Monday, February 23, 2015

Moving on, moving forward ... is there a difference?

Moving on ... moving forward ...

My pre-loss self would look at those two phrases and say they mean the same thing. With a whole new perspective on loss, I see definite differences in those two phrases.

Moving on. When I think about moving on from something, I picture traveling down a road carrying baggage. The baggage is heavy. At one point, it's as if I decide to put down the baggage and move on. It's as simple as that ... drop the baggage and move on.

Moving forward. When I think about moving forward, I picture traveling down the same road carrying the same baggage. The baggage is still heavy. While traveling down the road with the baggage, I see a full, bright life ahead of me. I choose to move forward toward that full, bright life carrying the baggage with me.

There have been so many times during this journey when I wanted to drop the grief, with all of its heaviness and sadness, leave it in that moment and move on.

But, I don't want to leave the pain behind me. Losing Steve was by far and away the most tragic experience of my life. In a moment, life was never the same and it will never be the same. However, that experience has shaped the person I am today. There isn't any way I could leave that behind and move on.

The other night, my fiance, Mark, and I saw Garth Brooks in concert. It was an absolutely amazing show! During his performance of one of his well-known songs, "The Dance," I thought about where I am in my life and what's ahead of me.

I hugged Mark a little tighter when I heard the words:

"... For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance."

No, I couldn't have known what would have happened nearly six years ago. But, I carry all that has happened, the love and the memories with me as I move forward as this new me post loss. It is all part of me as I create my dance, this next chapter of my life with Mark, his son and my children.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I didn't feel the spotlight

The other night, I attended an incredible fundraising event called, "Fashionably Late." The event is held in memory of Gretchen Gotthart Skeldon, a woman who was, in fact, always late, but also who was known for giving so much of her time and talent to help other people. She lived by the motto, "Do all that you can." Unfortunately, Gretchen lost her battle to breast cancer four years ago. The event is a lot of fun and raises money for a fund that was established in Gretchen's name.

This year, I attended the event with a friend. We listened to bands, sipped some beverages, talked and laughed. It was fun.

Four years ago, I attended the same great event. It was very different, though. It wasn't the event that was so different. It was me. Four years ago, I was one year out ... one year into this new life as a widow. I was just one year into navigating life on my own.

That year, I attended the event with my dear friend, Sally. Since Sally serves on the committee to coordinate the Fashionably Late event, I knew there would be times during the event when I'd be on my own. But, that would be ok. Not a big deal.


While the band was playing and people were either dancing to the music or catching up with friends, I found myself almost walking aimlessly around the outdoor venue. I grabbed a drink and walked around to check out items for sale and booths set up highlighting the work of some of the charities Gretchen held close to her heart. There were hundreds of people at the event that first year. But, I couldn't have felt more alone. I couldn't help but feel like there was a huge spotlight focused on me ... a beacon pointing out that I was there by myself. The spotlight, although not visible to anyone else, was blinding. I remember texting my friend, Mark (who is now my fiance.) I hoped maybe connecting with him by text might help. It did help, but I was still there alone. Overwhelmed by the feeling of being so alone, I left.

I hadn't realized how difficult it would be to be in a big crowd. Regardless of whether I knew many people or just a few people at an event in the first year or so after Steve died, I couldn't handle the spotlight I felt.

At the event this year, I didn't feel the spotlight. Not at all. I thoroughly enjoyed myself the entire time.

When I was first widowed, no one handed me the playbook. Such a playbook doesn't exist. Since one person's grief can be so different from another person's experience with grief, you have to figure so much of it out for yourself. I didn't know how difficult it would be to be in a crowd of people. I couldn't have anticipated that spotlight.

The spotlight has faded as I move forward with my life. I am happy and looking toward the future. Grief still rears its ugly head at times and I absolutely feel Steve's absence. But, I continue to move forward. I've realized lately that when I'm by myself or with people I know, I don't feel so alone. I don't feel so different from everyone else.

Making progress as the journey continues.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My past, present and future come together

One year ago, I wrote a post about how much I dread the first half of July. During the few days before the 4th of July holiday and 10 days after, I recall what was happening during those days in 2009 with such incredibly clarity. The same is true this year, but there also is a big difference. It's a wonderfully positive difference.

