Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Mountain

There are days when I hear people complain and I think to myself, "If I can find reasons to be happy, so can you." I never say it. But sometimes I feel it. And yet...I don't want to make my pain larger than anyone else's. I really don't. I just want people to realize that life is a great, great thing... and we can all gain something from looking for the positives.

There are a lot of things I try to live by.


Life does not always deal us a good hand. Sometimes we have a cross...or many crosses...to bear. And one of the things that helps me most - after the support and love of others has served its purpose and done its good - is to scatter kindness. I want so much to be a light that makes others glow. I don't know if that is a strange goal, but I do know that it makes my life more meaningful and more full of peace.


I miss Rick all the time. I hurt. I cry. I feel distraught. I wonder about things that are less than pleasant. I feel deep loneliness. I struggle to find the energy to do certain things. I am not exempt from pain and agony.

I am not always 100% happy. I don't pretend to be when I'm not.

Some people believe that there are some circumstances that can conquer them. But such circumstances only conquer you if you let them. You don't have to let them. In reality...


I climb a mountain every day. And when I get to the top, I feel spent and tired, but I stand there at the peak and look out over everything that life has to offer. I breathe deeply and make the descent back down to the quiet hours...preparing myself to do it all again.

Don't think about how difficult it is to climb a mountain. Think instead about how awesome it feels looking at the world from the top once you get there. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Humor Never Dies

I miss writing Facebook statuses about Rick. I miss telling funny Rick stories. He was always good for a chuckle. He had his own way about him. My Facebook statuses about Rick were always the most "liked."

Now I go on Facebook and post about grief. I try to change it up by being uplifting or cheerful as necessary... but "funny" just doesn't seem possible anymore.

The great thing about having a funny person in your life is that even when he is gone, the humor never dies... Take a trip down memory lane with me...

The colorblind scenarios were always amusing...






His fashion sense never failed him...




But even when he didn't see mismatched clothes or Timbs as an issue, somehow accessorizing caused him stress...



And of course...


Okay, I was sad and that helped. Hard to believe this hilarious man is not here anymore. The humor is so real and vivid...and practically tangible...that it is physically painful to wrap my head around the fact that he isn't going to make me laugh ever again.

Then I remember...

Thank God that humor never dies.
Still laughing.








Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hope

Every new day is an accomplishment. There is a level of satisfaction that was not there before.

When my day is over, I feel a range of emotions, but I also feel accomplished. I have no unkind words for myself. No feelings of failure. 

I may go to sleep sad, but I always go to sleep knowing I did my best...and I am happy with that. 

I wear a piece of my husband around my neck and my heart on my sleeve. I have the courage to live with loneliness, with sorrow, with pain... But if I continue on, making my way through this life the best way I can, I'm confident that loneliness will cease, sorrow will resolve, and pain will ease. I have hope. 

Hope is a beautiful and precious thing. It reminds me of a tiny pearl, wedged inside a dark crevice. You have to pry it out.


hope (verb): to cherish a desire with anticipation; trust; to expect with confidence

hope (noun): the feeling of wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen; a feeling that something good will happen or be true; the chance that something good will happen; someone or something that may be able to provide help; someone or something that gives you a reason for hoping

I have long said that hope is my favorite personal value. Some people value honesty above all else. Some, strength. Others, honor. The list goes on. 

I value hope most of all. Without it, there can be no love. Without it, loneliness, sorrow, and pain remain forever. 

Hope is the difference between a bad day and bad life.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Whole

There are these questions that always seem to be ever-present in conversations of grief and loss. How can I be whole again? When will I be whole again?

I don't worry about that. I know it's possible, because I was always whole to start with.

I existed before this death - long before Rick came into my life, in fact - and I was whole. I slept, I breathed, I played, I worked, I laughed, I cried, I wrote, I talked, I lived...

I knew myself and I still know myself. A work of art, with lots of layers of paint and detail, I am now simply a work of art with extra layers and extra detail. This death has enhanced me, not broken me apart.

I am whole.


I'll always be whole.

I'm not half of a person...I'm not lost because Rick is no longer here...I'm different, but I'm still me.

And it will take a lot more than death to break me down.

Wholeness comes from within, like peace... like happiness. It's an inside job, and if complications come my way, as they certainly and inevitably will, I'll still be whole.

I embrace the grief, but I don't give it power it doesn't need to have. It does not have power over me.

This grief comes and I greet it - sometimes it feels like a friend and other times it feels like an enemy. But always, I greet it the same way, the way I would any person I meet in life. I teach it to treat me as the whole person I am.

Grief, show me your worst! Grief, show me your best! I'm not always ready, but at least I am always whole.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rearranging, Take Two

I rearranged my living room today. I moved a desk by myself. It's in the garage. I moved my couch to a different wall. Part of being a widow must be superhuman strength. I got rid of a chair. I got rid of lamps. I cleared out DVDs and CDs and re-centered everything. It all looks different. There is a different feeling to it.

It's mine.

Not ours.

Just mine.


I've been listening to music a lot more when I'm home. Usually, I play music when I drive. Or when I run. But not much at home. Now...I play music when I get ready for work in the morning. I play music when I feed the cats and give them their bagged fluids. I play music when I'm home at night, making dinner. I play music when I take a shower. It's starting to change the feeling of my house.

I like it.

I've started choosing music over television to fill the emptiness that seems to exist here. I feel like I can relax. I had been using TV to block the thoughts that worried me, scared me, saddened me, and upset me. A distraction.

But with music, I can let the thoughts come and not be afraid. I can let the music carry me where it wants to and let my mind ebb and flow and go where it will.

Television cannot hold me, but music can. If I cry during TV, it's an interruption. But if I cry during music, it's part of the process.

Now that my house is rearranged, I imagine the music airing out my house, slowly lifting the sorrow and the past into invisible clouds that dissolve near the ceiling or slip out the windows. The memories of Rick have not vanished, but the heaviness is lifting... the grief is clearing...

The Grief Zone is getting a makeover.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Heaviness of Emptiness

Today was a bad day. Rick's mom was more than a little confused and she wanted to know where Rick was. It kind of set my day in motion the wrong way.

My mom met me at my house at noon and we cleaned. I did some things I had been putting off due to avoidance or lack of energy or both. I cleaned all the clutter from the kitchen table. De-cluttered the island countertop too. Did multiple loads of laundry. Put clothes away. Vacuumed the house. My mom folded clothes, hung clothes, and she cleaned my toilets for me. She also helped me plant the daisies I bought for the front yard. I brushed the kitties. Washed the sheets. Made the bed. I cleaned the stove. Everything would meet with Rick's approval.

Through it all, I still felt sorry for myself. I was annoyed that our two-person way of doing things was now just up to me. Irritated that I had let simple tasks pile up.

