Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Season for Me

Seasons bring with them such individual feelings and memories. The fall always has such a sense of nostalgia about it... a feeling in the air that cuts me to the core and makes me shiver inside. I've always felt an odd connection to the fall. It always feels like a new beginning. Most people think of spring as a new beginning, but for me, fall will always be the season of change and fresh perspective.


There's a long poem I wrote in 2006 called Recounting Autumn. Tonight, I chopped it and changed it a bit. I know we're not all poetry people, but this is what's in my heart tonight and it explains how I feel with bits of newness mixed in, especially to the ending.


The flash of autumn color
Meets my hazy eyes
And I am struck with
Days gone by.
My eyes adjust
And there I stand,

Skinny legs in saddle shoes,
Tapping my foot on the pavement—
Impatiently waiting to Trick-or-Treat—
Thin arms shivering
In a leotard that I insisted
On pushing down over my small shoulders
In an attempt
To look grown up
At age seven.

I breathe deeply of dried leaves
And of approaching dusk,
And I think that I can truly smell Halloween.

When autumn lingers in the fog of my breath,
It’s like first-day-of-school shoes and nervousness,
Like opening a brand new book
And taking everything in.
I’m hit with a new memory,
And it tastes like carefree childhood seconds.

Every birthday of mine
Lands in the fall—
And though the date is always the same,
It seems the fall is changed a bit each time—
Just like me.

My thoughts scatter,
The years coming back to me
Out of order,
And more memories flood my mind.

I remember the only birthday
My mother wasn’t there,
Staying at the hospital
After having a baby.

My birthdays from that point
Were shared—
And so, the autumn also marks
The first day I met my brother.
The season that bore both of us
Introduced us to each other.

But as I grew,
Ever the hopeless romantic,
I remember birthdays age eleven through thirteen,
When my wish as I blew out my candles
Was “to find my one true love someday.”

Whether surrounded by family or by friends,
I close my eyes and blow—
Tempted by adult dreams
And with a dramatic biting of my lip
As the last candle is extinguished,
My mind whispers my wish
And I open my eyes.

I’m a child of the fall,
Filled both with memories of summer
And the anticipation of winter moments—
A harmonious balance.

I was a girl of anticipation,
The first day of fall circled on my calendar,
Promising an impending birthday
And another step closer to adulthood—
A step I always coveted.

I attend high school football games,
My gloved hands on my cheeks,
In the stands with friends,
As the autumn wind causes my cheers to trail off…

I feel older, but still the same—
A little more reserved,
A little less intent on growing up.

My sneakers scuff the ground
Around the football field
As I leave in the fall night,
And I secretly want to trade them in
For decade-old ballet slippers
And twirl about like a little girl.

The girl is here,
Morphed and molded,
Different and the same.

I remember first day of fall rides with Rick,
And fall days after too,
Top down on the Camaro,
Lots of wind,
Lots of laughing.

Corn high and crinkly on the side of the road,
Our conversations muted
By the rush of air as cars passed by.
He knew I was a child of the fall,
He knew I wanted pumpkins and
Walks on the trail.

Tenderly you touch my hand,
Rub your fingers over mine.
Your eyes are on the road,
My eyes are on you.

The sun in my eyes
And the wind in my hair,
I smile just to be alive
And breathe deeply
Of the crisp, fresh autumn air.

Up and down the hills,
Fast across the expanse of land,
We travel with no destination,
Simply living for the ride.

If I could reach my hands up to the sky,
And grab a cloud
In the autumn breeze,
I would hold it like a baby in my arms,
Because the clean, crisp air
That floods my mind
Takes me back
To days that have passed but still live on.

I want to fall flat on the ground,
Feel the dirt and leaves beneath my weight,
And inhale the memories that come
Saying hello to me like friends.
Instead, I look out -
To the sunset and the future -
And I blow a kiss to autumn.

And still…
In the face of death and grief,
Every autumn feels like a beginning.
Every autumn smells like a fresh start.

If I walk, if I run,
In the air so chilly and fraught with memories,
I can almost detect the scent of autumn
In my whipping hair,
As though it’s lingered there all along.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Looking Back

Today, I perused this ol' blog where I've chronicled grief from nearly the very beginning. There were only 6 days between Rick's last day on earth and the start of this blog, so every new entry has been showcasing the reality of life after death. This blog, more than anything else, is a journey. A readable journey.

So tonight, I went back... and I clicked the 29th of each month...to see where I was in grief one month ago, two months ago, three months ago, four months ago...


On May 29th, just 11 days after Rick died, I was picking up his suicide note at the police barracks...

It is the saddest note I've ever read. But Rick's last words to me were full of love, apology, and thanks. "Thank you for being the best wife to me any man could ever ask for," he wrote. It breaks my heart that the man I loved thanked me before ending his own life... but it gives me a small amount of peace to know that his last feelings were perhaps of gratitude rather than despair.

***

On June 29th, I was re-reading the poems I once wrote for Rick in a bound red book I had given him as a wedding present...

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.

***

On July 29th, I was holding on to hope to carry me through, once the shock and terror had worn off...

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.

***

On August 29th, I was focused on handwriting left behind and the pain of missing someone versus not missing someone...

Even more than photos of him, Rick's handwriting stirs up emotions. I want to touch each letter he penned in his big, deliberate print. I want to trace the words with my finger and remember all the beautiful and funny notes he wrote to me over the years. I don't want to miss him. But...I want to miss him.

***

Today, September 29th, my journey continues...and grief is teaching me that journeys are never over. I may be seeing a different face of grief today than I was last month or the month before or the month before... but I am moving forward, not remaining stagnant. Every month is different. And every month is difficult. But I no longer feel constricted, struggling for air in the Grief Zone.

I know that there is a long road ahead... but it seems so possible, because when I look back at the last four months, I am not even certain how I made it through. Yet here I am. Somehow, stunned and stricken, I survived many, many dark nights. And as Victor Hugo says in his masterpiece Les Miserables, "Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Grief on Sleep

Grief on sleep is better than grief on no sleep. I finally slept a long time on Friday night. I went to bed at 11:45 pm, woke up at 7 am to feed the catkids, and then went back to bed and slept until 11 am. It was so needed. I woke up feeling like a new woman. For the first time in months, I felt awake, rested, and ready to take on the day.

Last night, I slept for almost 7 hours, which is much better than what had become my usual 4-5. I am hoping this is the beginning of a new pattern. Grief on sleep is still grief...but it's more manageable.

Muscle aches, pains, shortness of breath, an empty stomach, tightness in the throat or chest, digestive problems, sensitivity to noise, heart palpitations, nausea, headaches, appetite changes, tension... these are the physical symptoms of grief and I have experienced them all. I still have tightness in my chest from time to time when I am caught off guard or thinking of something to do with Rick. I still have a sensitivity to noise - extra jumpy and easily startled - though it's much improved. I am definitely still overly tense. I feel it most in my neck and shoulders. I feel so stiff. So tight. Like I am carrying a constant burden. I can't seem to lessen that tension. Thankfully, these are the only physical symptoms left as the months have passed.