As I approach the five year anniversary of Steve's death, I am acutely aware of the convergence of my past, present and future.

I've written a lot about my past ...  I was married to a wonderful man who loved his family, the outdoors and life itself. He adored his children, loved his work as a wildlife biologist and spent many beautiful days on Lake Erie fishing for walleye and perch. He also suffered from depression. Although he was doing everything he should have done to get better and deal with the depression (see his doctor, take the medications as prescribed), he couldn't beat the disease.

My present has been a journey to find my new normal. I know I'm not the same person I was prior to July 2009. Life isn't the same. What was normal then is different now. During these past few years, I've been learning how to move forward while figuring out who I am as a young widowed mom. I've been blogging about my journey - the good, not so good, the down right ugly, the happy and sad.

Once I emerged through the fog of the first year or two of grief, I decided I didn't want to just exist. I chose to live ... to live a full and happy life. Part of embracing a full life has meant choosing to love again. I know what it is like to lose someone I love. I know the depths of that loss. Still, I have been open to loving again.

As I look to my future, it's a future that includes a second chance at love. A long friendship with an incredibly kind, giving, supportive and caring man has turned into a very special love. I feel so blessed. He may not fully understand this crazy journey of widowhood, but he gives me his love and support and room I need when I need it.

My journey certainly has evolved during these past few years. It is evolving again in a very big and exciting way ... I am marrying again!

I've ended each post with the same phrase ... "my journey continues." Even as I marry again, vowing love for the rest of my life, widowhood won't end. I will be Steve's widow and Mark's wife. It may sound complicated, but I know my heart has the capacity to love two incredible men. Love lives on in my past, my present and my future.

And, yes, my journey continues.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

That song

That song ... you recognize it immediately. From the first few notes, you know it's that song. On my drive home tonight, I was stopped at a traffic light and my mind started to wander. Then, I heard them ... the first few notes of that song ... one of our songs.

For our first dance during our wedding reception, Steve and I decided we both would choose a song to dance to, to sort of dedicate to each other. So, I guess they were our first dances! The song I chose was popular at the time and probably played as the first dance at every wedding that year. Still, I loved the words to the song and wanted to dance to "From This Moment On" with Steve.

As I sat in the car, stopped at the traffic light, that song began:

"From this moment life has begun
From this moment you are the one
Right beside you is where I belong
From this moment on"

I immediately was transported back to the dance floor, remembering our wedding and remembering Steve. My eyes got teary.

It's amazing how music can transport us to a different time.

I listened intently to each word.

As I drove home, I continued to think of Steve. It can still feel so surreal. Even nearly five years later, I can question, "Did that really happen?" or "Did Steve really die?" Weren't we just sitting at the cousins' table at another wedding?Just as quickly as I question it, I remember that day and know it did happen. He did die.

As fellow widows often say ... "Death Sucks," but love lives on. It's not the same. But, love does live on. Sometimes that love is eclipsed by anger or sadness. But, it's still there. Nearly five years later, I am coming to appreciate that there is love in heaven and here on Earth. I feel blessed to have both.

And, as for the song Steve had played for me ... "Let's Stay Together" by the great Al Green. For a long time I couldn't bear to listen to that song. The words actually made me mad ...

"Let's stay together
Lovin' you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad"

Oh, the power of music! 

But, tonight, as I listened to "From This Moment On," I wasn't sad. I was just remembering.

And, the journey continues.

Monday, March 31, 2014

18 days ...

I feel like a little kid. I am counting down the days to my birthday like a little girl about to turn 10! Turning 10 is a big milestone. I remember the excitement of finally being "double digits." Now, I am giddy about turning 40.

Some people dread a milestone birthday, especially birthdays after 29! I am looking forward  to this birthday for a couple of reasons.

The biggest reason is the symbolism of closing the chapter on my 30s. My 30s started out on a huge high. About one month after I turned 30, I found out I was having twins. Holy crap ... twins! I was excited and scared at the same time. As my 30s progressed, I was balancing working full time and raising three children. I certainly didn't do this on my own. My husband, Steve, was an amazing father to Steven, Emma and Stella. He adored all four of us.

Behind his smile that could light up a room was an ongoing struggle with major depression. That never mattered to me. I cared for him and took over caring for the kids when the depression reared its ugly head. It wasn't always easy, but I did what I needed to do because I loved him and I loved our family.