My mom and I had to look for something we needed in the basement where I don't go alone. It was clear I hadn't been down there in a while, because we found old cat vomit on the cement floor and also on the rug that covers the spot where my husband killed himself.  Right on the damn rug.

Juice is fine. It must have been from when she was sick. And yes, I know this is disgusting. But we had to clean it up. And I sat there, scrubbing the mess...of the rug...that covers the spot where my husband died.

I just felt so heavy today, and everything around me felt like it weighed a ton too. How can emptiness feel so heavy? It's an oxymoron...

I went for a run to clear my head. The sun felt warm, but it contradicted the way I felt inside. Emotionally, everything hurt. I just kept thinking of all the things I don't want. And the ones I don't want to deal with. All the negatives of this life-altering situation.

Which of course only made me feel worse. I know better.

Then I was even more upset, because I'm a positive gal and I felt like I wasn't being my usual self. I guess things like a mother-in-law with dementia and cat vomit will do that to a person who is left behind after a suicide.

After my run, sweaty and hot, I rested in the cool living room for a few minutes and a blue envelope on a nearby table caught my eye. All of a sudden, I remembered Alicia and how she had left 3 envelopes with me when she said good bye and went back to Michigan. One remained unopened and I knew which one it was...


I opened it. And it did cheer me up. Inside was a note to encourage something sweet and a gift card for Cold Stone Creamery, an ice cream place. The suggestion of cheering up seemed to be all I needed to improve my mood.

I may still feel irritated and annoyed at times, because Rick left me in a heavy position. I may still feel overwhelmed by tasks. I may still be sad for parts of every day. But I have a mom who loves me. My house is very clean. My front yard is full of tiny daisy plants ready to bloom. And I'm blogging early tonight...because I'm going out for ice cream.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Cushion

I am still surprised by how suddenly grief can strangle me. I can have a good day, I can smile a real smile, maybe see friends, I can do chores at home and make dinner, moving through my day ...and then, just as I reach for a napkin, halfway through a television show, there's a lump in my throat and I'm choking on instant tears. Sometimes, I look around, shocked and confused, as though I'm trying to find the thing that just made me start crying.

There is nothing out of the ordinary, nothing extra on top of what I've begun to call "normal, every day grief." There's just a sudden tightness in my throat, a sudden heaviness in my chest, and all at once, I'm crying...

I've realized that lately I'm not crying over Rick. I'm crying over myself. I drown in that pool of self-pity sometimes, so weighed down with the cold hard facts of my life. Widowhood. Extra responsibility. A childless existence. A vast future of unknown proportions. The concept of starting over moving forward when I was happy where I was.

I see tons of people every week. I meet up with friends. I drive to Connecticut. I see my family. I am busy. I do things. And yet... I'm painfully aware of my own solitude. I don't mind being alone, except for those times late at night when everything is quiet but my mind and the darkness outside feels so heavy. For all my bravery and positivity, there are times when I feel like I'll die if someone isn't there to hold me.

But no one is there.
And I don't die.

Instead, I look for a cushion...


I find comfort in the steady rhythm of my feet on the ground as I run. I find comfort in the spontaneous mid-day laughter shared with my coworkers. I find comfort in the two little cats that so sweetly sit with me every evening. I find comfort in the positivity wall in my office. I find comfort in the very kind words of friends and even strangers. I find comfort in music.

The comfort is a cushion so that when the grief crashes into me like a wave and I stumble, I fall into something soft and reassuring. If I bother to look, it is always there.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Back in the Fold

Today I went back to a place of the past. I had lunch with my former co-workers at the agency where I worked for 7 years. The agency where Rick and I met. The agency where we both worked. I entered the familiar building as I had done for so many years before moving on to my current job. I saw the familiar hallway where I had so often seen my husband walk and share a smile with me. I sternly told myself not to imagine his former office at the end of that long hall. 

My heart felt heavy. My memories felt heavy too. 

Then a friend and former co-worker poked her head out of the kitchen and welcomed me with a smile. We hugged. She hadn't seen me since the funeral. 

One by one, the familiar faces of my former co-workers and supervisors appeared in the kitchen. They offered smiles and hugs. Every new face that entered the room dissolved a little of the heaviness in my heart. 


They used to work with me. But they used to work with Rick too. I felt like a kid coming home from college to my family again. 

Entertaining as ever, they welcomed me back into the fold with stories and humor. 

How lucky I am to have such a wonderful work family at both my current job and my former job. They accept my grief and keep the moments flowing. How many people can say they could easily go back to a former job and have lunch? How many people would want to?

It's been almost 10 months since I left that job, but eating lunch with all of them again was like second nature. Same seats, same conversations, same comraderie.

That's how you know you're part of a real family - when you go back, it's like you never left. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Choices

People keep telling me I'm amazing. Inspiring.

I do the blushing smile, the nod...sometimes I get choked up. I am so touched by the words and the kind opinions.

I don't feel inspiring. I'm just trying to survive. So that I can get back to really living. And the best way I know how to survive and to live is to stay positive, share that positivity, be open and vulnerable, reach out for support, express gratitude for life lessons, and write.

If doing all of those things makes me inspiring, then I succumb to the loving opinions.

There is a power in owning my grief. So much was taken from me. So much has changed. I had no choice. But this - all of this - is how I choose to grieve. That is something I get to choose.

We cannot change what happens to us without our consent, but we can choose how we grieve. I choose to grieve with a full heart, an open mind, and sometimes even a smile.

I choose to grieve by talking to Rick...by speaking through tears as I drive my car...by telling him about my day...by letting him know I'm going forward as he wanted me to do.

I choose to grieve by running through my neighborhood...listening to music mile after mile...sending up thoughts and sending out dreams.

I choose to grieve by rearranging my home...marking my territory as mine alone...adapting to the new environment in which I live.

I choose to grieve by watching the Gilmore Girls with my good friend Jennifer every Wednesday night...a new ritual of friendship and lightheartedness...a reminder that I am not alone.

I choose to grieve by growing the positivity wall in my office... by reminding myself that the world does not shut down because my life has been altered...by continuing to love all the things I love.


I choose to grieve by helping others...by doing my job and liking it...by saying I am unashamed by sadness or mourning.

I choose to grieve by enjoying the parts of my life that are still there to be enjoyed...by laughing...by appreciating...by knowing that Rick wants every possible light to fill me up.

I choose to grieve by not losing sight of who I was...who I am...who I want to be.