I'm hoping that with more and more sleep, these symptoms will dissipate too...

Grief on sleep is a different animal entirely. It's still grief, but it has yet another face. I can feel my energy coming back little by little. I can feel my desire to do things like cook homemade food or do crafting and other creative things building up again. Before, I couldn't imagine giving anymore energy than it took to put in a work day. I let my laundry pile up... cleaning my house was no small feat. I sense a shift... and I credit sleep.


I pray this trend continues... I am ready to breathe a full breath. I am ready to wake up refreshed and have it be the norm. I am ready.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

3 Needs

I saw this one day recently and realized how true it is. Especially for me. Words have always been very important to me and these days, they are everything. 


1) It is hard to find the words for loss. I try every day to do justice to the emotions I feel and the experiences I have, and while the words come fairly easily, I wonder if they can really speak to the stuff going on in my heart, my head, and my life. Still, I think for the most part, I have found the words for loss. And I am grateful for that. 

2) I not only find the words, but I say them aloud. That's the part that comes easiest for me I think. I pour my heart out daily on the blog and I share my words with family and friends as I need. There are times I fear I am becoming a broken record... Or even if things are changing, I fear that people may be thinking, "Okay, get over it already." I know that am walking this path of grief more vocally than many others have, but I think that it has helped me in huge ways. 

3) I am lucky. My words are heard. I am supported. I am loved. I have many someones who will listen. Even if they cannot understand, they hear me. I am not alone. I am not struggling to find a friend in all of this. I have many. And a great family too. 

If these are the 3 needs of the griever, my needs are met. My grief is not over, my journey is still a difficult one, but my basic needs that will allow me to carry on have been met. Thank you. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Final Feelings

TED Talks posted this yesterday and I watched it today. It's only 5 minutes long and it really gave a close-up look into the final moments of life. I found it comforting.



As someone in a helping profession, I have been around death. I have seen hospice patients in their final days and hours. I have seen dead bodies. I have seen nursing home residents in their final days and hours as well. I have lost a great-aunt, two grandfathers, and my husband. But I have never watched someone die right in front of me.

I was not with Rick when he died. I left a breathing person at home and came back to a body. Rick's final moments on earth are something I think about all the time. I have imagined pain and anguish. I have imagined utter despair. I have imagined loneliness and anxiety. I will never know what Rick was thinking or feeling in his last moments on earth, but perhaps it wasn't all bad - or even bad at all. Perhaps at the very, very end, he felt peace.

And before he took his life in his own hands, if the three questions from the above video ran through his mind, I want him to know:

Rick, I can forgive anything you ever did. You were a loving husband and a special person. There was never a need for guilt or regret.

Rick, I will remember you forever. Every note and email you left behind means something to me. Every funny joke. Every silly story. Every photo. I have a million memories to help me remember you. I think of you every day. You will never be forgotten.

Rick, your life mattered. It had meaning. You loved me. You taught me. You shaped me. You cared for me. You helped me. If I never knew you, if I never loved you, if I never lived with you, my life would be different. I would have missed out. I am grateful for everything you offered me in our time together and I wouldn't have it any other way.
From now on, I will do my best to imagine the mystery of your last moments here as peaceful ones, full of acceptance and understanding.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Long Lost Dreams

Last night, I dreamed about Rick. It was only the second time I've dreamed about him since he died 4 months ago. The first time, it was confusing and bittersweet. This time, it was painful.

In my dream, we were arguing. I was mad at him. I was anxious. It wasn't nice. It wasn't loving.

He had come home and for some reason I was afraid the cats were going to get out of the house. He was keeping the door open too long. I was nervous. I was yelling at him. I was worried about the cats. It was a regular day. An argument. I didn't know he was dead in real life. I didn't know that I should be happy to see him.

I woke up blinking my eyes, trying to feel grounded again. Trying to remember where I was, where Rick was, who I was... Oh, that's right - a widow. Rick is dead. I can't have an argument with him ever again. Rick is dead. I finally saw him again in a dream and all I could think about was the cats. The cats who never - not once - actually attempt to leave the house when the door is open. I finally saw Rick again in a dream and all I could do was yell at him.

It was just a silly dream. Just a bit of subconscious thought mingled with memory and anxiety and imagination. But I wish so badly that I had hugged him. That I had said, "I love you." Or at least something nice.

I feel like I missed a chance.

I feel like a horrible wife, even though it was only a dream.

Why is it so hard to shake a feeling from a dream?

Sometimes I feel like I will never sleep again. I do sleep, of course, but not nearly enough. I'm still running on 4-5 hours of sleep each night, and when the sleep I do get is disturbed with dreams or crying or cats meowing at 4 am, it doesn't make for a very restful experience. The times I've slept the best have been when I've been away from home. Philadelphia. Connecticut. A different bed, a different feeling in the air. An exhaustion that seeps into me until I have no choice but to give in.

I know I have the power to heal myself while I sleep. For so many years, I have relied on my dreams for guidance and comfort. They have been a map by which I better learned myself. Before Rick's death, it was not uncommon for me to remember 4 dreams per night on a regular basis. I kept a dream journal for over a decade. I have always written down important dreams. I have long had dreams that held far more meaning than simple scenes like my dream from last night.

But it's all gone now. My sea of dreams has dried up. The ones I have are sporadic and meaningless or they are painful or scary.

I don't know what to do...
Tonight, I am going to light a candle before bed. And I'm going to say a prayer for peace. I'm going to focus on restful sleep. I'm going to sleep with intention.


I can't go on with this sleeplessness. I will tell myself not to be afraid of the dreams that may come before the good ones come back. I know that my fear holds my brain in a protective vice at night. I know that fear is what keeps me from slipping back into normal sleep with the healing dreams I used to know and love. I know I cannot rush this process.

I wish for comfort. For sleep. For healing. For relief. For loving feelings. For calm. For peace.

Whatever it takes, however long it takes, I'm going to get my dreams back.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Don't Rush Me

I am feeling my way through the dark. Don't rush me.
There are times when I may miss the mark.
Don't rush me.
I'm healing, but reeling is still a known feeling...
And my future right now is so stark.
Don't rush me.

I am trying to live in the now.
Don't rush me.
There are times when I just don't know how.
Don't rush me.
I'm fighting, but citing my grief in my writing
Is exactly what I must allow.
Don't rush me.


If I'm ready for something, you'll know.
Don't rush me.
If I want to be somewhere, I'll go.
Don't rush me.
I'm afraid, but I've prayed that my pain will soon fade
And one day it will truly be so.
Don't rush me.

Don't rush me, Arielle, don't rush me.


A poem I wrote tonight that's not what it first appears... It's a letter to myself...

