Still a Widow

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

I wonder how she’d be handling this?

We didn’t leave the house for weeks at a time when we were at our worst, but I still wonder how Parker would have reacted to a pandemic and social distancing?

How would she have reacted when we lived in florida and we were close to her friends? Would that have made a difference? We were pretty isolated up here anyway, we didn’t really spend time with anyone.

How would she have calmed my fears? What jokes would she have made? Would she have broken down?

She was always the stronger one from the outside looking in.

What foods would she want, knowing we needed to shop as little as possible? Which comfort meals would she want me to cook?

What kind of order would she need around the house?

We were used to being in the same space all of the time. That was our normal. Neither of us could work most of the time, neither of us had lives outside of our home. We were inseparable to a fault. That would have come in handy right now.

I also wonder how horrible this would have been if we lived in the homeless shelter while this was happening?

What precautions are they putting in place?

How scary is it there right now, knowing that this could infect the entire shelter in a matter of days? So many vulnerable people in such a small space.

I’m so thankful my life is where it’s at right now. I’m glad I live in my own space. I’m glad I can buy groceries. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about keeping the lights on.

I’m thankful she’s missing this particular part of life. I’m glad she doesn’t have to struggle through this. She doesn’t have to be afraid that her mom will get sick, or her aunts. She doesn’t have to worry about losing a friend or loved one.

Widowhood is in every facet of my life. It’s always there, quietly whispering. It’s here too. It’s in the middle of a worldwide crisis. It’s in the middle of social distancing. It’s in the middle of a pandemic.

It’s always with me, and it makes me wonder.

How Far I’ve Really Come

This starts as a Really Real Mental Health Post.

And ends as a Really Real Widow Post.

I can’t really believe how far I’ve come.

Each day that I work, I can’t believe I’m really doing this. I can’t believe I actually earned this money. I can’t believe how much earning this money really means. I can’t explain how good it feels.

Each problem I solve, each new task I conquer, and each fear I overcome, I’m amazed that this is who I am now. That this is what I am accomplishing.

I remember when I realized I couldn’t work anymore.  I remember the shit storm that lead up to that moment. I remember the heartbreak that came along with applying for disability.

I remember.

At the worst of this, I couldn’t leave my house. I couldn’t be left alone.

I remember.

And the truth is, I will probably end up back in the hospital some day. I will probably do another round or three of the partial hospital program. I will have countless more hours of therapy.

But I’ve come so so far.

So far.

I can see myself going further. I can see myself working full time. I can see myself becoming more comfortable in my own skin. I can see myself getting better at ignoring the constant anxiety running through my head.

It’s a big deal that I can see a future with further recovery.

It’s a big deal that I’m seeing a future without disability.

Without being disabled.

And there’s another side to this.

I remember watching Parker push through her own struggles to go to work and support the three of us while she was barely making it emotionally and physically.

I remember.

I love my life and I know everything that has happened has brought me to where I am now.

But still, I wonder.

If I could have worked before. If I could have shared some of the load. If I could have helped more. If I could have taken some of the weight off of her shoulders.

Would she still be alive?

If we had the money to pay the bills. If we had the money to keep the lights on. If we had the money to avoid the eviction notices. If we had the money to keep food in the fridge.

Would she still be alive?

I’ve come so far, and I’m doing so well. And I know her death is a big part of what pushed me towards my recovery. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am if things hadn’t happened exactly as they have.

Every success, every bit of growth, with every push towards recovery, is served with a small side dish of sadness.

But I can’t really believe how far I’ve come.

And I can’t wait to see how far I go.

In My Dreams

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

I don’t dream about her that often anymore. To be honest, I never did have all that many dreams about her.

This one was about missing her. This one was about how long it’s been since I’ve talked to her. This one was about how impossible it is to get to her.

The details don’t really matter all that much, I guess. But I remember the moment in the dream where I realized “It’s been too long since I’ve sent her a message. It’s been too long since I’ve called her.”

