A Jumble of Emotions

On this Maundy Thursday, I am a jumble of emotions. I found a photo that sums that up quite well. I posted that photo from Pieces of Soul on Facebook that said:

“Please know that I am trying the best I can to push myself through the pain, the fatigue, the fog, the insomnia, the guilt, the judgement, and particularly through the fear.” That sums it up quite well along with some funny times and some lovely memories.

The pain continues to come in waves and makes for some hard days. This week I have been working more on paperwork and calls of things that have to be resolved by me, a surviving spouse.  It is hard since these are things that Kirk and I did together and planned for our long-term future. It is hard to continue to realize that is not to be.

Thankfully I am sleeping better than I had been and that is helping with fatigue.  Still I seem to need more sleep that I used to and am still tired in the mornings. I am dreaming more now so the sleep is better and for that I am thankful. I am also dealing with emotional fatigue and the weight of this loss. Some days I can handle that and other days I can’t.

The fog of my brain seems to be lifting and that is good and bad. I am moving out of the shock and having to confront this loss head-on. That is very painful but part of the grieving process. The first week, I could barely answer someone when they asked me a question. I would just stare blankly at people. Now, I can answer, sometimes with crying and sometimes not. So, this is improving.

I still sometimes have insomnia but it isn’t as frequent now.  That is good since I don’t function well without a good night’s sleep.  I still usually wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Sometimes I can easily go back to sleep and other times it is difficult. So, I will then think of all kinds of things — a fun memory, how sad I am, our loss, and so much more.

Guilt is starting to fester for me now and I don’t like it. I continue to wish that I could have done more for him that morning in November. I feel bad that I didn’t call 911 sooner, and wonder if I could have changed something, would he still be here?  I know that a lot of professionals tried to revive him and couldn’t, so I need to have peace with what I did do. Still, the guilt is there.

Judgement is not something I have been feeling yet, other than of myself and what signs I should have seen in him that we could have looked into. Still, I know that he is in a much better place and is no longer having any issues. He is at peace and is in a place of real and unconditional love and grace. And that is a comfort for me.

As far as fear, that is a very real feeling that I am trying to keep under control. Still, many days my fears and worries come up. I worry that something will happen to me and I worry that something will happen to our son. I so want to see him grow into a man, to graduate from high school, to have an amazing life and family of his own. I just hate that his dad won’t be here for those milestones.

It is interesting after a sudden death, the mind plays tricks on you that your fate will be the same. I hope and pray that will not be the case for us, but who knows. In addition, I worry that I cannot handle all of this on my own. I had a team-mate and life partner to go through it all and now he is gone. I am trying and continue to do so, but know I am lacking in so many ways. I just have to make peace with what I can do and try each day to do something.

Along with all of this, our son and I continue to talk, share memories of his dad, laugh about them, laugh about new things, and enjoy being together. The fact that we have each other is such a blessing. And, we have family and friends who have helped us so very much with prayers, with being there, with lunches out, with movies, with chatting, with gifts, and with support. Despite our pain, we are blessed.

Tonight we will be at church for our Maundy Thursday service where we will celebrate the Lord’s Last Supper. On the night he was betrayed, he broke break and shared it with his disciples. They then drank wine together.

At our service, we will partake of the bread and wine together. We will talk about Holy Week and the terrible things that Jesus suffered before his death and resurrection. We will be reminded that he didn’t want this fate but took it on anyway. Talk about love.

On Friday, we will listen to his last words on the cross, and then imagine his death and burial. The church will get dark and everyone will leave quietly and reflect on Good Friday.  And, on Sunday, we will celebrate his triumph.  We have a sunrise service at a local marina that I enjoy attending. The beauty of nature with the beauty of Easter is an amazing blessing.

This year, my love is in Heaven to celebrate this Easter morning miracle. I cry happy tears just thinking about it. And, I expect tears to flow over the next few days. I look forward to singing the amazing songs and remember the importance of them all. I know I will be emotional for this first Easter without Kirk, so I am trying to prepare. Still, I will cry as I need to.