I choose to grieve by writing this blog...by unabashedly sharing the day to day thoughts, the deeper meanings, the raw and difficult circumstances. The good, the bad, and the real. I embrace grief, I embrace life, and I embrace the new me that emerges more and more each day. I still cry. And sometimes, I cry a lot. I still feel pain, and sometimes it hurts far too much. I still get overwhelmed, and sometimes it feels all-consuming. But at the beginning of my morning, at the end of the day...though I did not choose how I got here...I can still choose how I grieve. There is always a choice if you bother to look. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Gift of Grief

It's been 65 days since Rick died. 65 days since I went from wife to widow. 65 days since I became the sole homeowner. The suicide survivor. The bereaved.

It's been 65 days since the worst day of my life. 65 days since I came home to a suicide note. 65 days since I called 911. 65 days since my life changed forever.

It's been 65 days since I kissed my husband for the last time. 65 days since I last saw his face. 65 days since my grief began...

But...

In the duration of the last 65 days, a metamorphosis has been happening. A transition. A transformation. Evolution. Life. 

Yes, life without Rick is still a life. And a damn good one. He'd never be upset to hear me say that. Living is what I was meant to do. I embrace it with both arms. And I realized something else today too:

I embrace grief. 

I embrace my grief.

Maybe it already seems obvious, considering I began this blog just 6 days after Rick's death when my heart was aching and my world was in pieces. Regardless, today I fed the cats, I worked hard at my job, I ran errands, I went for a run, and I embraced my grief. Every day, every night, the pain is excruciating...the circumstances of my life are not at all what I had planned...the emptiness in my home is close to unbearable...but I embrace my grief. I say, "thank you." 

There are lessons here. There's a life-altering action at work. I am sad, I am mourning, I am grieving, I am coping, I am hurting, and I am traumatized.

But I am thankful for my grief.

I realized firsthand just how much I can endure. My resilience pushes the envelope. When I smile during the day, my smile is real. When you see me, I am open. No facade or brave front. I cry out the bad to make room for the good...and whenever I can, I let the good fill me up. 

The number of positive things in this world has not decreased just because Rick is gone. 
I get to witness the miracle of true friendship. 
I get to experience the joy of a family who buoys me up when I feel pulled under. 
I get to see the sun. 
I get to feel the warmth of a day...the coolness of a night. 
I get to wake up to the beauty of every day. 
Each day of grief is better than any day without emotions. Without experiences. Without lessons.


As humans, we only know the joy if we know the sorrow. If we turn off our feelings, we don't experience sorrow...but we don't experience happiness either. We miss out. If we numb ourselves, if we stop living, we throw away the gift of life. We throw away the gift of grief.

Yes, the gift of grief. What a strange thing to say. Grief does not always feel like a gift. But even at its worst, I know it is one. And the knowledge that it is a gift helps me push through to the next moment when I can feel the meaning of my emotions, my lessons, my story, and my life. 

I cry, I swallow, I breathe, I stand tall, and I smile...as I embrace the gift of grief.

Rick always was the best at giving gifts. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Signs

Grief is tiring. Grief is hard work. Grief is emotional. But you know what's fun? Looking for signs.

There are messages everywhere. Like when my parents went on their cruise just a few weeks after Rick died and my mom called to tell me that the captain's name was Rick.

Then my parents went on vacation again last week. They stayed at the same Inn where they stay every year. My mom saw that there was new management. The old manager's name was Rick. So she asked the new one if Rick was gone. The new manager said yes...but that his name was actually Rick too.

Then she was shopping. When on vacation, she always bought me a gift and she always bought Rick a gift. Every year. She sent me this text message.



Rick and his Bliss. He tells me things too. Like the night he woke me from my nightmare to comfort me, even from beyond.

I still wish I could dream about him, because I miss his face so much, but since it hasn't happened yet... I love the little signs he sends. The song that comes on the radio just as I'm thinking of it. The car that passes me as I run that looks just like his car. A phone call from a kind friend at the exact right moment. The light that went on above my bed when I was crying in desperation. Cold medicine and remedies showing up on my work desk the day after I missed him being able to take care of me when I was sick. The note he led me to on my first day back to work.

He's not letting me know that's he's okay. I already know that. I don't worry. He's beyond this earthly stuff now. What he's letting me know is that I'll be okay. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dear Rick...

Dear Rick,

I don't make our bed every morning. That would make you crazy.

I even leave dishes in the sink sometimes. The house definitely isn't up to your standards. I know you don't care about that stuff anymore. It's earthy stuff. But when I'm messy, I think of you. How you were always so good at getting things done. How you kept the house clean. How we joked that you were the housewife of the year.

I heard your voice in my head the other day. I was about to put off doing something that I knew needed to be done. You said, "When in doubt, do it now," in true Rick fashion. I did the task. Thank you.

My mom pulled the weeds today. Someone else had pulled some already. I don't know who did it. I bought some daisies and soil at Lowe's today. I bought a big teal pot to put flowers in too. It's all for the front yard. I'll make it look good.


I think Tumbler still misses you. He's extra clingy and sometimes I tell him I'm sorry that I'm not you.

I've been sitting in your chair every night. I like it better than mine. I gave you a hard time about buying that expensive chair, but it's a comfortable chair.

I went into the Chocolate Lab on Main Street yesterday with Jenn. I got my favorite salted caramels you always bought me. It's sad that I have to buy them for myself now. I miss all the nice things you used to do for me out of the blue. Like buy me special candy or bring me home an ice cream sundae.

I saw your mom today. She wants Reese's peanut butter cups. I'll get some for her. She told me she talks to you at night when she lies in bed to go to sleep. When I kissed her good bye, she said, "I love you, my baby."

I'll vacuum the house this week, Rick. The carpets are really dirty.

I miss you more than I can express. And not just because you would have vacuumed the house for me.

Love, Arielle

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Braving the Frontier

Lately, I feel like the heroine of one of those old movies. The ones in which there's a young wife who goes out to the frontier or the old west or some equally remote place with her husband. And then her husband suddenly dies. And there she is, this young widow, out on her own...trying to make her way. Trying to be bolder than she feels. Stronger than she looks. She struggles to survive the winter...or the demise of her farm...or life in a new town... whatever the premise, I feel like that young widow. Forced to go it alone on the rugged terrain of life.

I kind of chuckle to myself when I ponder this. She always puts her boots on and scurries outside, ready to do what she has to do. She always surprises everyone around her. She always learns a lesson about independence/finds love again/changes the town in which she lives.

She always comes out on top.


Today, my good friend Jenn came to visit me for the day. We decided to turn my poem "I Don't Know How to Say Good Bye" into a song. She's a singer/songwriter/musician and Rick's going to be like...humbled...by the finished product. In fact, I can almost hear him saying, "Me? You're going to make a song about...me?"

But I was thinking about the frontier and in my car tonight, after leaving Jenn at the bus station, I said, "It's the soundtrack to the movie, Rick." So it's going to happen.

