Wednesday, October 27, 2010

If There's Such A Thing As A Good "Beach Read"...Can We Have A Good "Grief Read"?

A few weeks ago, I received an email from this very nice guy named Mike (and before you get all excited...this is NOT a dating post). He was contacting me to let me know that his wife, Irene, had written a book called Two Chai Day, about her experience dealing with her first/late husband’s battle with lymphoma. He asked if he could send me the book.

Never one to turn down a free book, I happily agreed and sent him my address.

I have to say, the reason I really wanted to read this book was because it was Mike who was contacting me. That right there told me that this woman had made it out of the wild jungle we call grief. Or at least saw enough daylight to remarry a person who not only accepted her late husband into his own life, but is also her champion in getting her story told.

At this stage in the game...I’m always looking for some encouragement that there is life after this.

Now, I will admit to you...I’m not the biggest reader of “grief” books. I try, but most of them are too clinical. They’re too busy telling me what I’m supposed to do. And a lot of them seem to gloss over the story a little bit and don’t dive in deep enough to make me feel less alone.

This is not that book.

Irene McGoldrick is a social worker and mother (among many other things) who found out simultaneously that she was pregnant with her second child...and that her husband was very ill.

Now, some of you may think, “Well, my spouse wasn’t sick...the death was very sudden.” Or, “I don’t have kids, so this book won’t apply to me.”

I can say, with complete confidence, that a piece of this book will apply to just about everyone who has suffered the death of a partner.

The exhaustion. The anger. The fear. The guilt that comes with the occasional good day. The urge to yell at a stranger at the grocery store. The need for intimacy after the death and the confusion that comes with it. Irene tells you like it is and doesn’t leave anything out. I tell you...for those of you who have sent me your own stories to publish and found them hard to will really appreciate the courage it takes to write something like this.

The most amazing part about this book is that Irene’s late husband, Bob, liked to keep journals (I appreciate that because I’m pretty big on that too). Irene wasn’t sure about whether or not she should read them after he was gone (which I admire her for because I think I would have ripped right into them as soon as I got home from the funeral. I’m just nosy like that).

I have to say, Irene...from the reader’s made a good call.

To read what was going on with him during all of this turmoil...from being bored with treatment and inactivity to his determination that this was not going to beat him...Bob’s own raw insight into his illness and how it was affecting his wife and family, while also reading Irene’s perspective...let’s just say...they both gave us all a gift.

I mentioned earlier in this post about how a piece of this book will speak to any of us who have lost a significant other. There were many that made me stop and say, “Me too!” But the moment that hit me the hardest and a piece of advice I will never forget is when Irene is trying so hard to be both parents, after Bob has passed.

I remember shortly after my husband died, I tried relentlessly to be just like him. I felt like it was my duty to the kids to keep up with the same things my husband would have. I wanted to know everything he did so that I could teach them the things he knew. Pretty tall order for an English major who was married to a rocket scientist, eh?

I even tried to learn the ins and outs of car maintenance.

(If my dad read that...he’s laughing pretty hard right now.)

At one point, Irene is doing the same thing...she’s determined to be more like Bob. She’s desperately trying to do the things he would have and, in the wake of her grief, she’s getting more and more discouraged.

She goes to her support group and tries to explain why she feels like she’s failing all over the place and the facilitator brings up a really good point: That if she “spends so much time and energy being Bob – who was being Irene?”

The facilitator then drives the point home when she says, “You don’t want your children to lose both of you, do you?”

I actually have that section bookmarked, highlighted, and underlined.

For that piece of wisdom alone (but many more I could mention), I thank you, Irene, for writing this. Not only did I feel less alone...I felt a little less crazy (which if you knew me is a feat in itself). You didn’t leave anything out. You didn’t sugarcoat it. You let me see side of you and Bob that was so extremely personal...I feel like I know you both well and that I’m the better for it.

And to your husband Mike...thanks for sending this. You are the person I keep telling everyone is out there...someone who invites our late spouse into their own life and sees what we still have to offer.


For more information about Irene, visit her website at  You can also catch her widow blog at  And as if she's not busy enough, you can read her blog about becoming a stepparent at

Irene's book, Two Chai Day, can be found on Amazon,, and

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Burned By Friendships. Wait! Who's Doing The Burning?