Each Easter, we dressed up and took plenty of pictures. I am so very thankful that we did. This weekend with family and friends, we will take more photos.  And, I expect to have lovely memories with them, have some laughs with loved ones, enjoy those moments together, and live life to the fullest.

May those of you also grieving this Holy Week have hope for brighter days. May you have peace along with the pain. May you know the promise of Easter and life everlasting.  And, may you have love along with the loss.

A Better Day

After a very hard week last week, today is looking better for me. And yesterday was a pretty good day as well. I am thankful to be able to have some light with all of the darkness.  It is very welcome after these last four months/19 weeks that have changed our lives so much.

Yesterday, it poured rain for a while, and then the sun came out. And, it is out again today. Well, with clouds right now, but it is still peaking through.  And that is how I feel today — more happiness seems to be peaking through as well.

After dropping off Ian at school, I walked around our neighborhood for a little while. It was so helpful to do that.  During my walk, I heard birds chirping, saw the flowers in bloom, and noticed trees continuing to bud. I have to be careful with all of this since I have quite a few outdoor allergies, but it was nice to be in nature that is coming back to life again.

I too am trying to do that for myself and for our son. I still have bad days and expect to for quite a while, but I am also having some good ones.  And, I am trying to not feel guilty for that.  Sometimes, I do feel guilty and other times I do not.

I still miss my love with every fiber of my being but it has been sinking in that I have to continue on without him. That has been a very hard realization to come to and then try to live with.  After 20 years together, his absence has gutted me in many ways.  But, since we have our son who is still a boy, I have to use all of my strength, cling to my faith, and carry on.

Both of us still want him here with us.  Both of us loved to laugh with him, to listen to him tell jokes and be silly, to share meals, to pray together, and to have our long weekend chats before starting the day.  But for reasons I still do not understand, that wasn’t to be.

Ian and I both are finding things to keep us busy and keep us motivated. That is helping as well. Still that grief and loss are always there.  I just suppose we are trying to find a way each day to live with it, deal with whatever our feelings are, feel them, and figure out a way to carry on.

As you know from my writings last week, I didn’t know how to move on last week.  I just couldn’t.  And I was okay with that.  At the time, I had to wallow and be sad.  I had to write about it, cry tears, scream, and let it out.  And, surprisingly, that day actually helped me.

Right now I feel like I have little control over my emotions and how I am feeling.  Some days are awful and some days are really good and others are a combination. This morning I woke up thinking, I wonder what we will be doing today.  So that was a sign to me that today would be a good day.

But tomorrow could be awful again.  Thus the waves continue of grief, of pain, of loss, of sorrow, of sadness, of anger, and of life never being the same again.  Along with these are waves of happiness, of a special memory, of a favorite quote or joke that was told, of a picture with smiles and hugs, and special chats with our boy.

The Lenten season was very special to the two of us.  We met each other during that time frame and fell in love. It was a quick courtship but one that both of us knew was destined to be.  We were married later that year and had a wonderful life together.  So, this time is bittersweet.

Easter too has always been very special. I know this year will be hard but I am trying to remember the previous Easter celebrations, look at our photos, and be thankful for the time that we had together.

I know I will cry some but I hope to also laugh and enjoy the time with my family and friends who are still with us.  And I hope that we can take time to remember those we lost. For they enriched our lives and were quite special.

A few things I am thankful for today:

  • A lovely sunrise through the clouds
  • Chatting with Ian on the way to school
  • A quick walk around our neighborhood
  • The loud chirping of birds
  • The vibrant colors of tulips
  • The hundreds of photos that I have taken over the years
  • Our family vacation last summer
  • Books that occupy my mind for a while
  • Favorite songs
  • My coloring book of Bible verses
  • My family and friends
  • My faith

And, this verse which has been hard to read recently.  Deep down though, I know it to be a promise from the Lord.  Jeremiah 29:11 was in a Michael W. Smith song that Kirk and I used to listen to — a lot.  Each time I heard it, it touched me and made me realize that all will be okay.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

May this comfort all of us who are grieving and lost.  May it encourage us.  May we have good days along with the bad.

