hair combing. No more toothbrush. There used to be a painting in Rick's bathroom. It was a painting of a ship on the sea and Rick told me it had been in his room as a child. It made me too sad to look at it, so I took it down and replaced it with something else. 

There is an empty spot in our bed...my bed. The king sized bed feels massive now. I continue to sleep on my side of the bed, even though technically the entire bed is now mine. I stay curled up on one half of it, crying, thinking, and remembering so many things. The other day I propped extra pillows on Rick's side, just so the bed would feel less empty. Sometimes, in the dark, in the middle of the night, I reach my arm out as far as it will go to the other side of the bed, just hoping against hope that my fingers will come in contact with him. It's silly, but I do it anyway, like my bed might just be the one magical place where reality will fade away.

There is even an empty spot I'm dreading in advance...


The decals on the back of my car which represent my family made me laugh the day I got them, but now every time I see them, I hurt inside. When is the right time to remove the Rick figure from the scene? Why isn't there a handbook for these things? How long do you wait to peel the "husband" decal from a windshield? 3 months? 6 months? A year? At which point does it become ridiculous that  it is still on my car? I dread that empty spot so much. The "Rick" decal is not even at the end of the family scene. The empty spot will be obvious. Painful.

In a lot of ways, it's fitting. When I peel the decal away, the empty spot next to "me" on the back of the car will represent all my pain. My missing piece. A void. 

There's a spot next to me in the chair...the bed...my life...and it is empty. There's a spot in my heart that's empty too. It feels hollow, as though I could whisper the word "Rick" and hear it echo within myself, bouncing around with nowhere to go...because there is no one next to me left to hear the name.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Living Life

Today was full of life. I lived life today.

Although Alicia didn't travel all the way from Michigan to sit around while I visited Rick's mom, she continued her good friend streak by journeying out to buy me more stamps for all my thank you cards while I spent some time with my mother-in-law. As usual, Rick's mom and I cried together, held hands, and talked about Rick. We looked at photo albums. She kept saying, "My baby, my baby boy," which always breaks my heart. When I hear her say those words, I get a little angry with Rick. I want to ask him if he thought of his mom before he made his last earthly decision.

When I got home from my visit, Alicia provided me with stamps and something else: anchor screws from the hardware store. The anchor screws were for a project we worked on later.

We went out to get manicures and pedicures. Just over one month out, my nails are still black - I'm still in mourning. They're going to start wondering about me at the nail salon - the young woman who comes in and gets her nails painted black every time. The nail tech said, "You want black?" He raised his eyebrow. I offered no explanation. "Yes, black," was all I said.

I considered getting them painted a different color today. I considered being ready for that. But as I thought about the choice of color, I remembered I was woken up last night to Tumbler crying. I could hear him downstairs in the living room, crying and crying as though his heart would break. I laid in bed, listening. I thought for sure he'd stop after a while. When he didn't, I got nervous, so I went downstairs to make sure he was all right. He was just standing in the middle of the living room, crying. "I know just how you feel," I said.

He stopped crying when he saw me and we looked at each other in the dark. He was physically fine in every way and there was nothing amiss. I asked him if he missed Rick, then I scooped him up and took him up to bed with me.

When I considered choosing a nail color other than black, I thought of my silly little cat. And I decided that black was still the feeling of my heart.

After being pampered, Alicia and I did what any women would do: we screwed hardware into my kitchen wall to put up an adorable shelf I bought for my mail/keys/purse/etc.


One bin is for incoming mail; the other bin is for the outgoing. We were pretty impressed with ourselves, but I honestly have to give most of the credit to Alicia. She's handier than Rick ever was. 

I have many thank you notes left to write, because the packages keep coming. Over a month since Rick died, I still open my mailbox each day to beautiful cards and thoughtful gifts. I'm luckier than so many people.

We also hung sconces alongside the wall art I bought a couple of weeks ago. My house is familiar, yet foreign, because so many empty spaces keep appearing. I'm trying to make my house my own. I'm trying to showcase Rick and our life together, but not pretend he still lives here with me. 


There are so many times a day I want to cry. I've found that the littlest distraction is enough to keep the tears at bay: a random question from a friend, a clothing ad on Facebook, a text from my brother-in-law, the sudden noise of children playing outside, or a "hello" from a neighbor. All it takes is a split second of distraction and my mind loosens its tight grip on my eyes. My eyes don't leak the tears.