Awhile back, I wrote a blog that I felt sure I was going to get blasted for. Back then, I thought I would lose the 2 people who were actually following it at the time. But, lucky for me, I happened to land with a very understanding bunch that may not have agreed with me, but still kept following the blog.

Either that, or they didn’t know how to take themselves off the list.

I’m finding myself in somewhat the same position now. I’m going to write something that may irritate some, but I’m hoping that even if you don’t’ll understand where I’m coming from.

When it comes to friendship, or any relationship for that matter, and words of comfort...those of us in the Widow World feel like we get burned a lot. A LOT. We can talk for hours about the insensitivity of others and the things we hear from the people we run into every day. I many blogs have I, myself, written on this subject?


Lately, I’ve been trying to think of our group and what we encounter every day...but through the eyes of the people who are trying to support us. And it started to worry me.


We all know that we run into people who are just plain insensitive. They seem to say things, over and over again without thinking. The ones who compare their traveling husbands to our dead ones and say they think we have it easier. The ones who think they would handle this better than we have (and think it’s appropriate to tell us so). And the people who have just flat-out walked out of our lives.

But this blog is not about them.

This is about the people who may not say what we want to hear, but are doing the best they can to help us and be our friends.

Don’t kid yourself. We’re an intimidating bunch. It could depend on the day or my hormone level how I’m going to take what you’re saying to me. some point along the way...we need to give credit where credit is due. For those friends who have stuck by us, stumbling over their words, fearfully looking at our faces to see if we’re going to hug them or hit them...they’re here. They didn’t leave.

Now, I feel like I can say this because I tend to be part of the problem myself. Sometimes I get so distracted by my own feelings about what has been said, that I don’t look at the intent behind it. Was it meant to hurt me? Was it meant to get a “rise” out of me? Was someone saying they hope I find happiness someday...or were they saying “quit yer bitchin’”?

You have to keep in mind, too, that what they’re saying and the way you’re receiving it is very individual...on both ends. As I’ve said before, what one person finds comforting will make someone else want to run them over. They could have said the same “comforting” words to someone else and totally hit their mark. And then said them to you and you’re ready to put Drain-o in their wine.

(On a side note...if you waste a good glass of wine, that could be enough to get you kicked out of the Widow Cult. I’m just sayin’.)

I’ll give you a little example (and this is a pretty mild one). When I first lost my husband, one of the closest people to me would say over and over, “Oh sweetie. This is awful. Awful, awful, awful, awful, awful.

Now, you may not think this is so bad, but it just hit me the wrong way. It made me feel like it was so “awful”...I would never dig my way out of this hole. And it made me want to drive my head through some drywall every time I heard it.

I know the person who said this to me was doing her best to be there for me. She was commiserating with me. She was letting me know that she didn’t take this whole mess lightly. It was in fact...awful.

I mean was.

And because I loved this person, I felt it was okay to say to her, “Please don’t say that anymore. I know what you mean and I know you love me. But it doesn’t make me feel any better.”

Was there an uncomfortable moment of silence? Yes. Did we overcome it? Absolutely.

When we’ve been through a loss like this, and our minds and hearts are reeling, it’s hard to think of other people. We hope that others are thinking of us and that they will step in and us for a little while. But we also have a responsibility, as friends, to say what we need. What works. What doesn’t. They’re not mind readers and, as we say ourselves all the time...most of them have never been through this before. If a relationship can’t withstand that kind of friendly honesty...well...maybe it wasn’t what we thought it was. But if it can...both sides will be the better for it.

And if you’d like to know how I know there are a lot of good friends out should see the emails I get. People get my contact info from the blog or support websites and I get messages like, “My friend just lost her husband. I need to know the best way to support her.”

I don’t know about you...but that sounds like a damn good friend to me.

All I’m trying to say is...if this is someone you’ve known for 15 years and has been your closest friend up until some remark...please really look at what they’re trying to do. Look at the people who have walked away...and the ones who are standing there with you. It takes a brave friend to do that. I know I’ve been moody enough in the last 3 years to completely wipe out my entire “friend population” (would that be friendocide?).

