Saturday, May 3, 2014

Inspiration from other widows, hope it helps

I haven't written in this blog in a while because I haven't felt like I needed to. I don't feel like I need to tonight. But after spending a decent amount of time today reading other people's blogs who are going through similar situations, I felt like I was neglecting something that was important to me.

This blog started out as my therapy - a way to get my thoughts out of my heart and onto something else entirely. In the back of my mind I took solace in knowing that somehow I may be making someone else feel less alone. Over the months the necessity of externalizing my feelings became less and less important and I lost sight of one of my main goals - to share my story to help other people. After reading those blogs today I realized several things.

The first thing I realized was that all of the things I've felt are not weird even though I thought they were. Two blogs stuck out to me. The first was a woman who found out her husband had been having an affair. The day after she learned this terrible news he committed suicide. She wrote that instead of getting divorced, she planned a funeral. And yet three years later she is still grieving his loss - adultery or not. The second was gut wrenching. I read every word of this woman's blog through tears. She and her husband had been trying for six months to get pregnant. They finally did. And then ten days after they learned the happy news, he passed away in his sleep from a heart complication. The death was eerily similar to Jon's and the way she handled it, as described in her blog, was too. But her path was so different. She spent the hardest part of her journey being pregnant with a child who would never know her father. She went to birthing classes with her sister instead of her husband. She had to battle with the fatigue of grief on top of the fatigue of pregnancy and then, one day, she had to have that little girl without him by her side and raise that child as a single parent.

Her story brought me to where I am tonight. The frustration. Not too long ago I had a partner to share all of life's burdens with me. My oldest daughter has been preparing for a play for months. The play finally went off this weekend and it was wonderful. But getting to this weekend has been a flurry of rushed evenings with peanut butter and jelly sandwich dinners. My youngest plays hockey and has practices and games constantly. My middle has been battling grief the hardest and has been regularly seeing a therapist. And I work full time in a career that doesn't lend well to bending. What does all this equal? One very stretched thin mom, that's what. And it wasn't until reading these two blogs that I remembered I was pissed. I had forgotten that ten months ago Jon would have shared in the responsibility. He would have coordinated with me on a daily basis. Who's picking up who? Who is going to the theater and who is going to hockey? Who will go to the honors ceremony at the end of the grading period at school? Who will stay home when one of them is sick? These questions used to be questions. Now they have a very simple and maddening answer. Me. Me. Me. Me. 

But I forgot that made me mad and I forgot because I've gotten used to it. That's a wonderful thing. It's a wonderful feeling. But it's also wretched. I know I haven't forgotten him and all he did for our family. My friends know I haven't forgotten. My family knows I haven't forgotten. But I did, to an extent. I became OK with his absence. I'm not remorseful that I have. I'm glad I have and I know he would be too. But it's another of the reasons I've been reluctant to blog. What does it look like to strangers that in less than a year I have found a way to live my life without constant misery? Sure there are moments. Tonight at my oldest daughter's play, I missed him. I missed him because I know he would have been proud. I missed him more because I know we would have made countless inappropriate comments before, during and after the show. Because the ride home would have been a flurry of jokes we all would have laughed at. Because I sat there without his hand to hold when my eyes teared up with pride. Because he wasn't there to slap me out of my mom overreaction that my little girl isn't a little girl. But I only thought about those things for a second before I found a seat next to parents I knew and enjoyed some of those things with them instead. I didn't just get through it, I enjoyed it. How do you explain that to people who think you should still be in shambles?

I want to talk about the shambles I'm still in, because that's still there. But I also want to talk about why I'm not in shambles. I'll lede with the good.

One more reason I haven't blogged is because I've been dating. My friends and family know this and are happy I am. HIS friends and family don't know and I didn't want them to. I'm alright with them knowing now. Dating again was never a question of if for me. It has always been a question of when. It lingered in the back of my mind within just days of Jon's death. I was 30. Of course I'd date again. But on top of that, he told me to. He literally, on more than one occasion, told me that if this ever happened (and he morbidly assured me it would) that I find a way to find happiness again. I think I started dating sooner than I would have had he not told me because I'm trying to fulfill a promise to him in some way. He wants me to be happy. So I ventured into that world with blind ambition that it would be all sunshine and rainbows. Oh, how wrong I was. I met guys who were out for only one thing. Jerks. I met guys who were out and out crazy. I met guys who were alright, but just not for me. I met guys who were great, but who freaked out when they found out I had three kids. Another freaked out when I told him about Jon. Yet another thought the world of me but didn't want the things I wanted. Dinners, drinks, cups of coffee. These are the things that have comprised my dating experience thus far and it hasn't been pretty. And, admittedly, these categories each contain one guy, not guys. I'm not that busy! But somewhere around a month and half ago I stopped caring. I stopped analyzing things over said cups of coffee. I decided, and I couldn't tell you at what point I decided it, that it didn't matter what happened after the cup of joe. Instead I figured, hey, just have fun. I don't know where that attitude will get me, but I can say, I have found myself again. Not through companionship like I had been searching for, but by just letting go of expectations and having fun. So far, that seems to be serving me well. I have more motivation. I smile more. I laugh more. I spend more quality time with my kids. And, I think, it's making this dating fiasco quite a bit more enjoyable.   I have never been happier or felt fuller than I have for the past few weeks. And that came not because I had someone on my arm, but because I could have someone on my arm if I wanted to, but I don't need them there.