And as I said, today was full of life. I lived life today. Rick would probably hate the shelf I put on the wall, but he'd be glad that Alicia and I had a good laugh. Rick would probably love the wall art and mirror candle sconces in the stairway, but I can almost hear him saying, "Are those green?" ...When I put them on the wall, I thought of his colorblindness and smiled. Rick would probably have missed me all day if he was home while I was out and about, but instead, I was missing him and he was happy that I was living life. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Deafening Disappointment

My friend Alicia is here from Michigan. My house is not empty this weekend.

There's still the weirdness that comes from lack of Rick...and I think we both feel it. My emotions come in waves... gratitude for friendship that surrounds me...happiness that I am supported...sadness that strikes me hard...and a new one: disappointment.

I'm disappointed that I can't have the life I wanted. I'm disappointed that I can't spend another anniversary with Rick, another birthday, another Friday night. I'm disappointed that I won't be able to run home and tell him good news...or show up with him at someone's wedding...or go on a vacation this summer. I'm disappointed that the holidays this year will be ruined...that he won't get to see my brother's new house...that he won't get to see my nieces grow up. I'm disappointed that he won't be able to take care of me when I'm sick...or reminisce with me about how we met. I'm so, so, so disappointed.

Disappointment is such a deep emotion. It has a heaviness to it as well as an emptiness. I remember feeling it as a child... that first taste of extreme disappointment, how raw it felt and how unfair. Disappointment cuts deeply and the wound lies open, bleeding. Disappointment follows you around and you just can't get away from it.

Disappointment hurts so much.

I look over at my friend and smile, because she is the kind of friend who understands my blogging ritual...who supports my need to open my box of grief. She sits in the dark with me and allows me to pause the movie we rented so that I can have my half hour to write.

I'm disappointed that I can't tell Rick about what a great friend she is to me.

He already knows, of course, because he knows everything now... but I always liked telling him stories... it's what I miss most of all. I miss recounting my day, sharing my ambitions, discussing lessons I've learned, and making him laugh. I miss his sarcasm and his laugh. He always threw his head back when he found himself especially funny.

Why can't I have the life I wanted? I'm disappointed. I will be the phoenix, rising from the ashes to begin again, but I didn't want to be. I wanted to be a wife, a friend, partner, a support, a lover, and an easer of pain to the man I loved. I wanted to live in this house with him...and kiss him good morning and good night. I wanted to share dinners and watch movies...I wanted to laugh... I wanted to hold him close, every day... I wanted to take trips and drive around... I wanted to dress up and hear him say I looked nice... I wanted to be married for more than 6 years. I wanted to love him more than 7.

There is so much I wanted that will never happen...can never happen. And I'm disappointed.

Yet one of the things I learned from Rick is acceptance. An abundance of acceptance, in fact. Accepting terrible circumstances is difficult, but it is possible. Only by acceptance will I be able to peacefully move forward and shed that shadow of disappointment that envelopes me right now.


Rick would tell me that disappointment won't serve me. There is a time and a place for it, but that time is temporary and that place will fade away. I hope that my disappointment will fade to an ache...and that later still, it will become a resolve...and perhaps later still, it will be a lesson. And maybe one day, when the lesson is learned and my life has reached a close, I can finally share the greatest story of all with my Rick.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Abnormal is the New Normal

This morning, the attorney and I went to the Register of Wills at the county courthouse. We sat down across from a woman who files wills all day long. The attorney, who knew her well, slid Rick's death certificate across the desk, pointed to a box near the bottom of the paper, and gave her a knowing look. My eyesight is good and I can read upside down. He was pointing to the box checked Suicide. My mind imagined their silent conversation, punctuated by eyebrow movements and sad smiles. 

"Look at this poor kid. Her husband killed himself."
"She barely looks old enough to be married, let alone widowed."
"She's so overwhelmed."
"I've seen a lot of this kind of thing lately."

My thoughts were interrupted by the woman across the desk, who actually said, "I've seen a lot of this kind of thing lately." I blinked and was brought back to reality.

Behind me, a couple was at a different desk, applying for a marriage license. Between every question I was asked about Rick, I heard laughter and happy responses from the couple answering the questions I heard with Rick 6 years ago.

I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone, filing my husband's will and having deja vu of the day we filed for marriage. I felt abnormal.

I got the document I need to sell Rick's car so I can pay the funeral bill. I watched the couple smile at each other. I felt abnormal. I needed to verify Rick's social security number, so I pulled his leather wallet from my purse and saw his driver's license staring back at me next to the social security card. As I looked away from my husband's face, I heard the female half of the couple say, "We're so excited!" I felt abnormal.