Sails

Today I spent four hours in the car, driving two of my co-workers to a work event. Our conversation inevitably turned to personal lives and I found myself discussing my fears surrounding this new phase of life.

It's always nice to hear people say good things about you, but when you are living with pain and fear in your heart daily, it's nicer still. I guess according to them, I am grieving with grace, if that is such a thing - an interesting concept when I feel such a mess sometimes.

I was trying to figure out why our car conversation was so validating and comforting to me. And I realized it's because my co-worker friends found another way to say, "It's going to be okay." In their own words, in their own ways, they were saying that it already is. That I'm already doing what needs to be done. That I'm already making my way. That they see it and they respect it.


This is the worst storm I've weathered...but I'm still here. I'm still standing. I've adjusted my sails. And I'm still going. I will not stop. I will not lie waiting in the water, letting life pass me by. I will adjust. I will move. I will go forth. I will do whatever it is I want to do.

And one day I'll look back on this car conversation with a smile, because my sails will have taken me so far from this moment. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

So Much

You know, in all the days of blogging since Rick left this world, I've never had trouble figuring out what to write. This is 121st post and I've never had a problem coming up with a topic every single night, explaining my thoughts, or pouring my heart out. There is just SO MUCH in me.

This blog borders on uncomfortably open at times, and I realize that. Interestingly enough, it is not uncomfortable for me as the writer, but for some, I recognize that such emotion and vulnerability can be unnerving to read. It just doesn't happen that often in this world anymore.

121 posts and I'm still spewing feelings. How can this be? Strange as it may seem, these deep entries often feel like the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my love, my pain, my joy, and my grief.

People often ask me, "How do you come up with what you write about?"

I say, "It just comes."

Sometimes, people ask, "What will you write about tonight?"

I tell them, "I'll know when I sit down to type."

I don't want to say it is easy... but for lack of a better term, it is easy. It comes out. Because it is there. Inside of me. There is just so much.

I like to ponder. I like to map out time. I like to mark my trials and triumphs. I like to question things. I like to attempt to make sense of life's complexities. I like to share. I like to help. I like to try to understand. I like to document.

But what it really comes down to is this: I like to feel. And I like to write.

There is just so much.

As long as there are things to feel, there will always be things to write. That's what life is for me. That is what makes my heart pump.


You know, I'll be honest - if there was no internet, no blogosphere, no Facebook, I'd still be writing these posts. Every day. Whether on my computer or in a notebook, these words would find their way into existence. It's just the way it has to be for me.

But there is a certain kind of touching joy, a swelling of the heart, that happens when someone tells me they read my words here. A friend of a friend of a friend... A neighbor down the street... A coworker's family... practically the whole state of Connecticut ;-) and a fair amount of Pennsylvania too.... a spattering of dozens of states near and far... perfect strangers... a good portion of the UK ;-)... people who knew Rick but whom I've never met... the east and west coasts of Canada... old pen pals... word-of-mouth Twitter followers... other widows... other social workers... relatives of my friends...

It spreads like wildfire in a way I did not expect and my heart feels gently supported when someone I barely know sits down next to me for a random moment to whisper, "I read your blog."

I feel so much, so I write so much. Turning tears to words is where it starts. And I am holding beautiful knowledge: with writing, there is no end in sight...but with pain, there is.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Unpredictability

It's been 126 days and I still haven't listened to the radio. I listen to music all the time...Hand-picked, carefully chosen music by those I trust or myself. Just not the radio. With the radio, you don't know what's coming. You don't know what the next song will be. You don't know what it will trigger, how emotional it will be, if it will be the right kind of emotion, if it will bring up a memory...

I haven't read a book in 126 days either. The only ones that feel safe are ones I have already read, because I know what's coming. I let friends tell me what would be ideal for me to read. They give me suggestions based off of what they've finished reading, knowing my circumstances and worries. But I haven't yet felt ready to read something new.

I also don't watch TV shows that could have some element that might hurt me in some way. There are some that are always safe - reality shows or sitcoms, for example. But then there are shows I follow, like cop shows or other dramas, that might deal with emotional situations. You just never know when the storyline will take a turn into territory that will hit too close to home. Death, loss of a spouse, suicide, gunshot to the head, etc. I'm not ready for that. My friends censor my shows for me. I watch the ones like Project Runway or Ellen that are perpetually safe, but friends who watch the same shows as I do give me a heads up before I push play on my DVR. Sometimes they say, "Don't watch this one at all." Sometimes they say, "Halfway through this week's episode, something happens that is hard, but it turns out okay." And then I know. And it feels safer. Other times, they let me know that something regarding a certain topic will occur and I can make the decision for myself. But the key is that I am not blindsided. Not caught off guard.



The same goes for movies. I haven't watched any new movies in 126 days that weren't animated Disney ones. I have watched some old movies, ones I've seen before... but the point of new movies is that you don't know what is going to happen. And that just doesn't feel safe right now.

It's funny how such things can come into play so strongly when the grieving process is running its course. It's the unknown, the fear of being caught unaware, that scares me most. If I knew I was watching a show where someone would die by suicide, I would actually feel more comfortable than if I just started watching it and suddenly the plot line took that turn.

It's the unpredictability that feels unmanageable. I need control over my listening, my reading, my watching... at least right now. I am not sure when that will change. But until it does, I appreciate all the people in my life who have my back, combing carefully through all the entertainment out there in order to protect me.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

What's Inside

I found this exercise on an Art Therapy website once. It was called the Feelings Heart.

You start by listing your emotions. Then you choose a color for each one. Then you fill up your heart with how much of each emotion you are feeling at present in your life. 

It's supposed to be an exercise for children. Tonight, I'm going to use it as a tool to better understand what's going on inside me. I know what's in there, but I'm not sure how it all fills me up and I'd like to see what's happening in there.


The first 6 emotions that felt biggest...and most right...were: fear, sadness, hope, love,  confidence, and pain. I assigned colors that fit them...and the rest is plain to see.  


This is what my heart looks like. This is what's inside me. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Little Things

The little things in life are so much more significant now. Cups of coffee, a visit from a friend, a phone call, a text message, cuddles from my cats, a particularly meaningful song, a funny joke, good food, a quiet run, a hot shower...it all feels different and better.


There are so many simple things in life. That's the beauty of it all. 

Warm clothes, the sunshine, my bed after a long day, an ice cold bottle of water when I'm tired and thirsty, a hot cup of tea late at night, the Gilmore Girls, Rick's chair, a pumpkin pie candle, a smile from a stranger, a perfect quote, looking in your rear view mirror to see a friend in her car behind you, a good laugh, a good cry, the right words on a blog... It all makes sense when nothing else does. It is so insignificantly significant. 