And now for the lingering bad. Fucking panic attacks. I can be having the best day in the world. I can start off happy and laughing. I can feel like a million bucks. But regardless, I can still find myself in the throws of anxiety, trying to breathe, trying to push the panic from my thoughts, pacing, crying. And the shit kicker of it all is, I have no earthly idea what triggers it. People close to me have their theories. Memories they say. One person explained to me that something could trigger a memory without me even knowing it and that's what gets me going. I don't think so. I think it's much simpler than that. When I was still in the worst part of my grief I had several panic attacks. I would flash back to the night Jon died and I would remember every agonizing detail of that night. I would find myself short of breath, clutching my chest because it felt like it was collapsing. It felt like I was having a heart attack. It felt like I was going to die. Those attacks were the most terrifying things I had ever experienced. So my theory is, every time I get a weird tinge of pain - it can be the start of a headache, the jitters from too much coffee or even a sore chest from working out - I think it's happening again. That's when I think my mind takes over and things get out of control from there. My therapist told me once that people who have had panic attacks will probably have them for the rest of their lives. That's because they fear going through them so when something happens that seem like it could be the start of one, it turns into one. I'm trying to teach myself to talk myself off that ledge. 

There have been days when an ambulance soars past me and suddenly I'm right back to that horrible night. In those moments, I can't stop the flood of painful memories. The noises Jon made while he was gasping for breath. The jolt that washed over me as I rushed out of bed, phone in hand, after him. The shaking of my hands as I dialed 911. The sound of the voice on the other end of the phone walking me through what to do. The call to his parents. The call to my friends. The ambulance ride to the hospital. The words I dreaded hearing. All of it comes crashing down on me. That doesn't give me a panic attack, but one cup of coffee too many does. A hangover. A sore stomach. A headache. Those give me panic attacks. I am convinced that I have moved passed emotional triggers and am now just battling physical ones. 

So that brings me back to why I'm writing this in the first place. There are people I don't want to read this. Jon's family, first and foremost. I miss them so much it hurts. I watch his nephew grow through Facebook photos and see them all interacting with each other the way they once interacted with me and now don't and it hurts. I don't want them to think I've moved on because then I may really lose them. There's the person I'm seeing at the moment. I don't know if that will go anywhere or not, but I worry reading this would be, bad pun aside, a nail in the coffin for whatever chance there is. But I don't care. I'm not doing this for myself. I'm doing it because there has to be some sense out of what horrible thing our family endured. Somewhere someone will read this and take at least some comfort. I can't give anyone the answers to grief. I can't tell them what to do or when to do it. We all move at different speeds and in different ways. But I can serve as a reminder that shit happens and people move on. I'll never stop loving Jon. I will love him until the day I die. I will remember him forever and my kids will remember him forever. But we will still lead wonderful lives. My life with Jon is over. I didn't want it to be over, but it is. I can't change that and looking back wishing for it to be different will only keep me from happiness. All I can do is move forward and I have become very good at doing that. I embrace the new life I have. I look forward to the future and the possibilities it has. And I will keep doing that until the day comes when I have someone to share that with. And when that does happen, I'll start yet another chapter in my life. No one should have to go through what I and so many others in this situation have gone through, but it's not the end of the world. And I promise you, whoever may read this trying to navigate this unfamiliar world, people like us will be better and stronger for it. We were chosen for a reason. That may seem really shitty, it sure does to me, but the world doesn't give you more than you can handle. We are special people charged with showing the rest of the world how important it is to live. We have a finite time on this earth. We'd better damn well make the best of it.

My promise to myself and anyone reading this tonight is to not lag on writing anymore. I have a purpose, and I intend to fill it.

To you Jon, I'm still working on that promise. To some extent I've fulfilled it. You wanted me to be happy. I am happy. I miss you, but I'm happy. Perhaps happier than I knew I could be. Not because you're gone, but because you were here.

Here's to the next chapter and all the chapters to come.