I slunk out of the courthouse with the attorney, feeling like the last month really had to be a bad dream, because it just wasn't my life. I felt abnormal.

When I got home tonight, I cleaned the house. There are still thank you notes to send and bills to pay, laundry to do, and garbage to take outside. When I opened the downstairs closet to retrieve the vacuum cleaner, I noticed for the first time since Rick died that he had a shirt on the closet shelf in the "Take to the Dry Cleaner's" pile. All of a sudden, I was ecstatic, grabbing for the dress shirt and pressing it to my face. It smelled just like him. Unlike the clean shirts in a neat row in his closet, this shirt had been sitting there, waiting, and I didn't know. I started crying immediately, but I was happy too. It doesn't even make sense. I felt abnormal. 

After my cry, I finished cleaning. I saw a small pile of scrap paper and receipts to throw away, so I picked it up. A yellow sheet of carbon copy paper caught my eye and I unfolded it. It was my copy of the Northampton Regional Emergency Medical Services patient advice form from the day Rick died. After finding his suicide note that day, I collapsed on the floor and called 911. Then I spent the next 2 hours in an ambulance parked in front of my house, crying hysterically, having difficulty breathing, rubbing the sore spot in my chest where my heart was, and begging someone to help me. They had me on oxygen, shielded from any unpleasant views of my house and the people inside and outside. I know all this, because I watched myself vividly as though I was in a movie. I was outside myself, unable to process the trauma, pain, and situation. My memory of that day is very good, because I feel as though I viewed it on a screen.

The carbon paper brought me right back there today. And the EMT's instructions at the bottom of the page brought my whole weird day to a close.


"If you feel abnormal in any way, call 911 or go to ER." Well, I do feel abnormal. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. Of course I feel abnormal. Abnormal is my new normal right now. And unfortunately, no call to 911 or Emergency Room is going to change that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

From the Ashes

I woke up today with a heavy heart. Rick has been dead a month today.

It seems shorter. It seems longer. I don't know how to feel about the concept of time anymore.

I was going to vent about how I was stood up by the attorney today at the courthouse, where we had an appointment to do estate stuff. I was upset on an already emotional morning, I was mad, and I was overwhelmed. I feel at times like everything I try to do has a snag. A setback. I get up earlier, take time from work, drive to a different city, and in the end, nothing gets done and my time gets wasted. I did call the attorney and we did talk. And we are trying again tomorrow morning. So I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and be thankful in my heart that he's helping me. That's the only thing to do.

My family celebrated my mom's birthday tonight. I felt weird being there without Rick. I don't feel normal without him. I can smile, even laugh, and I can talk and feel and work. But I'm not normal. Not inside.

Even as I type this, it feels like he's in the next room. Like maybe he'll call out to me at any moment, maybe ask me a question about what to watch on TV tonight or what we should make for dinner over the weekend. So many pieces of his life are removed from my house now. Even as I say "my" house, I shudder involuntarily like I'm cutting him out of something.

But yes, so many pieces of his life are removed now. And some things remain. His golf, for example, remains on the DVR. I wasn't able to let go. I feel like I need it there. His snack bowl, which I jokingly referred to as his "receptacle," is still sitting on the kitchen counter. His glasses are in his desk. Why these items? What makes them different? Even I don't know the answer to that. I got rid of his toiletries, his photos of me, his magazines, and his posters.

I guess it's what happens when death becomes reality: some things go and some things stay.

His physical self is gone, but my love for him is still here.

I don't like to make myself miserable by starting sentences with "If only..." so I try to avoid it at all costs, but...
If only I could see him one more time. If only I could hold his hand just once more. If only I could hear his voice.

The last of the miserable and pointless wishes made me remember that I had a few voicemails he's left me on my cell phone. So I sat here in his chair, hit the "speaker" button on my iPhone and listened to Rick's voice fill my living room once more. I realized too late that poor Tumbler would be happy/confused/disappointed by Rick's voice. Now I feel terrible.

Rick and I were not one person. We were two very separate people and I have always known my worth and identity without him. Yet part of me still feels like with every part of our life that leaves, dissolves, and dies, part of me is leaving, dissolving, and dying too.

And that is really scary.

One month has already gone by. What will happen in 2 or 3 or 4? I've already lost so much...I'm afraid of losing more.

As easy as it would be to crumble, I have to make Rick proud. And even as I type that, I hear his voice in my head: "Don't make me proud," he'd say. "Make yourself proud." I'm smiling, because I know that by making myself proud, I'll make him proud. So it all comes full circle.