Think of your responsibility, as their friend, to tell them what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t assume they know...they won’t know until you say it. And wouldn’t it be great to have a friend who knew what to say to you when things got really rough?

I hope that, when you read this blog, it doesn’t hit you the wrong way. That you know that I write it with love in my heart and an attempt at understanding what we’re all going through.

Because that’s certainly the way it’s meant.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Truth About Friendship: The Before and After

Last night I posted a question on Facebook about whether or not people feel like they have “before” and “after” friends, mainly because I was thinking about my own week. I know you all haven’t heard from me much this week, and that’s because I was lucky enough to have a friend of mine (who I hadn’t seen in a very long time) stay with me while she was in town on business.

First of all…I forgot how fun it was just to have a girlfriend in the house. I would get the kids to bed and we would talk and talk about life, marriage, kids, and…most importantly…how I should treat this zit on my chin that has its own zip code. It was nice to have a chick-flick companion and someone who didn’t roll their eyes at me when I placed a salad before them.

Second…it was just flat-out nice to have another adult in the house. You don’t realize how much you miss that until someone is there, helping you do dishes while you give the kids a bath. Something like that is more valuable to me than jewelry these days.

We talked, and talked, and talked some more. We talked about my late husband and what’s different about my life now (other than the obvious). We talked about her life…the things she loves and the things she would change. No subject was off-limits and no topic too sensitive.

Sigh. It was nice.

At some point in the last few days it really hit me how much I had changed. There’s something about talking about your life and saying things out loud…you realize how different things really are.

One of the things we talked about was what each year of loss has meant to me. I was explaining to her how I really thought that once I hit that first year mark, things would magically get better. That suddenly the loss wouldn’t be there. That people wouldn’t refer to me as “the widow” anymore. I was surprised, disappointed, and somewhat devastated that that wasn’t the case. The realization that I would always carry this loss with me just about brought me to my knees.

By the middle of the second year, Loss and I had developed a truce. I agreed to not fight him anymore, if he would let me have a normal day every once in awhile. That was the beginning of us learning to co-exist.

I just wish he wouldn’t steal the covers all of the time.

I started talking about year 3 as “The Year of Change.” That was the year that I fully realized that I would never be the same and embraced it. I started calling myself “the widow”…I owned it and accepted it as part of who I am. I knew that I would always miss my husband, but I would never want to give up who I had become. Because before this loss, I had no idea what I was capable of. And now…the sky was the limit. If I could dream it…I could do it. And I alone would have to make it happen.

Which as you know…is an exciting and absolutely terrifying thought.

A lot of our conversation turned to the support I’ve had through this online community. How the people I’ve met encourage me every day and let me know that things can get better. How everyone shares stories and opinions and the most intimate parts of their souls with strangers who are constantly inspired by how they are living with their loss. How even though I may meet someone whose pain is new and raw, I always see a glimmer of what could be in that person.

And how getting to know everyone…it’s like Christmas morning to me every day.

The most interesting thing about spending time with this friend is that she’s not someone I see or talk to every day. She moved about a year before my husband passed away. We lost touch and grew apart, as friends do, and the next time I saw her was at his funeral.

So, looking at myself through her eyes really gave me a different perspective. Since I hadn’t seen her in three years…it was kind of like seeing a 7 year old you hadn’t seen for that long. Think of how much they grow. You might not even recognize them.

But it was such a comfort to me that I could pick up with her just as we would have in the “before” days. Yes, I’d “grown” a foot, but she could see that it’s still me under all of these changes.

It made me wonder about “before” and “after” friends. I know I certainly have people who fall into those categories…the ones who know me and the ones who knew us. And the ones who just walked away.

For those who have walked away…I’d like to think that that would have happened anyway. That those friendships were probably a little shallower than I originally thought and that as I got older, with or without my husband, those relationships probably would not have held up to the test of…life.

And frankly…as I get older, with or without my husband, I don’t have time for that shit anyway.

For those friends who have stuck with me…I think I needed to give them the time and the room to evolve just as I have. I guess realistically…I thought of me as “us” for a long time too. It’s taken me a few years to think of me as just…me. And just as they have tried to be as understanding as possible about the changes that I’ve made, I guess I needed to give them the time and space to adjust to those changes.