My days have always been populated by little things, of course, but it's different now. As I walk the journey of grief, I am aware that these little things are actually the glue that hold my days together. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The 4 Month Mark

It's 4 months today since Rick took his own life. Every time the 18th of the month comes around, I always tell myself that it's just a date...and a date doesn't need to be given such power. But somehow, the power is already there. I go to sleep on the night of the 17th of each month preparing for the next morning. And I wake up on the 18th of each month since May 18th feeling heavy. Remembering.

It's not so much the anniversary of a death date (though it is a painful reminder of that too) as it is the anniversary of the day my life drastically changed. I can't help but think to myself each time, "1 month ago, my life was different," "2 months ago, my life was different," "3 months ago, my life was different," and now, "4 months ago, my life was different..."

Thinking about a time before grief...it just seems so far away.

Rick has been dead for 4 months. It seems like so much longer. And yet, it seems like no time at all. It seems like mere weeks ago that I came home from being Manager on Duty that Sunday and found the note that made my heart stop beating.

Today, I could feel the tears waiting behind my eyes at different points in my work day. Nothing was triggering the tears except my own thoughts...my own realization that Rick has in fact been gone for 4 months. When I got home from work, I went for a run. And here I sit, in the total darkness of my living room, telling myself to get upstairs to take a shower...telling myself to make some dinner...telling myself to turn on some music, or hell, some lights.

This four month mark is a weird one. I didn't expect there to be any significance to 4 months. But here I am, the seasons changing, my birthday and the holidays approaching, and all of the television series beginning again. I watched a lot of TV with Rick and it's so frustrating and sad to think that he isn't going to find out what happens on any of these shows. Like, it's SILLY. But it keeps crossing my mind.

And I realize that there are some things we watched together that I don't think I'll watch anymore. I'm not the same alone as I was with Rick. I guess that's the easiest way to put it.

I think I've completely given up that little tug on the heart that wishes for a different outcome. There is no way to change the past. There are only ways to move on.

I have a lot to complain about...but I have so much more to be thankful for.

I just listened to the 6 voicemails I have from Rick that are on my phone. He asks me to come home. He tells me to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy. He tells me my angels were here, because our driveway miraculously got shoveled in the snowstorm while I was stuck at work. He asks me if I should get Jenn some vegan milk at the store. At the beginning of every message, he calls me "baby" and at the end of every message, he tells me he loves me.


As I blogged, my mom and dad went out to dinner tonight at a new restaurant. The owner came over to talk to them and introduce himself. My mom called me from the restaurant. "Guess what his name was," she said.

Rick.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Freedom

This is the sign that hangs on my bedroom wall. I bought it after Rick died, sometime in July I believe. 


I want freedom in life, freedom in grief, freedom in love, freedom in friendship, freedom in routine or lack thereof, freedom of expression...

And even freedom to change my mind. 

I want freedom in life. I want to follow my passions, my dreams, and my goals. I want to embrace opportunities, make mistakes, and learn. I don't want to be held back. I want to live with zeal. I want make my own decisions.

I want freedom in grief. I want to grieve the way I want to grieve... I want to be happy when I feel like it. I want to be sad when I feel like it. I want to cry or not cry. I want to ask questions. I want to NOT KNOW all the answers. I want to escape judgment. I want to receive comfort. I want to change if change is part of grief.

I want freedom in love. I want to follow my heart and my instincts. I want to have hope that brighter days will come. I want to be open and accepting. 

I want freedom in friendship. I want to spend time with different people... Or maybe the same people... Or maybe both. I want to know who is right at each time. I want to spread my time or create rituals. I want to enhance the friendships I have. I want to be the kind of friend that so many have been to me.

I want freedom in routine (or lack thereof). I want to make my own schedule. I want to be alone. Or be with people. I want to make lists. Or throw them away. I want to clean or be messy. I want to do what is right for me. I want to tailor my life to me. 

I want freedom of expression. I want to write. Or paint. Or scream. Or cry. Or laugh. Or run. Or do nothing at all.

Freedom is a beautiful and a scary thing. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Meaningful Misery

I have heard the four month mark is hard. I believe it now, because as I approach 4 months post-Rick, I feel the changes and the sadness in a different way. The last 3 weeks have been an interesting blend of worry, grief bursts, and even a little wallowing. The triumphs and celebrations happen too, of course, but I do sense a grief shift and my emotions have a sense of new-ness to them. 

After I woke up this morning and fed the cats, I walked back upstairs to get ready for work and I climbed back in bed. I sat there, then I laid there. I stared at the ceiling. I willed myself not to cry. Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry. But then I thought: why not? These emotions make me who I am. I must allow them. The only way out is through. 


So I let the tears come...and they were done in just a few minutes. I got out of bed. I played some music. I got ready to go. I smiled. 

Emotions help us survive. When we feel sadness, we automatically seek out the things that will make us happier, because we want to feel better than we do when we are unhappy, in pain, or distressed. My emotions of sadness, despair, and worry push me to move onward and upward... cause me to surround myself with positive people and experiences... fuel me to create my own brighter days. 

My emotions allow other people to understand me. They provide insight into my life. They help me evaluate what is important and what is not. 

Far too often, being emotional gets a bad rap. People act like it's a downfall, a flaw, a hindrance to being logical or normal... but being emotional is necessary to being human. I'm emotional, and I'm proud.

It's when we don't allow ourselves to feel our emotions that we lose pieces of ourselves, or look to unhealthy coping mechanisms instead, or become robotic and fake.

Emotions mean we feel. And while feeling may sometimes hurt, it is also very wonderful.

If you choose to feel, to be an emotional being, you have to take the bad with the good. Because the alternative is being numb. Feeling nothing. Being devoid of emotion. So you get all (happiness, joy, excitement, sadness, disappointment, grief, love, etc.) or nothing.

Emotions help us grow.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pain-Free

I remember when I used to accompany Rick to his medical appointments. I got to know the inside of waiting rooms intimately. Team Bair was present, ready to lay it all out for the professionals. Sleep problems, depression, myofascial pain, nerve pain, mouth pain, spine pain, hip pain, foot pain, head pain, arthritis, alcohol abuse, brain fog, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, etc. These were the words that populated our appointments.

This time last year, I got a look at the packet of paperwork a pain center sent my husband prior to his appointment as a “new” client.  He was a patient many years ago there, so for all intents and purposes, was considered “new” even though his pain had followed him through life. The comprehensive, thick packet of stapled papers was lying nonchalantly on Rick’s desk, but when I flipped through it, this is what I saw.


Asked to illustrate where he had pain by coloring a part (or parts) of the human body, Rick had obliged.

Looking at the image, I was filled with sadness. He colored nearly the whole damn thing. I was struck by how accurate and telling the image would be for any professional who would see it. He even colored one side darker to indicate that his left side was worse than his right. The graphic told me so much about my husband. He told it like it was. He didn’t make you guess. He didn’t hold back. And he didn’t create intricate explanations or excuses for his actions.