And I hear my own voice: Be a phoenix.


I won't let fear hold me back. I have no choice but to move forward. So I will. I'm going to do my best to be like the phoenix - to rise from the ashes to a new life...and begin again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cat Grief

I'm going to take a break in my regularly scheduled grieving to talk about my cats.

This blog is called The Cat Widow, and yet I haven't mentioned them once. Obviously the point of this blog is to chronicle my own grief, to process through my trials and tribulations, and to make sense of a tragic situation...but my cats are a piece of my life and I've been wanting to talk about them.

The day Rick took his own life, I came home to a suicide note and my female cat Juice pacing back and forth across the threshold to the basement stairs, crying. There is no doubt in my mind that she had been down in the basement with Rick's body before I arrived home, because she often jumped over the baby gate that was at the bottom of those stairs.

The baby gate was always in place to keep my male cat Tumbler out of the basement, because there were too many spaces and opportunities for him to hurt himself due to his disabilities. And so, Juice saw Rick dead...but Tumbler did not.

Therefore, Juice has always understood the finality of our new life without Rick. She was anxious and sad, but she resolutely mourned atop her cat roof. Tumbler, on the other hand, ran to the front door every time someone new showed up at my house, meowing as if to say, "Is it Dad? Is he finally back?"

For days, Tumbler scampered to the door if someone visited, only to be disappointed that Rick was not the one I let inside. He liked my brother-in-law, whose voice is like Rick's...whose laugh is like Rick's.

My friend Lindy said, "I'm sure Juice let Tumbler know about Rick," and I'm sure she did, but I don't think Tumbler really understood. Tumbler waited for Rick to come home. He knew that something was not right, he knew that too many people were coming and going in the normally quiet house, and he missed Rick, but he didn't understand things the way Juice did. What he did understand was that I was sad.

In mid April, we found out that Tumbler had kidney failure at age 4. We began giving him IV fluids daily at home. He was hardly eating. He was more tired than usual. We were told that Tumbler was dying...that he didn't have long. Rick was the one who always gave Tumbler his subcutaneous IV. I had to learn. I had to apologize to my cat for not doing it as well as Rick. After Rick died, I also told Tumbler that he was not allowed to die any time soon, because I simply couldn't handle it.

The very next day after Rick left this world, Tumbler went back to eating a normal amount of food. He chowed down hungrily, drank thirstily, and was patient with me as I learned the IV. I kept waiting for him to become lethargic again... to stop eating again... but he didn't. He hasn't. He eats well every day, twice a day, and sometimes has a snack. It's been 2 months since I was told he didn't have long to live and 1 month (tomorrow) since Rick died. Tumbler persists, obedient to a fault, not dying because I told him I couldn't deal with it. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Rick had a talk with him before he took his life.

I wear Rick's pajama pants at night and Tumbler proof reads my blog before I post it. Then we comfort each other.


Tumbler takes care of me, but he has his moments of weakness. When I came back from a night in Philadelphia shortly after Rick died, Tumbler searched the whole house, crying for Rick. I think it was because I had been away for a night and came back, so he thought maybe Rick was finally going to be back too. He is extra clingy and has searched every room of the house twice since then, crying a sad little cry.

For about a week after Rick died, I kept the door to the basement stairs closed. Then one night, I braved the basement for the first time with my mom. Without getting too graphic, a crew cleaned my entire basement and it is spotless...but there is a rug directly over the spot where Rick died, to cover a large paint spot that would have been too hard for me to see and know the reason for the paint.

As soon as I opened the door at the top of the basement stairs, after a week of it being closed, Juice ran right down, hopped the baby gate, and I found her in the basement...sitting on that rug.

If I peek in the basement (I don't go down alone), sometimes I find her there, mourning in her own way...understanding that our new situation is final. It breaks my heart...and my heart is already broken.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fairway to Heaven

Tonight I went to a Survivors of Suicide support group.

It was...weird. I'm used to being the support group leader. I found myself comforting someone else rather than crying my eyes out. Maybe I don't know how to be on the other side anymore.

I sat there with a rock in my stomach, just waiting for the inevitable moment when I would have to say it was my spouse who was dead. It did not feel real. I felt like I was explaining the premise of a movie or a book.

I'll probably go back, but so far I haven't met anyone else who lost a spouse to suicide. I feel alone in that.

And I don't want to think about anyone else being in the kind of pain I'm in right now.

