Saturday, July 30, 2011

Two Year Ago

Two years ago, less than three months after he died, I went looking for him.
I rememberd this today, as I made a to-do list. Things that need to happen before two of my three kids fly back east, without me.

Even now, the notion of looking for him makes sense.

So, I went back to the post I wrote on August 4, 2009.

The chair where he always sat by the water in Maine.

This place is saturated with him.

I awake from a bad dream and prefer to go back to it rather than acknowledge that the other half of the bed is empty.

It feels like it did in the beginning, raw and suffocating. I am steeped in disbelief. I am not here without him, I think. He’s in the kitchen.

And when he’s not there, I think he’s stretching in the living room.

And when I check and see the floor empty I think, he’s down by the water.

I walk down expecting to find his long legs stretched out, his head back, eyes closed, hands intertwined and resting on his flat belly, dressed in his red fleece to protect from the dewy morning.

And when I don’t see him there,
I sink into his chair
and sob.

This is that wave that my friend spoke about. The grief wave. It comes, up over my head and with magnificent force shoves me down to the bottom, smashing me. It lifts and tosses me until I don’t know which way is up. I am afraid to breath.

So I don't breath, I cry until I magically float to the top, where this time, there is not another wave waiting for me.

12:10, three hours after
looking for him.

Looking for him?
Searching for him. Like he might just be in this one other place, this one place I forgot to look. Against logic. I saw his dead body. Against common sense, why would he be here?

But I just had to check, to see, to make sure that he really wasn't there or here or maybe at the store. The chair by the water was the last place I knew he would be if he were still alive.

Now I sit on the porch of Blue Hill Books, unwrap my new journal and begin writing. My lungs fill with air that is filled with him.

I'm still breathing.

I remember that day. I remember the sadness and the surprise of my action. What I find so amazing now is that, just like my friend said it would, the pain is not sharp or forceful or even scary. There is a sense of loss, dull, like someone gently putting pressure on my back. Noticeable, but not distracting or overwhelming. I am surprised to find myself here.

In this place of acceptance and dare I say...okness?

I am relieved to find myself here.
Finally, a place where it doesn't hurt as much.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


my daughter Pallas (2nd from the left) and her friends

She says to me “Kim, you’re important. Other widows want to meet you. They ask if you will be there.”

I was talking to Michelle, the founder of this blog, Camp Widow, Widow’s Village and Soaring Spirits Foundation.

She was trying to convince me to come to widow camp.

I wasn’t going. Even though I live just two hours away.
I wasn’t going.

I’m important, I whispered to myself. I’m important.
I matter to other people.
I had not felt that way since…
Art died.

The moment Art died I felt like I mattered less.
Like the space I took up in this world was not nearly as important as the space others take up.

I was not a wife anymore.
As a wife I knew I mattered to one other adult. I mattered a lot to him.

As a widow there is no one to call to say “I’m on my way home.”
There is no one to worry about me, or worry with about the kids.
My day doesn’t matter to other people.
They guy who cut me off matters less.
The great deal I got on a dress doesn’t really matter either.
My life and all it’s little insignificant happenings does not matter to anyone else.
It would take days for anyone to realize that the kids and I were gone…or dead.
Without a husband I questioned my matterness.

And it was not until Michelle spoke the opposite of what I believed that I saw how I carried around that little belief. I carried it around as sure as I carry around my kids were born from me, that Obama is our president and that I will wake up tomorrow and it will be Sunday.

I don’t matter as much now that I don’t have some to matter to.

That belief just sits there,
I matter less with no one else to share my life with.

And the thing is I didn’t realize that was my belief until I spoke with Michelle.

“I matter,” I whisper again, this time just a little bit louder.
The funny thing is:
if I take a really close look at my life.
if I am honest about who I have become since Art gave me the gift of his death
if I really look at it, I matter more
than I did when he was alive.

And if this is true for me, then it is true for many of us widow’s too.

We matter.
We matter to each other.
Every blog that is discovered at 3:23 am, when a widow is terrified of what has happened to her or him,

The comments that widows leave, the open, honest, "me too" comments that are left and read by THOUSANDS

The visitors, lurkers, outsiders

We all matter! It just doesn’t look the same way it did before our partners died.
Heck it doesn’t look the way we were taught it was supposed to look, dead partner or not.

I matter
You matter.

So when you see me at Camp Widow, or out and about in LA, come up and give me a hug.

I need it. I need to be reminded that I matter.
And my guess is you need to be reminded that

I think we all do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Our Struggle"

“We’ve all had our struggles…”

And that’s when I stop listening. For her to throw the death of my husband, the life that I lead trying (and failing most of the time) to keep my head above water, for her to lump me in with someone’s divorce, or hospital stay or job loss (well….job loss maybe), for her to insinuate that being a young widow raising kids was “just” another life struggle….

Oooooo……I’m so mad I can’t even type!

And on top of that, she called me a single parent. I am an ONLY PARENT (thank you widow who posted that in comments a few months ago!) There is a big huge difference!

