Thursday, January 25, 2018

He Broke My Heart

Figuratively and literally, Tom broke my heart when he died.

In the last four months I have had two aFib episodes which did not resolve without medical intervention.  It is not lost on me that the first one was the night before our wedding anniversary (and a few weeks before his birthday) and that the second one was  four days before his angelversary.  I do not believe these are coincidences.  The body never forgets, it keeps score.  And while the emotional charge surrounding these events is not a strong as it was the first two years, evidently the somatic memory still carries power.  So I've done a lot of work to recover from this loss and my body is betraying me.  $#*!  This is not what I had intended.  In some ways the aFib has spurred me on to take better care of myself, which I have.  I've done everything that I can to change the dynamic but it is a long slow process with small increments of success and some setbacks (like these stupid aFib episodes).

Having heart stuff is scary.  After the first episode in September I had a full cardiac work-up which revealed I'm in good shape, no cardiac disease.  But in the midst of feeling bad, it feels like I'll never feel better again.  It would be so easy to let fear and worry and this disorder run my life.  But I refuse.  I will not live on medications that sap my energy and zest for life.  I watched my mom's doctor's throw medicine at her and the impact it had.  It took my intervention to get her off of the ones that were unnecessary and to change the doses to ones that were appropriate for her, not just what the protocol said.  Whenever I deal with the medical system, I feel like I have to arm myself for battle.  I had to do that for Tom.  Now I have to do it for me for there is no one else to do.  It is exhausting, particularly when not feeling well.  I miss that about a partnership, someone having your back and to fight the fight when you're weary.  Actually, there are a lot of things I miss about a partnership.  I was a happily married woman until cancer stole my husband.

I am committed to building an awesome life and doing things that I love and give my life meaning.  No little ole irregular heartbeat is going to stop me from doing so.  I sound brave, bold and badass.  I didn't sound that way yesterday in the Emergency Room.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sucker Punched. Again

Damn it!  That wicked old grief has jumped back in and sucker punched me in the gut.  Again.  Two weeks ago I was saying that I was feeling content.  And the last week has been a roller coaster of grief, anxiety, overwhelming emotions and tears.  Big snotty, raging, screaming out loud, pleading tears.  That hasn't happened in a very long time.  I do not welcome the revisiting of the memories.  In fact, unless I really think about exactly what day it is, I do not connect it to the events of each day three years ago.  But my body has not forgotten and thus my mind has not either.  Three years ago Tom was in his final hospitalization.  The fear of the unknown and the excruciating prospect of what was to come was too much to bear, as is the memory of that time.  Looking back I do not know how I survived it.

January is a difficult month.  Bubba died right before the end of the year.  My father died in early January in 1999.  Tom died in late January, three days before my birthday.  This is my hell month.  I just want to get through it, fast.  I do not enjoy this.  I am tired of just surviving, and waiting to get to the good stuff.  This is not the life I signed up for but it is the one that I have.  It takes an enormous amount of energy to mourn.  And an equal amount of energy to build a new life. It is a slow painful process and is not to be hurried, no matter how desirable it would be. My patience is wearing thin, thankfully not my resolve.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Journey Continues

I wish there were a tracking device to measure how far one has come in this mourning journey, similar to the Domino's order tracking app.  It would be too complicated to create one.  Grief is not a linear process--there are so many twists and hairpin turns that one could get whiplash trying to follow.  And the grieving experience is different for every person and every loss.  But it sure would be nice to know where one stands in the process. In the beginning all I knew is that I wanted it all to be better fast.  Like really fast.  Like I'd be all better in a year.  Ha! In my experience I do not know how far I have come until I look back.  I can only measure backwards, and have no perspective on how far there is to go.  I would like to neatly wrap it all up and say "I'm 95% through the process and after the next 5% I will be all done."  Yeah, right.  In reality I do not know how far I have yet to go. 
A year ago, I thought I was almost done.  WRONG!  The third year of my widowhood was about a lot of releasing. I thought I was pretty well through with that, but I was not.  I released almost all of Tom's belongings.  I released a lot of emotion.  I started a few new adventures.  And I dealt with a health setback and wrestled with some changes that I did not want to embrace.  All in all, I did A LOT of big emotional work.  It really shouldn't be a surprise that my heart went on the fritz.  Tom's loss literally and figuratively broke my heart.  I have to release the old, with love, in order to build the new.  I cannot live in the past, as much as I might like to.  I must and I want to move forward.  When I look back, I am amazed that I have survived it.  2017 was a transition year of letting go (or in some cases, beginning to let go) of that which had been weighing me down.  It has been hard work.  But what I can say, which surprises me to no end, is that I am happy with my life as it stands right now.  It isn't exactly what I want it to be, and is not the future that I hope to build.  But I am happy, or perhaps content is a better word, more than I have been in a long, long time.  I still miss Tom and wish he were still here.  And I will continue to talk about him.  Love never dies.

2018 is only 30 hours away.  I am rapidly approaching the third anniversary of Tom's death.  The next month will not be easy.  It is packed with too many losses and very painful memories.  I trust that 2018 will be a year of transmutation and perhaps even transformation.  