By the time I turned 35, his illness was the worst I had ever seen it. That was the same year my life changed forever.

The next four years have been a roller coaster. There have been ups and downs and tunnels where I couldn't always see in front of me. Amid the sadness, I've also had the opportunity to meet so many other women and men from across the country who have been widowed. There's something comforting about being in the company of other people who really "get it."

Another reason I'm excited about turning 40 is the unknown. I don't know what lies ahead, and that's exciting. As I move forward to the next chapter, I know I possess a confidence I didn't have in my early 30s. I also know I am surrounded by love, love of family and friends.

As I move forward onto my 40s, I'll never forget the love and loss I experienced in my 30s. It will always be part of me ... always. Still, I move forward, living my new normal.

Here's to 18 more days ... and a journey that continues.


Monday, March 10, 2014

One word critique for "Resurrection," disrespectful

For anyone who has lost a loved one, the fact that our loved one is gone from this Earth is painfully clear. Although we may wish our loved one was still with us or wish that somehow he or she could come back to us from the "great beyond," we know it's just not possible.

The first time I saw the commercial promoting the new show, "Resurrection," I got mad. The premise of the show made me mad. In the commercial, a man opens his door to find a little boy who supposedly had died 32 years ago and was returning home to his parents. The father and mother both are in disbelief that their son, who still appears to be around 9 years old, is standing on their doorstep. In another scene, a woman is sitting in a church. When a man approaches her, she asks, "Did I really die?"

After seeing the commercial for what seemed like the hundredth time, it was the song that eventually sent me over the edge. "I'm comin home ... I'm comin home."

No. People who have died don't come home.

In my little world, I define "home" as being here with me. In that case, no, Steve isn't coming home. I hate that. But, that is real.

A few nights ago, my son, Stevie, and I were sitting in our living room. I was watching TV and he was playing on his iPad. Of course, the commercial came on again. Without even looking up from his iPad, Stevie said, "That's disrespectful." When I asked him if he was referring to the show, he said yes and went on to say that the idea of the show is disrespectful to people who have lost someone.

How insightful.

This is just my opinion, but yes, I feel like the idea behind the show is disrespectful. I'll never open my front door to find Steve standing there. I'll never walk into a church and find Steve sitting in a pew questioning whether he had died.

Maybe there are other people who find comfort in the fantasy that their loved one would return "home."

I just don't find comfort in that.

Regardless, my journey continues.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My "new normal" is now normal

Just days after Steve died, it was already clear to me that the life I had known was never going to be the same. While I was just embarking on this journey called widowhood, and I really had no clue what wild ride was ahead of me, knowing life would be very different was a sense I was sure about. Without a doubt, totally sure. I remember telling people that the kids and I would need to find our "new normal."

New normal meant moving forward as a single mom with three young kids. There was no choice but to move forward. Although there were many days when I wanted to stay in bed huddled under the covers as life went on around me, I knew that couldn't happen. It wouldn't happen. I had three amazing kids who depended on me and needed routine and normalcy. The irony ... we needed normalcy, yet nothing seemed normal.

Life seemed to go back to normal ... for other people, that is. For us, our world was turned upside down. Since I knew hiding under the covers wasn't going to be an option, I had to get up each morning and figure it out.

It was the four of us finding our way. And, we did. Throughout the past couple of years, we lived our new normal.

During the holidays, it hit me. Our "new normal" had become normal.

As Thanksgiving approached, it dawned on me that it would be our fifth Thanksgiving without Steve. Five ... That shocked me.

There have been five Christmases, five birthdays, five anniversaries.

Now at almost five full years into this new normal, I had another realization. One that I don't like. One that can still seem so surreal. I realized that I have gotten used to Steve being gone.

I hate that thought. But, it is reality.

I'm beginning this year on a really positive note. In a few months, I'll celebrate a big birthday and FINALLY close the book on my 30s. In July, we'll celebrate Steve's life ... not dwell on the sadness that he is gone as I did last summer. I have vowed to move forward and live a full life. There's a lot to be grateful for ... there's love, laughter and happiness in our new normal that'
s become normal.

So, the journey continues.

*Source: The Grief Toolbox; "A Different Kind of Parenting, Kota Press