Reflections on my birthday

So today is my 37th birthday. I typically celebrate on Dec 8th because my grandfather passed away on the 9th of Dec. As I sit here enjoying a day to relax, drink coffee, do some shopping, and prepare for a Christmas party tonight, I thought it would be a good time to do a blog entry. As I look outside the first snowflakes of the season are falling around my backyard.

Last night a few close friends got together at my house. We went for a few drinks at a local bar to listen to an acoustic set by Johnny Orr, a local talent. It was a very nice calm evening. Our original plans were to have a wild night out in downtown Raleigh at the 80’s and 90’s bar. The weather was cold rainy and unforgiving. We will postpone this part of the celebration until next Friday. This means an extra party for me!

I was never a big birthday party person. I am not the center of attention girl at all. I used to throw Matt some wonderful birthday celebrations (even surprise ones). I was just thinking about how I surprised him with his parents coming to our apartment once for a birthday party, he was in a foul mood but he did not know why I was all twitchy. I was trying to get them there without him knowing.  I did not usually have people over or go out specifically for my birthday. After losing Matt unexpectedly,  I realized that a birthday is one more excuse to see friends and live life joyfully. So I will take that extra party and do just that!

I am really blessed with amazing friends I have in my life. Moments like the holidays and birthdays are hard for the widow and single community. Both of which I am the unlucky member of. Friends truly help to support you in these tough times.

Last years birthday saw me going under contract for a house (the very one I am writing from right now). I recall buying it unceremoniously and then crying into my burger and beer at Gatehouse Tavern with my parents and friend Laura. I also went to therapy that day knowing I needed it. All I wanted last year was to survive the day without making a complete fool of myself and not get too many pity looks. I wanted to find a moment to stop crying. I wanted to be stronger. I did the best I could.

All I want on my birthday this year is to be hugged by someone special who cares about me. Someone who can look at me with a smile and say it’s getting better Dana, it is going to be ok.  It is not need, I do not need anything. It is a want. I want to share my time with someone, getting to know one another. I want to go on fun dates, sit home and watch tv after cooking together, talk about random things, and develop a friendship that turns into something special. I want someone to take care of me for the first time in my life. I want companionship. And of course on a day like my birthday I am going to assess and take stock of my life.

In this new life I am living, I am not sure if it is harder to love someone who is gone or like some who is right there but unavailable. I do know just writing that sentence has me filled with guilt (ask any widow who tries to move forward and they will say guilt is a step in this). You see when someone is gone you have no ability to change it you just scream, cry, punch, and grieve. You never stop loving your deceased husband. You do learn how large your heart is and how it has the capacity to let someone new in and start to beat again. When someone is physically available and emotionally not all you can do is offer compassion, space, distance and time. The difference is in the 2nd situation you have hope. A hope that someday your paths cross again, and a real attempt can be made to get to know each other with clearer minds. Sometimes the person you want around you the most has to be distanced from, because they do not care enough about you. The fact is if they felt the same they would be there on your birthday and taking you to the fancy party tonite.

I wanted this day to be much different. I wanted this life to look much different.

Just once in what has been a very hard time, I wanted to put a Win in my corner.

You should be here….

Most people who choose to give advice to Widows go home to someone everyday who is there to talk to them, hold them, and care for them. Believe me I appreciate the sentiment and know you are trying to help. Just realize you cannot really understand a young suicide widow unless you are one. I would not wish this on anyone. A few people have reminded me that being alone in this world is not the worst thing. That I do not need any man to complete me or show my worth. They say I have to love myself alone first. Over the past 13.5 months I have done that. I probably spend more time working on my mind, body, and improving myself than most people do. I have learned to love myself for who I am, faults and weaknesses and all. It happens really quickly when you have no other choice but to move forward, dig deep, and trust yourself. When you see your strength and ability to survive tragedy, you quickly know who you are and love yourself for it. The woman I am today is amazing, outstanding, loving, compassionate, passionate, thoughtful, and unbreakable. I am a suicide survivor and a widow warrior. I am a fierce friend and family member. I am a fur-baby mom. I am strong AF.

So tonight I am going to put on my fancy party dress, grab my fellow single widow friend Elizabeth, and go to my favorite bar. We will rock this Christmas party where I know very few people. We are two strong, single, independent, amazing ladies who support each other. We both value having a strong and good man in our lives we just haven’t found one to keep up with us yet and know they want to take us off the market! So cheers to me for making it through this year. I truly hope 37 is my best age.