Because the truth is…for my close friends, my online friends, and the ones who can just pick up where we left off…

…I wouldn’t be me without them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Small Accomplishment on Widow Road

I accomplished something this weekend that has been hanging over my head since I lost my husband.

An entire weekend…overnights included…with just my children. No extra adult help. Just us.

I know this may not sound like much, but for someone who is a paranoid planner…taking 3 small children away from the old comfort zone is something I’m pretty damn proud of. And I’m beyond thankful that it went so well.

Don’t get me wrong…we have gone places. I haven’t restricted us to the Denver-metro area. But every time we’ve gone on an “overnight” there’s always been another adult involved. And I really wanted to know that I could do this on my own. I wanted to have a couple of days of just us…without having to worry about anyone else’s agenda.

In reality, I’m just starting to get to the point where traveling with the kids sounds at all appealing. When my sister told me a few years ago that she and her husband were going to take her 1 year old and 3 year old to Hawaii for 9 days…I have to say…that sounded like hell with a cocktail umbrella thrown in. So, even if my husband were here, I think we’d still be sticking to more local attractions.

For this trip, I felt like I had pretty much set us up for success. I chose a place only an hour and a half (or one DVD) away, booked a hotel with an indoor pool, and made a plan to take the kids to a little amusement park we had never been to up in the mountains that has a Christmas theme.

I know that sounds odd…but the fact that it’s this close to Halloween meant that there were no lines and that my kids could spin in little ornament-shaped cars on a giant Christmas tree until they themselves were green. Trust me…I was a hero this weekend. And I would personally like to write a letter to the designer of that place (who I’m sure is probably with my husband by now since the park is so old), thanking him for giving me the empowering feeling of providing this raging success of a weekend. Not only could I manage this place on my own…every “big kid” ride had a “little kid” ride right next to it. So while my 2 oldest sat strapped into a Tilt-A-Whirl designed to make them throw up the $5 ice cream I had just bought them, my youngest could mosey around on a plastic horse that went in a slow circle and feel like a champ.


We had the usual arguments (“No, son, we are not going to eat McDonalds at every single meal”) and, once we got to the hotel, countless trips to the car. But for the most part, we just had a fantastic time. I think this is because my kids are at that golden age when, really, their expectations are low (Nick Jr. is much more exciting on a hotel T.V. that’s, in reality, much smaller than the one we have at home) and their excitement levels are high (“What do you mean we get to eat Subway in our hotel room????”). I should do this more often before they hit the age when a big trip to the Comfort Inn is met with an eye-roll and jacked-up volume on the iPod.

Going new places after a loss (I would imagine any loss, but I only know this one) is filled with heart-catching moments. You’re either passing by things that remind you of something you did with your spouse, or you’re passing by things wishing your spouse could be there to enjoy them with you.

This little road trip not only made me wish my husband could be here to see the delight on the faces of his children while they raced around on a mini roller coaster, but the trip down was a short ride through memory lane for me. From passing by his alma mater (where we first met) to riding past restaurants where I remembered we liked the margarita glasses As I drove past the hotel where I got ready for his graduation ball and he surprised me with the most beautiful bouquet of roses I have ever received (before or since), I had the temptation to just pull off the highway and stare.

But whether doing something I’d done before (with him) or something new (without), remembering him or wishing he was with us, I felt like he was there. Just along for the ride (but, unfortunately not able to help with any of the luggage). I felt like I grew a little bit this weekend, in my own little widowed world, and confirmed what I’ve been thinking these last few years: That life has changed, but I’ve changed with it. And that even though he’s not here, there is still joy to be had.

And now that I’ve figured out that I can be a big girl and actually get from point A to point B without someone yelling at me because I can’t read a map, there is just one thing I keep thinking over and over.

Look out Disneyland. We’re gettin’ ready for ya.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dating: Why ME?????

I’m going to admit something to you that may sound a little odd, but…when do I not???

The main reason I started dating after my husband died was just to see if I could do it.

