The Second Deathiversary

A couple of weeks ago, the second anniversary of my husband’s death passed by.

And by “passed by,” I mean “tore me to shreds.”

Once again, though, the days leading up to it were much worse than the day itself.

This year I did myself a favor and pretty well cleared my schedule for the month of February.  I put my pathological need to volunteer for every damned thing on pause, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to follow through with any promises anyway.  I did volunteer do do one small thing for the kids’ Cub Scout troop, and I failed to come through.  It was not a critical issue, though, so while I feel bad about it, it really didn’t matter to anyone else.

I just kept saying, “No, February is bad for me.”  I’m ridic proud of myself for doing that. For saying no.  I’m so glad I did.  Because I was useless.

Last year I was fighting a strange sense of dread, like something else terrible was going to happen.  This year it was a classic grieving sadness like you see in the movies.  I’d hold it together pretty well during the day, but once the kids were in bed it was all comfort eating and staring at the wall.

I cried at the dishes.  I cried at TV commercials. I cried at Twitter. I cried at Critical Role. I cried at How to Train Your Dragon.  I cried a lot, is what I’m saying.

Pro tip: don’t attempt to watch the video of your wedding any time during your spouse’s death month.

Like last year, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle day to day life in the days leading up to the suckaversary, so I pulled the kids out of school and we drove across the state line into Astoria, Oregon where we spent a couple of days.  I call it the “Annual Wilson Family Running Away From Our Emotions Tour,” and it is the best thing ever.

The first day of our trip was my 42nd birthday.  We got on the road earlier than I had expected.  I listened to my eighties playlists part of the way, and audiobooks part of the way.  (Dune is not a good choice of audiobook for keeping you alert on the road, by the way.) K gave me the best gift in the world when he proclaimed, “The best music is from the eighties!”  Yes son, I’m just a small town girl who has been shot through the total eclipse of the heart but just wants to have fun.

After setting ourselves up in our room and relaxing for a bit, we started to change into our swimsuits.  I had just wrestled mine on when we got a call from the front desk.  The pool had been shut down for the day due to some sort of problem (which is usually poop in the pool, isn’t it?)  Ugh.  Are you shitting me?  Swimming in the hotel pool was going to be the highlight of the trip!  The kids didn’t mind, though.  More Minecraft time for them.  More crochet time for me.  As a bonus, there was some sort of Harry Potter marathon on one of the channels the whole time we were there, so most of our vacay was spent with the kids buries in their games while I crocheted and watched HP. Exciting? Nope.  Relaxing and pretty much exactly what we needed?  Yup.

We did get out of the hotel some.  The day after our arrival we visited the Oregon Film Museum, which is more or less a Goonies museum.  My kids have not seen the Goonies.  I have tried to show them, obviously.  I’m not a monster.  To them, however, it has always been one of Mom’s boring old movies.  Therefore, visiting the actual jail from the movie was not super thrilling for them.  H was terrified of accidentally getting locked in, and wanted nothing to do with their standup cutout of Sloth.  K had fun pretending to be in jail, though.  We also went to the Astoria Column, which was cooler than it sounds.

The next day was the day. The actual death anniversary.  (Yes, it’s two days after my birthday.) We drove to the beach, because his ashes are in the Pacific Ocean.

Holy crap the weather was awful!  It was comically terrible, especially considering how sunny it had been the day before.  It was so cold and cloudy.  The wind howled, hurling sideways rain at us.  It was so miserable!  We drove up on to the beach, and tried to get out of the Jeep.  So much trash blew out that by the time we got all the trash retrieved and stowed safely back in my floorboards, we were freezing and soaked.  We sat inside the warm car and watched the waves for a while before heading to the aquarium.

The aquarium was a tiny rinky-dink place, but it was fun.  They had an octopus in a tank without a lid, and between that and the crabs H wanted to Leave.  But then we got to feed the seals and it was all good.  Well, I got to feed the seals.  Once the kids saw the trays of cut up sardines, they were not on board with touching that nonsense. I cannot believe they are so gross sometimes, and other times you’d think they were princesses.  Of course, as always, the gift shop was the best part.

We then went to THE BEST burger place.  It reminded me of a restaurant back home called the Hamburger King.  Thin beef patties grilled on a flat griddle, the edges crispy, the buns toasted.  Mmmmmmm. H, who had wanted pizza, thanked me for making him eat there instead.

Back at the hotel, I had used up all of my “everything is fine” energy and took a nap.  And then more nap.  And then ordered pizza to the room, and then another nap.

The next day we headed home.

Now we embark on our third year without him.

Last year, I was still expecting to see him come down the stairs sometimes.  I would still see something, and start to plan how I was going to tell him about it.  I still worried about what he would think about my actions.  At some point during this year, that all went away.  I no longer glance up the stairs on Saturday, wondering when he will get up before remembering he is gone.  I no longer look forward to telling him about my day, only to be saddened by the realization that I will never have a conversation with him again.

In some ways it is good to not have that constant forget-and-remember cycle.  In other ways, however, it hurts to know that he is no longer a part of our routine.  So much of our lives is different than it was when he was here with us.

I don’t know.  It just all sucks so much.