It’s been too long.

I was afraid she’d be hurt by my distance. I was afraid she’d move on. I was afraid she’d forget me.

I’m afraid I’ll forget her.

I remember, in my dream, wanting to send her something in a video game we played.

In a video game where I left her a hidden message the night she died. A message that’s still there waiting for her to find it.

In a video game that played a part in her Eulogy.

I remember wanting to send her something.

Something that should have been instant. But instead the game said it would take days.

It would take days because it was hard to get to where she was.

It was hard to reach her.

I woke up and my chest hurt. I truly physically hurt. It was dark in the room and I could just barely make out Wonder Woman sleeping peacefully beside me. I wanted so badly to wake her, to ask her to hold me, to ask her to comfort me.

It’s still a very strange feeling to want my fiancee to comfort me over the memory of my dead wife.

I didn’t wake her then.

I laid there and contemplated getting up and starting my day. I was still thinking about it when I woke up a few hours later.

It was really hard to get moving this morning.

I told Wonder Woman about my dream. She held me for a moment before settling back in for more sleep.

It’s hours and hours later and I still feel that ache in my chest. The ache that was such a big part of the early days of widowhood. The ache that isn’t as constant and is never as intense. The ache that still catches me off guard sometimes.

It’s been too long since I’ve sent her a message.

It’s been too long since I’ve called her.

It’s been too long.

I miss her.

But it is

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

I’ve been watching the clock all day.

“It isn’t really bothering me this year.”

Watching as the hours tick closer to my wedding anniversary with my late wife.

“I barely even remembered.”

My stomach is in knots.

“Grief really is getting easier, these dates aren’t a big deal at all.”

I keep glancing at the clock.

“I’m doing so much better than I did last year.”

I feel like “better” is supposed to be the goal.

I spend so much time telling people that you never get over something like this, but I still expect myself to get over it.

And it does consume less of my time. It consumes less of my thoughts. I have gotten better. I have moved forward.

But sometimes, like on the eve of my wedding anniversary, it’s still hard.

And I’m not even quite sure what’s hard about it. I’m happy. I’m not missing her any more than the normal amount (which is always a lot). I’m “living my best life.” I’m oh so happily engaged. In the grand scheme of things, this is just another day.

Just another day that she’s not here.

Just like yesterday.

Just like tomorrow.

I don’t know why these kind of days hit me so hard, at a gut level, even when I don’t feel sad about them.  It just grabs me, from somewhere deep inside.

It’s that reminder, that no matter what other titles I take on, I will always carry the title of widow.

This year, this decade.

This is a Really Real “Life in Review” Post.

It’s the end of a year.

I figured, just like so many people do, I’d reflect on the past year of my life.  Think about my accomplishments and what I’d like to take with me into next year.

This year I started giving myself permission to take up space.  Physically, verbally, emotionally. I realized that I was allowed the space that I need. Some of the time I was able to hold the mindset that everyone who thinks otherwise can fuck off. I want to get better at that mindset next year and stop trying to shrink myself to suit others.

This year I survived one of my more intense series of suicidal thoughts. I got myself help. I saw that I have a huge community of people who support me, both virtually and locally. I want to be better connected with that community.

I learned that even though I feel like I’m outside of a group, it doesn’t mean I actually am.

I found joy in sending snail mail. Making well over 100 cards in the past 3 months has been so wonderful, and even better was knowing that it put a smile on someone’s face. I want to keep going, and maybe start selling my work.

I think one of the biggest things I learned this year is that it’s okay for things to be stable. It’s not the calm before the storm, it’s just the calm, and life can really be this way without worrying about what comes next. I want to carry comfort with stability going forward.

I learned to live in the moment. That fully accepting what is happening is the first step to finding solutions. Fighting against a problem only takes energy away from solving it. I learned that not being okay, is perfectly okay. That as long as you don’t make a problem worse, you’re doing the right things – you can always build from there.  I learned that it’s okay to ask for what I need, that it doesn’t always mean fighting.