And this comment from a person who says that the loss of my husband still affects her!

Wait….I am so pissed! I want to growl!

“We have all had our struggles…” as if mine is like hers. How dare she trivialize my life, my daily fucking battle to keep a roof over my kid’s heads, to feed them, to care for their mental well-being.

How dare she compare her life with her married husband and say “We’ve all had our struggles…”

Does she mean that she gets up weary every fucking day? Does she mean that before her feet hit the ground she has considered where the holes are in her plan and the 3 people she needs to call, that morning to fill those holes?

Does she mean she dreads weekends because she just didn’t have the energy or time during the week to make plans for the kids so now they will be with her, which is exactly where she doesn’t want them to be, arguing, unless she finds the energy to argue them or de-whine them into a bike ride, a trip to a museum or the park? All the while really only wanting to take a good long nap, long enough to skip a damn day.!

Does she mean that she carefully plans her Sundays to make sure that the house is full of food, breakfast, lunches, snacks and dinner and just in case food items so that she doesn’t have to go to the store in the middle of the week because she knows it may mentally push her off the deep end to make “just” one more stop?

Does she mean she got to tell her kids today “we’re moving” and then find the ability, patience and kindness to comfort each one of them, separately, when all she wanted to do was go into her room and scream into her pillow?

By "our struggles," did she mean that she listened to her oldest say “The last 1/3 of my life has been….” and then watch his shoulder’s shake as he cries dealing with yet another loss. Or to have her youngest say “It seems like most of my life has been not very good.” And to realize, it’s true. His dad was diagnosed with cancer when he was 4. He’s 9 now.

Does she mean that she has days upon days upon days where she falls into bed, after trying to raise threes kids ON HER OWN and think, tonight would be a good night for a fucking earthquake because at least I could “rest?”

Does she mean wrapping her small frame around her much larger older child as he again sobs himself to sleep knowing the only thing she can do is listen to his pain, bless it and hope that it will not swallow him.

Is that what she means by “We all have had our struggles?”

Cause there is NO PAST TENSE in my struggle. No “had!” Not today. In fact, it feels harder today than it did in the beginning..

I could try to interpret what she meant by that comment, but well. I’m just too damn tired!

So I didn’t hang up on her, although I was tempted. There was no point in trying to make her see because she can’t, she won’t. She needs to believe that “We all have had our struggles…” It makes her feel better and who am I to take that away from her.

So I take my rage to the only place I can, a computer and then to other widows and some of you knowing that I am not alone. And in that one thought, as I thought it, then wrote it...the rage disappears.

Thank you for being a place where I find the healing too.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Grief from A Child

This is what Ezra has to say about grief. He wants you to pay attention. He's nine. He was 7 by three weeks when Art died. M=Mom, aka Kim

E: It's scary whenever I go to sleep because I’m afraid I will be dreaming about daddy.

M: Why do you not like that?

E: Cause then every morning I wake up and I realize that he’s never coming back and it’s really hard for me.

M: What do you miss about your dad?

E: I miss that everyone would say, “Oh your dad is so tall. I wish I had a dad like him!” and stuff like that.

M: What do you think about our new lives without him?

E: Everyone says that everything that happens on earth has a reason. And it’s really hard to believe that this has a reason.

M: What do you like about our lives now that you don’t have Daddy?

E: Come to think of it, I’m having a lot of new experience that I wouldn’t have if my dad was alive.

M: Like what?

E: One of the biggest experiences is not having dad.

M: What are your good days like?

E: I don’t know. I think about him. I have my mind on other stuff.

M: Do you have any advice for people who are grieving, adult or child?

E: If people say that they are in worse grief than you are, just say, "You know I don’t think you are." because there are different kinds of grief. So it may be they are in bigger grief than me but in a different way.

When people say that to me, I just think you don’t know how I feel, so how can you compare something when you don’t know what it is?

M: What is it like to watch me cry when I miss Daddy?

E: I have different feelings. Sometimes I feel like I let you down somehow. Sometimes I feel like I should just leave you alone because I’m not in too good a shape myself.

M: When you comfort me, how does that make you feel?

E: When I comfort you, it kind of comforts me. And also that’s why I like to play the piano sometimes. It’s another way to express myself without getting mad. It comforts me.

E: slyly. That’s why you should let me get on the piano more often.

M: Do you have any tips for widowed mothers?

E: When the kids say, “Leave me alone” the mother should. Cause a lot of times when we say, "Leave me alone." it’s just better to be left alone because it feels good to let your feelings out when you’re not with other people.

M: Ezra can I post this for other widow’s to read?

E: Well that’s why you’re writing it all down, isn’t it?

I love you Ezra. Thank you for teaching me what it's like to be you.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How Did He Die?