First After Miserable First

We survived our first holiday season without Trey.

As Halloween approached, we elected to not make the costumes we had all been talking about as a family.  Then we elected to not make costumes at all, but to buy.  Mr.K finally decided to just wear last year’s costume, which was the moment I realized that he was not as excited about the holiday as he wanted to be.  We had several parties plus trick-or-treating.  Each Halloween event began jovially, but ended with K feeling sad, removing his costume, and secluding himself.  He says he may not dress up next year.

Mr.H made a Thanksgiving project at school – a poster on which we all were to write what makes us feel thankful.  We all wrote something about family, but I felt dishonest because our family is missing a piece.

Tension built in the days leading up to Christmas, as Mr.K grew more and more insistent that Santa could bring his dad back.  He would not be disabused of it.  The whole thing terrorized me that he would wake on Christmas morning and fall to pieces because his wish had not come true.  Thankfully, on Christmas morning he accepted what I am sure he already knew — that this was not possible.  We had a lovely day, but partway through it Mr.H got really upset about a gift he though his dad would have gotten him.  I hurt for him so much.  After a snowball fight in the yard, Mr.K laid this one on me:  “It’s sad that dad couldn’t be here for this.  That’s what’s so bad about when people die.  They miss out on all these things.  I mean, Dad is never going to have another Christmas.  I don’t even have to get very old — just 41 — and I will have more Christmases than he did.”

Ouch, kiddo.

New Year’s Eve arrived, with nobody to kiss.

Close on the heels of New Year’s was Trey’s 42nd birthday.  It also would have been our 19th wedding anniversary.  Even though I was certain gravity had doubled due to the heaviness of my entire body, I managed to bulldoze us through that final day of the Wilson Family Holiday Season.  We enjoyed breakfast at the pancake place he used to take us.  We honored his memory by once again visiting the root beer store.  Mr.H and I cooked a birthday cake for Trey.  Mr.K, who originally suggested the cake, found himself unable to move forward with it.  We didn’t sing “Happy Birthday.”  We baked the cake, iced it and ate it.  K joined us for the eating part, and we didn’t talk about why we had cake.

Everybody is extremely sympathetic toward me right now.  I appreciate this. I am fortunate to have so many people in my life who care about me and who are thoughtful enough to realize how difficult the holidays are.

The first holidays, in particular.

For every first holiday, however, there are countless smaller firsts.  Innumerable times my heart protests that the last time we did this, he was with us.  At the beginning of widowhood, these firsts are a daily assault:

The first time I put the kids to bed and came downstairs to nobody.
The first time I made dinner for just the three of us, knowing he would not return.
The first time I went grocery shopping without buying his favorite staples.
I watched a TV show we always watched together.
I picked up listening to the rest of the audoibook we were sharing.
I went to bed.
I woke up.
I rented movies.
I cleaned the kitchen.
I hung up clothes in the closet.

Everything in my life was something I was doing for the first time since he died.

After a while, the basics of living had run through a couple of cycles.  No longer was each day a constant chorus of “this is the first time . . . ”  The firsts continued to batter me, however.

The first time I took them to a movie just the three of us, I couldn’t figure out what to do when I had to use the bathroom — make them both come with me, or leave them in the theater while I went?

The first time I took them to get the Slushies Trey always got them, I managed to get Slushie all over the place.  I could not get the hang of filling the cups the right amount before causing major overflows.  In some cases, the stuff keeps expanding after you stop pouring, turning your cup into a volcano science experiment smelling of blue raspberry.  I’d had no clue it was that complicated.

The first time we went to one of their school parties without Trey was the Neon Glow Party.  It was just a week after he died, but we’d been talking about it for weeks.  The neon party is always eighties themed, and I’d said we needed to all dress up like the eighties.  Trey had responded, “So you’ll just be wearing your regular clothes, then?”  He had a point.  Looking back, I can’t believe we made it to the party.  I was still in such a fog, and didn’t want to disappoint the kids who still wanted to go.  They were dancing their butts off, and I was glad to have brought them.  I just kept thinking it would be okay as long as we avoided the photo booth.  Of course then K really wanted to do the photo booth.  So we did it.  And we got the pictures.  The same pictures we get every year, but with Trey conspicuously missing.  K deflated and wanted to go home.  We went home.

The first time we played our favorite four-player video game with just the three of us, we realized one of us would have to log in as Trey in order to keep our game progress.  As uncomfortable as it was, I logged in as him.  It’s commonplace for me to do that now.

The first time the three of us went on a road trip together, I wondered if it was safe.  How can a woman and kids drive over the state border and get a hotel room and be safe?  I’d never traveled without a man.

We went to our first soccer game, and to our first hockey game.  Without their dad.

These small activities that we find ourselves in, that remind us that Trey was here last time, they are growing more and more infrequent.  Maybe there will come a point when there are no more.

The final kind of first I will address is the worst, as the frequency of it will keep growing at least for a few years.  Instead of protesting that we did this last time, my heart screams that Trey never had a chance to do this with us, to witness this event.  These milestones and first experiences will always be accompanied by my ghost of him, seeing his reactions inside my mind.