If there's one thing I've learned in my 29 years and 9 months on this earth, it's that real life is nothing like the movies. It's way more interesting.

So I'll pull my boots on and brave the frontier.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Waiting

Rick has been gone 2 months today. My life is still partitioned into pre-death and post-death. A different Arielle on both sides of the event.

2 months is not a long time, and yet in the scheme of day to day grief, it's a significant chunk. I kind of feel like the first small stretch of my journey is over. 

I met with the attorney again today. The "business of death" is not yet complete. Loose ends remain. But we are making progress. I have accomplished a lot. Onward march.

I did something strange last night. I was in the shower and I said out loud, kind of angrily: "I miss talking to you. I miss telling you about my day." I started to cry. And one minute turned into two and two turned into three, and I was in there telling myself: Okay, that's enough, get it together, Arielle. 

Then, with a jolt, I thought: Well what's stopping me? If I want to tell him about my day, I can. So I just started talking. I told Rick everything about work and my family and running and my cold and how all my friends have been supporting me. I talked to him about each one. I talked to him about his brother and my brother. I told him about going to Connecticut twice and what Sarah's bridesmaids dresses look like. I told him about Jenn coming for the weekend. It was kind of sad and a little bit nutty, but it was really just this big release...because more than anything else, I miss talking to Rick. I know he already knows all the things I told him about, but it felt good to say them all out loud and have a conversation of sorts.


Instead of being sad or thinking about gory details, one of the things I like to do is picture Rick here, on this cluster of rocks in Maine where I took this photo. I imagine him looking out across the ocean, deep in thought, staring into the distance with a smile, waiting for me.

Not waiting for me to get to him, not waiting for me to find him again.

Waiting for me to live the life for which I am destined. 

I imagine all his hopes and dreams for me. I imagine all his pride and compassion. I imagine him thinking: It's so fun to see what you'll do, kid. I imagine him with nothing to worry about, nothing to fear. Just looking out over the sea, smiling while I live my life. I imagine him waiting...to see what I will do next.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

3 Things

After two months of black nail polish... I got rid of it today. It may not sound like much, but for me, it was a big deal. For me, it signified mourning. After 15 days of wearing black, I allowed color back into my wardrobe, but kept my black nails to make me feel better. This week, the black gel nail polish  began peeling on its own... my bare nails began to show more and more. And I thought Okay, I see the meaning. I'm ready. It's time to take it off. 

So after I left work tonight, I got my nails done. Fresh. Clean. Pretty. Not bogged down by black. Then I went for a run. Then I made this video. The last 2 months of my life, in pictures. Oh - and my new theme song.



I'm officially living life in color again.


No more black and white. No more black. Sometimes my heart still feels black inside, but with the help of my new theme song, I let the color in.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reconciliation

My emotions had a rough go of it last night. My good friend Jennifer said I was showing signs of "reconciliation." I thought about that all day today. And I think it's true. My blog over the last 52 days has shown twists and turns, but ultimately reconciliation.

I'm a social worker, so forgive me while I go all "therapy" for a moment. Grief is an internal process. Lots of emotions come into play and the process is different for everyone. Mourning, however, is grief that is expressed to the world. Mourning is how a person works through her grief by outwardly expressing the things she is feeling inside.

Mourning is what I do on this blog.

In grad school and during my time doing a graduate internship with hospice, I was taught that grief without mourning is frightening and destructive. Grief without mourning is how people become shells of their former selves. How people succumb to demons and emotional pain. How people get stuck and cannot move forward.

Mourning is a healthy process.

It looks different for everyone. But it's healthy. The timeframe is different for everyone. But it's healthy.


Reconciliation comes later... or rather, is often part of the mourning process. Nothing will ever be the same. Rick is dead. I know that. You know that. And the reality of that is difficult to process and difficult to accept. Reconciliation is the (sometimes long) process of becoming more and more accustomed to a new life. It is adaptation.

Part of reconciliation in grief and mourning is processing the reality of death in outside, outward ways. This blog is a perfect example. It's a nightly ritual for me, and no matter how sad or heartbreaking it might appear, it's a healthy one.

Another part of reconciliation is allowing all the horrible, sad, painful feelings of grief and loss, but at the same time allowing the understanding that life goes on. For me, it means reminding myself that I am loved and heard.

Yet another part of reconciliation is altering the thinking about the person who is gone. For me, it means adapting to the fact that Rick is no longer physically here with me every day, and is instead a spiritual presence or a collection of loving memories. I can't interact with him anymore. I can't hold on to him. But he's not gone from my thoughts and emotions.

Another part of reconciliation is developing a new life - maybe even a new role or identity - without the presence of the person who is gone. In my case, that person is Rick. I'm working out the new life bit by bit.

Another part of reconciliation is - and I think this is a big one, at least for me - finding some kind of meaning in the death. My life is forever changed. And like I said in my post A Different World, I know that so many good things will come of this unfortunate loss. The world may be different because Rick is no longer in it, but the world will also be different because I am being shaped by this experience to do/be things I might not otherwise have done/been.

The last part of reconciliation is developing a support system. A network. People to help through this whole messed up process of grief and loss. I have that. I've been cultivating it. And I am lucky.

Grief and loss create a whole crazy world of their own. They beat down the door of the regular world and then wreak havoc on everything. I'm cleaning up the debris. I'm tidying the chaos. I'm sorting through the pieces that are left behind.

It's different every day. And it's all mine. No one can enter this world. My grief is mine alone. But I share the parts of it I can, because it's part of my reconciliation. The phoenix rises. The phoenix shares. The phoenix grieves. The phoenix reconciles. And so, the phoenix lives.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I Don't Know How to Say Good Bye

I just don't know how to say good bye. Not to Rick. Everything seems so final. It's so hard to let go. Some days I feel like it gets harder, not easier.


I hadn't written any poetry since Rick died. Until tonight. It's not my best work, considering I have a cold and was a tired, sobbing mess when I wrote it. But it says what I really feel. And it is what it is.


I don’t know how to say good bye
To all the things you are.
I parted with your toothbrush,
Your magazines, your car.

Your bathrobe hangs in silence
Against the bedroom wall.
I don’t know how to say good bye
To your sneakers in the hall.

I moved around some photos
To try to fill the space
That’s here now that you’re gone,
But they can’t replace your face.

Your glasses sit and stare at me
Like two familiar eyes.
I don’t know how to say good bye
To your shirts, your pants, your ties.

I don’t know how to say good bye
To seven happy years.
I don’t know how to lie in bed
Without the company of tears.

I know how to say, “Good morning,”
And I know how to say, “Good night.”
I know how to say, “I love you,”
Because they all seem right.

I know how to say, “I miss you,”
Or “I’ll see you soon,”
But I don’t know how stand here
Just staring at the moon.

