We Remember

It’s Memorial Day. Families are going to the beach, cooking out, having parties.
My kids and I are staying home, keeping things low key. Because today, we’re remembering a man. Remembering him the way he wanted to be. And we’re remembering the men and boys and women and girls that he remembered.

I’m not a gold star widow. Let’s be clear about that right up front. I’m the second wife of a man who once was a boy who went to war. I’m the widow of a man that only partly came home from war. A troubled man, who fought the demons in his head for most of his life. He fought until his body and mind wore out, and the darkness engulfed him like peace, and he sighed, and let go of my hand. He felt unworthy of love. And I loved him. For all of it. For all he was. I always will.

Like many soldiers did then, he went to war as a child. He saw no other answer to fix his world. The boy who grew up carrying a radio on his back, running like hell, while ash fell around him. The young man who went to sleep in Cambodia, next to a foreign boy, protecting each other, and woke up the next morning on opposite sides of the conflict, with a knife in his ribs. The young Marine who, months later, hanging out of a helicopter with that radio pack on his back, caught a two year old girl who had been thrown into the air as the copter lifted, and held her in one arm, and road through the storm to safety.

He came home. Built a productive life. He became a lead paramedic so he could save lives~to balance his ledger. He championed for the children. He was their angel, spiriting children and their loving parent away from abusive situations, taking them to safe houses, to start new lives in freedom.

Freedom. It was so important to him. He did come home. But he was never really free. He was a prisoner of his mind.

I think of him on this day, because there are so many he thought of. He told their stories. How they had carried the radio before him. How they had carried the flag. How they had carried each other. How there came to be so many that needed to be carried. How their sacrifice gave him life.

He raised his glass to them, grilled the steaks, set off the fireworks, even though it meant weeks of nightmares to follow. Because remembering them, their stories, their lives and their sacrifice, is important. It is part of our stories.

So today, I sit home quietly, often with tears flowing down my face, my sweet daughters checking to see if I’m alright. Me checking on them.
And we tell the stories.
Their stories.

Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.

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falling into grief

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-3,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

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I wrote the following a year ago in April 2017. Little did I know that three months after typing these words my most horrendous grief experience would crash down around me like a relentless and unstoppable tsunami:

“Grief is ever-changing like the moving water in a river or ocean, never stagnant or completely still. There is always something happening, something stirring under the surface or above, or both. Sometimes grief is a like a river in how it winds and twists and turns. Sometimes grief is like an ocean with its strong currents, undertows, and merciless waves coming again and again and again. Sometimes grief is like a ferocious hurricane over the waters, gathering force and spinning out of control, bent on destruction of some sort or another, affecting whatever is in its path. Sometimes grief is like the constant drip drip drip of a leaky faucet, always there and annoying in an innocent dutiful naive manner. Sometimes grief is like a rainstorm on a tin roof that sings a comforting song with its melody.

I hate grief. And yet. It is cleansing and clarifying, and altogether terrible and sweet and relentess, all rolled up into a world of its own. Like water can be, at times it is comforting and warm; but it can also be jarring and dangerous, even life-threatening. It is a world I never feel I belong in, yet when I visit I no longer feel a stranger there, I feel like it is a place I have been before and know well, yet wish I never had to visit again. And yet. I often feel connected in ways in the throes of grief that somehow feel solid, that allow me to feel close to what and who I have lost. That closeness seems at times to fade or go in and out of focus, like a tether to that long lost loved one, or a camera that just cannot seem to find its sweet focus spot anymore, the connection changes as the grief changes. Some days it is undeniably strong and unavoidable like the pain of a fresh burn; others it is a faded other-world-ness dream of a life lived in an alternate space, a space that often seems just out of reach if I try to touch it. Grief crashes, drowns, tricks, surprises, contorts, burns and cracks, and yet it also envelopes, hugs, clears, strengthens, and straightens. Grief is ever-changing.” (Zoe Turner, April 2017)

//

Present day: Well fuck me. Holy fucking shit. Yeah, I guess I thought I knew a thing or two about grief a year ago. I did know something on some level, but now it’s like walking along the streets of a town and feeling the wind and air hit your body versus reading about traveling to that particular town and what it must be like to visit there. Worlds apart, at least this is my lived experience. Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for the suicide of my beloved person, my spouse. None of the former griefs, they all paled in comparison. My missing then dead spouse trumped them all, hands down. My world literally exploded. There were no patches large enough, no way to keep everything put together.

