Second Year – Now What?

 

rear-view-mirror“If you don’t know where you’re going – any road will get you there” Lewis Carroll

It just got real. The first year is over — now what? As if the first months and weeks after your loved one dies weren’t enough of a tsunami, the waves of the next one can flatten you. The reality of loss stands even starker after the fog clears of the first year. And the stabbing knowledge that they are never, ever coming back is even more acute; more glaring in everything you do.

Welcome to the real — After.

You are at ground zero. Like it or not, life created a new you and only you can decide what you’re going to do about it. Not gonna lie – sometimes all this change and reinvention completely sucks. Boy, do I know. But there’s only one way to go and that’s forward. Sometimes, people won’t understand your choices; sometimes even you won’t. Hey, that’s life – and you have a right to your own stamp on it. Often family or old friends may not understand the new you. Maybe they are as afraid of your relationships running on different tracks, apart from the status quo and that’s understandable. Change, as we know well – is scary.  But life has done a teensy makeover on you, (read ‘mammoth’) propping you up in a brand new world. You alone will figure out how to navigate it. Continue reading

#reality check

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Once upon a time, I was a flirty, social butterfly. Yeah, I can hardly picture it either. But back in the day, Saturday nights rarely found me at home. In that seemingly ancient time, I was post-nesting mama of three — and pre-married again. Happy wanderlust and a dancing queen persona was the fallout of sudden singlehood and ended when a really neat guy succeeded in, once again, getting me to the altar. When your nearly perfect match shows up with love as a big as an ocean liner, you say yes – and never look back.

But in a way, I was back – into the world of couple dinners, grandparental team babysitting nights, movies for four and parties for many and I was more than happy. I never really was the blithe divorcee anyway. (‘blithe’…seriously?) I had returned to where I began, peacefully curled up with hubby at home. And I was content.

That’s not to say I didn’t yearn for a night alone sometimes. Oh, there were dinners with a girlfriend or an adult ed class but I admit I did look forward to the occasional business trip that left me solo for a night or two. Having our own business, I could probably count on one hand when that actually happened. Don’t get me wrong; I loved my guy madly and when he was AWOL for a night, I missed him next to me. Still, those few nights I was a loner I ate what he hated, coveted the remote and happily watched chick flicks. Now every night is single night and whatever enthusiasm it used to hold, left the building when he did. They always say, ‘be careful what you pray for….’ Duh. Continue reading

Thanks…for the memories

memory_box-800x533-jpg-pagespeed-ce-udtj0ynkc8“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most space in your heart.”

Ah, the little things. The memories that are tucked up in your brain just waiting to sneak out at the smallest moments. People say the best thing about memories is making them; the next is remembering them. These days, it’s not always easy.  In fact, sometimes even a little remembrance can knock the wind out of me. Memory lane might be the hardest road to travel, even when it’s only to the grocery store.

I may have forgotten to mention that I hate grocery shopping.  But I have to eat so I ran to pick up a few things yesterday and as I was mindlessly sliding my credit card, a picture flashed in my mind. It was an image of my husband always whipping out his card before my hand even opened in my purse. I don’t know why – it all came out of the same account, but it was just a habit like so many others. Caught in that silly reverie, I almost missed the elderly man in front of me teasing his equally elderly wife, winking at me as he did, about her always needing ‘one more thing’ and keeping him waiting. As the two exchanged good-natured comments, I remembered joking with my husband that ‘one day we’ll be them’. them’.

That would be a no. Continue reading

It is . . . what it is.

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I took this photo on the balcony of a cruise ship bound for Bermuda. That trip was not only our first cruise (courtesy of a travel writing gig) but the only time since our honeymoon we actually had an entire week away together. As I sat outside our room, in the wee hours of the morning, I remember feeling completely at peace, awash in the serenity that a magical sunrise over a eternal ocean can bring. It was a moment of bliss that would come back to my mind many times after my world was split in half less than two years later.