The Holiday Season for Widow Warriors

This time of year is all parties, couples, and families. I have two parties on my birthday, Saturday. I will be going alone to them both. When you are alone it is a tough time. You reflect on your past relationships or in my case the loss of Matt. It does not mean make bad or desperate choices because you find yourself alone during the holiday season. It is the time of year to take stock of who you are and what you have.

Do your best to do you, love you, and the right person will take notice. They will be magnetically drawn to you for how much you respect and love who you are and how you live your life with passion and enjoyment. The right person wants nothing more than to be with you. The right person could not conceive of hurting you, leaving, or making you sad. The right person compliments all that you are and makes you shine even brighter. The right person cannot stand to be next to you without being affectionate, smiling at you, admiring you, and giving you a feeling of security and safety.

This actually applies to all people not just Widows. The holidays are emotional and filled with extra time away from jobs. Use this time to clean house (literally and figuratively), remove clutter, clear your mind, and finally tap into your needs, wants, desires, and goals for the future.

I consider this the time to reflect, think, ponder, evaluate, and shall we dare to even say… dream. Much like your performance review at work, I evaluate how I did against my goals for the year, and list new goals for the following year. I am not a resolution person. Most people abandon resolutions immediately after they write them down! I am very goal oriented.

Goals of 2017

  1. Survive the one year mark without Matt
    • (don’t give up/stay alive/keep job/maintain friendships)
  2. Get back to working out
  3. Get my body back and sexy
  4. Take better care of myself
  5. Learn Patience and Grace for myself in my new world as a Widow
  6. Walk the dogs more

I feel I have accomplished many of these goals.

Areas for Improvement:

  • Walk the dogs more
  • Have more grace and patience for myself this is a hard experience.

Current Goals for 2018 (work in process)

  1. Be more Assertive when it comes to personal relationships
    1. With men be clear on what I want and accept nothing less
    2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help/rely on people/or demand respect
    3. With friends that take advantage, are unkind, or create stress and anxiety cut them loose or talk to them about the behavior.
  2. Become Yoga Teacher Certified (already signed up)
  3. Formally work on my book proposal
  4. Walk the dogs more
  5. Consider public speaking about Grief, Loss, Widowhood, Suicide Survivorship
  6. Attract an emotionally available man into my life who wants nothing more than to be with me.

I would love to hear what your goals were/are and how you are doing on them.

 

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Note about this blog post this entry is inspired by the widow groups hearing all of our collective stories about the holiday season, putting up trees and putting away stockings of LH. It is inspired by them and the collective dating stories. Widows get treated horrible in the dating community from all I see.
This is really a part one because I think there is more to tell here. It is also inspired by them because of how much effort that the Widows put into GOALS and improvement of self. We are strong and mighty and supportive of each other!!

It would be 5 years

To my husband on this day:

Thank you for the time we had together. Today would have marked 5 years of marriage but it was not to be. We spent almost 12 years together and I am so appreciative of our time with one another. Our lives were cut short. I know you are safe and in heaven. Please keep sending me your good thoughts and watch over me. I need your guidance to help me navigate this new life. I was a lucky girl because you chose me and made me a better person.  

Who would have thought that death would hit us at such a young age. I miss you and our dreams. Please help me find strength to continue on. Thank you for visiting me I see you in the cardinal that comes by. I love you very much even though I struggle to know how to tell you now. I find that too much of your memory suffocates me right now. I am not willing to break down at every turn anymore. I stopped all that in April. Thank you for granting me answers and coming through twice with the medium. I know you want me to have answers and closure. (And I hope you’re right about that one thing but I don’t think you are I wish you would be, thank you for trying).

May you rest easy and be pain-free. May you fully know how loved you were on this Earth not just by me but by everyone lucky enough to meet you.

I could list all the things I love most about our life together and you but I just do not have it in me to do so yet. Instead I will leave this here.

No one’s ever loved anyone as much as I love you.

― Stephenie Meyer, Breaking Dawn

Our vows until death do us part….