I know how to say, “I’m home!”
And of course, “I love you too…”
But I don’t know how to say good bye…
I just can’t say that to you.

Not you.

I don’t know how to say good bye
To all the things you are.
It seems like you’ll be coming home.
It seems like you’re not far.

Your photo smiles at me now
From just across the room.
I don’t know how to say good bye
Without a sense of doom.

I moved around some furniture
To try to fill the space
That’s here now that you’re gone,
But it won’t replace your face.

Your chair is my companion;
It holds me like a friend.
I don’t know how to say good bye
To what didn’t have to end.

I don’t know how to say good bye
To seven happy years.
I don’t know how to force myself
To hold back all my tears.

I know how to say, “Good morning,”
And I know how to say, “Good night.”
I know how to say, “I love you,”
Because they all seem right.

The house feels very empty,
But not as empty as my heart.
The nights are much too long
And the days don’t ever start.

I know how to say, “I’m home!”
And of course, “I love you too…”
But I don’t know how to say good bye…
I just can’t say that to you.

Not you.

Maybe it won’t ever feel
Like something I can say.
For now, I’ll say what’s in my heart
And that will be okay.

Good night, my love, good night.
Good night, my missing friend.
I don’t know how to say good bye…
So...until we meet again.


Monday, July 14, 2014

A Glow in the Night

Something strange happened last night.

I went to bed early, because I was trying to get rid of this nasty cold. It took me a while to get to sleep. Then...I had a bad dream.

I was in a car, and I was supposed to be picking up some girls to transport them somewhere. They were much younger than I was...maybe 16. One of them stood outside the car and started saying something about Rick. I got upset and stuck my head out of the car window. "What are you saying?" I asked her.

"You know what I'm saying," she said. "He killed himself because of YOU." 

I got very angry in my dream, but really more upset and tearful. "How could you say that?" I looked around for someone who would back me up, who would tell the girl that she was so wrong. No one said anything. 

I started crying hysterically and I couldn't stop. Then I woke up in a dream within a dream. I woke up in my old bed in my old bedroom in the house where I grew up. I was still crying about Rick, having just had the dream. But someone had woken me up, because I was crying so hard in my sleep. There was a girl in bed next to me. I think it was...me? 

Then I woke up in real life, in my own bed, in my empty house...crying...because a noise downstairs had startled me awake. I stayed in bed a moment, catching my breath from the dream and the crying, contemplating whether or not to go downstairs. I didn't hear another noise, and I wanted to make sure nothing had fallen or broken, so I got up and walked downstairs in the dark.

As I neared the bottom of the stairs, I saw a very bright light in the corner of my living room. A glow. I was scared for a second...then realized it was something electronic, like a screen, glowing in the dark room. I was puzzled. 

I walked into the living room and nearer to the light. It was the digital photo frame I had gotten for Rick as a gift. He used to keep it in his office at work. It hadn't been on since Rick's death. The digital photo frame was on an end table, half behind a box of papers, in the corner of my living room. And it was ON. Playing photos of our honeymoon in a slideshow fashion. 


I just stood there dumbfounded. I turned my head wildly in every direction as though I was checking the house for Rick. I looked at the photos for a moment in the dark, then I picked up the frame and turned it around to find the on/off switch. It was switched to ON. 

I would say that I don't know how this happened, in the middle of my empty house, in the middle of the night, in the middle of my bad dream. But I do know. 

Rick always woke me up from bad dreams and held me close. So it makes perfect sense that he was waking me up from my nightmare and trying to comfort me. He was letting me know that he didn't kill himself because of me... He lived as long as he did because of me. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Weeds

My front yard is like a picture of my grief. Smooth white rocks of resilience punctuated with weeds. Some weeds are tall and wide, fiercely breaking through the resilience with force. Other weeds are smaller, but perforate my resolve in a pesky way, giving me no peace.


No time. No energy. No desire. 

I have no time to devote to weeding my front yard. I watch the weeds crop up, grow higher every day. I scurry into my house, out of my house, to work, out of state, to my parents' house, to the group I attend for survivors of suicide, to the group I lead for eating disorders, to the store, to bed. I still have thank you cards to send and it's nearing 2 months since Rick died. I have a blog to write nightly for my own sanity. 

I have no energy to devote to weeding my front yard. I'm sicker now than I was on Friday. Even though I enjoyed being with great people and wouldn't have missed choosing my best friend's bridesmaids dresses or attending her engagement party for anything, I don't even know how I made it through the weekend in Connecticut. I relied on makeup and copious amounts of caffeine and cold medicine to appear as human as possible. When I saw the weeds as I got home from Connecticut today, I almost cried. They are embarrassing. A reminder that my house is a house of grief. 


I have no desire to weed my front yard. I look at it and I don't care. I feel ashamed that my front yard remains untended in my pretty, well-cared-for neighborhood where all the other townhouses are pristine and uniform. I wonder what the neighbors think. How annoyed they must be. But everything I have goes to my activities of daily living, and weeding is not among them. Tending to my grief is a full time job, because it's a constant dance to keep it at bay in order to work, play, and survive...to let it seep out slowly when I can control the ways in which I handle it...or to clean up the aftermath if a grief burst caught me unaware.

I need more sleep. More time off. More...

I can't take care of my front yard when I am putting all my efforts into caring for myself. That will have to be okay for now.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Blueprints of Grief

I'm back in Connecticut again.

I have noticed that I can listen to music quite a bit now. I've gone from total music abstinence to relying on it for solace. I am not always able to listen to songs that meant something to Rick and me, but I can listen to others, even if they are sad or full of emotion. Nothing is really off the table anymore. It feels good to kind of let the music carry me. Especially when I feel like crying but don't want to use the energy to make tears.

I'm also still sick, but I'm sleeping a bit better. It feels good to get out of PA even for only a night. 

So many thoughts go through my head in a day... It seems like so many more than before Rick died. It's like my brain has decided it must perform at a higher level. It must function at a rate that attempts to make up for the pain.


I have this pressing thought that surfaces every time I have a free moment: Which way do I go from here?

There are so many ways, paths, roads, and forks that present themselves. I guess I'll trust that my feet will know which way to go. 

"Look both ways before you cross the street," my mind seems to say. Grief is like a highway full of traffic, debris, accidents, and fast moving vehicles. I have to look both ways. I have to keep my eyes wide open. I have to pay attention. I have to be deliberate in my actions. I have to stop to ensure safety. 

I realized recently that part of grieving is about staying safe. Just as I have the Grief Zone, I also have Safe Zones. Blueprints for grief can be found, filed away in my mind and heart, the different zones mapped out and labeled so I know where my footing is most sure. I am learning this as I go. 