I mean, the last time I was “out there” was when I was a freshman in college. Don’t even get me started on the things that had changed since I had been swimming in the dating pool. Now I had to worry about whether or not my date would wonder why I had to take an extra 20 minutes in the bathroom (thank you, Spanx). I had to meet a date in a luxury minivan instead of a cute little beater of a car (although, I did once hear that guys like girls who drive vans. But I think the guy who told me that was envisioning shag carpet and a lava lamp. Not Cheerio crumbs and carseats that would take 2 hours to remove before the party could get started).

And Gravity and I had had a falling out a few years ago when I yelled at her for what she did to me after nursing 3 kids. She can be a real bitch sometimes.

At the time that I started dating, I wasn’t really thinking long-term. I wasn’t thinking that I wanted to get remarried. I wasn’t even thinking about a…let us say…less “shallow” relationship (remember…my mom reads these).

I just wanted to see if this old girl had it in her to get a free drink every once in awhile.

I had no goals when I first started dating, which I actually think was a huge mistake. I hear from a lot of people that they’re unsure of when to start, if they should start, or if they’ll ever start. And the best advice I can give you is…if you think you’d like to start dating…know what you want first and then test the waters. You need ask yourself if you’re looking for something deeper than happy hour…or if you’re more on the “shallow” end.

I did not do that.

I can envision myself now…like Dorothy walking through that scary forest trying to get to the Emerald City, I tip-toed into the world of dating seeking a good conversation and someone who would be at least willing to go dutch. Instead of the Tin Man and Scarecrow by her side, I only had lipstick and a prayer. And instead of meeting up with the Cowardly Lion, I ended up sitting across from a series of finance geeks who never tired of talking about how horrible their ex was/is.

The body hair was about right, though.

By the end of the first year, I was done. No…I mean D-U-N…DONE. Really…once you’ve exhausted the “ex” topic and they’ve asked you enough insensitive questions about your situation…what’s left to talk about? And why are you making me buy my own wine?

This is when I hit a very bitter patch. Why am I doing this???? I am supposed to be happily married, in bed by 9, listening to my husband snore. Not sitting across from some stranger over cheese fries wondering why in the hell anyone would buy a shirt that looks like that.

But, never the quitter, I decided I wouldn’t join the convent just yet. I would just slow down and take my time.

After that, I noticed a pattern that I seemed to develop. I would not date for about a month, get my bearings, and then go out on ONE date. That was good enough for me for about a month. Then I’d get my bearings and go out on another one.

Not only that, but I decided that I would stop dating what seemed like the same guy, over and over again. I would try something new. If I met someone who had a hobby or profession I knew nothing about, I would agree to a date. My hope was that then we wouldn’t be short on conversation.

I once told a friend of mine that I was doing this, and she replied, “Well, it’s nice that you’re now treating your dating life like trading cards. I don’t have one of those so I guess I’ll go out with him.”

I hate to say it…but she was just about right.

The good news is…I loved it. I really didn’t go on any of these dates expecting anything more than conversation about something new and different. I’d got out, meet new people, and usually have a good time. Not only that…it was a good way to steer clear of the landmines that are the “previous relationships.” This meant that there was less of a chance of someone saying to me, “You are soooo lucky you don’t have an ex to deal with!”

I guess what I’m suggesting is…if you’re thinking about venturing into the wide world of dating…don’t take it too seriously. Look at it as the potential to meet someone new. Suggest a restaurant that you’ve never been to before and that way, if it’s a total bust, you’ll at least have tried something different. And…if it’s completely horrible…you’ll walk away with a funny story to tell your friends (nothing entertains my married friends more than when I start off a story with, “You will not believe the guy I went out with the other night!”).

Not every date has to have you thinking, “Could he be the one??” In my opinion, if you get through dinner and ask for the dessert menu, you’re doing pretty good.

And before I wrap this up, there is one more helpful tip that I’d like to leave you with.

If at any point during the date, you start feeling sorry for the other person’s ex-spouse, just walk away. That’s never a good sign.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Don't Bite The Hand That Supports You


What a day.

I really hesitate to even post a blog right now because…I gotta be honest…I don’t know what’s with everyone today.

At first I thought it was just me. I woke up this morning after being up all night with a plumber who informed me that my upstairs toilet had decided to pay a friendly visit to my downstairs dining room by forming a “hello leak.”