I used to try to explain Rick’s pain to other people at times…and it just didn't work well. I couldn't feel it, so I couldn't describe it. I will never know what percentages of Rick's pain were emotional, physiological, mental, psychological, however you want to categorize it. A woman of many words, I searched for the best ways in which to tell his tale of indescribable pain. I had a difficult time making others understand how serious it was, regardless of the origin or cause, and how drastic his attempts at relief had become.

Rick's colored image was the best explanation. No fancy language. No confusing terms. Just Rick telling it like it was. You see the picture. In the simplest terms: HE WAS FULL OF PAIN.

It doesn't matter what kind of pain. He felt it. It was real and it was constant.

The same day he colored the above image, he also filled out this portion of the medical packet:


In addition to "regular" forms of pain all happening at once (burning, shooting, sharp, dull/aching, pins and needles, tingling, pressure-like), Rick felt like he was being electrocuted. AND like he was getting hit in the face with a baseball bat. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Seeing his no-nonsense words so plainly describing his indescribable pain was just heart-breaking. It had become so matter-of-fact to him.

There was a time I couldn't see an end in sight for the emotional and physical pain my husband experienced. But now, I know how the story ends. I can be sad that I can't hold him or talk to him or laugh with him, but he is no longer in pain. I don't have to be sad for him anymore.

Suicide is no solution, ever. But I am relieved that for the first time ever, I can actually imagine Rick completely free of pain. I did not know what that was like. I do not have memories of a pain-free Rick. Not one.

Now, in grief, when the deep sadness swirls around me, I can also let the relief slip in. Rick is not in pain. I don't know what that looks like, because Rick in pain was all I knew. But I imagine it looks something like this:


outdoors, relaxed, and smiling just like before the pain began.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Or Better Yet, Mark as Spam

Well, after 113 posts, I got my first nasty comment on the ol' blog. It's akin to "hate mail" and it did give me a sinking feeling for a few minutes, but I guess I should consider myself lucky, as the author of a daily blog with mass readership, that this is the first time I've gotten such a comment. I'm surprised it didn't happen before now, to be honest.


I'll be honest, the initial gut reaction to envisioning my husband suffering in the afterlife was painful. That said, it lasted only a moment, before I became deeply sad for whoever has enough hate to want to write a comment like this, let alone actually write it. Because the thing is... the last sentence of the comment is addressed to Rick. And let's face it, Rick isn't the one reading it. Or writing this blog. I am. So the person commenting clearly intends to hurt me. To upset me. To affect me. This comment does not affect Rick at all. If someone thinks Rick is a coward, selfish, or burning in hell... there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to take the time to write me a comment to tell me. 

Anyone can think those things. Telling a widow...who is grieving...publicly on a blog no less...is just hateful. 

And this instance is a prime example of why suicide is so different from other forms of death. If Rick died another way, I wouldn't have to deal with hate like this popping up in my inbox. 

Sometimes in life, hate pops up. Or negativity. And you have to hit delete. Or better yet, mark as spam. There's spam everywhere - not just in blog comments or in our inboxes on the internet. It's everywhere. When I walk around in life, especially now in the wake of Rick's death, whatever does not serve me positively, I mark as spam. To eliminate it completely - to delete it - would mean that I didn't recognize or acknowledge that it was toxic in the first place. But when I take all the junk floating out there in life and mark it as spam, I imagine myself taking a little bit of power back. 

And Rick cheers.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Weird

My beautiful friend Beth is married. I cried as soon as I saw her. I'm so happy for her.

I made it through. I drank too much, but I made it through.

I feel like I don't even know my life anymore. It seems like a foreign object...a strange beast...an alternate universe.

I am thankful for my best friend Libes for always being here. I am glad I can be cheerful in the midst of pain.

I feel so weird.

That's what's the worst. I feel so weird.

I don't know myself.

Who is this sad little Arielle with the broken up life?

The tears just waiting behind her eyes?

The fear. 

All the fear.


don't want to complain. I have it good. Life has treated me kindly in many respects.

It all comes down to 2 things tonight: 

I miss Rick.
And I hope that I can be loved again.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Price of Love

This hurts so much because it meant so much.


Grief is the price of love. It all comes down to that. If Rick hadn't meant so much, this grief wouldn't be so overwhelming.

He taught me. He shaped me. He loved me.

And this grief is the price I am paying for all of that. I am willing to pay the price, because it means I lived an authentic life with him - the good with the bad, the pain and the joy. I am willing to pay the price, because I have no regrets. I wanted the time I had with Rick. And I would not change that. So now I have to go through grief... because I loved.

Grief can be terrible, powerful, painful, and earth-shaking. Grief is the price of love. But it is worth it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Patriotic to a Fault

Rick was the most patriotic person I knew. He was passionate about his patriotism in a way that could even sometimes rub people the wrong way. He loved this country. He became emotional about it. I saw him cry more than once when he talked about war, the tragedy of September 11th, or the problems our country faced.

He would go through stages of watching the news every day and listening to talk radio religiously, then decide that those things only upset him or made him feel helpless, so he would cut off all information. No TV news. No radio. No internet stories. He went back and forth in months-long bouts in this fashion.

I remember when we were on our honeymoon in early 2008. We were at an all-inclusive resort for couples and we had dinner one night at a Japanese restaurant. We sat around a hibachi grill with several other honeymooners. In conversation, we found out that one of the men was in the military, home for a length of time. Rick went over to this man and shook his hand. He said, "Thank you for your work and your sacrifice. Proud to meet you." He didn't leave it at that, though. He made conversation with the man, trying to let him know how much he valued what the soldier did.

That happened more than once...his thanks to a soldier, that is.

My husband was not always right. He was not always gentle in his approach to politics or his own opinions. But he was patriotic. And he had heart.

In his office at work, Rick had a framed photo hanging of the twin towers in NYC. He always wanted to remember.

Also in his office at work was a framed 8 x 10 photo of me. It wasn't a close up portrait or a wedding picture of us. It was one he requested: me standing in my wedding dress on my parents' front porch, the train of my gown trailing down the stairs, with an American flag blowing behind me. It always kind of made me smile to see that was the photo he wanted most. Sometimes I thought of it as a picture of his two loves, America and me.

On the anniversary of 9/11, Rick always wore his most patriotic tie. It had American flags all over it. He also wore his American Flag tie clip.


Today I took it with me. To remember our country's pain and strength... and to remember my Rick.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Grateful

Tonight I choose to focus on the gratitude in my heart. The years I spent with Rick are not null and void because he took his life. The years I spent with Rick were full of lessons and love.


Thank you, Rick, for buying this house with me.

Thank you, Rick, for adopting the cats with me.

Thank you, Rick, for teaching me too much energy is spent worrying about what other people think.

Thank you, Rick, for taking care of me when I was sick.

Thank you, Rick, for planning our honeymoon.

Thank you, Rick, for the beautiful crystal necklace and earrings you bought me as a graduate school graduation present.

Thank you, Rick, for always being so proud to be with me.