I’ve never asked ‘why me’ about anything. Maybe I believe in karma, the capriciousness of the universe or just, hey, that who am I in this galaxy’s scheme of things? With all the horrendous things that happen every day in this world, how could I possibly think I was singled out for anything? Like it or not, stuff happens in this life without our permission.

When I was 26, my younger brother died suddenly of leukemia. He was 3 weeks shy of 20 years old and even his doctors were shocked. His death brought an unexpected tsunami of pain and disbelief that rocked my and my siblings world. It nearly destroyed my parents. Continue reading

“You Are You. Now isn’t that pleasant.”

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Dr. Seuss always nails it.

You are YOU — just a wee bit different than you were ‘before’.  The first time you check  the “widow” status on a form, have to change your emergency contact or start to say ‘honey, I’m home’ and realized no one is there, you are a different you. And it sucks. But it’s life now. Whether it happened with no warning or after months of dread, the title ‘widow’ is as foreign as if you shucked your identity for the Witness Protection Program. You feel  like you woke up on another planet — without rocket re-entry to your old life. This is it.

My husband is gone almost 10 months. I should be used to the title but ‘widow’ still doesn’t compute. To totally absorb it, means I need to accept the basic fact that my husband died and is never coming back. Before you think I’ve lost it entirely, of course I know he’s gone. I know he’s not just on a business trip; he’s not on a road trip. I get it.  I’m the one who found him that fateful night.

Cancer perched on the sidelines of every facet of our lives for years. Often sneaky, even silent, sometimes we ‘almost’ forgot it was even there. There were more emergent battles to fight. Debilitating treatment side-effects that dogged him constantly that we both knew would never leave. But sometimes even the most upsetting can be business as usual when you’re immersed in the day to day and you almost forget the gorilla waiting to pounce.  Continue reading

Life ISN’T a Box of Chocolates . . .

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Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, “Why me?” Then a voice answers, “Nothing personal . . . your name just happened to come up.”     Charlie Brown

Life just IS. At times, it can be sweet, surprising (the good kind) and rewarding. Other times, the sucky ones, we get gobsmacked with bitter taste or whopping sick from that 365 variety box of life. Unfortunately, it’s those we remember most. Yet, somehow, we still keep reaching for the next piece — and the next, always hoping for the one with the cherry surprise.

When we get married, we want the whole damn gift-wrapped box of chocolate – every sweet bite we can stuff in our faces. Sometimes, we could nearly eat our way through the whole box before finding the one we THOUGHT was gooey cream actually has the hard, chewy filling. And that one leaves a rotten aftertaste (or a broken crown!)

We got that hard, jaw-breaking piece before the wedding. A cancer diagnosis does that. Optimistic as always, we still decided to go for it, with the unreasonable trust of children. Some would call it naivete or supreme optimism. We just called it love. Continue reading

Four Funerals and a Wedding

Happy couple in their new home concept

Nope, not the Hugh Grant comedy.  Jill Smolowe’s book, Four Funerals and a Wedding, is pretty much anything but comedic. Her book chronicles not only her personal grief journey but how she coped and grew along the way. In one chapter she mentions how her therapist suggested that her grief began on the first day of her husband’s diagnosis. That struck me as pretty profound.  Given that my husband’s diagnosis was levied 3 months before we were even married, I realized it would not be at all surprising that unconscious grief followed us through those years. Even as we lived and loved as fully as we possibly could, we grieved by inches.

How do you measure the knowledge, however much you stash it in the closet or ‘put on a happy face’, that many dreams just won’t come true? No, my mind never went in the direction of Charlie Brown’s Sally who said “She didn’t want to live and threw herself in front of a Zamboni”. It was just that gray leaden feeling, a sense that no matter what your plans, there would always be an expiration date that coexisted with the daily business of living. Where cancer lives, everything becomes more complicated and layered. All of life takes on a different hue. Continue reading