Writing a check to a plumber at 2 AM and then getting up with tired, cranky kids at 6 AM does not make for a fun night at the Widow Chick Bed, Breakfast, and Bawl.

After getting my youngest to school 20 minutes late because my middle child decided it would be more fun to start dressing 2 minutes before the bus was scheduled to come, my day was off to a decidedly rough start.

At this point, I tried to take a deep breath and try and get on with my day. And where should I go to get a little pick-me-up before things really get rolling?

All of my favorite support pages, of course.

So, imagine my surprise, when I logged in and checked out what’s going on with everyone, hoping to get a friendly “eye” and some words of encouragement, and I happened to notice that everyone is in a mood.

And I don’t just mean a mood. I mean a MOOD.

This seemed to be across the board. Most places I turned to had people in some kind of funk, having a bad day (as we all do), and somehow taking it out on the people they should be turning to.

To tell you the truth…it made me crawl back into my bed and hide under the covers for a little while.

I know a lot of us are in a transition. The holidays are coming up. The days are getting shorter…today it was so dark when I woke up, I couldn’t believe it was morning already. And I know more people who have “milestones” in October and November I think than any other months.

I certainly don’t expect everyone to be perky every day. That’s not what these pages are for. They’re mainly for times when we’re not…perking.

But what scared me today were the emails I received. People saying they were thinking of dropping out of support groups altogether (and not just mine) because of things that were said to them. Looking at comments on other pages that were flat-out disrespectful and hurtful and realizing that on the receiving end of those comments were people who were already hurting. I’ve been seriously worried all day about the people who might be checking out online support for the first time and seeing these things. Because, if that were me, I might think twice before I started sharing my deepest thoughts.

For the first time in 6 months I noticed some people weren’t being supported. They were getting beaten down.

And you know what? That’s not us.

These pages are where I turn when I need someone. These are the people who understand what I’m going through when no one else does. This is where I know it’s okay to agree to disagree…because our specific situations are different and have made us different people. And that’s okay.

As we move into the next few months, we need to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we are there for each other. No matter what. We need to take 2 seconds and tell a stranger, “It’s okay. I’m here for you now.” We need to know that whatever comments are being made, they come from a place of love and support and that whatever comments we are making are sensitive to what someone else is going through…even though we may not specifically know what it is.

We need to always think for just a second before we hit that “comment” button about what kind of a day the other person is having. And before we get upset about what someone else has written, we need to really consider what they are saying. Is it really argumentative? Or is it possible it could be taken a different way?

Frankly, when I think about grief support I really don’t see where there is any room for argument at all. Discussion…of course. We all want our voices to be heard and our experiences to be recognized. 

But there is no reason I can see to tell anyone on these pages that they’re wrong. Or that what they’re feeling isn’t valid. We’re not here to prove a point. We’re not trying to convince someone to come to “our side.” We’re all on the same side.

And there are some days when that is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Middle Place

I’ve been reading this book called “The Middle Place” by Kelly Corrigan. It’s a memoir about her fight against breast cancer while her own father (an amazing “character”) battles his own bladder cancer.

I love this book. It’s been sad, of course, but funny and very real.

Kelly describes “the middle place” as a “sliver of time when childhood and parenthood overlap….The middle place is also hallmarked by endless, irresistible, often exasperating comparisons between your family of origin and the family you’ve made.”

I totally get that. It makes me think of the many times, even before my husband died, that when something good or bad happened, I couldn’t wait to tell my husband (that’s the adult in me…she’s still in there somewhere), but I also couldn’t wait to tell my parents (that’s the kid part of me that will never go away). It’s what made our first few years of marriage so difficult while we both argued our points about how the way we were each brought up was the better way…until we figured out that blending the two would be the best way. It’s that kind of grey area between adulthood and childhood that a lot of us fluctuate between, no matter how old we are.

I realize that my upbringing was not like everyone else’s. We had our share of fights, but for the most part, my family was incredibly close. They were always my safe port in the storm. The place I could go to and hear commiserating words of anger on my behalf, or laughter at the ridiculousness of life. And of course, they were the first people to drop everything and be at my side at the hospital when my life had gone so quickly and inexplicably wrong.