I joined the kids on their first airplane ride.  They had never heard the safety speech before, and K paid careful, solemn attention to the flight attendant.  They delightedly opened the tray tables, exclaiming, “Hey, look at this!  A little table!”  Trey never got to experience this with him.  I could almost feel his laughter.

Harry hit his first baseball.  Then stood at the plate, not knowing what came next.  At the urging of his coaches he ran toward first base.  Still carrying his bat.  The coaches yelled at him to drop the bat, so he ran back to home plate to put the bat down, and then back to third.  Trey would have told me that only my kid would be doing this sort of classic move.

Korben played goalie for the first time.  Trey never got a chance to see his son so enthusiastically cheering on his team mates even when they were not near his goal.  He never got to see Korben save a goal.

He won’t be there for their first girlfriends, their first school dances, their first day of every grade, their first kids, first auditions/tryouts for various activities, first play or first academic bowl or first recital or whatever we have in the future — these firsts will keep coming.

He’s Really Gone

He’s gone.

Duh, right?

It’s been almost nine months.

Nine months of not hearing him come down the stairs.

Nine months of him not falling asleep on the sofa on a Saturday morning.

Nine months of me watching kid-inappropriate TV by myself.

Nine months of crying and yelling and laughing and weeping.

You’d think this would not just now be sinking in.

It’s hitting me like an anvil.

I think it started the last time I visited this blog.  I got to thinking that I should change the photo of the blog to a more recent one of Trey.  This one is over a year old.  That’s when it hit me that there will be no new recent pictures.  I mean, we have more recent pictures than this one, but all we have is all we will have.  At some point the most recent picture of him, one taken on my birthday two days before his death, will be ten years old.  There will be no new photographs, no new jokes, no new experiences.

There will be no new memories with him.

At night I get in bed alone, and that is how it will continue to be.  I still sleep mainly on my own side.  The dog has taken over his pillow, a fact that would both amuse and annoy him.

I wake up with kids in my bed, but no husband.  That is how it will continue to be.

This is not the first holiday season without him.  This is the first of many holiday seasons without him.  Of ALL the holiday seasons without him.

I asked my mom for gift ideas for dad, and awaited the traditional responding question of what she should get for Trey.  Half the day went by before I realized that I was expecting that question, and that it would never be asked again.

His gone-ness is overpowering, is washing me away.

I sit at the dinner table, looking at the three of us.  (Okay, I admit it.  I sit on the sofa, looking at the three of us eating dinner with our plates on our laps.)  It’s the three of us.  It will be the three of us, until the kids grow up and start lives of their own.

I see advertisements for concerts and live shows to which we will never go.

I get groupon ads for couples’ getaways and think, “Well, I guess I’m never doing that.”  We will never go to a romantic resort together.  Never take a cruise.  Never visit New York.  Never visit the real Stonehenge.  I may do some of these things on my own, but so many of them are contingent upon being a couple.  The part of my life where I am part of a couple is over.  I didn’t see it coming.  It’s done.  He’s gone.

Riding the Depression Wave

It’s all happening again.

Not to the extent it happened before, when the pain was new and I lived in a fog.

It is, however, all happening.

I can’t.  I can’t DO.  I sit on the sofa and realized an hour has gone by.  An hour with no TV, no phone, no music – is just gone.  Gone to blank staring, to emptiness and nothing.  I’m not remembering.  I’m not lamenting.  I’m not thinking of the holidays.  I’m just physically too sad to move.

My whole body is sad.  My shoulders droop.  My knees ache. My back twinges.  My legs refuse to carry me out of the chair, much less up the stairs or out the door.  I am heavy.  Gravity has made me its bitch.  It pushes me and I don’t even resist.

I try to work, and stare at the screen.  I try to wash dishes and stare out the window.  I try to sleep, and stare at the ceiling.

I have turned off.

Except when I’m on.

Two days ago, I reorganized/rearranged one of my pantries.  A couple of days before that I sorted through the medications in our guest bathroom.  I ordered new pictures for the walls.  I hung a broom organizer.  Over the past couple of weeks I have filled three large trash bags and two boxes for the goodwill.

I am experiencing bursts of organizing and productivity in between lulls of depression and sadness.

I went through this in the early months.  I want to claim my life and my space, so nesting kicks in and I go, go, go.  A day turns, and I am almost unable to shower.

It is most likely the holidays that have brought this on.  This is not happening the way I expected.  I thought I would be sad when I looked back at all of our holidays together, or forward to the holidays without him.  The truth is, I’m not thinking about or dwelling on those things.  Not much.  Not VERY much.  This is a free floating sadness invading my bones during the most mundane times.  Still, I think we can assume it is a combination of the holidays, along with the feeling that I’m careening toward his death anniversary, and the winter doldrums.

I’ve gone to the doctor and have gotten a prescription for Zoloft.

I had been resisting this.  I don’t like the way I feel on SSRIs.  I feel less me.  It’s not a dramatic change, but it’s enough of one that I feel uncomfortable with it.  Also, I want to feel my feelings.  How am I supposed to heal from the pain if it is always shrouded?  Sometimes you have to run a fever to break the flu.  (I don’t know if that’s actually true.  Don’t come to me for medical advice, I’m clueless.)