  • His vows to Me:
    I am so blessed to have met such a beautiful and intelligent woman.
    You have a heart of gold and it is amazing how much you give of yourself to friends and family. Because of you, I finally understand what it means to love someone with all of my heart. I can’t wait to start our lives together as husband and wife.
    I, take you, for my lawful wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.

 

  • My vows to Him:
    It’s an extraordinary thing to meet someone who you can bare your soul to and accept you for what you are. I’ve been waiting, for what seems like a very long time, to get beyond what I am. Today, I marry my best friend, and the person I look forward to spending my time with most. I promise to support your dreams and walk beside you, giving courage and strength. I hereby pledge my faithfulness. I love you. I, take you, for my lawful husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.

 

This is the last of the “big firsts” except for the anniversary of his passing I’m still standing somehow….

 

Widowhood, Grief, and Alcohol

When he died I would not touch the stuff. I barely ate the first few weeks. The only drink I consumed was a full week after he passed away. I just worried that if I started I would not stop. I also did not wallow in unchanged bed sheets for that same reason, or put myself into his worn clothing for comfort. Instead I stayed sober and alert and ask my mom to wash all the sheets and clothing immediately. I know that not everyone would have done this. It was not me being less sad it was literally a survival mode that kicked in. Some days I wish I could be the person who laid in the filth of days old clothing and sheets and smelled of him. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to keep his scent around me. But I promise if I did I would not be where I am today. I would not be coming to you in your living room on a blog about grief waves and resiliency. I would still be there wallowing because it would have felt so safe to be amongst his things.

Does any of this sounds like you?

At home you have monitored your intake. You want to be sure you are not over indulging alone in your house. You are conscious of each bottle you drink, how many drinks you have. You know for a while you had a bit more than you should have. But then you have that support person sending you happiness via text, call this person Distraction. You notice your intake is down to barely nothing. You have a person taking your mind of the sad loneliness for long enough to make you forget to have a drink that night. You are thankful.

Fast forward to the time when you start to attempt a new life for yourself outside of the confines and safety of your house. At the bar or out at a concert you fall into the fun of the crowd and the dream that your life could be like theirs (less complicated, more fun, happier). You watch in somewhat envy at the time they are having, their biggest worry may have been who will watch the kids, or who will drive home if we all drink. (By the way you are not so self-indulgent that you think none of them have issues but in this moment you are not considering those because they look like they are having the time of their lives.)  In this new life you are now considered SINGLE. You are thrust into the scene you thought you were done with. You enter the bar and you immediately are hit by the share number of people having a wonderful time. You too want to have that kind of evening. You tell yourself you will have one or two to loosen up. But sometimes two turns into more and you start to sway with the music, socialize, and live.  Then it hits you hard and fast. Alcohol is a depressant. After that initial loosen up moment you start to feel lively and then you start to feel sad shortly thereafter. You have had too much. There is no turning back to the happy side.

When you crash into sad mode you start to cry, feel sorry for yourself, and soon after despise the person you are even more than when you walked into the bar. You may be with people, you may be alone, but either way you need to go home. Home to the quiet again. You are embarrassed by your silent tears. You just wanted to be ok and have fun.

Then you Facebook message your friend to confess you messed this night up (again).  You say “alcohol and grief don’t mix”. Reply “Alcohol & many things don’t mix in a good way”… That is true. You decide that you will be on guard even outside the house and strongly consider not drinking anymore at all. Many people do it of course and it sometimes seems like they have less drama and complications. You decide you will limit the nights out entirely and be kinder to yourself and give yourself more time in terms of social situations.

When you are trying to avoid stormy waves, Alcohol needs to back off.

When to FALL and When to FLY

As you know crying and sadness is really tiring. It is not living. It is all-encompassing. Wallowing into my bed is something I just have not done. I have not allowed myself to FALL. Believe me I think it is great if you can pause long enough to let yourself fall completely. There is certainly no judgement in how you grieve from me. For myself however,  I just worried if I started to FALL I would not be able to pull myself back up from the hole I was in. I grieve in waves instead.

I want to FLY.

Just because I want to fly does not make me love him less, miss him less, or diminish him in any way. I believe he wants to see me FLY. I heard it from him in fact when I saw the medium. He said I would fall in love again and it would be great. He wants me to live, dance, and be happy. He said he would be sure he is not a scumbag. (a term I often used to describe some of my past).