I’ll never forget sitting on the floor of the hospital waiting room in ICU (that we had somehow commandeered and had all to ourselves) because sitting on a chair was just too precarious. Every time I “perched” I thought that surely gravity would take over and slam me to the floor. So I decided to outsmart it and just stay down there.

Anyway, somehow, in all of the comings and goings of everyone I knew, it ended up being just the 4 of us sitting in that room. I’ll never forget looking up and seeing the pale concern, which was all directed at me, and a doctor coming in to tell me that my husband’s brain was swelling and I only had one option. And that was to remove part of his skull to let the brain swell.

Of course, anyone’s immediate reaction would be to do it. I mean, if this is possibly the difference between him making it and not…it’s a no-brainer, right (no pun intended)? But I looked over at my favorite nurse and I said, “What does this mean?”

And she quietly said, “Honey…if you do this he will never know you. He will never know your children. He will never be able to feed himself.”

I knew that was not something my husband would want me to do. But when you’ve been awake for days and you’re faced with a life-changing decision, it can cloud your judgment, to say the least. At that moment, I was tired of making the decisions. I was tired of the doctors looking to me, asking me to be the final signature. I was ready to leave the whole damn mess. And I looked at my family and longed for someone to just take care of this. Take care of me.

They stared at me until I looked up and said, “I don’t think we should do this. Do you think we should do this?”

Notice the word “we.”

And collectively they said, “No, we shouldn’t.”

I will always remember that moment. The moment when they didn’t just pass the buck and say, “This is your decision” which would have been the easier thing for them to do. How they didn’t just stand behind me, they stood with me. How they would have supported me either way I went, but when asked, they took the responsibility with me.

There has never been a moment in my life when I felt more like we were in this together. And never a moment that I needed to feel more “together” with someone else.

Since then, I (of course) have had those times when I feel utterly alone. I know that they will never know what I’ve gone through, what I continue to go through, just as I will never really know about the defining moments that have impacted them, in their own way. The things we call “character builders” because the phrase “shit storm” doesn’t sound as eloquent.

But there’s a part of me that thinks I will always be in this “middle place.” And that’s not so bad…especially now that I’m doing this on my own. There are times when I feel strong and ready to take on the world. And there are moments when all I want to do is run to my family and just ask them to make it all better.

And, together, we will do both.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Project Me

I'm fierce
When I'm fragile.
I cry
When I'm happy.
I am the most perfect
When I'm imperfect.
I'm lost
When I find myself.
I love you the most
When you think you're unlovable.
I grieve when things are going well.
I slip when life is steady.

And I grow when I'm buried.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Widows: Are We Just One Weird Hair-Do Away From Being A Cult?

Okay.  You guys are going to think I’m crazy (how many blogs have I started this way???), but I always really think about the comments I make on the Facebook page and the responses that I email back to people. Because, sometimes, the thing that I initially write sounds…well….


I am lucky enough to be in touch with a lot of you. I love that you trust me enough, as a friend you’ve never met, to share your stories of loss and triumph. It makes me so grateful when new people join the page and make a comment introducing themselves, telling us why they’re with us. And I love how we all rally around each other, offering support, laughing through our tears, and sometimes throwing out the odd sick joke.

But sometimes when I’m writing a comment or corresponding with someone, I’ll catch myself right before I hit “send” and change what I’ve written. Because when I read, “We’re so glad that you’re with us,” sometimes I wonder if the person on the other end is envisioning some cult leader who is ready to make them sign over their mortgages and adopt 50 cats (our chosen God).

I catch myself, especially, when I’m responding to someone on Open to Hope or Hello Grief (two wonderful websites who occasionally publish what I’ve written). Because usually when someone writes how heartbroken they are about their loss and how they don’t know who to turn to, I’ll want to say, “Come join us. We’re here waiting for you.”

Now seriously. Look at my picture. Imagine me with my eyes popping out saying that. See? It IS creepy!

We have our own language (how many people do you know type (((hugs))) on a regular basis?). We recognize people who are not “one of us.” We’re ready to take on the world if it means defending one of our fellow grievers.

Throw in a crazy dress code and we’re just itching for a compound in the mountains somewhere.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I kind of like all of these things about us. We’ve formed a group and a bond that will probably never be broken. Thanks to the wonders of technology, I can now say that I have people all over the world supporting me unconditionally. And so do you.