The Grief Goes On…

Four months ago this week, we lost the man who I was privileged to call my husband.  In some ways, it seems like it has been longer than that. In others, it has moved ahead quickly with a big hole in our lives. And most of all, our lives will never be the same.

Yesterday, I read a blog about grief. The author shared that his father died on a Saturday morning, so that day of the week would never again be the same for him. That is how it has been for me each Monday since Kirk’s passing. This author also mentioned that after such a loss, you see things in terms of before and after the event. I have found that to be true.

I can hold it together for much of the week, but each Monday morning, I tend to relive what happened, often in bits and pieces. The health crisis that he was in, calling 911, watching the police officers do CPR prior to the firemen and paramedics getting to our house and then taking over, and working on him until they took him in an ambulance to the hospital.

My parents then arrived at our house and Ian woke up.  We all then went to the hospital hoping and praying that he would be okay.  When we arrived, they put us in a side room which would have had me concerned if I wasn’t in such shock.  A nurse, a doctor, and a family liaison then came in and told us that although his heart had restarted a few times, it didn’t stay pumping and that he had died.

We screamed and cried and were in deep shock. I couldn’t process this. How is it possible? How could this happen?  He should have woken up and been okay.  We just had laughed and talked the night before going to bed.  We had just had a great and Happy Thanksgiving weekend with our family and friends.  We had just been enjoying our life.

After receiving this shock, I went to see him.  It looked like my love but didn’t feel like him.  He was cold to the touch. That was such a bizarre feeling that I will never forget.   He was always warm when I held his hand or received a hug. I knew physically that he was gone but my brain couldn’t begin to process it.

I then went back to check on our son to see how he was doing.  Our pastor was there as well and that was a great comfort.  The pastor went with me the second time I went to see Kirk and prayed for him and for us.  I looked at him and willed him to wake up, I begged God to bring him back, but sadly, that was not to be.  For some reason that I don’t yet understand, it was his time to go.

I asked the nurse for his wedding band and she took it off his hand. I have been wearing it every day since. This brings me some comfort to have a part of something that was precious to him — us and our marriage and our life together.  That is so deeply precious to me as well.

After receiving the ring, I said goodbye and then went back to check on our son who was still in shock. My parents had started reaching out to our family and friends to give them the news. I was also still in shock. They suggested going to have breakfast so we left and I tried to eat. I couldn’t process answers to questions from my mom. I was numb and lost and so deeply sad. .

Now, I wish I had stayed longer with Kirk at the hospital, but all I could think of was to be with Ian and try to be strong for him and share in his grief and loss. I have asked Kirk to forgive me for leaving him when I did. I am finding comfort in knowing that he was already in Heaven and his body was simply a shell that I could say goodbye to.

We spent the rest of the day at our house.  My brother and sister also arrived from out-of-town. It was so good to see them and share our memories. Later someone went to get food from a favorite restaurant. As we were together, I was able to eat. We talked, we cried, and we shared good times we had just had with Kirk. We grieved together and all tried to support Ian.

One of Kirk’s brothers and wife came over later to see us. Many of his family lives out-of-town and they were all there for the memorial service. Seeing them that Monday meant the world to me. We were all shocked and saddened to lose this man who meant so much to us. We didn’t really know what to say but it was helpful to just be together.

That evening, Ian’s best friend and his mother came to see us, had made us a meal, and loaned us some DVDs. It was great to see them and especially nice for Ian. Since then, we regularly see them, go to the park, have meals and watch movies together. And, the boys play together, talk and laugh, which means the world to me.

That week we were also visited by other friends, neighbors, church members, and the pastor who performed our wedding and gave us such a special message as we started our life together. We also received text messages, notes on Facebook, emails, and phone calls. These loved ones prayed with us and shared stories with us.

We are so very fortunate to have such a great support system to help us through this. People cooked us food or delivered it from our favorite restaurants. Others gave us gift cards, sympathy cards, and Christmas cards. Our friends and family have gone above and beyond for us and we are so very thankful for that.