It’s the end of a year.  One of the better years of my life.

It’s the end of a decade.

It’s hard to wrap up the past decade because there’s a giant split down the middle.  The before and the after.

In the before, there was a lot of love, and a lot of trauma, and a lot of resilience, and a lot of struggle.

In the after there’s a lot of growth, a lot of falling (metaphorically and physically), a lot of healing, and a lot of pain.

It’s the end of a decade. The hardest in my life.

I wrote a big long thing trying to list out the good and the bad of the last decade, but honestly, that’s not all that helpful.  The past decade (and the ones before that) got me to where I am now, and now is what matters.

Now is where I want to spend my time.

Wayback machine.

This is a Really Real Trauma Post.

Lots of things have been taking me back lately.

A friend who recently lost her husband. Someone else who is facing homelessness and looking at their options. Spotify giving me a list of music from the last 10 years. Even raising a kitten takes me back to a time in my life before.

My life is split into before and after in so many ways.  Not only did Parker die on that day in 2016, but the person I was died at the same time. It seems like my life has done a radical 180 since she died.  No more traumas, no major crisis (except the internal, mental health kind), no more catastrophes.

It seems unfair that she missed this. But I’m not sure this would have happened if she hadn’t died. And it’s not like I can change any of it anyway.

But things have been taking me back.

I’ve been reliving the emotions, with some distance put between me and the pain. I can view yesterdays tragedies with today’s knowledge. At times I feel like I’m stuck in my history again, except I know I’ll make it out alive.

I smell smoke and feel like I’m running out of a house on fire.

A sleeping pet or person doesn’t react to a sound and I feel like I’m going to face death again.

I pay a bill late and remember the stress of shut off notices month after month, struggling to stay one step ahead of a dark house.

Earlier this month I went to a Christmas Party thrown by Healthcare for the Homeless. It was held in the same building as the homeless shelter. Lots of the residents attended. It was the same shelter I spent months in, however they’re in a new building now (which made it a bit easier).

I remember being there. I remember being that person.

So many things that are reminding me of where I’ve been.

What I’ve survived.

What I’ve overcome.

But feeling that fear again, deep into my bones, is one of the harder things about trauma. I never get to fully escape it I never get to lock it up and put it away.

It’s as much a part of me as widowhood is.

Christmas Eve

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

It’s now Christmas Eve.

Being a few years out from the year of firsts makes things easier, but they still aren’t easy.

I’m living a life I was never meant to have. I’m celebrating holidays I was never meant to celebrate without her. I’m making new traditions that don’t include her.

But her memory is still here, in everything I do.

Holidays, special events, things that are out of the ordinary, will bring her memory into full focus.

I miss her.

When I wake up in the morning, I’ll make a turkey, something I did almost every year, no matter how broke we were. I’ll make the sweet potato souffle that I learned from her mom, one of her favorite things to have each year . . and it became one of my favorites too.

This time of year is hard for me anyway, and then adding the layer of grief, just makes it a little harder.

Grief does that.

What would she have wanted for Christmas this year? Would I have had the money to get it for her?

I can’t remember what I got her the last year she was alive.

I can’t remember what we did for Christmas that year.

So many little memories that just keep fading.

The fear doesn’t fade though.

I made a noise in the bedroom this morning and Wonder Woman didn’t stir. It scared me. I stood perfectly still and made sure I could still see the rise and fall of her chest.

I’m living a life I never thought I would live.

I’m afraid of going through that again.

I’m happy with this life. Even with the widowhood that’s woven through the fabric of everything I do, I’m happy with the life I’m living.

But I miss her.

And I wonder.

What if?

Who would she be?

Who would I be?

I don’t have some grand point to this post, no final point that I was leading up to.

I just miss her.

Another holiday in my new normal.  No matter how great this new normal is, there will always be that Parker shaped hole that nothing will ever fill.

But, I’ll keep living life around it.