I can’t keep going like this, though.  I need to keep a relatively clean house.  RELATIVELY clean.  I need to work.  I need to make lunches and walk the dog and sew patches on boy scout uniforms.  I would love to succumb to the sadness and stare into space until the kids come home from school, but I do have work to do and it won’t wait.

Now, I’m not trying to be alarming.  When I leave the house, I do put on shoes — flip flops at least.  I am getting us all fed and to school and back.  I’m even getting some work done — somewhat inefficiently.  I do wear PJ’s and a robe a lot of days — a perk of working at home.  The PJs are clean — unless I spilled coffee or egg on them that morning — and in fact I kind of have ‘daytime jammies’ and ‘nighttime jammies.’  I’m showering.  I’m taking out the trash.  You won’t come to my house to fight through a mountain of pizza boxes and cat litter to find me in dreadlocks with green teeth.

But it’s hard. So Z is for Zoloft.

I have been on it two days.  I had forgotten that while the effects take a couple of weeks to be noticeable, the side effects are immediate.  I’m not sleeping well and my stomach is in knots.  This will peter out, but is unpleasant currently.  But if it gets me through the holidays and a bit beyond it will be worth it.

I’m also grief-shopping again.  The kids were thrilled with the “epic fort” they were able to make from all the Amazon boxes.

I just want to curl up in my bed and stare at nothing.

But, this weekend I plan to take the kids to a potter class.  Next Tuesday I’m going to see the Justice League with my widow sponsor.  Next Thursday will be Thanksgiving at my mom’s house, and I’m looking forward to it so much.  After Thanksgiving, the Christmas boxes will come out of the garage and we will start decorating.  We will also get those cards in the mail.

We’re doing it.  We’re doing this life.  We’re riding the waves and we’re crashing sometimes but we’re getting back up.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.

The Unbearable Sameness of Being

When my boys were babies, there was a mom in my Mommy group who said, “It feels sometimes like I’m living the same week over and over again.”

That perfectly captured what it is like to be a stay at home mom with young children.  Your life exists only as routine — bathing, feeding, dressing, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It once again feels like that, now that I am widowed.  There isn’t any reason for it to feel this way.  The kids and I go places and do different things every week.  There are holidays and seasons, birthday parties and movies, classes and scouts.  If anything, there is less routine in my life now.  I am most likely overcompensating by filling our lives with activities.

Still, it feels like there is no reprieve from daily life.  I get the kids ready for school, drop them off and then either work or run errands.  I pick them up at my parents’ house.  We do homework and have dinner and either watch some TV or do baths unless it is a night where we have activity planned.  Then it’s bedtime for them and TV/Chores/Staying up until I pass out time for me.

Every day.

Nobody is here to say, “I’ll do the cooking tonight.”  Nobody is here to tell the kids, “It’s after bedtime,which means Mom is off duty.  Come to me if you need anything.”  Nobody is here to embark on some project like painting the fence that will consume us all.

To be fair, I have had my share of projects.  My downstairs is currently half painted.

So I am not sure why it feels so monotonous, but it does.

Maybe it is the simple lack of someone to talk to.  Perhaps the presence of another adult, someone to tell about my day, someone to make comments to while watching TV, maybe that is what I am missing.  Maybe the simple act of turning to the person next to you and saying, “Whaaaat?  I did not see that coming.  Did you see that coming?” is what transforms an evening in front of the TV from being sad and monotonous to being fun and engaging.  Maybe being able to complain to someone about the mountain of dishes elevates washing them from being lonely to being, I don’t know, not lonely.

That is what I feel now.  Bored and lonely, and like every day is the same.  Every week is on repeat.  The morning routine, the night time routine.  Over and over.  I know it isn’t true.  I know last weekend we went to a Halloween party and the weekend before that we went to a scouting event and this week the kids were out of school on Friday but we all had fevers so we didn’t do anything.

I know my days are not on repeat, but they still feel repetitive.

And now I am being repetitive in this blog.  Sorry about that.

I don’t know what to do.

I just feel so sad.



Travelling Alone – Yippee or Boohoo?


This was work travel.  I was to drive for three hours (which always turns into five) to a town in a neighboring state to measure  building for a client.

This is something I used to do in my days as a younger Architect.  I took 1-2 day business trips, by car or by plane, to measure sites and buildings and sometimes to meet with City Officials.  It was always kind of scary.  It is always kind of scary for a woman traveling alone.  I assume.  I had always thought I was being timid or paranoid, but recent events on social media, as well as living in the world and talking to other people, have taught me that many women are uncomfortable traveling alone.

This time it was scarier than I remember it being.  Is it because I haven’t traveled alone in years, and I simply must get used to it again?  Maybe.

Is it because my previous trips were mainly in the midwest, and now I am in more metropolitan areas?  That may have something to do with it.

Is it because being married, even if my husband is not physically with me in the car, gives a sense of security?  Probably to some extent.

It’s a combination of those things.  I wasn’t in terror the whole time or anything, but I was nervous at some points along the way.  I didn’t like how isolated the hotel was, and was nervous being in the empty abandoned store all day.