Thank you, Rick, for watching chick flicks with me when you didn't want to.

Thank you, Rick, for making a YouTube video with me.

Thank you, Rick, for taking the cats to the vet when I was at work or away from home.

Thank you, Rick, for getting rid of spiders for me.

Thank you, Rick, for keeping our house so clean.

Thank you, Rick, for mowing the lawn.

Thank you, Rick, for making me laugh.

Thank you, Rick, for going through fertility testing for me.

Thank you, Rick, for giving up alcohol.

Thank you, Rick, for adjusting your life to fit me in it. 

Thank you, Rick, for teaching me to be more spiritual.

Thank you, Rick, for being unconventional with me.

Thank you, Rick, for being so supportive through 3 years of grad school and a very hectic schedule.

Thank you, Rick, for going to family gatherings with me.

Thank you, Rick, for being such a thoughtful gift giver.

Thank you, Rick, for taking my car to the shop whenever something was wrong with it.

Thank you, Rick, for putting gas in my car.

Thank you, Rick, for driving me places.

Thank you, Rick, for making me maps or giving me directions to make me feel less anxious.

Thank you, Rick, for reading everything I wrote.

Thank you, Rick, for kissing me good night.

Thank you, Rick, for waking me up in the mornings so I didn't have to wake up to an alarm.

Thank you, Rick, for working hard.

Thank you, Rick, for loving me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Statistically Speaking, I Feel Alone

Grief is grief. It hurts. We all feel pain deeply no matter the cause. We all feel that pain differently. We all cope differently. I would never compare my grief to another's and I would never say my loss is greater. What I can say is that I sometimes feel the stark contrast of my widowhood compared to other forms of widowhood. It doesn't make me worse off than another widow or in more pain than another widow. But it does make me feel more alone at times. Generally speaking, there are a lot of things that make grieving a suicide death different from other kinds of death. Not sadder...not necessarily more difficult...but different.



Statistically speaking, when losing a loved one to suicide, the grieving process is often longer than with other kinds of death. I have read countless items, both in my previous studies and in my personal quest for enlightenment post-Rick, that say this. In a sarcastic voice in my head, I say, "Yay, something to look forward to," but in reality, I am doing my best to embrace the process and brace myself for what's to come. There are times I feel very impatient to move forward more quickly, but my physiological reactions and grief bursts do not allow it. It is day 114 and there has not been one single day yet when I have not cried. Sometimes it is brief. It is not always a torrent of emotion. But there has not yet been a crying-free day.

Statistically speaking, when losing a loved one to suicide, the survivor is roped into/tied into the "story" in a way that does not happen when someone dies another way. For example, if your husband dies of a terminal illness, strangers, acquaintances, and friends do not say, "Wow. What happened? What went wrong?" as they do with suicide. It isn't necessarily that people want to know the details (though sometimes they do), it's that they can't fathom a suicide loss the same way they can fathom other loss. We know that different kinds of cancer can kill. We understand that being a soldier, for instance, is a dangerous occupation and puts people in harm's way. We know that saying "It was a heart attack," leaves little to the imagination.

With suicide, people say, "But why would he do that?" They say, "Did you notice anything?" or the even worse version of that question, "Didn't you notice anything?" They say, "Was he depressed?" or "Did something happen that day?" And the person left behind is right there in the death again, up to her elbows in trauma, pain, and questions. You can choose not to answer the questions. But it doesn't mean they aren't asked. The person left behind is constantly roped into being part of the tale. Like they had something to do with it, because they were the bystander, the other occupant of the house, the one who found the note. Like they had some knowledge of the reasoning. Like their job is to make some small sense of the horror for the person asking.

Statistically speaking, people who lose someone to suicide have more sleepless nights and more nightmares than people who lose someone another way. Sleeping problems, I think we all realize, are a trademark of grief. It doesn't matter how someone dies - those sleeping problems often follow for quite a while. In the wake of suicide, however, this usually continues longer. I still have nightmares. I still sleep on AVERAGE just 4-5 hours per night. I am not thrilled by this "statistic." Yesterday I honest-to-god felt like I had narcolepsy. I could barely keep my eyes open at work. I didn't feel on top of my game, because as people were talking to me I was trying to stay awake. As I drove the 20 minutes home from my job, I kept thinking to myself, "I hope I can make it." I felt like I needed to pull over because I was falling asleep.

Statistically speaking, when losing a loved one to suicide, happy memories are constantly questioned in a way that does not happen with other kinds of death. Things aren't taken at face value. Reminiscing about good memories or looking at photos is just not the same when suicide is the cause of death. When looking at a photo, the person left behind might smile and think of the good memory displayed in the picture, but she is also wondering, "Was he happy here? Had he already decided to end it? Was he remembering this moment as 'the last time' we would ever do that? Did he know?" For people dealing with other loss, happy memories are happy memories, times they miss or wish they could relive or always want to remember. No over-thinking. No philosophical ponderings that re-break the heart.

Statistically speaking, there is a helpless feeling associated with surviving suicide that doesn't exist with other death. There is a need to do something even after the person is gone. To be proactive. Like doing the Walk for Suicide Prevention. Just weeks out into grief, I was signing up, organizing a team, on the move. It's like all the things you wanted the time to fix, but didn't have the time because you didn't see it coming, you pour all of that into a walk or a blog or...whatever. It never feels like enough.

I can counsel myself all I want with "statistically speaking." I know the drill. I know the facts. And I can prepare myself and understand the mechanisms of this kind of grief to a point. But I still have to go through it. And I still feel alone. I write about it here so if you feel alone too, you know you're not crazy. I write about it here so you know where I'm coming from when my grief doesn't match what you imagine it ought to be. I write about it here, because the more I grieve, the more I learn... and the more I learn, the more I want to share.

Statistically speaking, I'll be okay. Life goes on and so will I.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Different

Grief changes us. It changed me. Is changing me. Will change me. I'm scared of being different than I was before. I had just gotten to know myself really, really well. 


I have formed a new routine. I have new likes and dislikes. I can sense that I am morphing into someone not too different from the old Arielle...but different enough. 

Different is scary. 

I don't want to feel foreign. 

I look in the mirror and I still look like me. Then I see it, that difference in the eyes. I stand there and smile softly. Then bigger. Then like a maniac. I pretend to laugh just to see if the strangeness will leave my eyes. It doesn't. 

Sometimes when I'm on the phone with different friends and it's a good conversation - a funny one - I flip the visor down as I drive my car and watch my face in the mirror to see if the authentic laughter and smiling takes that strangeness out of my eyes. It doesn't. 

I sit at home, alone in bed, with a changing brain in my head. It's not that different. But it's different enough. I don't know how to feel. I don't know what to think. I don't know how to make sense of the stuff that's in there.

I take comfort in knowing that somewhere, deep in my heart, I'm still the same. The peach can grow. It can blossom. It can ripen. It can change color. It can rot. It can waste away. So many different changes can happen to it. But the pit is always the same. Deep in my heart, I know I'm the same. I cling to that when parts of me change. When I feel so different. 