Awhile back on the Widow Chick page, we did kind of come up with a wacky scenario about what would happen if we all lived together. If you haven’t checked it out, you really should:¬es_tab=app_2347471856#!/note.php?note_id=146156368733223

Okay…now doesn’t that sound fabulous? I mean who wouldn’t want all of those perks? I bet if we really set that up, we’d be beating widows away with a stick.

Well, maybe not. We’re really not that kind of a crowd.

I guess, the point is…if we’re turning into some weird, Kleenex-carrying, chocolate-munching, wine-drinking cult, I guess I’m okay with it. I’ll still try and keep what I think of as creepy comments to a minimum, so as not to freak out the new people. And if we ever do all get together someday, I can promise you one thing.

I won’t make you eat a live chicken and burn down the compound. ‘Cause that would just be taking things a little too far.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Is Social Networking Really All That Social?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m kind of excited to go out and see The Social Network. A big part if this is because I like the writer, Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote A Few Good Men, The West Wing, and The American President.

All good stuff.

I watched him give an interview on The View the other day (I know…how very girly of me) and one of the questions they asked him was whether or not he thought Facebook was good for society and if it brings us closer together. And his response was basically, no, he didn’t think it was.

I can kind of see his point. I mean, one of the things I looooove about Facebook is that I can get on there, see what someone from my past is up to…and never really have to talk to them if I don’t want to. You know that bitchy girl from high school? Well, now you know she’s got 10 kids and not looking as “peppy” as she once did. But did you actually have to talk to her to find that out? Nope. You just got on Facebook.

You know that weird cousin who never comes to any of the family reunions and you’re always wondering why? Well, now you know he’s running his own kayak rental company up in Alaska and lives in a single room cabin with no plumbing or electricity. Did you really have to interact to figure that out? Heck, no. You just saw the pictures of his Unabomber-like structure in a friendly little place called Facebook.

And don’t even get me started on that boss you once had who you were positive would end up in jail some day. He may not have access to Facebook, but you can get the low-down when you peek onto his wife’s page.

So I can see how this isn’t exactly bringing us closer together. Because we don’t actually talk anymore. We just update our status.

I think I was one of the last hold-outs when Facebook came around. The last official hold-out is my sister who absolutely refuses to get on. And then asks me to look people up for her (which I think is cheating).

I wasn’t a My Space person and I don’t Tweet (although I may have to start…so be prepared to be annoyed about the fact that I’m comin' atcha from all over the place). My friends kept telling me that I needed to get on, but I didn’t want to. It took a major incentive to get me signed up.

A cocktail party.

One of my sorority sisters told me that I had to get on because they were all getting together at someone’s house for some wine and appetizers. Now up until that point, I couldn’t see the point of “social networking.” But throw in a $10 bottle of wine and my fingers couldn’t type fast enough.

After that...I never looked back. I started getting on there, looking people up from my past, and taking meaningless quizzes from people who couldn’t spell “personality” but in 3 questions could tell me every facet of mine.

I couldn’t wait to find out which Smurf I was and how high I could get my score on Word Twist.

I became somewhat of a Facebook addict when my husband had been gone for about a year. You know how that is…you can’t sleep, so you get on there and see who else is online at 3 AM.

And let me tell you…in my social network…I’m flying solo.

I started doing what I suspect a lot of you started doing…searching for the word “widow” to see what came up. And that just changed everything for me.

I started meeting “strangers” who, after awhile, didn’t seem so strange. I started connecting with people whom I’d never met, but seemed to know me better than people I’d known for years. I was able to post questions, vent, “talk” to people who, like me, were up at 3 AM.

I know that since I’ve started the Widow Chick page, a lot of us have marveled at how amazing it is that we can connect in this way. It would be better if we could all be together in person, but, years ago, widows would suffer alone in silence because they had no way to get in touch with one another. And now…we may be suffering, but silence is not what you hear.

It’s the sound of keys clicking away.

So, I guess I can kind of see Mr. Sorkin’s point. In some ways, it’s made us drift a little further apart as a society.

But in the Widow World…it’s a raging success.