In truth, however, I was looking forward to it.

A night away from the kids, in a hotel, where I wouldn’t have the option, much less the compulsion, to feel guilty for not doing the dishes or painting the walls or folding laundry.

A “night off” from being a widowed single mom.

A night to myself.

Just one.

I imagined listening to my new Kevin Hearne book in my Jeep on the way to the hotel.  I imagined checking in late afternoon, maybe checking out a local tourist attraction before dark.  I imagined getting room service or having food delivered.  I imagined swimming in the hotel pool or taking a long hot bath.  I imagined watching TV propped up on those hotel-y pillows that hotels have.

I knew better, but I still imagined that.

The reality was that my client prefers I get a rental car.  I was able to listen to my new book, but had to listen through a tinny bluetooth speaker I have because the radio in the rental doesn’t play media off of non-apple devices.

The reality was that I checked in around 9:00 at night.

The reality was that it was a Comfort Inn.  I toyed with the idea of asking the client if they would be okay with me staying at a luxury hotel if I billed them for a Comfort Inn stay, but decided not to broach that subject since this was my first trip for them.  This client prefers to pay directly for the hotel.  So I was booked in a Comfort Inn.  I checked for bedbugs, and found the bed and the room to appear clean.  Obviously there was no room service.  There was also no list of restaurants that delivered to the area.

The reality also was that I am on a diet.  I had brought my diet food with me.  Rather than search for an hour for local food delivery to the hotel, I just ate my diet food.

The reality was that the pool was closed, and the hot tub was weird and smelled odd.  I was a trooper and got in the hot tub anyway, and then showered right afterward to avoid getting a yeast infection or typhoid or something.


The reality was, who wants to take a luxurious bath in a Comfort Inn tub?

The reality was that the TV got six channels.

The reality was that the hotel wifi was unsecured so I did not feel comfortable logging in and getting work done.

I went to bed at 10:30 watching reruns of The Family Guy and feeling like the loneliest person in the world.

It was nice to have the time to myself.  It was nice to car-cry and to go to bed without unfinished chores calling to me.

It was good to wake up alone.  I love my kids, and most days it makes my heart happy (even when I’m grumbling about the hour) to have them wake me in the mornings, or for me to wake them.  It was grand, however, just once, to wake up and just be me.  I wouldn’t be able to access the site until mid morning, so I woke and puttered around, putzed with the in room coffee maker, etc.  I padded down to the free breakfast in my jammies.  The free breakfast was not awesome, but I’ve had worse.  I got my stuff packed and ready to go.

My stuff.

Not my kids’ things.  Not even my husband’s things.  I was not in charge of finding anybody else’s lost socks or making sure everyone went potty and remembered their drinks for in the car.  I did not have to stop anybody from fighting with each other. There was no “five more minutes of this show” or “hold on honey let me check my email one more time.”  When I decided it was time to leave, I picked up my bag and my purse and I walked out the door.

Lonely, but awesome.  Simple.  So simple.

I then worked all day and got back in the car — some more Kevin Hearne, some more car crying.

Overall, I give the experience a B+.  I felt like a real member of the adult working community — not as a ‘mom’ or a ‘working mom’ or a ‘work at home mom’ or a ‘wife’ or a ‘widow.’  Nobody in this place knew or cared about those roles.  I was a person on a work trip.  I was a professional doing my job.  It has been a long time since I have felt that so strongly.  It was lonely and sad for part of the trip, but lonely and sad is where I live much of the time.  It was good to get out and about.

Next time I will see if I can arrange for a better hotel situation.  I have a hankering for a $10 room service candy bar.

Judging a Widow? Keep Your Effing Opinions to Yourself

I’m not sure whether curse words in the title are frowned upon.

I think the point is clear.  You can keep your judgement, your disapproving looks, and your obvious vaguebook insults to yourself.

We don’t need it.

I shouldn’t have to say this.  It should go without saying.  Don’t harass a widow about how she is handling her widowhood. It doesn’t go without saying, however.  It has to be said.  Many people apparently do not have the sense to know this on their own.  I have spoken with other widows my age, and have read blogs and articles written by others, and it seems everyone has at least one person in their life who has decided they are the authority on grieving and on widowhood, and is quick to point out – emphatically – how we are doing it incorrectly.

It’s often someone we care about, or that our husbands cared about.

It’s so deeply hurtful.

Widow-shamers come in two basic camps.

Actually, technically there is a third camp, I will mention only briefly because they are well-intentioned.  We all have sweet, caring people in our lives who hate to see us hurt and want to help ‘fix’ it.  They want us to snap out of it.  They want us to join the world.  Sometimes they want us to start dating.  To these people I say we thank you for your love and support, but please understand that to try to fix us implies there is something wrong.  There is nothing wrong with being sad when your spouse dies.  We have to be sad.  We have to be sad in order to learn how to live with our sadness.  Please stop trying to abbreviate the process.  We need it.

The title of this blog is aimed at the other two types of judges.  One type feels that the widow’s handling of things has somehow harmed them personally.  The other type feels she is not being widow-y enough and is disrespecting the dead.

