What is in a Name?

Many widows and widowers face the criticism of others after a spouse’s death, I have seen it many times in support groups. I have also faced criticism. I imagine it is because somebody always needs a scapegoat to project their grief, guilt or anger on to. Now, I am the type of person that will cut my losses and do so relatively quietly. If someone has a problem with me and are speaking behind a keyboard instead of directly to me, then it tells me that I was never respected enough to carry on a conversation with nor was our relationship important enough to salvage. Fair enough, I can walk away most of the time with no problem and let these people have their opinions. Whatever makes them feel better.

However, there are a certain few that are emotionally destitute and they keep trying to insult me and my children by insinuating that we do not deserve my married name of Kehnt. It is a last-ditch effort to hurt me for walking away and maintaining appropriate boundaries instead of being a doormat. Perhaps when they say phrases like, “she will only end up with her five letter name” or “Kehnt is more than a name”, or “it is only a name change” that I am supposed to remain quiet like these things do not hurt. Maybe I should be as cold as they are, and retaliate with anger. Maybe I should have kept silent like my husband instilled, and let people make fools of themselves. Or maybe I will write about my feelings like I always do because someone else out there is feeling like I am. Some widow or widower is having to justify their marriage.

Anyhow, I realize that people are going to keep saying these things to hurt me, and truly the problem is lying with me and not them. Why does it bother me so much? Maybe because they know that everything I am revolves around the term “family” and because it is so important to me to respect and maintain those relationships when it’s feasible and emotionally healthy.  Now I will admit, my roots are Badalamenti through and through. It is the blood that runs through my veins. Badalamenti is my thought process, my history, the reason why I react in certain ways. I am my mother and father. I am my brothers and sisters. I am my nieces and nephews. They are me. I understand the connections and how they intertwine to make a person whole. I live the Family Systems theory. I am who I am. So, I get the importance of a name.

But I am also a Kehnt.

My kids are also Kehnt.

My husband chose to give me his name by marrying me, and no one else was involved in that decision. The decision was never forced upon him, he chose me and we took a great deal of time to solidify our bond prior to marriage. My husband chose another son and also begun the process for that child to have his name through adoption. That son chose to honor his father, and carried through with the name change process. That son will be a Kehnt for the rest of his life. He will give his kids and wife the name Kehnt, because he loved that man that much. Nobody but them two, were involved in that decision. My husband wanted a little girl to have his name. Nobody but us was involved in the decision to biologically create another baby. I know these things and they are the God’s honest truth, so why does it bother me still?

Because.

The fact of the matter is that my relationship was short-lived. It was no fault of either my husband or myself, but a lady who couldn’t look before turning her vehicle. We had five years together and only married 18 months legally. Hardly enough time to set our own roots. I know the importance of time when it comes to the family establishment, and we were robbed of our ability to follow through on our own traditions and heritage. We had too little time to mesh our family histories together, and share it with our mutual children. We have too little memories, and our daughter has none. We were supposed to have 50 years of marriage, arguments, love, memories, child-rearing, grandchildren, history, roots. We didn’t get it.

So yes. I take offense to these comments, but it isn’t because the people stating it are worthy of emotional harm merely to further solidify roots.  My husband is enough to do that. Honoring my husband and my children’s father is enough to show the worthiness of our name. The three of us who remain true to that man is enough because we continue to keep his memory alive. The three of us were chosen by him, just like his first family. It is cruel to dismiss the family he chose last because of decisions I carried through on. The decisions he made, the man with the name. It is dishonorable to make horrendous comments in the face of those who are clearly hurting over the person we all shared. It is even worse that the man was forced to leave people behind who feel they have to defend our choices because time wasn’t on our side. I know these people are waiting for a hostile defense out of me. I know they are waiting for me to react angrily, but I won’t do that because I realize the importance of maintaining an honorable name. I know the importance of keeping love and respect alive for him. I know the importance of reacting with dignity and grace, it is why he married me and gave me the name.pexels-photo.jpg

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More Unsolicited Advice from a Widow

There are numerous articles out there on “what not to say to a widow”, and “what to do for a widow”, and other forms of advice to the general public. Guess what? Here is another one. A widow or widower can go through so many things as a direct result of their spouse’s death including not-so-subtle judgment. The judgment can take place directly or indirectly, but it always gets back to the one left behind. People talk, and that is the bottom line. Due to that fact, I have learned some things that I want to share:

 Your Individual Perspective Has No Bearing on A Deceased Person’s Wishes. Too often, I see the fact that the dead are often dismissed post-loss even when they have CLEARLY vocalized their intent, their character, and their beliefs prior to their departure date. We absolutely should not have any right to fluff their lifestyle, dismiss their feelings, or place our unique spin on what we think they would do. Unless you have SOME PROOF of communication about the intent of the deceased, please continue to honor the way they lived and what they felt. Dismissing who they were, and what they believed is extremely offensive to a widow or widower. Even if your rationale for your actions may be valid and with good intent, you do not know how you may have inadvertently shunned the deceased individual’s beliefs. Please try not to impose yourself and your feelings. Especially when it should solely be about THE PERSON WHO IS NOW GONE. This is about who they were and who they were not. Let your legacy reside with the people who know you the best and trust them to act accordingly to who you are. Don’t make their death about you, your time will come trust me.

Most Widows and Widowers Know Their Spouse’s Wishes Even If There Is No Will. We widows and widowers often know more intimate details about our spouses than many others might know. It doesn’t matter if we are in a relationship with our spouses five years or 50 years, it can be intelligently argued that we have talked about many things. We have talked about things like life, feelings, expectations, future goals, why the sky is blue, religion, what we need to spend our money on, our debt, and death. We have fought, and we have made love to one another. We have shared uniqueness that made up our marriage. We were in direct, daily conversation with our deceased husbands (or wives), so we know what they needed up until the last minute of their death. Granted, I know that there are people out there that do not act accordingly. Perhaps they weren’t on good terms with their spouse. Perhaps there is unnecessary vengeance, ego, and deceit in the actions of the living spouse that are intended to hurt others.

However, please understand that much of the spouses that are left behind truly are acting on what they know about their deceased spouse in good faith. Often, we do have proof of the intent from our spouses even if there is no will. We have our conversations, we have things that mean something. We know.  If you don’t understand why we are taking some actions, come speak to us. Ask. Inquire about the reasoning behind our decisions, we will gladly share our experiences with you. Alternatively, if you know something and have proof of a way that the deceased person would have wanted things, please share that with the spouse. Please know that the deceased person played a different role with each of us. They have unique experiences with each and every person they have engaged in a relationship with. If you have information that suggests contrarily to what the spouse is doing then share, please. Share your proof and your perspective. If not, please do not judge the spouse for their decisions regarding the post-loss life and responsibilities they have embarked upon. None of these responsibilities were wanted.

Do Not Judge The Grief Process or How The Deceased Is Honored. This should go without saying, here is where YOU CAN inject your unique perception and your own wishes. The way that people choose to honor the deceased is individualistic. Whether you want a shrine in your house or you want to have yearly memorials, that is entirely up to you and the others who had a relationship. This does not have to be agreed upon, but cohesion is great and beneficial to the remaining rememberers. I choose to honor my husband in a variety of ways, from adopting the street he died on to contributing to this blog. It is all done to honor who my husband was. The more I do, the more it eases my soul and gives me something to live for. Feel free to do the same thing. Additionally, the grief process is as unique as the individual and it is based on the relationship that you had with the person who died. No one should ever tell you how to grieve. Or for how long, or how to move forward. No one should stifle your feelings about the deceased. Hey, I do not like what some people choose to do out of guilt, but I can’t judge them. I do not have their relationship with my husband, I have mine. Here is where I acknowledge that it IS about the rememberers, but the advice is the same. DO NOT judge who does what, or who does not do something. People are different, you should accept that very basic notion. Do NOT hate on the person who is doing something though. If you want to honor or grieve, then do it on your own accord. Do not judge someone else who is walking their own path.

These are very basic concepts, but my God, they are often ignored in lieu of opinions and judgment. Thanks for reading!

Scars

There is a quote that I love that always makes me think. I have a big ugly scar on my leg. That’s what I think when I look at it. Ugly. In the past I have been really self conscious about it. Most summers I wore long pants to cover it. I hated when I noticed people notice it. I didn’t want people to see it. So I hid it.

But I realize some things…

• We all have scars; both physical and emotional

• We typically hide our scars, I know that I hide mine

• Our scars make other people uncomfortable so, we don’t show them; for fear of what others will think, fear of seeming weak, of being judged, being misunderstood, _______________________.

But our scars tell a story. Mine tells a story.

Scars originate with pain, whether it be physical or emotional. Sometimes, and in my case, the origin is both. My scar began as open wound. A literal, physical open wound. The instant I received that physical wound was the instant my heart became an open wound; both resulting in the most unexplainable pain I had ever felt.

The wound on my leg took a long time to heal. I use the word heal lightly because I wouldn’t say that it actually healed.  After a long and painful period of time, it closed up.  But it left a big “ugly” mark on my leg that will never go away. It has changed and improved over these last 5 years; it has faded, although it is still very visible to the eye.

The story behind that scar is one that tells the story of the open wound in my heart, the wound that is not visible to the eye.  This wound is much more painful. It is a story of loss and sorrow, of suffering and grief, sadness and anger, fear and isolation…

This wound isn’t so easily “closed.”

Neither will ever fully heal. They will never go away.

You see, for whatever reason, I am supposed to be here. I’ve often wrestled with the burning question, why?? That is a question that I will never truly understand on this side of heaven. I do know that there are two young people that almost lost two parents in the same day. They needed me. I also know that my work here isn’t done. I don’t fully know what that entails but I do believe we all have a purpose. I also know that life is precious. I know that our days are numbered, tomorrow is not promised.

We can choose to let the pain behind our scars keep our wounds from closing. We can choose to hide our “ugly” scars and live in fear; fear of judgment, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being seen as weak and vulnerable. We can let the pain overtake us and keep us from fulfilling our purpose.

Whatever pain and scars you are trying to hide, may not ever fully heal. But, when you face them, when you show them, when you overcome them; there will be a story, a testimony of what you have made it through. That story just might help someone else who would otherwise be overtaken by the pain, that otherwise might choose to lay down and quit living.

I’m don’t hide my visible scar anymore. It is a constant reminder of loss and pain for sure. But, it is also a reminder of where I’ve been, what I have made it through and of what should have, could have, but did not end me.

“My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.” ~ Steve Goodier

falling into grief

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

//

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

 

old woman of grief

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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

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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