Not that different is bad... It's just...different. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Questions and Bursts

This week was a hard week. I can't pinpoint a reason, except for the fact that my hormones were doing their monthly female thing.

My blog posts have reflected this hard week. I've been sadder. Felt the unfairness at new levels. Seen problems without solutions. Perhaps clearing the last of Rick's personal effects (except the few I saved) from my living area set me up for a sad week.

I pondered a lot of questions this week. Where does the Rick stuff go? When is it time to scatter his ashes? What should I do about my conversation-starting wedding rings? What will carry me through this war of grief the way Rick carried me through the war of graduate school + very hard work? 

I can see that the questions allowed themselves to surface, because I was feeling overwhelmed. But I think they need to surface. I need to feel them. Even if I don't yet have all the answers. As my good friend Jennifer says, "You have to feel every part of it." The good, the bad, the terrible, the beautiful, the questions, the worries, the hurt, the fear, the everything. It is all part of the process.

This blog is often upbeat, hopeful, and full of gratitude in the face of pain. But it is also a chronicle of heartbreak. Grief is a journey that changes constantly. It ebbs and flows, and that's what this blog shows.

I have been in pain this week. On Friday night, my heart hurt so badly and my tears just exploded from my face without end. I felt so grief-stricken I was sure I would throw up from the sheer pain of it all. It came upon me all of a sudden, this terrible, overpowering feeling of sadness. Grief bursts are like that. They throw you down. They are sudden. Intense. Completely unpredictable.

Grief bursts do not mean I am not healing. They do not indicate that I have been flung back to the beginning. They do not mean I have not made progress. They do not discount all the happiness I am still able to feel on a regular basis. The terrible, unbearable, overwhelming pain I felt when Rick took his own life dissolves slowly, like a shell in water. It started out fierce and solid, unyielding. Worn by time and the tireless waters of life, it becomes smoother. It becomes smaller. And smaller. Until it dissolves into tiny pebbles that become sand. BUT there are times, no matter what I do or how positive I remain, when the pain of my grief feels just as terrible as when everything first occurred. Grief expert Alan Wolfelt calls this a  "grief burst" - when we are "ambushed by grief."

Sometimes, like this week... especially Friday night... I am ambushed by grief.

It's a war.

I have my whole, beautiful, wonderful life ahead of me... but right now I am at war.

The comforting thing is that I know the war will end. I know that peace will come. It has come already, many times, and I gather it close before it runs off into the fray of fighting again.


Sometimes I chase peace. Sometimes I let it find me. Thank you to everyone who has been my army, walking beside me in grief. I am marching onward.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Through the War

Tonight I had dinner with my MSW crew - other great social workers with whom I took the journey of graduate school. We graduated over a year ago now and it was good to see them all again. 

I remember when I was in grad school, how Rick and I would talk about how great it would be when it was all over and we could spend more time together. I was so busy and so focused on everything that had to be done, and he just pushed through along with me, supporting me. 


We couldn't wait for the days when life would settle down and I could breathe. We couldn't wait to see each other every night. We couldn't wait to have whole weekends together again. 

Now was supposed to be that time. This time right now was supposed to be for us, about us. We put in the work, the waiting... I got a new job, I made more money, I had less commitments. 

Now I have time and no Rick. 

Together, we didn't have enough time. We looked forward to a reward that didn't happen. We awaited a gift that will never be. 

During my three years of grad school, while I worked - even on Saturdays, maintained internships, wrote endless papers, did lots of driving, and spent hours in class in the evenings after already long days, I was fueled by one guy: my Rick. 

I did it all with the promise of more free time with Rick "one day." 

Like a soldier at war who carries a photo of his love to get him through the worst, I pushed through the worst of it with a dream in my heart. During the grad school days, Rick was my photo at war. I knew I could do the impossible because if I made it through, I'd reap the benefits and he'd be there to enjoy it all with me. 

Sadly, I'm here alone. No more vacations as a couple. No more dinners for two. No more movie nights. No more time. 

These days are the days I worked toward when I was plugging away at work and internships and school. They're not what they were supposed to be.

I'm in a new war now. What will the photo in my pocket be? What will carry me through?

Friday, September 5, 2014

No Solution

Sometimes I want to rip off my wedding rings.

I walk around, day to day, living life, and people see my ring and ask me, "Oh! Did you just get married?" or "Your ring is so pretty! How long have you been married?" I think it is because I look so young. People do not do this to women as they get older.

The residents at the nursing home where I work ask me how long I've been married.

I get my nails done and the tech asks me if I'm newly married.

People I know introduce me to people they know and they make conversation by glancing at my hand and saying, "So did you just get married?" and "So when did you get married?"

Random people. Everywhere. They think it's new. They think I must be a newlywed. Sometimes I want to rip my ring off.


People are just being normal. People are just being nice. I'm not angry at anyone.

And it's like WELL DUH, I am wearing wedding rings after all. They are on my finger. They are visible to the world. What can I expect?

But every time someone uses a conversation opener like that, the conversation is going to go down. And it's going to go down hard and fast.

"No, actually, I'm a widow," or "I was married for 6 years, but my husband recently died."

Sometimes I just tear up when the question is directed to me and my ring. That's always a good time.

It's this pesky age and time of life. It invites people to ask the typical questions. Why would a cheerful, young gal sporting a wedding ring have a tragic tale to tell? It makes no sense. It does not compute.

Sometimes the conversation tanks even further than my startling response or almost-crying. LOTS of people follow up the shock with, "I'm so sorry. Was he sick?" or even better, "I'm so sorry. What happened?"

Usually, to the first question, I simply say, "No." The response is short and does not share, so it is not one I feel invites a follow-up question. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. To the second question, I respond honestly with, "It was suicide."

I'm not embarrassed/ashamed/unwilling to tell people that Rick took his own life. I am, however, not always a big fan of talking about the most emotional thing in my life with someone I have just met. I usually feel blindsided.

The response from people that follows all this is often not so fun either. Some people gasp. Some people's eyes look like they will pop out of their heads. Some people get dangerously close to giving me a hug.

All this because I wear my wedding rings.

And that is what sucks. Because the obvious solution to this ongoing problem is to stop wearing them. But I don't want to stop wearing them. I'm not ready for that. I don't want to put them in a box. I don't want to put them on a chain and wear them around my neck. I don't want to put them on a different finger (don't think they fit another finger anyway). I WANT TO WEAR THEM THE WAY I HAVE ALWAYS WORN THEM.

They're my wedding rings. They're mine. And I don't want to take them off.

So I really have no right to be upset when these instances of painful questions occur. It just is what it is.