As I drive home most days, I feel sad. Sometimes, to curb the urge to cry in my car, I imagine Rick waiting for me at home, sitting in his chair, watching sports. I go through the whole scenario in my mind. I walk in the front door. He turns to me with a big smile and says, "Hi, baby!" The cats come over to greet me. "They missed you!" Rick says. I go over to where he's sitting and give him a kiss. "How was your day?" he asks me.

"Good," I say. "How was yours?"

Sometimes we talk about our day. Sometimes we talk about the cats. Other times, I just climb into the chair with him and sit on his lap for a few minutes.

By the time I'm done imagining, I'm smiling. And I pull in my driveway. The reality of an empty house in comparison to the old days I just imagined hits me like a ton of bricks, the way it always does. Sometimes I cry in my car for a few minutes before getting out. Sometimes I cry while I get my mail and let myself in the house, not caring whether the neighbors will hear me. Sometimes I make it inside the house before I cry.

I don't remember what my heart felt like before it hurt so much. All I know is that I want that feeling back.

I just finished Rick's golf on the DVR. I reached the end. It's over. I blogged my way through it each night until right now. I'm afraid to delete it. It feels final. There won't be anything left in the DVR except my stuff. I'm the only one who lives here now.

I just keep staring at it on the screen. I could keep it. I could delete it. I watched it all. I spent these nights looking at the green and thought of my husband. I listened to the announcers in the background and remembered how Rick loved David Feherty. I smile. I cry.


We watched it, Rick. We watched all your golf. It was the soundtrack to my nightly blogging and now it's done.

I miss him. I miss his voice telling me to look up from what I was always doing to see the leaderboard.

I miss Rick. I finished his golf. And I'm still afraid to delete it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Rick's Notes



There is one pile left in my house…and it’s the most painful. It’s a pile of notes that Rick wrote to me from 2007-2014.

Rick was a masculine guy, but he was also very sensitive. He wrote me notes all the time – when we were just starting out, later when I was in graduate school for 3 years, and right up until the day he died. It was typical for me to come home late after working all day and going to school all night to find one of his handwritten notes waiting for me on the kitchen table.

They always made me smile and feel loved. He never tired of writing to me. He always took the time to let me know he was thinking of me.

Often, he was already in bed for the night when I’d finish my busy schedule. His notes were what connected us until the morning. I used to crawl in bed beside him and feel so lucky to have a husband who wrote me notes.

I saved every one.

Now, I have hundreds… from various stages of our relationship and marriage, including the last note I ever found waiting for me on our kitchen table - his suicide note to me. It hurts so much to read them all, but they beg to be read, because they also remind me how much Rick loved me. He knew that I would be okay, or he would never have taken his own life.

When someone asks me about Rick, about the kind of man he was, I immediately think of his notes. To me, his notes most clearly define the kind of person he was: thoughtful, sensitive, honest, and grateful. We all have flaws, troubles, burdens, and idiosyncrasies. Rick was no different. He was not the perfect man, but he was the perfect man for me.


His notes to me always came from his heart rather than his mind. It is because his notes so aptly define the character of the man I loved that I am sharing this video:


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Rick Lives On

I spent the morning talking to Social Security, answering a million questions for a one time payment of $255 in death benefits, then visited Rick's mom. We did our usual crying, talked about Rick, and held hands.

I spent the rest of the day with my good friend Jennifer. She made me laugh on more than one occasion and our travels found us eating frozen yogurt and trying on sunglasses. Her husband Matthew joined us for dinner, which he brought with him to my house. It feels good to be among people who know what I need and in what quantities I need it.

I had moral support from Jennifer when I opened my mail today - but nothing scary or frustrating was in it.

Jennifer and Matthew both text me daily on their phones. Sometimes I have conversations with both of them at once and I imagine them sitting side by side in their home, talking to me separately. It makes me smile.

I think about how Rick and I were supposed to have dinner with them on May 26th. We were looking forward to it. By the time May 26th rolled around, Rick was dead and I went alone. Sometimes I like to imagine what our dinner date would have been like if Rick had been there. It's strange the things that go through my mind. If Rick had only been alive one more week, I might have had more great memories to add to my list.

After Jennifer and Matthew left my house (knowing and understanding how vital my blog time is to my healing process right now), I began to think about the ways in which Rick lives on. On a whim, I visited The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website and noticed the tab labeled "News and Events." Then, "Out of Darkness Walks."


I found myself praying as I scrolled that there would be a walk this year in my area. It won't bring Rick back, but it felt right. I did a search for PA and there it was: Greater Lehigh Valley Walk, October 5th, 2014. 