I’m learning to engage with grief better. I’m learning her ways, her tricks, her truths, her shortcuts, and her long winding paths. I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how hard, because I don’t get a do-over, there are no replays, this is it, this is my life and I will live it.

Grief, I’m falling into you.

{zt}

No man ever steps in the same river twice. For it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

{Heraclitus}

//

We have this physical experience in loss of falling toward something. It’s like falling in love except it’s falling into grief.

And you’re falling towards the foundation that they held for you in your life that you didn’t realize they were holding. And you fall and fall and fall and you don’t find it for the longest time. And so the shock of the loss to begin with, and the hermetic sealing off, is necessary in grief. But then there comes a time when you finally actually start to touch the ground that they were holding for you.

~ David Whyte
On Being with Krista Tippett, 4/7/16

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#suicide

wall of suicide

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-3,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

//

I feel like my heart has been jerked from my body and thrown out into the cosmos. I thought it would never return to me, that it, that I, was lost forever. Lost not only to myself but those others still here who relate to me and love me. Having your person die is a tearing away of cosmic proportions. There is no small part of you left unaffected or untouched.

Little by little, piece by piece, I am returning to myself and the pieces are rearranged. Nothing is what it was before. That wall between before he left and after he left, it is impenetrable, unscaleable, and unable to be busted through. The wall is not even an actual wall, it is though it is another time, another place, another dimension, and there is absolutely no getting back there, no matter how hard I try. This wall is final. It represents an ending, an ending of so many things. But the truth is no matter how much at times I just want to continue to wail at the wall, it is also a beginning point. Every step I take away from the ending point is a step towards what is to come and what is the now. It is something we scream against yet fight to accept all at the same damn time.

I don’t want the changes, yet I must have the changes to survive. I don’t want to love again, yet I actually really do. The emotional whiplash caused by your partner dying is almost indescribable. I’ve never experienced anything as horrific as finding out they died by their own hand and having to sit your children down and tell them their Dad is dead and why he is dead. Suicide is its own brand of horrible, it’s own breed of monster. It rips you to shreds until you yourself feel dead inside, yet slowly life begins to arrive at the door and, as blood does, it seeps back into every crack and crevice.

{zt}

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#suicide

 

Where Did They Go?

I have been a “W” word for almost 6 years now.  In that time, I have had the opportunity to connect with many others who have experienced loss.  About a year after Jonathan passed away, I started a group for people who were grieving.  It wasn’t just for people who had experienced the same loss as me, but had lost someone very important to them.  My heart behind starting that group was this…

I felt very, very alone trying to adjust to the new world I was thrown into when I suddenly lost my husband.  I won’t say that people didn’t care but after the “dust settled” most everyone went on about their normal lives while I was completely stuck.  Do I blame people for living their lives? Absolutely not.  Although there were so many people also grieving the loss of my husband and my children’s father, we were the ones whose everyday life was affected horribly.  In connecting with other people who were grieving, particularly those who lost a spouse of whose children lost their parent, I learned the saddest part of grief… I found that many people felt like I did.  Alone.  So, I’m not singling myself out here.  Most people would not think this to be the case but, believe it or not, it is all too common.

There are so many reasons why people tend to distance themselves from someone after they have lost like I did. I couldn’t name them all if I tried.  Some assume you are surrounded by family and friends and don’t want to overwhelm you. But guess what?? If everyone assumes the same thing?? You guessed it.  No one is there.  Some people just don’t know how to “be” around you.  They worry about what to say or what to not say. So guess what?? Often they say nothing.  Some are so overwhelmed with their own grief that it is just too difficult to be around you.  THEIR grief.  I’m not trivializing the loss of others, don’t get me wrong.  I hope you get what I’m saying… Some just don’t want to face the reality that you aren’t the same person and they don’t know how you will fit into their lives anymore.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I listened to others’ talk to me or in front of me and my kids about their grief.  I’m not saying they aren’t allowed their grief but, it was extremely difficult to be the one to shoulder others’ pain when you are already carrying so much of your own.  Some people made it, most likely not intentional, almost like a contest.  Who missed him the most? Who was affected the most?  Who was closest to him?  This was my husband and even I didn’t make it all about me.  My focus was my kids and how they were affected. They were almost 10 and almost 12.  They lost their Daddy and almost lost both of their parents in the blink of an eye. On top of that, their Mother was hurt (car accident) and they had to watch me in pain, endure daily (very painful) in home healthcare, not being able to walk, two surgeries, not being in their home that they never returned to, going back to school just over a month after, getting drug to grief counseling, and losing connections with a lot of people that they were extremely close to.  I could go on and on but even if I continued, those not experiencing that with them day in and out, just wouldn’t understand.  They lost so much.