So much of widowhood has no solution.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ashes to Wind

I still haven't scattered Rick's ashes in Ogunquit, Maine as he wished. I know he knows I'll get there when I get there. I know he doesn't have a timeline for me. There are days I feel I need the release of sending them out into the wind. There are days I can't imagine making the journey to Maine. I think about it though. A lot. And I imagine what I will do. The specifics.



I'll scatter your ashes at sunset or sunrise,
Looking towards the sea.
And as I say some more good byes,
You'll be there with me.

I'll scatter your ashes in spring or in fall,
Not too hot or cold.
Ashes to wind, your name I'll call,
Your picture I'll hold.

I'll scatter your ashes with no one around,
Looking towards the sea,
Wondering how close we're bound,
If you'll be there with me.

I'll scatter your ashes and cry a cry,
Releasing at last.
Ashes to wind, emotions high,
Scattering slowly, scattering fast.

I'll scatter your ashes at sunset or sunrise,
Looking towards the sea. 
I'll let my heart speak to the skies
Thoughts of you and me.

I'll scatter your ashes in spring or in fall,
A true time of change.
Ashes to wind, your name I'll call -
And it will seem strange.

I'll scatter your ashes with no one around,
Releasing at last.
I'll blow you a kiss and without a sound
Let go of the past.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Where?

What do I do with the stuff?

Where do I go with the things of Rick's I have packed away, put in a closet, tucked in a drawer?

What do I do with all the notes? The beautiful, meaningful, 100+ notes?

Make a Rick box? A scrap book? Should I keep some where I can see them? Hang them on my fridge like finger paintings by a child now grown up and moved away? Do I carry one with me?

Do whatever feels right, everyone would say. BUT NOTHING FEELS RIGHT.

I don't want to walk in my basement one day years from now and find a box labeled "Rick" like he was an old boyfriend or a collection of Christmas ornaments.


I just don't know what to do.

I want to play him like a song in my car, over and over - turning him off when I feel like it and playing him loud when I feel like it.

I want to dream about him like an old friend who comes back after a long trip.

I don't want to put him in a box. In a book. On the fridge. In my wallet.

What do I do with all the stuff? There are things I can't part with... things I want to see again... things that belong with me...

Where does it go? Where can Rick go?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sometimes You've Just Got to Let It Ride...

Every day, I feel these things: gratitude, pain, love, surprise. 

I am grateful, because I know how lucky I am. The support I receive daily is matchless and I smile knowing that there are a multitude of people I can count on in a moment's notice. I also feel like every day I am understanding more and more what I am meant to do in this world. I am grateful for the lessons I am learning... the people with whom I am spending my time... the magic of healing.


I feel pain, because I am still going through this process one day at a time. Grieving a loss this profound is a roller coaster... a journey of great feats... an open wound. In fact, every morning, I feel that there is a gaping wound in my chest. I touch it, poke it... and it still hurts. I wince, knowing that today will prove painful in some ways as usual... but I am also relieved, because if it hurts, it's still there. The loss has shaped me and I don't want to be rid of it or the emotions that I associate with it. It's part of me now... forever... and as it heals, the scar will stay. I would not want it any other way.


I feel love, because every day somehow holds more beauty, not less. I live a life I'm meant to live and I am not ashamed of that longing for joy. There is no end to what I can do...what I will do. For me, there is no mundane life that is just lived because that is what's always been done. I have purpose, energy, determination, ideas, spark... It hasn't gone away. It may even be amplified.  In the wake of tragedy, I have been shown great love... and since love breeds more love, I feel love all the time. I still think there is sadness in my eyes that was not there before. I can see it even when I smile. Sometimes it even catches me off guard, as if for a minute I don't even recognize my own face in the mirror. But it does not stop me from loving.




And last, I feel surprise. I am surprised by the twists and turns my life has made...and I am also surprised by my lack of being able to predict my own life these last, let's say, 10 years. When I pictured my life, I saw so many things - but those things were more like predictions than dreams. I have learned not to predict, but to dream. I used to imagine what I thought would happen. But if I do as the Eagles say in Love Will Keep Us Alive (one of my favorite songs), and just "let it ride," I can appreciate everything as it comes and understand that my dreams are just seeds ready to make realities bloom. There is no sense in thinking you have life all figured out. Who has life figured out at 20? At 30?  


I ride this life with no expectations. I have wishes, hopes, and dreams, but I will not predict my life. I will simply live it. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Personal Effects

Today, I cleaned out Rick's huge desk. I'm getting rid of it next week and lining the back of our my living room with bookshelves instead. Stacks of income tax records went upstairs to my office. Other files went there too. Photos of me he had on and in his desk have retired to a box full of other "stuff" - his reading glasses, his Dallas Cowboys memorabilia, his desktop computer. I'll figure out what to do with it later. I can't cope with the enormity of "stuff" right now.

This cleaning out of his desk was another step closer to cleaning out his closet. I am still not ready to do that. His belts and ties and shoes and clothes will have to wait for another day some month in the future. His sock and underwear drawers remain untouched.

But his desk is now empty. Cleared off. Cleared out. It's going. And soon it will be replaced with bookshelves. And books.

The entire downstairs of my home is now devoid of Rick. His urn and some photos remain, but anything that belonged to him is gone. Everything he owned is holed up in one place - his closet and his chest of drawers - waiting for me.

Today, with the desk, everything I touched, I determined whether to toss it or keep it. I found sweet things, like cards I had given him, as well as manly things like screws and screw drivers. The fruit bowl in my kitchen is currently home to tools rather than fruit.

So I tossed and I kept, and when the desk was empty I cried. Not a bad cry. Not a good cry. Just a cry that stated, "This is weird."

And then, when all traces of Rick were gone from the downstairs of my home, I chose what seems to be the most random assortment of personal effects and set them in a dish on my kitchen counter.


For the last 3 months, Rick's watch and wedding ring have rested on his desk. I held them in my hand today and couldn't put them away. I found his American flag tie clip in his top desk drawer and couldn't throw it in a box of "stuff," so I put it with the watch and ring. He had a comb in his desk drawer too... I put it in the box of "stuff"...then I took it out. He had his Lehigh University mug on the highest shelf of his desk. When I took it down to put it away, I realized that I'd never really noticed it even though it had been there for years in plain sight. To give it justice, I put it with the other personal effects so I could pay attention to it for a little while longer.

The last item I added to the small collection on my kitchen counter was a small container of Play-Doh. A long time ago, Rick told me that one of his favorite smells in the whole world was the smell of Play-Doh. So one day when I was out, I bought him a small container of it. He opened it excitedly, inhaled the smell, and smiled. He didn't care about touching it. He didn't take it out of the little plastic jar. But every once in a while, he'd crack the lid, smell it, and smile.

I couldn't throw it away.

I put everything in the Lehigh mug, but that didn't feel right either. I wanted to see it all.

Rick's personal effects will stay in the large dish on the countertop in our my kitchen until I'm ready to put them away. I don't want him erased from my sight just yet. I like to hold the items from time to time. I like to remember that he was here.