Before 2 minutes passed, I had registered myself and started a team. When asked to name my team, I typed the first thing that came to my heart: Rick Lives On.

The walk is from 12:00pm to 3:00pm that Sunday. It's less than 4 months away. It's also the week before my birthday. Instead of sending me a card or buying me a gift this year, join my team. Walk with me to honor Rick and help me heal. If you aren't local, be a virtual walker on my team. If that's too much, just donate a couple bucks online.

My page is up.  (Arielle Bair for Rick Lives On)

My team is open. (Rick Lives On)

All contributions help the work of the AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention).

As an MSW, LSW and as a surviving spouse, this cause is important to me. Help me help Rick live on.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Business of Dying

Well, the attorney has my piles. My piles of files.

I have officially relinquished some of the responsibility of this "business" of dying, as my brother-in-law calls it, to someone else. The business end of dying is clearly not my forte. I'm better at the blogging.

I'm not certain I feel less overwhelmed yet. But my new directive is to be wary of any mail I receive related to Rick, and in fact, to take such mail right to the attorney.

I never imagined that grief itself would have impediments. Some days I feel like I'm part of a board game: Take 1 death certificate and follow the path to Bank. Collect more documents at Bank and move forward 2 spaces to Credit Card Company. Go back 2 spaces and call Attorney. Return to Square One. You are now able to continue grieving.

Other days, I feel like I'm part of a scavenger hunt: Get ready! Get Set! Go! Find the following items... Rick's car title. Rick's retirement account. Rick's social security card. Rick's internet passwords. Congratulations! You have found everything but Rick. Life still sucks, but you will now be rewarded with sleep.

The business of dying is a messy business. It does not care about grief. It does not care about suicide. It does not care about widows.


I want my husband back. I want my life to be the way it used to be. I want to worry less, sleep more, and go more than 4 hours without crying.

I want to yell at him for always cleaning something. I want to tell him to stop driving so fast. I want to go with him on Saturday mornings to visit his mom.

I want to watch our TV shows together. I want to go on vacation together. I want to go grocery shopping with him again.

I want to kiss him good night. I want to say good morning to him instead of waking up to horrific reality day after day. I want to make him laugh until he cries the way I always did.

I want to be loved.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Every Day Life

I wasn't able to sell the car. The notary told me that we had to wait until 30 days after Rick's death. The concept of time is no longer understandable for me. It feels like he's been gone for so long, but at the same time, it feels like this is all so terribly new and raw. There seems to be a snag with everything I try to tackle. I called the funeral home and told them that I have every intention of paying the funeral bill ASAP, but that my capacity to pay is contingent upon the sale of Rick's car. I explained the 30 day rule to them. One week from today, we can try again to transfer the car title. Then when the check clears, I can pay for Rick's service.

I can't wait for it all to be done. Over.

Grief is exhausting. Grief while contending with the paperwork that makes my existence possible is even more exhausting.

I find myself missing every day life. I look at the calendar and see Rick's handwriting noting appointments or reminders. I think about what would be happening each day if Rick was still alive.

Today Rick was supposed to get his hair cut. Last night, the woman who cut Rick's hair found me on Facebook. I know her, because I used to go with Rick sometimes and wait for him. "Tomorrow would have been Rick's appointment," she wrote to me in a message. "I will miss him."

A postcard with Rick's dentist appointment reminder came in the mail the other day. I asked my mom to call the office for me, because it was one less person I'd have to tell that my husband was dead. She told me that the dentist actually answered the phone himself that day. When my mom told him about Rick, he was shocked and really sad. He talked to her for a while, extending his sympathies to me.

The other day, the couple who used to live next door to us found me on Facebook. They told me they had just heard about Rick and were so sorry, wished they got to know him better, wanted to reach out to me.

The allergist he saw every two weeks for decades, the pharmacist, and of course, the dry cleaner - they all miss him. They were all part of his every day life.

It hurts to think of him in the past tense.

Tonight my mom brought me an envelope. She and my dad are going on a cruise soon and she's concerned about leaving me.


It's so nice to remember Rick. To hear what other people remember about Rick. Remembering is all we have now. 

Remembering, though, is kind of tiring. I want to so much to be able to just walk into my kitchen and see him. I want to be able to hear his voice on the other end of the phone. I want to roll over at night and push him out of the way. I want to argue with him, laugh with him, and talk to him. If he was here, I wouldn't have to remember. 

So I guess what I'm saying is I'm tired. And I just want to throw a tantrum sometimes. Instead, I'm going to wear Rick's bathrobe and go to sleep. 