I’m at the bank, not my usual branch.
Comments are made about how tall my youngest is.
“He’s only 9?”
I nod.
What I want to do is roll my eyes, and hand her a card that says:

“Thank you for noticing that my child is tall. Hopefully he will be a tall man some day. I have trained him to smile and say “Thank you,” even though he has nothing to do with how tall he is or how tall he will be. Now kindly stop ogling and either lets finish our business or be on your way.”

That’s what the card would say.

But I haven’t printed it up yet so instead I say:

“Yes, he is tall. My husband was 6’6.”

I use past tense easily now, forgetting how ominous it sounds. When their eyes go wide, I assume, for an instant that it’s in response to my husband’s height. Silly me.

The conversational tone changes from light to tragic. Their realization that in front of them is a woman whose life truly is tragic. “Did you say your husband ‘was’?”

Here we go.

“Yes. I did. My husband died.” And depending on the situation I sometimes add ‘recently.’

And then it comes, the stupidest question ever…

“How did he die?”
Or if they have a modicum of politeness, it’s:
“Do you mind me asking how he died?”

Now here is my quandary.

I do mind. Now I do.

When he first died, I would recount the story in detail. Somehow telling it over and over again and getting the same reactions over and over again put more and more earth beneath my feet, a place where I could say “this is where I stand now, without a husband.”

Then right around the second year, I noticed that telling my story began to feel old. I felt like my piece of earth was fairly solid. I had tamped it down and built it up. It was called “my new life: the expected bad, ugly and the surprisingly good.”

As I stepped into my third year, (OMG my third year….. I remember in the beginning not being able to imagine what it would be like to live that long without him!) Wow.

As I stepped into my third year, I find the question intrusive. And voyeuristic and well, like I’m adding to their gossip mill.

Isn’t it enough that my husband died? If I tell them he died of cancer, unless they have experienced loosing someone to cancer, they will have a way-not-accurate-image of his last moments on this earth that will probably include him looking deeply into my eyes and him saying a few final words before his last breath is taken. Or something that is so, so far from the truth!

I have to admit. It’s the kind of question I would have asked before I was on this side of death. It’s the kind of thing I would have listened intently too, shaken my head. Then later, maybe months later, I would have shared with an authoritative tone in my voice “I met this woman who lost her husband to cancer and she said…….”

That would have been me. Missing the whole point. Because it’s not how he died that matters. It’s the fact that he’s dead that matters.

And this is what I want to tell someone when they ask.

“Its not about what killed him. What makes it so difficult is that he’s dead.”

So I resolve to use that line. I resolve to not tell anyone how he died.
From here on out, when someone asks me “how” I will reply:

“It’s not what killed him that matters, it’s the fact that he is dead that is so difficult.”

And in that resolution, I leave the house the next day.
And I find myself in a random conversation with a random person in line at the grocery store.

Out slips “He was … “

“Oh!” she says “Is your husband dead? “

“Yes.” I reply

“Was he shot?”

I give up.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Widow vs. Widow

She said “Well, at least you got to say good-bye.”

Anger rises in me because I see her comment as one of those my-situation-is-worse-than-yours comments.

Anger because she wants to beat me to the bottom, to claim more grief, more anger, more despondency than me.

Anger because really? Do we have to have this conversation? I’ve had it before but about skin color with a white friend who was saying that my “blackness” was different from the “poor people’s blackness.” And I had to explain that the store clerk doesn’t thing so. I still get “watched,” and treated with suspicion even with a platinum American Express in my purse.

This widow assumes that Art’s cancer gave me time to prepare. I am disappointed at the magical death image she holds. You know the one from t.v.? The one where the person looks like themselves, opens their eyes, says a few last dying but meaningful words with the last exhale.

She thinks that expecting that your husband will die is some how easier. As if I could “prepare” for the impending grief by filling up sandbags to line my life. The more sandbag the less pain.

As I go to open my mouth, to tell her my last memories of my husband are of a withered 6’6" man who went from 235 to 154, his sunken, hollow face, unconscious, mouth open emanating that foul sweet smell of his dying innards. A smell that even in thought, makes me wretch.

Before I can tell her about the relief that came over me when he died that was quickly followed with shame of being relieved. Before I can tell her any of that…

I float
into her head
and see her own

I see her need to tell her story over and over and over again, to compare it to others because in her world, right now, there is no firm footing. Nothing makes sense. She doesn’t know how to get to point B because not only is she standing on completely new territory, she doesn’t even know which direction to head in to find that second point. Comparing her story to mine at least provides her with walls, something familiar, something firm, a shelter of sorts.

And it is not till I recognize all this, I back down. She can have the bottom. She can have the grief and the despondency. I no longer need it to stand on.

I am surprised for my love for her, for the way I want to hold her in my arms and let her know it will truly, truly be okay. I want to tell her that she will find her place in this world. That she will slowly learn to lean into, and live, decently, without him.

The love comes out of my right arm, through my fingertips as I take her hand. I say to her after a moments silence, “Wow, I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to loose him so suddenly. I hear you.”

Because I know she simply wants
to be

Exactly what I wanted and
still want.