Here’s the thing.  Please understand this.


Also . . .


It was a revelation to me that people would take personal issue with how a woman carries out the final wishes of her husband.  Personally, I have had several people pointedly mention that they feel they didn’t get closure (whatever that means) because I cremated the body before anyone saw him.  I have not been directly attacked, but on two separate occasions, two different people pointed out that they keep thinking they will see Trey or get a call from him.  Apparently this is because I did not have a viewing at the memorial.  It was implied that I have an easier time of accepting his death because I saw his body, and that I robbed them of this comfort.

You know what?  I saw the body.  It’s not that awesome of an experience.  I wouldn’t recommend it.  At all.

Did seeing his body make it easier for me to accept his death than if I had not?  Perhaps.  I’ve never been on the other side of that coin so I do not know if I experienced some benefit from having witnessed it with my own eyes.

I can say this.  I saw him dead.  I saw how the blood had pooled in his extremities.  I performed cpr.  I wept into his cold shoulder, stroked his cold forehead.  It is now eight months later.  Eight months I have been living in the house we shared, his absence a constant presence.  Still, I often expect to see him come down the stairs.  If that is not enough to hammer it home that he is gone, I doubt that your seeing him in a casket would help you.  We each need to find our own ways to peace.  I will help where I can, but not at the expense of what I need, what my husband wanted, or what our kids need.

I also, unfortunately, had a falling out with someone very close to us.  You may have seen my post about the viking funeral at which I scattered my husband’s ashes in the ocean.  I will not get into the details here, but will say that there was a misunderstanding where a dear friend of ours was legitimately hurt when he learned I had done the viking funeral with just the kids and did not include him or any other family members.  I thought everyone had understood my intentions, but he did not and he was hurt.  I understand his pain and feel sorry for the misunderstanding that caused it, but I will not apologize for handling the scattering how I did.  I did not do it this way to hurt him or anyone else, but because this is what my kids and I needed.  The real tragedy for me is that this friend does not understand I was doing what I needed, and instead felt I deliberately misled him about my intentions.  He said some hurtful things, I responded harshly, we parted ways and now I no longer have what had been a major source of support.

The final arrangements are deeply personal and specific to each circumstance.  I could not imagine having a viewing, with Trey all waxed and painted.  It would have been awful for me to see him that way.  It would have been awful for the kids.  They also had unfortunately already seen his body.  They didn’t need to see any more of that.  Furthermore, he specifically did not want that.  He told everyone he knew and wrote in his will that he wanted to be cremated in the cheapest way possible.  He didn’t want funereal expenses to cut into the money that could go to supporting his family after his passing.  He also would have found it humiliating to be laid out that way.  I handled the cremation, memorial, and scattering exactly how he would have wanted it, and how was best for our family.  None of it was easy.  None of it.  So unless your opinion is, “Wow, I can’t believe you were able to handle all of that while dealing with your grief.  I am astounded by you.  If you need anything, I am here.  You did exactly right by him,” you can just keep your fucking opinion to yourself.

If it were just about me and my experiences, however, I wouldn’t even write this post.  I’m not trying to put a lot of anger out there, or self righteousness.

The thing is, it’s not just me.  I have a friend who is four months widowed and has not yet had her husband’s memorial.  She is catching the same kind of flack as I did for having a cremation instead of a viewing, and family members are actually yelling at her for not hosting a memorial yet.  She has stated that they can hold a memorial if they want, whatever they need to do.  But she is not ready yet, financially or emotionally.  Still they tell her it is just not right.

I know another woman who did have a viewing but did not dress her husband in a suit.  Guess what?  People were upset.  I know a widow who had upbeat music playing and encouraged everyone to wear bright colors.  Most people were on board but, again, there were people who were offended.

We do not mean to offend.  We are doing what we need.  I’m not telling you to not be offended.  I’m telling you to keep that shit to yourself.  Telling us won’t change things, and will just make us feel worse.  As if that were possible.

Now I come to the worst of the worst — those who proclaim loudly, to our faces or behind our backs, that we do not appear to be mourning or that we are moving on too quickly or some otherwise judgy notion that comes down to the idea that they don’t believe we are really grieving.

Shut the FUCK UP!

Widowhood doesn’t look like weeping in a dark room hidden under a black veil.

Do you want to see widowhood?  Come with me for a day.  Widowhood means making breakfast and driving the kids to school, singing along with the radio, getting haircuts and doing laundry and celebrating holidays and going to the zoo and laughing and living and loving those around you.  It also looks like crying at the sink, crying in the car, staring at the wall, comfort eating too much junk food, not eating at all, fits of terror that you will lose someone else, too.  And, yes, widowhood can look like a vacation to Hawaii, or Cozumel.  I have two widow friends who have taken such holidays.  They both have caught SO MUCH SHIT for “partying it up” while everyone else mourns the loss of their husbands.

Imagine this.

Your husband dies.  You now spend every day in the home you bought together.  You cook every meal (every single meal, because there is nobody else to cook) at the oven in which you baked cookies as a family.  You keep up with the daily routine: cooking, cleaning, homework, bills, work.  You make sure you don’t run out of toilet paper or shampoo.  You make sure the kids get to bed at a reasonable time.  You wake up every morning.  You push forward every day, taking care of your family and yourself.