I am learning. And I am leading. Onward through grief and so, onward through life. 

Guardian Angels

I am good at enduring. I am good at acting as though I am not sick. As though I am not grieving. That's what makes this blog so vital to my life: everyone can see what lies beneath the surface. If I put my best face on, they still know - if they choose to read - that I am in mourning and that my life has been turned upside down.

When I woke up this morning, I felt so sick. All I wanted to do was lie in bed. But I pushed forward. I got dressed. I cleared my scratchy throat. I put contacts in my sore eyes. I blew my nose a thousand times. Then I took some antihistamine and I pranced into work with a smile on my face.

Today, I was reminded that people listen. They listen and they care. I left my first meeting of the day with my head pounding and my throat hoarse. I tried not to think about Rick so I wouldn't cry, since being sick always seems to make me more emotional. I opened my office door, and there on my desk was a hot cup of Dunkin Donuts tea, a new box of tissues, a bag of cough drops, cold medicine for day and night, and a bottle of water.


A wave of gratitude and relief swept over me. Some kind person took over for Rick. I sipped the tea and sent out an email to my coworkers, thanking the anonymous caretaker. By the end of the day, I had used everything at least in part, and I was feeling loved. I am still sick, but my smile is a bit more real than it was this morning. Thank you, Laura.

Another nice thing happened today. One of my neighbors informed me that all the houses in our township need green reflective address number signs, along with white numbers. These signs have to be out by the curb and there are specific ramifications. Don't comply, pay a fine. She wanted to make sure I knew. I didn't know. Maybe Rick got something in the mail and planned on doing it. I'll never know...

In any case, she bought my reflective address number sign for me today and had it put together too, so I didn't have to struggle with it. Thank you, Lisa.

These little things, such as cold remedies and address signs...they mean so much to me. They make my day easier, brighter, and less full of grief. Today, two people did for me what Rick would have done if he was still here. One took care of me while I was sick. The other went to the hardware store and had my house sign made.

Rick isn't here anymore, but guardian angels are picking up the slack. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sick in the Grief Zone

When you look at your life and think about your strengths, most of the time they lie in what you do for a living. So, of course, Rick was good with numbers, because he was an accountant. Or maybe more accurately - Rick was an accountant because he was good with numbers.

Then you look at the things you enjoy doing and some strengths usually lie there too. Before he had all his medical issues, Rick was decent at sports. He liked golf and basketball.

After that, you can find strengths in every day, mundane activities - life skills, so to speak. Rick wasn't very handy with tools. He wasn't skilled at babysitting. He couldn't paint to save his life. It took him months to read a book.

But there was one life skill Rick was very, very good at doing. Rick was so good at taking care of me when I was sick.

I remember a time several years ago when I was so sick with a severe UTI that I had a fever and couldn't even stand up straight to walk because of the pain. I was crying. Rick picked me up in his arms, carried me to the car, and drove me not to the emergency room, but to my gynecologist's office. He carried me into the busy waiting room, set me on a chair, and walked right up to the front desk. "You need to see my wife," he said. "She is so sick. We can't wait around somewhere else." They saw me.

I remember another time when I was so weak from being sick that Rick washed my hair for me in the bathtub.

If I needed medicine, he ran out to the store at any time of night to get it for me. Even once in very bad snow.

If I had a bad cold or a sore throat, he made me tea, soup, or anything I might want. "Just take it easy, baby," he'd say. "Don't you get up now."

If I had to stay home from work, he'd call and check on me...multiple times per day.

Sometimes he'd bring dinner home - something that was a favorite of mine, to wet my appetite.

I was never as good at taking care of him when he was sick as he was at taking care of me. The very few times we both got sick at the same time, he'd always put me first. He always tried to take care of me while he was feeling ill himself.

He would bring me a glass of water to hydrate me, even if I hadn't asked. He'd slide a box of tissues over to me if I started to sniffle. He put me to bed early and tucked me in, telling me that work was never as important as taking care of myself.

I miss him so much, because today I'm sick.


I just have a bad cold, but I'm miserable enough. I think my lack of sleep, grief roller coaster, and draining to-do list finally got the best of me. My throat hurts. My eyes are sore. My voice is going. My nose is both stuffed and runny. My head hurts. It started yesterday, progressed to NyQuil status at bedtime, and today I popped antihistamines to make it through work without a tissue permanently attached to my nose. I'm so tired.

No fever, no big deal...just a cold...but I miss Rick and the way he always took care of me. And that makes "just a cold" feel like the worst diagnosis in the world.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Heaviness of the Unexpected

Yesterday, I went to Giant grocery store across the street from my job to pick up some chips, dip, and dessert to bring to my friend Sarah's house for dinner. There's a pharmacy inside the store. The pharmacist called out to me, "Where's Rick been? He hasn't filled his prescriptions in a while." I stood very still, unable to speak for a moment. 

"He died," I said in a small voice.

Her hands flew to her mouth and she was struck silent for a moment herself. "I'm so, so sorry," she said. 

I willed myself not to start crying. "Thank you," I said. "It was just under two months ago."

She kept shaking her head. Her face was a little red. "I didn't know..."

"I know," I told her. "You couldn't. I didn't have a reason to call the pharmacy..."

"I didn't know he was sick," she said. My will was breaking down. I blinked a thousand times to keep back tears. "What happened?"

"It was suicide," I said. I looked her in the eyes, totally unafraid. Totally unashamed. She couldn't hold my gaze.

Her hands flew up to her mouth again. She kind of gasped. "I'm so, so sorry," she said again. "I don't even know what to say."

I used my catchphrase: "There's nothing to say. There is no wrong thing to say, because there is no right thing to say." I'm getting better at this "telling people" thing. I've added it to my assorted and random repertoire along with giving subcutaneous fluids to wiggly cats and putting up shelving units post-manicure. 

"I knew him for 13 years," the pharmacist said. "He used this pharmacy for 13 years."

I nodded. The pharmacist knew my husband longer than I did. I felt like I needed to share a length of time as well. "I was only with him for 7 years," I said.

She stumbled over the beginning of her sentence several times before finishing. "At least you had 7 years of good memories," she said. Not long enough. Never long enough. I wonder if that's what people think when they've been married for 60 years and a spouse dies. Probably. Still...


There was nothing left to say. I walked away. I imagined for a moment the countless times that scenarios such as this one will present themselves. The thought itself is enough to make a person stay home and never go anywhere local again. I hate the unpredictability...the unexpected surge of pain when I stand face to face with someone who knew Rick BUT DOES NOT KNOW. 

How can anyone not know? My whole life, my every day, is a heavy weight of sheer KNOWING. Waking up to the knowing. Going to sleep to the knowing. 

Every footstep forward is heavy with knowing. 