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Something for Me

I'm selling Rick's car tomorrow. I need the money from the car sale to pay for the funeral, so I can't put it off.

I cleaned out his car today after work. It was Rick's, so of course it was already spotless, but I had to collect the personal items: his back pillows for pain, his glasses, and his tic-tacs. Touching his glasses made immediate tears spring to my eyes, and never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that shaking a container of tic-tacs could make me feel sad.

Since I had to gather paperwork for the notary tomorrow, I also went through every file in Rick's desk to make a pile for the attorney I'm enlisting to help me finalize all my finances, accounts, and legal documents. Piles in place by my purse on the kitchen table, I felt more organized. I moved on to a cabinet in my living room, trying to make sure there was nothing important still left unfound.

I talked to Rick as I sifted through endless papers, and I found myself saying, "I wish I could find something you left behind for ME. Why couldn't you leave something for me besides a suicide note?" I asked him to help me find something that would make me smile and show me he remembered me before leaving me.

I was actually starting to get annoyed. Bills, papers, emails, taxes... isn't there anything nice left here for me? 

Finished with my sifting and gathering and organizing, I opened the small drawer in his desk where he kept things like a candle lighter, his glasses, and his passport. Underneath those items, I saw what I thought was a piece of paper, so I dug it out. It was a Hallmark greeting card, tucked in the lip of a white envelope.

I flipped it over and started to cry. It was a birthday card, still unsigned...for me. He had bought me a birthday card already...and my birthday isn't until October.


I decided that I'm going to seal it up and save it to read again on my birthday in 4 months. Thank you, Rick, for helping me find this tonight. Thank you for hearing me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Escape from Reality

Today, when the thought of washing, drying, and straightening my hair felt too tiring, I decided to get a haircut after work. I normally cut my own hair and bangs, but today I felt like having someone else do it for me. I looked up a new place that takes walk-ins.

I told my mom my plans, then realized something: it's an almost universal rule that hairdressers talk to you about your life while you're in the chair for a haircut. "Maybe I shouldn't go," I texted my mom. "They always ask you about your life when you sit there." I didn't want to become a sad, sopping, tearful mess or answer questions about myself that would make me get emotional.

So that I wouldn't have to talk about the sad mess that is my life, I joked about making up a life to tell the hairdresser to answer any questions. "A brain surgeon with 6 adopted children" was one of the ideas I texted my mom. Who would be the wiser? I'd never been to this place before...


In the end, I walked into the salon and decided to just be me... but the me from a month ago. In a place I'd never been before, I escaped from my reality.

"Aw, you're married?" the hairdresser asked, noticing my ring.

Yeah. I said it with a smile.

"How many years have you been married?"

Six.

"What's your husband's name?"

Rick.

I imagined that Rick was just waiting at home, impatient for me to get home for the night. Maybe he was making dinner or feeding the cats. He'd probably like my new haircut, even though it's only 2 or 3 inches shorter with trimmed bangs. I'd tell him all about my workday when I got home. Funny stories. Annoyances. He'd tell me about his.

No one in that salon knew my husband was dead. I got to pretend for an hour and a half. I got to escape. I got to be myself again. The old me. Before death shook everything up.

I'm not having unhealthy delusions. I just wanted to escape for a while. Maybe I'll never do it again. Maybe I'll go back to that same salon in a couple of months and keep up the charade in a contained environment. Who knows.

All I know is that I miss my husband and for an hour and a half I felt like I didn't have to miss him.

The fantasy dissolved as I drove home. I arrived at an empty house. The cats were waiting for me to feed them. There was no dinner waiting for me. There was no one to tell about my day. There was only my TV, some pizza, and a pile of mail for a husband who no longer lives here.

I don't have the energy to go through the mail tonight. There's another medical bill in there - I can tell from the envelope - and a few other things that look important. But I used up all my reserves playing pretend at the salon. I'm tired. I'm alone. And I wish this nightmare was over.

In any case, I'm pretty sure Rick would like my hair. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

What's Missing

I'm so incredibly lonely.

Being with other people makes me want to be alone. Being alone inside my house makes me want to be with other people. As I described myself to someone today, "I'm a lose/lose situation." 

So I do it all in moderation. I spend time with people. I spend time alone. Either way, I'm still lonely.

I need my solitude. I love my solitude. I haven't often been the lonely type. Being with myself isn't what's hard. It's the being without Rick that makes everything feel so empty. 