Now imagine you have an opportunity to leave all of that behind for a few days.  For a week, someone else will do all of the cooking, and all of the cleaning.  You will be in a new place, somewhere that isn’t constantly assaulting you with memories.  You will be where nobody knows you, where you will not have to apologize for your emotions, where nobody knew your husband.  You will have no obligations, just for a few days.

You can heal.  You can be sad when you need to and laugh when you need to and eat when you want to and sleep as much as you can.  You can call the memories when you want, and sob yourself to sleep.  You can also go out and laugh to cleanse your soul.  It’s not a woman partying her buns off because she’s newly single.  It’s a woman who needs a safe place to focus on her own pain, her own life, and begin healing.

Not that you deserve an explanation.  But there it is.

Even if a widow is not able to take a vacation, you might see a lot of social activity suddenly hit her feed.  You should be glad that she is trying to find herself, that she is reaching out to friends and engaging in activities to keep her from growing stagnant at home alone.  If your response instead is, “She shouldn’t be out having all of that fun.  She’s supposed to be in mourning,” well, again, you can keep your fucking opinions to yourself.

I used to sit at home every night, with my husband who loved me.  We would rent Netflix and share some scotch.  We would watch The Walking Dead and Supernatural and we would play Cards Against Humanity.  But he is gone now.  I can’t sit by myself and watch TV every night.  I’d like to.  I’m a homebody.  But it is not good for me to stay home all of the time, and it is not good for my kids to see me staying home all of the time.  It is not good for the kids to stay home all of the time.

So, yes, you will see on my feed that I am going to movies and to game nights, that the kids and I are going to soccer games and state fairs. We are not trying to forget about Trey.  We are honoring him by enjoying and making the most of the life he no longer shares with us.

I know women who started dating after the first six months, and women who are not dating five years later.  I know women who got rid of their husband’s belongings, and women who kept most of them.  I know women who removed their rings the first day, and women who wore them for years.

All of these women were criticized by someone in their lives who felt they were not doing the right thing.

There is no right thing.  There is only what the widow feels in her heart is the NECESSARY thing.  We are doing the best we can.  We don’t need the additional stress of trying to please you.

The Fireplace Mantle as a Metaphor

Our mantelpiece had, among other things, a replica of the helmet from Gladiator.  This was not my selection.  I don’t even like that movie.  It also boasted a host of different Buddha statues and Foo Dogs acquired at different China Towns.  I have nothing against these items, but I would not have chosen to decorate with another culture’s aesthetic.  The mantel held a smattering of other items, unrelated to one another.

It sounds hideous, but it did not look bad.  After Trey died, I removed some pieces to pare down the clutter, but I left up the larger decorative items and this was the result:


See?  Sounds awful and bachelor-y.  It is a bit bachelor-y, but it is not awful.

But it is also not me.

Whenever buying items for our home, I wanted to plan, to get a strategy in place to avoid clashing items and generate a cohesive design.  My desire was to identify a theme and palette that would inform our purchasing decisions.  He, on the other hand, would go to Chinatown or Ikea or Target, see something, buy it, and hang it on the wall.  The result was an interior design that leaned much more toward his aesthetic than it did toward mine.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided all that stuff on the mantel had to go.

In fact, I am redecorating the whole house as time and budget allows.  Again this has been met with alarm by my family.  They think I am purging, but I’m not getting rid of anything. I’m just getting it out of my face.

Here’s the hard truth of the matter.

Trey doesn’t live here anymore.  This is my house now, and I need it to be my house.  

I’m not trying to erase all evidence of him.  I’m not trying to make it look like he never lived here.  This place will always carry his mark.  Our lives and hearts will carry his mark.  No matter where we go or what we do, he will be with us.

That doesn’t change the fact that I need to make this place my own.  It started in the bedroom, and now I am taking over the living room.  I’d like to replace some of the furniture, but, you know, dollar bills.  For now I can re-do the fireplace mantel.

That is the justification.  Now let me tell you what happened.

I took all of his things off the mantel and put them in the guest room closet.  It was then a clean canvas for me to decorate however I wanted.  The problem was that I had absolutely no idea what was I wanted to do.

Isn’t that the shit?  It’s a metaphor for my whole life.  I wrote a post a while back about needing to find myself.  I won’t go into all of that again here, although I could easily write three more entries about that process.  I’ll give you the tl;dr version.  When you’ve been with someone for your entire adult life and suddenly find yourself without that person, you need to put serious time and effort into exploring who you are as an individual.

My mantel looked like this:


It was a perfect reflection of me.  I had plenty of ideas for what to put there, but didn’t know if I felt passionately about any of them.  I considered gathering my gnomes from around the house.  I thought about arranging a Funko Pop display, or of covering it with family photos or with flowers.  I even considered decorating it with “Architect’y” things like T-Squares and Prismacolor pencils.   It all seemed fine, but didn’t feel quite right.