Does this make everything easy? No, of course not! But, his blessing is certainly helpful and allowed me to step into life again.

Reading grief blogs I hear several things consistently from Widow(ers).

  • They feel guilt and shame for living, for having a good day, for getting a date, etc. I do not think any of our spouses wanted to die (even if suicide was the way they died like my husband). If they did not want to die then please explain why would they want us stop living?
  • The other consistent thing I see is if they do move forward they compare someone new or something new (house, job, etc) to when they were with their spouse. This really is not giving the new experience a fair chance. It is not giving you a fair chance at life.

I hope that other Widow(ers) will support each other and others will support them to start to live, to be fair to the new experience, and to have a good Life after Loss. Do not let fear stop you because Grief transforms quickly to fear. It will make you pause just try to swim through the tidal wave. If we could get a Widow Pass and FLY without fear of wrong decisions, broken hearts, dead ends, risk that would be wonderful but then we know that is just not reality. So we must be bold and risk mistakes, sadness, and even scarier additional losses. Somehow I think its the last one that holds us back the most.

I just read the Alchemist by Paul Coehlo and I must leave you with a few of my favorite quotes that make sense here.

  • “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
  • “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
  • “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

No one to tell – Loneliness

This is going to be a short one today. It is pretty simple to express. It is not something I feel every day and I had been feeling really great for the last 7 weeks or so until this week. This week I am weaker. This week I felt like I got another blow to my heart. This week I feel ALONE.

I feel loss of him most when I come and go. When it’s really good or really bad.

I feel it most when I have work business travel. When I land and arrive at my destination no one cares I’m safe. When I come home no one cares that I did. No one to tell.

When I am sick or need medicine or my inhaler fast there is no one to help me anymore.

When my work day is successful or I have good news to share. There is no one to tell.

When I see something cool, something frightening, something interesting. Who do you tell?

I feel ALONE. When I say no one that may sound harsh because of course people care. But no one is here to tell anymore that is my go to. I feel like I tell my brothers, my text friend, and my family, and friends. But it is not the same at all. I am still learning which people to get which support from. (another topic for another day and difficult to navigate as again no manual). I really screwed up this week on this one by the way.

The room can be filled with people who love and care for you. But without a person who loves you truly like a spouse would after all these years of being together… you do not feel anything but ALONE.

Sometimes I worry I will get hurt or die and no one will know for days. If I did not reach out to people and say how I am they really would not know. I work from home and I could literally disappear and no one would be the wiser.

Status: Widow

WIDOW… I did not even know if that applied to me or if that was the male version (widower) I had to look it up.

I know I have to accept this term as it is what I am, a Widow. A woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not remarried. At 35, a widow?

I always pictured someone who is over 80 and wearing a cardigan all day remembering her young years with her grandkids as the image of a widow. The fact is with the mental health crisis, cancer catastrophe, and heart conditions in the world no one is safe from the big W. We are one stressful heart attack, one cancer cell, and one suicide away from making another young Widow (or Widower).

Signing paperwork to sell my previous home was the first time I saw it staring me in the face next to my full name. I could not believe the audacity it had to just glare at me that way. I immediately started to crumble in front of my realtor and the lawyer. Thankfully they were very kind and aware of my recent loss. The buyers were late to their closing so I was able to get out before they even walked in the door.

It sounds like I have a disease not that I lost a spouse, best friend, lover, and companion. Widow seems like a condition versus a status. I think I will find another word. I just do not know what it is. Maybe the W could be for Wisdom instead because we sure gain a lot of wisdom in short order after loss and grief.

I have started to say LATE husband which is another foreign one for me. If you say husband people are confused, he is not an ex so that does not work, you do not want to say former, so you are stuck with dead, deceased or with late. Seems like late is a nicer and softer way to say what is so sad and shocking.

As I try to re-enter my new life I have been forced to remind myself of my new status as Widow again. Check the box that best explains your status (doctor’s office, online dating, employment paperwork, etc). You are so used to checking married or single but widow is foreign for sure and one we just did not see coming.

Being a widow does not define any of us. We should not let it try to. Get up and grab life and live it. Seek out friends who do not treat you differently or look at you with sad eyes. Find the ones that bring life back to you. Thank you to those who do this for me.

Our spouses would want us to live. I know for sure that my late husband wants me to move forward and find love again while he watches over me.