I realized two things today. The first is that it makes me really sad when people spare me their own sadness or tears or memories of Rick in an attempt to keep me from being upset. It might feel wrong to tell me that you just saw something that reminded you of Rick, because you don't want to make me sadder... but I'd really rather know. Otherwise, it feels like I'm living with a big empty hole in my life, missing a man I spent time with every day, but everyone else is back to their normal laughter, routines, and happiness with no hole at all. It feels like I'm the only one who misses him. Like everyone is sad only for MY sake, not because they miss Rick too. 

My mom told me she cried the first time she went to Wegmans, because Rick always used to have "Loretta sightings" there. Yes. Tell me. My brother stood up at the funeral and told everyone that he dreaded family Christmas gatherings now that Rick wouldn't be there with him. Yes. Tell me. 

I have an empty hole in my heart. And your warm thoughts of Rick, your fond, sad, and silly memories, and especially your funny stories all fill that hole a little bit. 

The second thing I realized today is that I miss masculinity. I have been surrounded by wonderful people, but most of them women. I was used to Rick's manly wit, his deep laughter, his strong arms. I was used to a masculine energy as part of my every day. There is a distinct lack of it now. I couldn't put my finger on what felt so different - besides the obvious lack of my husband - until today. I'm a woman, with a slew of women friends. The energy is different now. 

If you're a man in my life, maybe you can tell me a joke or a funny story. Maybe you can use kind words that somehow always feel different than when a woman says them. Maybe you can send me a little strength. Maybe you can give me advice. Maybe you can be firm or stern. Maybe you can kill my spiders. 

When I got my job 8 months ago, Rick gave me this card. It's on my desk at work and since it's been there for a while, it kind of eventually blended into the surroundings and my eyes stopped picking it up. It became part of the scenery and part of the clutter. I knocked it over today and it jarred my box of grief, but I re-read it and silently thanked my husband for his words and the message within them:




I feel like I have so much to share... and no one with whom to share it. That's what's missing.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Grief on a Bench

Today it is 3 weeks since Rick left this world. Last night, after keeping my grief in a box all day, I cried on my best friend's shoulder at the beach. The positive is that if I was going to cry anyway, at least I could do it on my best friend's shoulder. At the beach.

I was around people all day - including my best friend's future step-daughters. Her fiancé's two little girls were an adorable distraction and I enjoyed being with them, but as the night hit, I knew I was going to cry and I knew I was going to cry hard. In a panic, I told Sarah I needed to take a shower right away, because I knew I was going to cry and I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. I wanted to be able to cry in the shower so I didn't freak out the kids.

She took me for a walk instead. As soon as I got out into the dark, open night, I began to cry. The grief just couldn't stay in a box. There was too much of it.

We walked down the street from her house to the beach. She steered me to a bench in front of the water and we sat. My grief poured out into the night.


We talked, I cried, we talked, I cried. I had the overpowering sensation that Rick was listening to the entire conversation.

I looked out over the water and breathed in...life. I'm alive. I'm still here. My hands move. My legs walk. My lips speak. My heart beats. I can sit on a bench on a dark June night with my best friend because I'm alive. And Rick is not.

My mind leapt out over the water, up into the sky, and I could see myself sitting there with Sarah on that bench, tears streaming down my face. Is it really me uttering the words "ever since Rick died?" Is it really me talking about the Survivors of Suicide support group I'm going to join? Is it really me talking about being forced to start a new life?

It didn't feel real. It felt like some other woman was sitting there, detailing her grief and loss. Wasn't it just yesterday that Sarah and I were in college, talking about being each other's maid of honors in our future weddings? But the night kind of set the tone... pushed in on me... and reminded me that Sarah and I met in college almost 12 years ago. Time has happened... life has happened... everything is different.

My marriage is over, cut short by suicide. Her marriage will begin in March. College dreams pan out one way or another. She was my Maid of Honor in 2008, and now I'll be her Matron of Honor in 2015. A widow is still a Matron of Honor, even though no longer married. I know, because I googled it - one of the weird new things I do in my new life, like wearing mascara on my upper lashes only so that when I inevitably cry each day at some point, makeup won't run down my face.

Sarah and I talked about the unfairness of life. What is there to say?

That's the best part about a best friend. You talk and talk and cry and cry, but really you're already nodding your head to what the other person is saying before it's all said, because it's already known and understood. Talking isn't a necessity; it's a bonus.

If Rick can't sit on a bench with me ever again, there's no one else I'd rather sit next to than my best friend, Sarah. My heart was still broken, even in Connecticut...but on nights like last night, I wish everyone could have a best friend and beach at the ready.