I was married to Kirk for 20 years. Last week, we visited clients that he had worked with long before he met me.  It was nice to share stories with them about him, to hear what he meant to them, and to cry together. It has rocked them as well as my family.

That week, I slept well at our hotel and that was great. It felt good to be busy and have some purpose. I have been floundering for a while. Still, there was time to share the grief and acknowledge that it is a part of our lives. We also prayed together and also were able to laugh. So life was going on as well as the grief.

All of us will be touched one day by the loss of a loved one. Sharing that with others makes that burden more bearable. When you have loved and lost, the grief does go on.  But so does life, so we try to have good times and find the positive things that we can enjoy. At times, I feel guilty that we are moving forward, but I have to realize that is what Kirk would want for us.  He always wanted the best for us and I cherish that.

One of the things Kirk would say with some laughter is that Heaven wasn’t ready for him and hell wouldn’t take him. That Monday in late November, Heaven was ready for him. Just we who loved him were not ready. As I said earlier in this piece, I still don’t know the reason but am trying to live with the new normal.

Our son has his entire life ahead of him so I want to share that with him and celebrate it. We remember and talk about his dad. I tell him stories of times with his dad throughout his young life. And we try to carry out the plans and ideas that he’d had for our family with some adjustments.

If you are grieving, I hope and pray that you have a support system, a faith, and the knowledge that you will be reunited with your loved one in the future. That is what I believe and it helps in the hardest of times. Blessings to you and yours.

Darkness and Light

This week in my grief journey, I have experienced both darkness and light.  At times, I have been very down and depressed and negative but I have also been happy, upbeat, and encouraged.

It is very strange to have such extremes nearly every day but that is how it is going for me.  I cannot speak for anyone else, only my journey and that with my son. We are doing the best we can and still have a long journey ahead of us.

At times I am overwhelmed with loss and sadness. I strongly feel the weight of the loss and it is hard to get past it. So, at those times, I wallow, cry, scream, or pray.  Or a combination. I then try to focus on the good in our lives and all the support we have.  Also, I am thankful that my love didn’t suffer when he left us.

Other times, I laugh at a memory, a favorite song, or a photo. My memory of him is long and wonderful. We were by no means a perfect couple but we had a good relationship that was ours. I am thankful every day for that and all of those wonderful years that I had with him. I am also so thankful we had a child.

I still must be in the denial phase since I cannot believe that he is gone. Now that some of the shock is wearing off, I am remembering problems and issues that we’d had and feeling some guilt. I wish I had done a few things differently. I wish I could do a few things over again. I have asked him for forgiveness and have said how much I loved him and still do.

Now, it is time realize that I need to forgive myself. I know that I loved him deeply and with all that I had as he did with me. We also loved our son and were good partners in raising him and teaching him what we wanted to. When I feel bad, I try to focus on that and it helps.

Our son and I often talk about his dad. I try not to overwhelm him with it but do mention funny things his dad did, or a favorite story about the two of them, or how much his dad loved him. We talk that his dad is still with us but in a different place. I know he misses him like I do. He is staying busy with school, homework, his reading and writing, and time with friends and family. And all of that is helping.

There are things to look forward to and I am thankful for those. But every once in a while, my fears creep in that something will happen to me. I keep praying and working to ensure our son and I are okay. Each day includes projects but also time to just be, to cry if needed, to laugh if I feel like it, and just to be present.

This week we went to the Ash Wednesday service at our church. Before that we had a dinner and there was time to visit some couples who I have known since I was a child. That part was great. But the hard part was the Bible verse that states we came from dust and will go back to dust. That hit me so hard since my love was cremated.

The thing I have to remember is that his body may be dust but his spirit and soul are not. I firmly believe that he is in Heaven and that makes me smile. I can imagine him there making friends, having chats, and making everyone laugh. If there are problems or things to repair, I can imagine him helping with that as well.