Since knowing is heavy, I focus on feeling lighter. Time with friends makes me lighter. Laughing with my mom makes me lighter. Snuggling the cats makes me lighter. But most of all...writing this blog makes me lighter. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Escape

During the first few weeks after Rick's death, I found myself asking, "Why?" whenever I was alone. The question just always appeared in my mind.  If I was combing my wet hair, my mind would be saying, "Why?" If I was opening the refrigerator, my mind would be saying, "Why?" If I stopped at a stop sign, my mind would be saying, "Why?"

Lately, I just sit alone in my house, stare at nothing, and ask myself: "What do I want?" 

It's a big question to answer, because there are so many things I want. It's much more comforting to list the things I already have. I try to remain grateful and positive. I try to erase the tired feeling from my mind.

Still, one answer sounds off in my head when I confront "What do I want?"

An escape.

Not an escape from reality or an escape from my problems...not even an escape from my grief. Just time away from life as I know it, space to breathe, a reprieve. 

In asking myself "What do I want?" the answer becomes clear: I need a place where I can go to ask myself that very question: "What do I want?" and make some headway.

I need a clear head, a calm heart, a succession of deep breaths, to close my eyes, to feel and be without responsibility. 

I want to be able to have my thoughts control my feelings or my feelings control my thoughts...whatever I decide. 

I want an escape where I can feel safe. Where my spiritual self can connect with my emotional self which can connect with my mental self which can connect with my physical self. I want those things to connect so I can adjust to my new life. 

Not a life of starting over, but a new life nonetheless. 


I cannot envision the specifics. The sea...a field...a lake...a mountain...a starry night...a sunrise...maybe a combination of a few...or maybe none at all...but something...something...that grounds the mind, body, and soul while the pain takes flight and floats away. 


Monday, July 7, 2014

Grief in Lyrics

A new ritual has begun. On my way to the suicide survivors support group, I listen to our songs in my car. Rick's and my songs, that is. I'm not able to listen to them without crying, so it seemed appropriate to listen on my way to a place of healing. The CD currently in my car is the last one Rick was listening to before he died.

I started my journey tonight with "It Hurts Me Too," by Bob Dylan.

So run here baby, put your little hands in mine
I've got something to tell you
I know you're gonna change your mind
When things go wrong, so wrong with you
It hurts me too.

I shared my blog link with the group members. I didn't cry, though I did get an instantaneous headache when details of suicide deaths came up as a topic of conversation.

On the way home from the group, I provided myself with a nutritious dinner of Taco Bell and red wine. I pulled into my driveway, prepared to blog, and my journey home ended with "Bring It On Home," by Little Big Town.

You got someone here wants to make it alright
Someone who loves you more than life right here
You got willing arms that'll hold you tight
A hand to lead you on through the night right here
I know your heart can get all tangled up inside
But don't you keep it to yourself

When your long day is over
And you can barely drag your feet
The weight of the world is on your shoulders
I know what you need
Bring it on home to me

I suppressed the urge to call, "Hi, Rick! I'm home!" when I walked in the door, but I watched again the beautiful, funny, sweet, and loving video some of my friends made for me collaboratively. They sent their love across miles and even oceans in song and dance. They made me smile. So I put the tears away and started my evening at home with "You've Got a Friend in Me"...

You've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me
You got troubles and I got 'em too
There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you
We stick together, we can see it through
'Cause you've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me...

Thank you, friends. I'm doing it. I'm healing.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Calling Bliss

The beautiful weather makes it easier for me to breathe. Being outside makes me feel calm. I caught myself really smiling this weekend. A real smile. It almost looked weird on my face. Sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror, I can feel Rick looking at me. What he must see. I recognize that he'd much rather see me smiling than crying.

I am alive to enjoy the sun, the air, the sky, and the sounds of summer. I can see my family, go to the beach, go for a run, talk on the phone. I am alive to enjoy the sound of my heart, the feelings of my soul, and the words of people who are close to me. I can write, sing, and take photos. I am alive to work and laugh and play and see and move. I can do whatever I want to do.


My world is slowly turning to color once again.

I was at my parents' house this weekend. I was playing with my oldest niece, Joella. She's 3 and a half years old. She got a new toy phone from my parents and was excitedly playing with it. She kept asking people to make pretend phone calls. Outside in the sun of my parents' backyard, her little blond head turning from side to side in thought, Joella handed me the pink phone. "Now call Uncle Rick," she said.

My heart broke into a million pieces for a second, but as my friend Daniele later said to me, "But you can call Uncle Rick in Bliss with a toy phone, Auntie A." And that's where Rick is. That's what Rick always called life after death. So I took the phone and I called Rick. Joella cocked her head to the side, smiling. She knows that Rick is gone. She may not understand the full concept of death, but she knows that she cannot see her Uncle anymore. After we finished calling Rick, she said, "Now call Juice," and made me call my cat. She said, "Call Juice but Juice is at home." She knew that my cat was at home and Rick was not.

It would be easy to be sad about calling Rick on a toy phone with my precious niece. Instead, I chose to smile about it. Mostly because I could imagine Rick smiling about it. We're alive, in color, and because we are alive, we can make a phone call to Bliss.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Full Speed Ahead

Today, I went to the grocery store. This may sound like a simple task. It may seem like no big deal. It my appear inconsequential. But...I had not been to the grocery store since Rick died. 48 days. More than a month and a half.

My mom brought me things I needed sometimes. My friend Sarah brought me groceries. I spent meals with other people. People made me food. I ran to Target a few times for staples like bottled water and cat litter. But I had not been to Wegmans since Rick died. 

Rick and I often went to the grocery store together on Saturdays. It was something we always did, like clockwork. The thought of returning to Wegmans after Rick's death was unbearable. I put it off...and off...and off. It was avoidance, hardcore. 

My mom stayed with me last night due to fireworks... (should have thought that through, because they are in full swing again tonight)...so this morning, I decided we should go to the grocery store together. 

As I stood at the cafe to get a coffee, I looked out into the hub of the store and I could feel tears springing to my eyes. "I feel like Rick is there in the produce," I said to my mom. 

We went through the store from the opposite end so that it wasn't the same "route" Rick and I used to take. My mom was a good distraction. There were times I was seconds away from crying when she said something to take my mind off my thoughts of Rick. There were times when she left me alone very briefly so I could process what I was feeling.

There are so many things I don't have to buy anymore. No more Rick, no more shaving cream. No more Rick, no more Breathe Right strips for snoring. No more Rick, no more Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches. 

I cried a handful of times. I'm sure no one realized they were witnessing a widow sighting. But I did it. I made it through. I went for the first time. I finally went back. And now each time will be easier. I stopped avoiding.