The last (almost) 6 years have been more difficult and painful than I can even begin to say.  But, we are still here.  We have a long way to go still in the journey of learning how to live again without the one who meant so much but, we are pushing through and doing our best.

In the last year or so I have connected specifically with other people like me.  Amazing groups of people that have lost a spouse and (most of them) raising grieving children.  Oh, what a blessing!  How amazing it has been to finally have relationships with people who truly get what I have been going through.  I have also formed super strong friendships with smaller groups of people that have lost their spouses.  These people now mean the world to me.  We are doing life together every day.  All of us in different states even.  But, we are each other’s lifelines.

As I’ve heard other open up about their lives, their struggles, their grief and their relationships… I have learned something that is more disheartening than anything else.  The judgment they receive from others.  It seems everyone has an opinion on how they are “dealing with” their grief.  They aren’t moving forward fast enough.  They are moving forward too quickly. I could go on and on… Some of my friends have started to move forward in the areas of opening themselves up to try and find love again.  Oh, how many have opinions on that! Some are judged on how they are living, how they are parenting, etc.  Well, guess what?? It is plain nobody else’s business!  Don’t get me wrong, some people are very well intentioned and don’t mean to come across the way they do but, regardless, it’s just not okay!  I can’t speak for anyone of them but for me…. I am raising two (now) teenagers all on my own without the help of anyone else.  I have a home.  With that comes expense, maintenance and just plain burden! It’s hard!  I would love to say that I have done it all without struggle.  But I can say that I have done a good job.  I’m far from perfect but I am doing the best that I know how. That is more than enough for my kids and that is all that matters.  Set aside the fact that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jonathan would so proud of me. Nobody else, especially people that have been on the outside of our lives, should even have the right to weigh in.  The worst part is that people weigh in anyway (a lot of times, not even to you) and armed with information that just isn’t accurate.

The moral of the story… Who are you to judge??  You don’t live my life.  You don’t pay my bills.  Most of you have someone to go home to, someone to aid you in making the tough decisions life throws at you daily. You aren’t dealing with grieving kids, teenagers at that. Blah blah blah…

Quite honestly, I have been quiet for too long, always making excuses for people’s hurtful behaviors, always pretending that everything is okay.  Well, I’m proud to say that those days are over.  Am I going to go rogue and catapult myself to the other side of that spectrum?  Absolutely not, because that’s not who I am.  But, I am going to speak up for myself.  I’m going to speak up for my kids. I’m going to help my friends who are dealing with similar issues, find their voice too.

If you weren’t around during the most difficult times, please don’t judge me now.

old woman of grief

Processed with VSCO with b2 preset

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you’re fucked you know

there is no way out of this

there is no waking up

this is not a nightmare, it’s reality

look at me

look me in the eye

we have to do this together

take my hands

let me help you

you can’t pretend i’m not here

you can’t wish me away

i’m here and i’m not leaving

I can’t leave

I’m here because of love

love is here too

and she isn’t going anywhere either

did you think it was just you and me here?

oh no no no, open your eyes dear one

you are very much not alone here

and neither am i

there’s love, kindness, courage, rest, as well as anger, betrayal, depression, and misery

i wish i had a magic wand to wave

but i don’t

i know it’s hard to accept the reality of me

but i need you to

you need you to do so

he does too

come sit with me and stroke my hair

put your head on my shoulder

you can rest here

you can cry too

i won’t ask any questions

and you won’t have to explain

just come

{zt}

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#suicide

everywhere yet nowhere

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

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you are everywhere yet nowhere

upon waking you are on my mind

falling asleep filled with images of you

our wedding picture in the living room

family picture in the dining

grief is like food coloring into water

there is no chance of remaining untouched

it colors everything, every space

nothing left alone or unchanged

even when I make my coffee thoughts of you come in

simple things, complicated things, you are in them all

and yet I cannot find you

I cannot hear you or see you

I wonder where you really are right now

are you here in the streaks of sunlight?

the warmth of the light on my skin even when the air is so cold?

or are you actually nowhere?

I hope you still exist somehow, someway, somewhere

I’ve begged to hear from you in my dreams but nothing comes

no secret signs or magical assurances

your absence is more present than you

everywhere yet nowhere

{zt}

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#suicide