I can only imagine what his first time must have been like when he arrived. I wonder if he was surprised to be there since it was so sudden. I hope he was told that we are going to be okay and that he could visit some of his loved ones who passed before him. Last summer we watched the I Can Only Imagine movie. It touched all three of us. We cried and talking about it after watching it. I am so glad that we shared that time.

Another thing that hit me hard this week was the death of actor Luke Perry from a massive stroke. He was the same age as my love was when he died. It brought up all of the feelings of the suddenness and wishing I could have done more for him. So I cried a lot that day. I prayed a lot too. But I also spent extra time that day with our son on his homework, talking with him about his day, and being in the moment with him.

Finding the light in the darkness can be a challenge but it is there. I keep praying to continue to find it and move forward, but realize that it is a long process.  After all, when you have loved someone for so long, the feelings don’t just go away with them. There has to be time to heal and figure out a way to live with a different life than what we expected.

Throughout this experience, I have been thinking of my friends and family who have lost loved ones of their own — both before my loss and after. Before it happens, you have no idea how hard it is. You have no idea what someone is going through. Whether you know it is coming or unexpected, when that other person is gone, there is hurt and sorrow.

I think it has helped me have more empathy for others and their grief.  And more desire to want to reach out to those grieving. I try to reach out and pray for others and do my best to comfort them. It is not easy since I am still raw, but there is comfort in bearing one another’s burdens.

My prayer is that we may comfort one another in both the good times and the bad, pray for each other, laugh together, cry together, lift one another up, and be there to listen. I also hope and pray that we will always be loving to each other and treat one another with kindness. After all, we don’t always know how much someone is suffering.

On The Last 90 Days

It is amazing to think it has been three months / 90 days since my love passed away.  Each day since that happened  I have missed him so much. But, also each day, I try to remember our life together and our memories.

I carry on the best I can for myself and our son who I pray has a long life ahead of him. Some days are much harder than others. I had a very hard time getting settled for bed last night. As I have mentioned before, Monday’s are still the worst since that was the day of.

Not only am I wrestling with the loss, but I am also scared of something happening to me, or worrying about things that my love used to do that now fall to me, or having to be both parents for our son, or not being the friend or family member that I want to be to those who have reached out and helped us so much.

Our son and I do miss him. We also very much enjoy talking about him and laughing about our favorite stories and our family jokes. We also like looking at the photos.  Thankfully I took a ton of these throughout our life together. We cry and give each other  comfort.

Still the pain is real and raw.  After all, we had 20 years together. We were together or tried our best to talk every day. It didn’t always happen when he was on business trips, but we did try. We were privileged to have more than 7,300 days together.

As hard as it is right now, I wouldn’t trade that time with him for anything. The cost of true and real love is loss and pain when that love leaves. Those days enriched my life and blessed me in so many ways. I hope it did for him as well.

Last night, I listened to a voice mail from him that I didn’t remember that I had. It was only 14 seconds long but so very special. He had a lovely low voice and could have had a career on the radio or in voice over work. I miss that so very much.

I expected to grow old with him. I expected more time together. I expected one last conversation, but sadly that was not to be. For some reason that I still do not understand, the Lord had something else in mind. I don’t know when or if I ever will.

Right now, I am trying to focus on all the things that have to be taken care of in the aftermath of such a loss. I am figuring out my future, and the future for our son and myself. I have plenty to take care of since my love was the one did so much to help around the house. He was much neater than I was/am. He was the one who took care of the bills and repairs, and so much more.

So each day, I try to do something towards these goals and realize that I will get there. I do feel like I should be doing more but some days, I just want to cry and sit and think about my memories. So, I try to do that, then wipe the tears, and tackle the project, or read, or do some work, or help our son with homework, or watch a favorite program.

Just please do not tell me it is time to get over it. I am not ready since the pain of him no longer being here is still so fresh and raw. I still want to talk with him, feel a hug, share a kiss, laugh with him over a favorite movie, joke, or story. I still want to wake up next to him in the morning. I want to see him at his place on the couch or at the table.