After my accomplishment, I got fitted for new running shoes and I went for a long run. No more avoidance, just full speed ahead. No more "starting over," just moving forward.


As I ran, I could hear Rick saying, "Way to go, A! You did it. You planned a funeral. You went to work. You paid our bills. You cleaned the house. You sold my car. You went to Wegmans. Keep running, kid."

There was a point while I was running when I wanted to cry. I could feel the tightness of my throat and the emotional feeling sweep up through my face to my eyes. I looked up at the sky...and I kept running. The tears slid back into me. I let the sun dry up my sadness. 

When I got home from my run, I felt good. Empowered. Strong.


I think the new photo for my widow blog should be this one: my wedding rings attached to a powerful arm. Grief, loss, life: full speed ahead.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Starting Over

I went to a family picnic today, worried. It was the first time I was seeing many relatives since Rick's funeral. For some, it was the first time I was seeing them at all since Rick's death. I worried about hugs. About tears. About questions of how I am doing. 

It was not nearly as unbearable as I feared. 

Sometimes in the midst of a lot of people, I feel very alone. I feel like the poor young widow, pitiable and sad. I try to snap myself out of thinking that way, but it's hard to do. 

Right now, I'm back home, and fireworks are going off outside. It's not the scattering, whistling ones which keep making noise that bother me. It's the ones that are a single BOOM. A deep echo in the nearby air. Those are the ones that send a shock through my body. Those are the ones that take me back to a painful day. 

All of a sudden, it's like a shot rings out. I don't always jump involuntarily, but I do have a pit in my stomach even if I remain physically unfazed. My mom is here with me for the night. Earplugs are not an option in the moment, because I want to have conversations. I want to watch TV. 

I also want Rick back in my life. 

Sometimes my face contorts into a cry, but no tears come out. I feel like I struggle to breathe. I feel like I need to hold someone's hand. 

But I'm learning to live a life without Rick. I am wading through the rough waters. My head has not gone under. I am enduring. 

The other night, I told a friend that it feels so hard and so weird to have to start over again. He told me that I was thinking about it incorrectly. He told me that I am not starting over. I lost Rick, he said, but I didn't lose everything else I did or had. I don't have to go back to school and do it over again. I don't have to find a job again. I don't have to find a house. I don't have to go through any of the other parts of my life again. I don't have to start them over. Starting over is not what I have to do. I did the work, I made my way, I accomplished things. Here I am...I got somewhere. And now I lost something and have to move forward from it, but I do not have to start over. It really clicked for me. It's true.

What I have to do is learn to live a life without Rick. And that is hard, but I can do it...because I've been doing it every day since May 18th. The proof is in the days that have passed. As Nelson Mandela said, "It always seems impossible until it is done." It's one of my favorite quotes and it always rings true for me. I may wonder how I can get through each day, but it always seems impossible until it is done. I may look back on the month and wonder how I made it through, but it always seems impossible until it is done. 


Right now, it's about survival.

Eventually though, I don't want to just survive. I want to live. Live. And live some more. And nothing would make Rick happier.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Gravity.

Tonight, Rick's brother and his family were back in town from Florida. They took me out to dinner with them.

I left work, picked up more fluid bags for the cats at the vet, got home, and fed them before Keith came to pick me up. I was preoccupied with something when he got to the door and as I looked up to let him in, my house felt a little better for a minute. I was seeing something I haven't seen in a while - a piece of my life back in place. It sounds silly, I know, but I haven't seen my husband now in 46 days...and his brother was like a flash of Rick again right in front of my face. I felt like I was kind of seeing him again. So much resemblance, so much similarity.

It was so nice of them to include me. A good distraction. Pleasant company. I have a blog - so my vulnerability is out there. Everything is on the table with me and my grief. They can see me laugh, but they know that I cry. They make me feel like family.

What can you say to a woman who lost her husband to suicide?
What can you say to a man who lost his only brother?

There isn't really anything that makes sense or holds weight. All at once, 46 days feel like 4. And then they feel like 460. I still don't know how to contend with the concept of time.

The last time I saw Rick's brother, he was here for the funeral. Between that week and this one, I feel as though I've aged 10 years - not in looks, but in soul. I feel as though so much has transpired. We went on living. The world kept turning.

It's almost a shock to the system. Like when I hug my brother-in-law, I think, "You're still here," as though he might disappear from the periphery of my life simply because Rick ceased to exist.

Different rental car, different season, Keith comes back to my driveway and enters the Grief Zone. It sounds so dramatic on a blog, but the gravity is real. The definition of gravity is: extreme or alarming importance; seriousness. And that's what I feel when I'm with the only brother of my husband. Nothing has changed since the last time I saw him, yet everything has changed.


The good news is that beyond the gravity, there is lightness. There is humor. There is kindness.

Rick is gone...and life is just so strange. But I would rather it be strange in the company of Bairs than all alone.

So I'll pay for my dinner with a blog post. Thank you for letting me know I'm still family.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Grief Zone

Another storm.
Another night without Rick.

Whether cats or friends fill my house, there's a loneliness that seeps into every part of me. As my work day ends, I enter into a world of isolation and grief. I envision myself ducking underneath yellow CAUTION tape to enter my house. In my head, there's a sign out front that says: GRIEF LIVES HERE. At the front door, my mind sees another sign in the window: BEWARE OF LONELINESS.


As I leave my car, where I can now listen to music within reason, I slip into a new world where crying is a nightly affair and my cell phone is a lifeline to the world outside the Grief Zone. 

The Arielle of day gradually becomes the Arielle of night, a more subdued version with extra heaviness and fewer distractions. The Arielle I tuck in bed at night has stayed up so late she can't possibly keep her eyes open. She fears nightmares and emotional pain. The Arielle I cry to sleep is lonely and in mourning. 

When morning comes, the Arielle who wakes up in my bed gradually becomes vibrant with life, ready for challenges, and hopeful to a fault. She gets things done and is glad the night is over. The Arielle of the morning prepares to leave the Grief Zone by putting on makeup with the intention of keeping it on rather than crying it off. She makes a cup of comfort in the form of coffee. She reminds herself that she can create happiness. 

Both Arielles are there, always, part of me. One takes a backseat to the other at different times of day. 

Sometimes I want to take a roll of yellow CAUTION tape and wrap it around me. How else will anyone know what's waiting inside me? I look at myself in the mirror. My childlike face doesn't scream WIDOW. My eyes look sad in the weirdest way. I've never seen them like this before, even when I smile. It's as though all the pain of my heart had nowhere to go, so it floated up to the top of me and peers out through my blue eyes.

Grief is such a strange thing. I can't wait for the day when I can cut through the CAUTION tape, air out the Grief Zone, and look at myself in the mirror again without a pit in my stomach.