This is exactly what happens to me when my folks keep the kids overnight and I can do whatever I want for the evening.  I have no idea what to do.  I think about going to a movie, going out to eat, taking a bath and reading, or cleaning the house from top to bottom.  I usually wind up having some edibles and dozing off watching TV.  (Which is a luxury to a single mom of twins, I’m not knocking it.)

Suddenly it hit me.  I would decorate seasonally.  Halloween is coming up, so I present to you my current fireplace mantel design:


After Halloween, I’ll do a general Autumn theme until after Thanksgiving.  That’s when I’ll pull out the crates and crates of holiday decorations.  After Christmas, I”m not sure — perhaps some general winter display?  Add in some hearts for Valentine’s day, and then after that a spring motif?  My plan is pretty much to hit the seasonal department of the Dollar Store and will decorate with whatever they have.  I may even extend this to include outdoor decorations.  I will be that weird old lady who has yard decorations for Presidents’ Day.

At first I felt like this was a cop-out.  I thought I was delaying making a real decision.

Then I realized this is actually perfect.  Again it is like my life.  I am getting through this one day, one season, one holiday at a time.  I’m not committing to anything, ever.  I’m not looking ahead more than a couple of weeks at any time.

I’m trying different things.  A book club, a board game club, a coffee club.  I’m not any one thing yet.  I’m exploring.  My interior decorations don’t have to be any one thing yet either.  This is me now.

I can always round up the gnomes if I decide to do so.


I Guess I Won’t be Wearing my Wedding Ring Anymore

In a sweeping move of what is either irony or kismet, the universe decided I should lose the diamond out of my wedding ring today.

The diamond fell out of my wedding ring

Look at this picture, and realize that this was not just my wedding ring.  That solitaire was my engagement ring.  By which I mean it is the engagement ring he placed on my finger as we were turning eighteen years old.  That stone has endured for 23 years, through two ring re-sizings, through ring welding, through construction sites, through hospital stays, through trips to oceans and lakes and through snowball fights.

Now it decides to give up the ghost?  This is definitely a sign of some sort.

There is no obvious sign of trauma to the ring.  None of the tines are bent into an unnatural position.  None are broken or missing.

As I was driving the kids to school this morning, I glanced at my hand on the steering wheel and the stone was just . . . gone.

Like Trey.  One minute he was here, and I was talking to him on the phone.  Four hours later I get home to find him gone, with no idea when he died or how it happened.  My stone is gone.  I assume I had it yesterday, so it may be in my bedroom having dropped out during the night.  It may have gone down the kitchen drain this morning while I was making breakfast and washing dishes.  It may have plopped to the ground as I carried the trash to the curb.  Maybe I saw it the second it fell out, and the diamond is currently on my car floorboard.  Again, there’s about a four hour window in which it likely happened.

I have performed an initial search, but looking for such a small thing when I don’t know exactly where I lost it has turned out to be challenging.

But at least it is essentially transparent.  That helps.

I have taken a blacklight to the most likely areas.  I have no idea what a diamond would do under a blacklight, but you’d think it would do SOMETHING.

BTW – I highly recommend you do NOT ever randomly search your house with a blacklight.  I’m disgusted and want to move.  And get rid of the pets.  And the kids.  This place is disgusting.

The strange thing is I am not as distraught as I would have expected, considering I was fully planning to wear that ring for the rest of my life.

I was never going to take it off.  I consider myself to still be married.  I think of all those buddy cop movies: “Janet’s been dead for two years, man!  When are you going to take off that ring and move on?”  “Never!  She’s still my wife!”  That was my feeling about it.  I’m still his wife.  I wear the ring.

Now, however, I realize that wearing the ring is not that important to me.  Taking off the ring would have been too difficult.  Removing the ring would have felt like a rejection of our life together.  Putting the ring away would have been closing the door on our marriage.

This is different, though.  I did not decide to move on and remove the ring.  It broke so I put it away.

Surprisingly, my ring is not on the list of things that have grown in importance since Trey’s death.  Our wedding photos and the memories they preserve hold a top spot on the list.  The comic books we waited in line for together, the personalized belts he had made for the kids, the gold chain he wore around his neck, his grandfather’s medals, all of these are on the list of the most important mementos I never want to lose.  The ring is a piece of jewelry.

Now I have a reason to take it off, a reason that is utilitarian and not gut wrenchingly awful, I may leave it off.  It may be okay.  My hand is a wreck.  I think that dent in my finger will remain always.

Now my left hand looks like this.

Of course, like most things in my life, this is not a permanent choice.  Death is permanent.  The decision of whether to wear a ring is not permanent.  If I go without it for a while and it feels strange, if I feel something is missing, if I feel lonely or sad, I can have the ring repaired.  Obviously I’m not Daddy Warbucks so I won’t be purchasing a random diamond.  I do have some diamond earrings I can probably take the stone from, or I can replace it with zirconia or a semiprecious stone.  It might look pretty with an amethyst.  Or, maybe I can sell those diamond earrings to buy a replacement diamond for the ring.

That probably makes more sense than re-using a diamond and then having one ring and one earring.

But the thing is, even though I was not really ready to remove it, I also do not think I am at a place where I need to go to lengths to preserve it and get it back on my finger.

For right now, however, I suppose I will just see how it goes.