I like to think that I didn’t take him for granted but I think that I did at times. One doesn’t expect a sudden loss like this. We expect instead that we will see each other the next time. We expect to take that vacation in a year and are excited about it. We expect to have a chance to say all that needs to be said.

Thankfully, we had a great few days with the three of us together before this happened.  We took pictures and we loved and laughed together. We didn’t have a knock down drag out fight, but instead had a disagreement that we then apologized for. That in itself is a huge blessing since I don’t have major guilt.

My hope and prayer is for all of us to cherish those we love, to tell one another how much we care and love them, to pray for our loved ones, and to realize that one day we will lose them. I pray that it isn’t devastating or debilitating for us. However, I have to say that there is some of that and it is part of the journey of grief and loss.

Whether we lose a spouse, a child, a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a friend, a cousin, an aunt, an uncle, a co-worker, or other relation, it hurts and life is never the same. My prayer is that we savor and celebrate those relationships while we can. Let’s make the most of our time that we have together.

Let’s not hold grudges or hate inside. Let’s forgive instead. Let’s spend time together as much as we can. Let’s remember to say that we love that other person. Let’s also have those hard discussions on how to run the household and pay the bills and take care of each other.

Let’s discuss the end of life wishes that our loved ones have and that we have. And when we do suffer the loss, let’s remember our loved one fondly. Let’s keep them alive with photos, stories, and memories. Let’s be thankful for the time we had with them. And, let’s always, always love.

To those in our life who have reached out and helped, thank you. Thank you for being there when we have needed it the most. Thanks for your love and support. We love you so very much and truly appreciate you.

On loss and Valentine’s Day

I Still Wonder – Patti Cates / Art created by Ian

Tomorrow is February 14 — Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate love, your partner, and to do something special. A day that is special for lovers and for those in love. I hope that those in love enjoy the day and the time be together.

This time is so very special and is often taken for granted. My hope and prayer for all those who have a Valentine is to appreciate one another and to be thankful for one another. Also, please celebrate one another on more than just Valentine’s Day. After all, each day together is precious and you never know when one of you will no longer be there.

For those without a spouse, significant other, boyfriend or girlfriend, I hope you know and remember that you are loved and special. Please don’t be depressed about this day but instead do something special for yourself. This can be done by celebrating with your friends and your family. That is what I will be doing.

This year, I am very thankful that Kirk and I didn’t make Valentine’s Day the ultimate in romantic days for us. If we had, it would be an extremely painful day for me. He did not like the idea of just one day to be romantic or to send one another a special card or go out. He also didn’t like how everything costs more on Valentine’s Day than other days.  Neither did I.

We celebrated each other just because. He would give me flowers just because. We would go out to eat at a favorite restaurant just because. We would listen to a special song just because. We did exchange cards and used a few more than once for Valentine’s Day.

We both liked the Love Chapter from the Bible. It was very precious to us and we had it read at our wedding. I asked for it to be read again at Kirk’s memorial service and I cried as it was read. This is what love should be.  We were by no means perfect and did have our issues. But as I have said before, there was always love.

” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” — 1st Corinthians 13:4-8.

Some upcoming days will be harder than tomorrow will be for me. These include: the day we met, when he proposed, his birthday, the day we got married, when Ian was born, special summer vacation times, and our holidays with our own traditions. I still miss him each day and cannot believe he is gone. Some days are better than others and others include real pain. I have a feeling it will be that way for a while.

No matter if you have someone special in your life or not, I hope you have a good and Happy Valentine’s Day! Blessings to you and yours.

A few quotes about Valentine’s Day and love:

  • “Oh! if it be to choose and call thee mine, Love, thou art every day my Valentine.”
    ~ Thomas Hood
  • “Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end.” ~ Author Unknown
  • “I don’t understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.” ~ Author Unknown
  • “We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness — and call it love — true love.” ~ Robert Fulghum
  • “Grow old with me! The best is yet to be. ~ Robert Browning
  • “True love stories never have endings.” ~ Richard Bach