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Yesterday I ran my finger over Tom's car now covered with ash from the conflagration so close by.  As I looked at my finger I realized that the ash on it is all that is left of people's hopes, dreams and lifetimes of work, just as Tom's car is a physical representation of all that is left of his life.  Except.  Except that the memories can never be burned away, they always remain.  If I had one small piece of advice for those who are facing the devastation of losing their homes and for some, their family members as well, is to cherish the memories.  Nothing can erase those.  The physical things that are the gateway to the recollections are gone, and that is painful, something to be mourned. The objects, be they pictures, knick knacks, a piece of jewelry, a handwritten note or a car, hold the energy of the people who used them.  I have kept Tom's car because every time I sit in it, as I press back against the seat, I feel the shape of his body there.  It seems as if I am receiving a big Tom hug.  As I accelerate up the hill, it feels as if I am flying with him.  That car which holds such precious remembrances is now covered with the ashes of other peoples lives. It is sad, yet fitting.

The fires in Sonoma and Napa, and elsewhere, have had a traumatic impact in all of those in Northern California.  It seems everyone knows someone who was evacuated or lost their home or place of business.  And if they didn't, the toxic smoke in the air which has covered the landscape has been a constant reminder.  The news stations covered the fire 24/7 for the first 48 hours.  It is all anyone talks about here.  It has altered our collective psyches.  I live in one of the most affluent counties in the country and I have seen a tremendous outpouring of support.  I have also seen demonstrations of privilege--people who believe that they should not be inconvenienced by others' misfortune.  The fact that those people cannot see past their own lives and needs is disheartening.  I can only focus on those who have wanted to help.  What I hope is that they realize that the recovery process is long and difficult, that the victims won't just "get over it."  It is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take a village and several years to rebuild.  I should know.

Monday, May 1, 2017

This is My Life Now

This morning as I was putzing around the kitchen the thought came to me.  "This is my life now."  And for the first time, there was no weeping and gnashing of teeth about it.  There was no fight against the reality, no resistance.  There was nothing but simple acceptance, a surrender of sorts. 

So what does "this is my life now" mean?  It means I am now the solo driving force of my future.  Everything, and I mean everything, depends upon me. I am the only one in charge of what my life  will be.  It sucks.  And I accept it.  I don't like it one little bit.  I've been in this position before, in the years BT (before Tom).  I didn't like it much then either.  I loved being married.  There is a difference now though.  BT there was an emptiness in my soul, in my very being.  AT (after Tom) there is an emptiness but I'm not sure how to describe it.  My heart is still filled with our love and it will always be.  Love doesn't die.  There is definitely a hole in my daily life, the part of being a couple and doing daily life together.  I miss him terribly.  While it is always at the back of my mind, I do not constantly think about him. Since he died our friends and his friends have embraced me, reached out to me, included me in their lives, supported me.  We all were trying to hold on to our old life together.  And as time has gone on, we have all loosened the bond, as would be expected.  While I still want to hold on to my old life, I cannot.  I must release it so that I can build a new life.  Our friends and our memories will ALWAYS be a part of who I am, a very treasured part. And I'm not letting those precious people out of my life, just letting the relationships evolve and redefine themselves. The void I feel is that the our life together is no longer and my new life is not yet "here".  I'm in the hall between the two.  And I am not yet sure what the new life is going to be.  I am free to create that life, to expand my circle of friends and my experiences, to rediscover who I am and who I want to be.  It is exciting and scary and overwhelming.  I most likely have another three decades on this planet and I am not going to spend it being miserable!

Please do not think for a moment that I will not continue to talk about Tom.  His impact on my life and on the lives of others is huge and his memory will not fade or be erased.  I will still celebrate him, honor him, talk about him  and I hope that you will do the same.  He is very much a part of me and always will be.

I am emerging from two years of heavy mourning.  It has taken it toll on me, body, mind and spirit.  I have put everything I have into recovering from this.  It has been brutal.  But I am feeling like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon.  There are times I must rest and let my wings dry before I can fly again.  But I will fly again.  I will.

This is my life now.  And this is what I'm going to be.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

One Thousand Days

I woke up today feeling "off".  Sad.  Missing Tom.  In fact, I've had short bouts of "missing" lately.  I don't really know why.  For the most part I am doing well.  I'm moving through "The Great Purge of 2017".  I've started doing a big clean out of stuff, letting go of stuff.  Almost all of Tom's clothes are gone, with the exception of the few things I'm keeping.  I cleanout out the file cabinet, stocked full of old memories and papers--the paperwork from purchasing our house twenty years ago, the receipts from all of the cars we ever owned, old medical records, warranties for appliances we no longer have and the odd picture and several cards.  I even found a birthday card from my mom with the $5 still in it. That's some big stuff.  The house is starting to feel lighter and brighter, and a little empty.

In the car on the way to a meeting this morning, a deep wave of sadness came over me, and a few tears.  I don't cry much anymore.  I don't know why today.  And then I realized--it has been 1,000 days since Tom received his diagnosis.  Why is 1,000 days so profound?  His doctor, when asked, said that the average life expectancy with his diagnosis and pathology was three years, about 1,000 days.  In those early days after his diagnosis, while still coming to terms what it all meant, and while we were on the roller coaster of emotions that came with the next round of tests and treatment decisions, I thought to myself, I will have a 1,000 more days with him.  When we had to wait 10 days for new information, I would think "that's 1% of the time we have left together."  It was like having a count down clock in my head.  And I didn't want to rush time one minute.  The only thing I was hoping to rush was getting Tom better and putting the nightmare of appendix cancer behind us, going back to normal.  I just wanted normal.  I've wanted it for 1,000 days.  I still want it.  Now should be the time I would say goodbye if what the doctor told us was true.  Instead I have spent the last twenty-six months surviving the most traumatic experience of my life, learning to live without my beloved.  All that is left is love, and memories.

I was given copies of great illustrations bymariondrew which are spot on. This truly shows how it feels. 

As the 1,000 days have passed, this illustrates how much grief I still carry around, and will continue to, perhaps for the rest of my life.  Hopefully at some point it will fit in to a small coin purse. I wonder how many more 1,000 days that will take?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Third One: Food, Candles and Music

Today is that lovely day every year where everyone is supposed to declare their undying love and the world seems unnaturally full of couples.  If you're single, or divorced, or widowed and not in a romantic relationship, it can be a day of hell, that special day where you'd rather light yourself on fire than look around you.  Truth be told, there are lots of people that just don't care about the day.  I'm rather ambivalent about it.  I spent many years in one relationship or another.  I've also spent many years not in a relationship and wishing I was in one.  The last three years (or my first three of widowhood) have been a special sort of purgatory--I've had all sorts of emotions about it.

The first year, Valentine's Day fell just 18 short days after Tom died.  I was numb, barely functioning.  I had purchased a card early that year, it was a great card, one I knew he would love, but I don't remember what it said.  I put that card in with him when he was cremated.  My bestie and I went to the Veteran's Home to dance with the vets because Tom's friend and drum teacher had asked for ladies to visit.  I could barely function but my bestie danced some and it seemed like a good idea to reach out and give something back on such a day.

The second year, the members of my spousal loss bereavement support group planned our monthly potluck dinner for that day.  I brought cupcakes and made toppers that had the names of each of our spouses on them.  It was a gracious safe way to spend, what for most of us, was our second holiday without our spouses.  I felt grateful to have something to do which honored the day and the love.

The third year, this year, most people expect (as do I) that I would be "over it".  It is also a week day which changes the dynamic.  I decided last week that I wasn't going to make a big deal about the day, I wasn't going to focus on what others had and I no longer have.  (And truly I am very happy for those that are part of a loving relationship--shout your joy and happiness to the universe, love should always be celebrated).  I made a plan to have dinner with Tom.  Yes, I know that sounds creepy, but really it isn't.  So I bought two filets and planned to make a nice meal.  I lit all the candles in the house and put on music, specifically the play list of songs that relate directly to Tom, mainly songs that his band, RuMoRs, covered.  I wanted this evening to be spent focusing on our relationship, our marriage, and our love.  Even though he is no longer present, our love very much continues. 

So I turn on the music and hit the "Tom" playlist.  The first song up is "Crying" by Roy Orbison.  That should have been a clue of things to come.  That song wasn't even on the play list.  For that matter I didn't even know that song was on my phone.

I had dinner listening to his music, smiling and crying.  Big surprise, huh?  It was to me.  Every song that meant something to us was on that play list.  The tears flowed, but not ugly, snotty tears.  Different tears.  I was able to sit and be with my feelings--the happiness and the sadness and the gratitude.  It was cleansing.  As I sat at the dinner table, in my spot (which I no longer sit at, I've claimed Tom's spot), I enjoyed a good meal--you know that Tom would be all over that!  And I cried.  Before I knew it, I had a dog in my lap licking away my tears (or just trying to get closer to the steak, I'm not sure which).  And then this song played:

It was the music for our first dance at our wedding.  Whenever a song played that RuMoRs covered, I  would smile and sing along--I know them all so well having run the board for so many gigs.  And we played a few gigs on Valentine's Day too. One year at a Valentine's Day gig, each male member of the band sang a song dedicated to his wife.  Tom sang "Color My World."  It's impossible to be sad when there's a RuMoRs song in the air.  I can see him sitting on his throne behind the kit, with a smile on his face, be-bopping along to whatever he was playing.  He LOVED to play and it brought him such joy.  I jumped up and danced a few times too.

I was surprised by the emotion today.  I've done some really big stuff lately in my journey to move forward.  I've been forward focused.  So I didn't expect the tears.  One thing I've learned about mourning is to expect the unexpected.  It was important to me to have this Valentine's Day dinner with Tom.  As my grief counselor said, this may very well be the last Valentine's Day dinner with him.  Next year I may be with someone new.  From her mouth to god's ear.

And Tom did not disappoint.  He sent a Valentine my way today: