Monday, December 5, 2011

Maybe The Grinch Had It Right

This year I've decided I'm not doing Christmas.

Not at all.

Officially I am removing myself from this holiday.

Seems weird and grinchy and all those other things, I know, but I have a few perfectly good reasons.

It started about 10 years ago when my super sweet boyfriend became the first boyfriend any of us girls had dated to come to a family holiday. And before you roll your eyes at that one, remember that I come from a family with four sisters so this was no small accomplishment. I'd jokingly throw in that my dad was lurking near the door with a shotgun only it's not really a joke.

Craig was charming and funny and perfect. I proudly paraded him around like some sort of prize turkey.

He never missed a Christmas after that.

Until last year.

To say it was the hardest holiday of my life would be a gross understatement. Throw in some insane family drama and hitting a deer Christmas morning and I think you've found the cause of my hair falling out (please God let me not be bald by the time I'm 30).

There is something about this holiday that has the ability to kick you in the gut emotionally like nothing else.

Maybe it's the sappy Christmas tunes (which, yes, I used to love singing off-key as loud as I could with Craig in the kitchen) or the excess of booze removing the filter ability we normaly work with every day (hello holiday egg nog!) or perhaps it's the constant smell of baked goods drawing us back into warm and fuzzy childhood moments. Whatever the reason, this holiday manages to sucker punch you on all five senses.

This year my family is heading out of town which certainly casts an additional "lonely" glow but, in truth, I know it's really all about Craig for me.

The first carol I heard on the radio a few days ago (yes, a miracle, but I've been avoiding those Christmas carol playing stations like the plague knowing it would come to this - only upbeat pop garbage for me!) I got hit with a wave of nostalgia so strong I just about had to pull over. Since I was in the middle of rush hour traffic I opted for sobbing like a lunatic instead (no tissues in the car made for one dribbling mess).

I hate that Christmas used to be my favourite holiday. I would nag Craig from about August onwards about putting up the tree. Normally he'd throw his hands in the air in disgust sometime around mid-November and finally relent. I would always start my Christmas shopping in September and Craig and I would waste hours on overly-detailed wish lists and fantasty purchases. Christmas baking was done weeks in advance and definitely added to my traditional 'holiday 10' with the overabundance I'd prepare (normally gifted to any and every family member I could find).

We'd watch every holiday movie under the sun, curled up on the couch in blankets drinking eggnog with the tree all lit up. We even had a tradition of buying a new ornament every year to commemorate whatever big event happened for us that year - when we got married it was a shell ornament from Maui, when we got Pocket it was a little kitty.

Last year I took the dried flowers from the funeral and strung them up in glass baubles.

They weren't really all that festive.

And of course there was the fire channel. A favourite of Craig's that drove me around the bend. He'd always want to put it on and I'd always holler at him to quit being so cheap and just buy a real damn fireplace. I'd rather be watching the Simpsons. A couple months after his death I was going through his things and found a video tape labeled "Craig's Hot Video". Naturally I was horrified figuring it was something illicit I'd rather not see. Naturally this made me want to watch it more. Two and half hours of the fire channel, taped through his VCR. Presumably so he could rewatch it all year round. I cried for three days. I'd have given anything to see him siting on the couch, watching it again. I promise this time I'd let him.

These are just a few of the thousand tiny moments that made Christmas for me. There were others, just as sweet or just as sad. All perfect. Opening special gifts, laughter, fighting over the remote, teaching our sisters how to play Mario brothers, lying on the floor to play trucks with our nephew... the list goes on and on and on.

Only every single part of Christmas doesn't feel like much of a celebration to me anymore.

It feels like a painful, heavy reminder of what I had and what is now gone.

It makes missing him unbearable.

It doesn't feel light and happy to me. It feels heavy and sad.

You could argue that these are things we need to face, to move on, to come to grips with it. That hiding from a holiday is hardly the grown-up approach.

The thing is, I'm not sure I can.

Even if I could, I'm not sure I'd want to.

I don't feel like pretending to be festive when I'm not. I hate the idea of forgetting all these special moments. It is suffocating to pretend that nothing has happend, when it has. To act like nobody is missing, when they are.

That, to me, feels like the greater injustice.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Little Excerpt

For those of you curious about The Bad Widow's Handbook, I thought I'd post a little piece from what I've written so far. I'm almost halfway there (22,966 words as of right now) and it's finally taking some shape!

Anyway, thanks for all the encouragement I've received from everyone. Hope you enjoy!


There should really be some sort of course you have to take before becoming widowed.

They have them for driving cars and doing taxes, so why not dealing with death?

Most of us are woefully unprepared and, sadly, do not realize it until it’s way too late. By the time you get around to trying to figure out what in the heck you are supposed to be doing, it’s been over a year and you are still climbing into bed with dirty laundry at night and putting your keys away in the fridge when you come home after work.

There should be tests you need to pass before they let you go back to work or re-enter society to prevent you from doing crazy things like sobbing in the middle of the candy aisle at the grocery store and driving around all night without headlights on while belting out Christmas carols through the driver’s side window in the middle of April.

You should have to wear some sort of t-shirt or nametag or flashing neon sign that identifies you just like a new driver sticker on the back of a bumper. On second thought, there should be one on the back of your bumper too. The way I figure it, the rest of the world should be given the heads up for both your benefit and theirs. It could read something like:

Warning: Newly widowed. May randomly burst into tears at inopportune moments completely unprovoked.

Or perhaps:

Hello, my name is Widowed, please do not become alarmed if I randomly hug you.

Or maybe:

Beware of widow. Batshit crazy.

It would neatly take care of the problem of people having no clue what is going on with you and, as a result, giving you strange looks in public for blubbering on park benches while eating three cheeseburgers and wiping snot across your sleeve. It would also lessen the burden of having to explain, between gulping sobs, why you are wearing two wedding bands, only one shoe, and a sweater spotted with unidentifiable stains reeking of cologne.

There should be little flashcards with tips on what to say that you can hand out to family and friends during awkward moments like when your five-year old nephew loudly questions whether he will see Uncle Craig at Christmas this year or when you announce at work you will be dealing with “death stuff” for the weekend but that they should definitely enjoy the sunshine.

A widow license declaring your current status would sure speed things along when you get pulled over by the cops for sitting in the middle of an intersection sobbing uncontrollably while traffic is forced to re-route around you or when you have to go pick up your husband’s ashes from the funeral home and nobody believes you that you are his wife and not his daughter.

Much like the home security systems that put the little sticker up on your front window, you should be able to get one that warns there is a widow residing within. The pizza man might stop making remarks about how often you order and the mailman could finally begin to understand why there always seems to be promotional envelopes for pickup with “sorry, dead” scribbled viciously over your husband’s name along with “return to f*cking sender.” Maybe then your neighbours might feel sorry for you and offer to cut your lawn instead of just sitting there drinking lemonade while you stumble about for hours wrapped in lawn mower cords and grass clippings, screaming obscenities at the heavens and cursing your husband’s name for never teaching you how to turn the damn thing on.

Along with the visit to your office to tell you your husband won’t be coming home, the cops could provide an automatic key finder so instead of searching every corner of the house before finally happening upon them when reaching for the bottle of wine you keep on hand, you could just head straight for the fridge (or your pair of winter boots or recycling bin or couch cushion) where you left them last thanks to the incessant beeping they now make. They could supply you with a handy dandy checklist on what happens next and how to do stupid things you never imagined you’d have to like putting windshield washer fluid in your car, killing spiders, or picking out music for your husband’s funeral that somehow exemplifies his life without resorting to gangsta rap.

You should be assigned a 24-7 friend/confidante/babysitter/ass-wiper who can come over to clean your toilet for you, make sure you eat something other than pickles, and listen to your insane rantings at 3 a.m. Preferably someone who will look the other way when you don’t shower for a week or eat ravioli straight out of the can while sitting on an entire box of crushed Cheerios scattered across the kitchen floor. Their primary responsible would be the procurement of hot beverages for comfort and alcoholic beverages for, well, also comfort. They’d help you track down that one stupid photo of your husband where he’s actually looking into the camera and smiling from last year’s Christmas party to be blown up for the obituary and would fill in the endless mounds of paperwork that you’ll need to submit to the government so they can tell you that you are too young to qualify for widowhood and receive the normal death benefits that accompany such a status. They could make sure you wear clean clothes on occasion and act as a bodyguard to protect you from the nosey neighbours who accost you every time you go to the mailbox, demanding to know whose car it was parked near your house the day before. They could write thank-you cards for the funeral and negotiate with insurance companies and reassure you daily that you are not crazy, despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary.

And much like any other professional certification these days, you should get little gold stars and letters after your name for managing to continue to earn a paycheque despite now having the attention span of a two year old, for remembering to pay your bills even though they are trivial and stupid in comparison to your new life, and for somehow managing not to smack others in the face for rather insensitive comments like, "Must be nice to finally be single!"

For some reason, nobody has ever bothered to do this sort of stuff, despite the growing market for death thanks to drunk drivers, homicidal maniacs, and idiots who fall asleep at the wheel.

I’m going to write a letter to the government to get this going.

Just as soon as I climb out of bed.

Later this afternoon.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Well folks, it's November again. And that means National Novel Writing Month!

This is one of those crazy, hair-brained contests for pseudo-writers like me. The idea is to quit making excuses and putting it off - to get down to business and hammer out a book. The objective is 50,000 words in one measly month. So totally ridiculous.

Of course I'm doing it.

It's one of those always-wanted-to-try things that I never quite got around to. But this year is the year! I'm kicking my own arse and putting pen to paper. Well. Fingers to keyboard. Who writes by hand anymore? I'm pretty sure I'd get a cramp.

They say to write what you know and there's nothing I know better than... me! So I'm pulling together a book that is sort of an extension of this blog entitled The Bad Widow's Handbook. Basically a more or less true account of my life over the last couple years and the craziness that is being a young widow.

I'm only a week in and have made a good dent in my work but my focus is starting to drop a bit. I've realized sitting down to write an actual novel takes a lot more work than this lazy blogger imagined. It requires thought. And attention. And focus for more than five minutes. Something my A.D.D. combined with my Widda Brain just doesn't really allow for.

But I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I'm hoping throwing this out there into cyberspace will help force me into knuckling down to get some actual writing done. Embarassment over not finishing can be a good motivator too.

This has been one hell of a journey and I'm hoping putting it all together into something coherent will help act as some free therapy. Except good free therapy instead of the crazy-hippy-in-a-tent-on-the-side-of-the-road-who-smells-like-patchouli free therapy (yes, I had to google how to spell patchouli).

So help me out with some motivation here - harass me, remind me, throw sticks at me... whatever it takes!

50,000 words, here I come!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My New Garden

For the first time in my adult life, I planted a garden last week.

It was arduous.

56 feet long, 2 feet deep, you do the math.

Nothing but cracked, dry ground. I had to fight for every inch. I turned it all over by hand, de-weeded, made a beautiful border, mixed top soil, planted, watered, and then collapsed into an exhausted heep. Two days of work. My quads will never be the same.

Now normally I have a hate-on for all things creepy crawly but for some reason, while gardening, my girly squeals are somewhat manageable. There were worms galore, spiders, and even a ladybug I managed to not freak out over.

I love my garden.

And just the other day, the first few teeny tiny little buds began to break ground. Then I allowed myself to squeal like a girl. In delight, of course.

Gardens and spring go hand in hand, don't they?

Renewal, rebirth.

I love the symbolism in this.

Because at its core is the idea that no matter what, anything can be made new.

No matter how broken, no matter how wretched, no matter how hopeless... everything can be made new, can be made better, can be made beautiful again.

It has been over 15 months since my life imploded. It feels like 15 years.

Hours spent trapped in loneliness, isolation, and heartache. Sorrow covers you and swallows you up, leaving no room for anything else.

But time elapsed.

Slowly. Very, very slowly.

I had to put in so much work. Fight for every inch.

I was lucky enough to have some wonderful people in my life to pluck me out of my grief and set me shakily back on the ground.

I even had one close friendship that sparked into a wonderful new relationship, my future husband.

My life is changing, being made over.

New experiences, new places, new people.

I feel like a different person now.


And it feels really good.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

To A Very Special Nurse

I don't post nearly as much as I used to. Some of that is not feeling like I ever have time and some of that is just being in a place in my life where I am starting to have peace again.

But I was reminded that this week is National Nursing Week and it occurred to me to write a little something about a nurse I am truly grateful for.

She was a neighbour of ours, on her way to dropping her kids off at daycare. Hectic morning, hectic life. She crested that little dip on 84th and there was Craig's car and the wreckage from the collision only minutes prior. She was the first person on scene.

Her training kicked in and she called her husband to come meet her and get her kids out of the car and away from the whole scene. She checked the other driver and headed straight for Craig's car. It was so badly damaged she had to crawl in through one of the windows and all she could reach was his hand. She was scratched up by the broken glass and shards of metal and still sat there for over ten minutes until the police arrived, holding his hand and praying for him.

It took me months to be able to speak to her after his accident. I was so grateful for her honesty, her ability to recount all the worst parts of the story, no matter how painful it was for either of us. She was one of the few people who knew enough to refrain from trying to coddle or protect me, that the pain was in the details and I needed all those details.

She told me Craig was not conscious, that he was struggling to breathe, that she could see slight movement under his eyelids. She described to me the last few moments of his life - a time I would have given anything to be there for.

In some ways I experienced a lot of anger over not being the person to be there. I felt it was my responsibility. That I was his wife and I NEEDED to be there. This is something most people may not understand, but however traumatized I would have been, I would still rather have been there to hold his hand and tell him everything was going to be ok, than have been sitting at work, chatting with a friend, completely oblivious.

I was told later that the police all but dragged her out of the car, that she refused to leave. She was crying and praying and insistent that someone stay for Craig.

I often wondered what the chances were that a nurse would be the first to show up. Pretty rare, right? But given how horrific the accident was, I'm not sure someone else could have handled it as well. It took almost six months for her to be able to fully recount the story to me and for me to be able to hear it. It is something that stayed with her, that affected her in a huge way.

But because of her someone was there to hold his hand, to pray over him, to show him that he was not alone. I hope that he was aware of her there and that he was not afraid. I like to think she was at least a comfort to him in those final moments. And what an incredible gift that is.

So this week I just want to remember that nurse, and all the wonderful nurses out there, and say thank you for doing what you do, saving lives, and taking care of our loved ones when they need it most. You are all amazing.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Do you know what today is? Do you ever remember?

We had plans, you know.

Last year was Vegas. You had never been. We were going to have so much fun. Shows and walking the strip and non-stop eating. How was I going to out-do that one? I was kind of pondering Disneyland. Don't act like you are too old for that. We both know better. You are fooling no one.

We had lots of plans, you know. Five year plans. One year plans. Next week plans. Hawaii for our five year anniversary. I just stayed at home instead. Big family Christmas. I didn't really see either family this year. Bet you never saw that coming. You'd probably be in your new job now. I might still be at E+. Enjoying my bonus. We'd have put in our new fence, finally. Paid off some more debt. We'd probably still be fighting over which cupboard the cereal should go in.

Sometimes I let myself fantasize that you chose this. That there was some sort of epic decision you got to make. Stay and struggle or speed on up to heaven and leave a better life for me. I imagine that you would have known it would almost destroy me but that I would somehow be better off one day. That it was some sort of sacrifice on your part.

But I know you know I'd have killed you myself for pulling a stunt like that, so there's no way it could have gone down like that.

I think I'm still just wishing there was a reason. Or some kind of choice in any of this at all.

Do you remember when we talked about dying? Sitting at our kitchen table. I was telling you which song I'd want at my funeral and you got huffy with me. I asked you which one you'd want at yours and you went from huffy to downright annoyed. You hated talking about death. Because of Fred. Today is the anniversary of his death too. Do you remember those kinds of things? I still do. I remember him for you. Just in case.

We agreed that if one of us was to go, it would have to be me. Because there was no way I could survive you going first. Even then you knew that it would change me. That the sadness would drown me. That I would never be me again. We agreed on that. AGREED. I promised I'd come back and haunt you. That I would never be far away, that you'd always know I was still around, looking out for you.

Then you promised you'd do the same.

But you haven't, have you? All this time, I have never felt you near. I don't get any signs from you, I don't see your ghost hovering out of the corner of my eye. You don't tell me you are ok. So much for promises, I guess.

People think that because I'm engaged now I'm 'fixed'. All better. They don't understand that there are some things you cannot fix. Some hurts that are so deep you can never reach the bottom of them. I still feel sliced in half.

Especially today.

If I had a superhero costume I'd dress up in it and hold a party of one. I'd find you some funny card, the kind you used to secretly stash in your little memory shoe box at the bottom of the closet. If I had the energy I'd get a cake and light some candles. But it's lame when you have to blow them out yourself.

Just know that while the rest of the world keeps spinning away, I will be remembering. I never forget.

Happy 28th birthday, babe.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


by Lifehouse

The broken clock is a comfort, it helps me sleep tonight
Maybe it can stop tomorrow from stealing all my time
I am here still waiting though I still have my doubts
I am damaged at best, like you've already figured out

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain, there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you

The broken locks were a warning you got inside my head
I tried my best to be guarded, I'm an open book instead
I still see your reflection inside of my eyes
That are looking for a purpose, they're still looking for life

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
with a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain, is there healing
In your name, I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you

I'm hangin' on another day
Just to see what you throw my way
And I'm hanging on to the words you say
You said that I will be OK

The broken lights on the freeway left me here alone
I may have lost my way now, haven't forgotten my way home

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
with a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain, is there healing
In your name, I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Life After Death

I read somewhere about the Near Death Experience Research Foundation and decided to check it out this morning. I have more than my fair share of questions about what happens when we die and I was curious about what they had to say. Their site mentioned a few books on the topic and, ever the scholar, I made my way over to the Chapters website to check them out.

Now many widows have told me about times when they were thinking about their deceased spouses and a particular song would come on the radio and they would take it as a message from them. I never paid much attention to these because I figured if Craig wanted to talk to me he better do a hell of a lot better than some song on a radio. Call me a skeptic, but I just don't know if I fully buy into that. I think when we are desperately seeking for meaning in events, we can find it almost anywhere. However, that doesn't make these types of incidences any less comforting or reassuring.

With that in mind, I typed 'life after death' into the Chapters search box, expecting a few books talking about near death experiences and the like. Instead I get:

That's right, the first result is "Batman: Life After Death".

I nearly pissed myself laughing.

Craig, ever the comic book lover and action hero nut, would have enjoyed that immensely.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The New Ring!

I know a lot of widows/widowers who have struggled with wondering what to do with their wedding/engagement rings from their marriage. Wearing them on your ring finger on your left hand signifies that you are married to the rest of the world. I wore mine for the first few months because, as I told so many people at the time, I still felt married. Then I wore them off and on for another few months, depending on my mood each day. Sometimes just the sight of them was enough to reduce me to tears so if I had somewhere to go, off they came. I also noticed people commenting on me not wearing them and that would bother me as well.

For awhile I tried just moving them over to my other hand but it never quite felt right for me - it was a beautiful white gold set that Craig had bought me for our fourth wedding anniversary. He had beeen promising me a new set for years since my original wedding and engagement bands did not match (we couldn't afford much at the time we were married). Part of the heartache associated with my rings was from not being able to wear them for very long. And they were just so beautiful and he had spent so much time with me carefully picking them out so I would love them and wear them forever. But they were very clearly and obviously a wedding/engagement set so wearing them on my right hand just seemed wrong to me.

I thought about keeping them to pass them on but I don't really have anyone I'd pass them on to since we didn't have any children. The idea of letting them sit in a jewellery box somewhere collecting dust just made my stomach churn - Craig would have been so disappointed to see that. And while I may have desperately needed the cash, the idea of pawning or selling them was totally out of the question. I'd rather eat Kraft Dinner for a year than have to do that.

So I did some research and hunting around and found a jeweller in Calgary who does beautiful custom pieces, many of them memorial rings like this one. I met with him and had a three hour heart to heart about loss (he'd had his own share of it in his life) in what was was supposed to be a fifteen minute appointment.

Long story short, we came up with a design together to melt down all five rings (Craig's original wedding band, my original wedding/engagement set, and my new wedding/engagement set) to make one gorgeous new ring that I can wear on my right hand. He is using all the gold and all the diamonds to make me the perfect memorial ring.

Attached are some pictures for you to check out for those of you thinking about doing the same thing. I won't have the finished product for a few more weeks but once I have it, I'll be sure to post those photos as well.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Missing in March

Well, the month of March is finally over and I have to say, I am more relieved than I would have thought to have it behind me. I knew this would be a tough time of year but the fluctuations in my mood caught even me off-guard.

I would have days of total elation and joy and days of all-out misery and overwhelming sadness. With the time that has passed, the constant sharp onslaught of grief has passed, but that isn't to say it doesn't still reappear whenever it feels like it. I often will go for several days at a time with this overwhelming feeling of misery and grief and it takes just that long to process it, experience it, and wait for it to be over.

One of the things I do is try to pinpoint exactly what it is that I am missing most that day. Do I miss Craig's laughter that day? Is it the sound of his voice? His physical presence? I try to find the thing that is biggest and focus on it, remember it, invest in it. I find this way of bringing it out of my peripheral and into my line of sight might be more painful at first but in the long run helps me get through these periods of sadness a lot quicker. Sometimes you just need to lean into your grief.

I have felt very beat up by the world this last year and particularly the last few months. Seems every time I turn around somebody is upset with me for something (sounds melodramatic, I know). I've had more disagreements with friends and family than is necessary over the course of a lifetime and I think that is what has been getting to me. Not so much that I feel like I'm constantly in the doghouse, but because I miss having someone on my side. I have truly missed the way Craig was always in my corner, no matter what. Even when he thought I was being ridiculous. He had this way of letting me vent and cry and get upset and being totally supportive but still making me laugh and see if I was the one in the wrong.

I don't remember ever feeling like he was ganging up on me along with everyone else. I used to love how I would vent and get louder and more pissed off and he would jump in enthusiastically and sort of egg me on. At first it would be stuff like, 'yeah, she is so rude!' and then he'd get louder and even more exuberant and it would escalate into, 'yeah, and she has fat ankles!' until I started to realize how ridiculous it was and would start laughing. God, I miss that so much.

I often wondered with Craig and I if we were really all that good for each other. We were such opposites. SUCH opposites. He was athletic with this quiet, dry sense of humour. I'm a couch potato who likes to be loud and make everyone laugh. he was usually slow to anger but, man oh man, when he exploded, look out. Whereas I am quick to take offense, explode, and then simmer and be over it by morning. He would analyze and analzye before making any kind of a decision while I would barrel ahead and refuse to look back, usually with him hanging on for dear life as I plowed forward. These differences often drove me crazy and would frustrate me into wondering how on earth we had ever ended up together.

Now when I look back, and I hope it's not just the distance clouding my vision, I think maybe that was what made us work so well. We were such a balance for each other. I changed so much while I was with him, as he did too. We sort of adopted many of each other's personality traits- something I didn't really notice until after his death. While often we seemed to bring out the crazy in one another, we did keep each other in check as well.

I have come to learn that a relationship like that takes years to form. That type of familiarity where you sort of meld into one another. There is a level of comfort and and trust that stays with you for a lifetime.

So this last month I have missed that ying to my yang, that wonderful listener, and, of course, our little Team Garvin ('It's us versus the world!' as Craig liked to say).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Survived... A Look Back

Well, yesterday was The Big Anniversary, one whole year since Craig's accident. Before I tell you my thoughts on this, let me fill you in on what I did:

1. Slept in. I use the term 'slept' rather loosely. My knee injury flared up right when I went to bad so I was in agnoizing pain for hours and had a hell of a time falling asleep in the first place. So I refused to get out of bed at a sensible hour. I count this as sleeping in.

2. Drove out to Radium for the day. I love Radium. Craig loved Radium. We spent a lot of time there and there is nothing like the mountains to make me feel like I'm safe and at peace. The new boyfriend took great care of me, acting as my chauffeur for the day. Unfortunately the weather turned south about half an hour from Radium so we had to turn around and come home. That's about 5 hours without a pee break as he so gently reminded me... oops. But the mountains were still beautiful and I still had fun. One sidenote: I lost my ipod (curses!) so we were forced to listen to my cd collection which, because I have (had) an ipod, is rather sparse and rather old. I basically haven't bought a cd since high school. Lets just say, I had some horrendous taste in music back then. And technically still do. Because I rather enjoyed myself while he struggled to refrain from rolling his eyes and merely suffered in silence.

3. I had a nap. Only 40 minutes but it was GLORIOUS. To this day, there is nothing I enjoy more than a good couch nap.

4. Went out to dinner and a comedy show with some good friends. It was fun and funny, the perfect distraction.

Seems like kind of weird way to spend the one year anniversary, sure. But I have had so many bad days and weird anniversaries in the last year that I have learned a thing or two about how to handle them. There was Craig's birthday, our wedding anniversary, my birthday... and on and on and on. I have found that nothing sucks worse than spending it alone, that it hurts like hell when other people don't remember, and that the best you can do is to do whatever you feel like doing, whether that is crying all day, doing laundry, or taking an impromptu (and rather hazardous) drive out to another province.

The rather long drive did give me a lot of time for reflection (most of which I did out loud) and was a great way for me make note of what this year has meant.

Obviously, it started out as crappy as a year can start. March 16 of last year was the worst day of my life, hands down. And unfortunately, there were many, many days just as horrible that followed. There were dozens of days I thought I would never make it, thought I would literally die from heartache.

I found reserves of strength I was stunned to know I had. Tenacity I didn't think I possessed. Resiliance and an ability to pick myself up off the floor, grit my teeth, and fight my way back into the real world.

I discovered amazing and wonderful friendships with people who, despite being terrified, got into the trenches with me to help me through this. I met people who inspired and moved me, fellow widows and widowers who served as both cheerleaders and mentors on this journey for me (not to mention a daily sounding board for my ranting and raving and advice-begging).

Sadly, on the flipside, I also went through a string of secondary losses. People who disappeared or slid out of my life, some just not fitting anymore and others with no desire to be there. These hurt exactly as much as you'd think and were far too frequent. They say grief rewrites your address book and this couldn't be more true. The benefit here, if you can find one, is that the people in my life now are the people I truly love and who truly love me. The friendships are richer and more sacred.

I made some big moves. I quit my job and changed my career. I went back to school, travelled, changed homes and neighbourhoods, and even renovated my new house (ok, technically I just helped).

I forced myself to live way, way outside my comfort zone. I tried rollerblading (not so good for a girl without balance) and pool (I still suck). I even busted my knee trying snooba in the Dominican. In hindsight, maybe I'll try fewer new things this year.

I found an amazing man who joined me on this journey. New love and new plans that transformed me and gave me something I sorely needed: hope. And, of course, someone to laugh at all my lame jokes.

I have found a new way to live and a new life.

As hard as it has been, I have found ways to say goodbye to Craig, to miss him but live without him. I have found ways to survive.

I find my good days far outweigh my bad and this is a comforting thought. That nothing in this life is permanent, which is a a good thing rather than a bad one. Because while it means the people you love can disappear at any moment, leaving you broken and barely breathing, no situation is permanent, it only comes to pass, not to stay. You can pick up the pieces and move forward and eventually things will move forward with you.

So, Craig, I love you and miss you. I know you'd be proud of me and cheering me on through this past year. Thanks for nine wonderful years.

I'll never forget you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Tree In A Forest

I was reminded once again yesterday of just how much I have lost.

I was talking to someone about nicknames your friends have for you and I realized I don't have any nicknames anymore. He said it came from knowing someone since you were kids. Ah. It hit me - I don't have friends who have nicknames for me because the only friend I've had since I was a kid was Craig. And all my nicknames disappeared when he did.

It is such a strange feeling, having half your life wiped out like that. Imagine having that best friend you spent the last decade of your life with, who knows you better than anyone, who can read every gesture and facial expression, who has a thousand pet names and inside jokes that only the two of you share. Imagine that kind of closeness.

Then it is gone. Wiped out. Disappeared.

You cannot regain those moments or capture them in a story. You cannot recreate those years of your life with someone else. You cannot condense all those thousands of moments down into one perfect story. It all just disappears.

My life has become the proverbial tree in a forest - it fell but nobody was there to hear it since the one person who did hear it no longer exists. So did it really happen?

It doesn't really feel like it.

It feels like I have no history, no past, no shared story with anyone.

My history disappeared with the only other person who was there for it.

No wonder it feels like I barely exist these days.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Meeting That One Person

It's only 10 days until The Big Anniversary and to say I'm obsessing would be a bit of an understatement. Everything makes me think about Craig right now. It's like going back in time 11 months and not being able to stop that tape from playing on a loop inside my brain.

I think about the whys, the hows, the what ifs. In grief group they mentioned making peace with the 'unanswerable questions' but I don't see how you ever could. Imagine that. Imagine a question there really has no answer. Just theories, one after another, each one as improbably and unprovable as the last. Now imagine you have thousands. And thousands and thousands and thousands. That's what it is like. But you can't help but ask all the questions anyway and try to figure out all the answers anyway.

I watched a movie this week (Love and Other Drugs... not bad, kinda sad). The whole movie made me think of Craig and me and our lives and how it all turned out. Here's a quote I loved:

"Sometimes the things you want the most don't happen and what you least expect, happens. I don't know. You meet thousands of people and none of them really touch you. And then you meet that one person and your life is changed."

That's what it was like with Craig.

He was that person and it changed everything. Everything.

I used to be kind of a nerd. Ok, I still am. But I was good at school and did my homework and all that stuff. I was accepted into the advanced placement program at Western Canada High School. My parents thought it was too far from where we lived and so I opted for the same program at Father Lacombe. Catholic school, parents didn't approve. So I gave up and went to Forest Lawn as a last resort.

At that point, I stopped caring. I knew I wouldn't do much with schooling after, knew I couldn't get into any of the good programs I wanted, knew it would greatly affect my college/university options down the road. So I just stopped caring about school. I made friends who were fun instead of friends who were obsessed with grades and homework and being the top of the class. That's how I met Craig.

He was fun.

Fast forward 4 years and we get married. Fast forward five more years, and he is gone.

All those things that happened in between - my going to school, his going to school, my career, the fights, the arguments, the make-ups, buying a house, moving, moving, moving, family battles, infertility, Hawaii, beautiful moments, sad moments... so much crammed into such a short lifetime.

Now everything that has happened since. The heartache, the loneliness, fights with family and friends, quitting my job, lawsuits and court, pouring over letters and photos and all those unanswerable questions.

And all because I met one person who would change my whole life.

So overwhelming to realize that all those experiences and pain and joy and life could reduce down, collapsing in on itself, to one little choice my parents made that they probably didn't think too much about, that wasn't even a big deal at the time.

Did they have any idea that that one choice would lead to this entire life for me?

Of course not.

Did that other drive know that leaving work that day at that exact moment, and not one minute sooner or later, would change his life and the lives of so many other people forever?

Of course not.

Did Craig know that moving into that house would ultimately lead to his death one day? That had we lived in any other house on any other street in the city, he'd probably still be walking, talking and just fine?

Of course not.

The scary thing is, every decision we make could be utterly unimportant (as I believe most are) or the most important one you ever make.

You just don't get to know which it is until it's too late.

And you never know how things will turn out with the people in your life, who will be a central character or just a mere footnote.

They might be just a friend passing notes to you in the cafeteria but end up changing your whole life forever, over and over again.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Death Statistics

So here are the stats breaking down the ages of the people who die each year. These are American stats (couldn't find any available for Canada) but I'm guessing it's about the same:

Age--Percent of People dying at that age

Under 1 year--1.2%
1-4 years--0.2%
5-14 years--0.3%
15-24 years--1.3%
25-34 years--1.7%
35-44 years--3.7%
45-54 years--6.7%
55-64 years--10.0%
65-74 years--18.4%
75-84 years--29.1%
85 and over--27.4%

All I have to say is, 1.7% - wtf. Almost 90% of the people who die are at least twice his age. Stop and think about that - how unnatural it is to die so young.

Even amongst the dead Craig was a rarity.

How stupidly unfair.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Two Little Memories

Had to quickly jot down these two memories before I forgot:

1. Craig used to pick me up and drop me off at my parents' place just about every day when we first started dating. We would linger as long as we possibly could on the doorstep right up to the very minute it was my curfew. My parents have one of those doors with a window at the very top part of it and I can't tell you how many times we would be making out or hugging or whatever and I'd look up to see my dad's face looking all stern and telling me to hurry the hell up with his eyes through that little window. I even remember a few times where he would flicker the lights to get us to hurry up. Craig and I never managed a quick goodbye once in nine years. Even with my dad's 'scary' face and the flickering lights, it would still take us another ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes. Except the one time he farted on the doorstep and took off running, shouting goodbye over his shoulder. I had no idea what was going on until I smelled it. He'd kill me for sharing that. Sorry, Craig.

2. My mom likes to call me her little trailmaker. It's true, I have a problem with this. I'm a generally tidy person, and am actually somewhat anal when it comes to arranging furniture and decluttering knick knacks and having things just-so. But for some reason, when I come home, I drop the shoes right in the middle of the doorway, the backpack or purse wherever I am standing, and so on and so forth. You can tell which rooms I have been in in the house on any given day by the half-drunk glasses of water I leave in each one. Used to drive Craig bonkers. My worst one? I would take off my jacket and leave it on the back of a chair. Either the couch, or a dining room chair, or his recliner. Didn't matter how many times he yelled at me, I couldn't kick the habit of dropping it on the back of a chair as soon as I walked in the door. We had a huge closet right beside the front door and STILL I couldn't remember to hang it up there. In the last couple years he just started meeting me at the front door whenever I came home and would take my coat from me and hang it up in the closet while we said hello. I didn't even realize he had started doing it for months and months, I was that oblivious. Just one of those little things I loved about him.

Anyway, was just reminded of each of these today. Don't want to forget, have to write it down.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

One of Those Days

Ever have one of those days where everything just sort of seems to come crashing in on you, where you can see your whole life played out before you, where you know the ending long before it happens?

I'm having one of those days.


Technically it's been 2 days.

The phrase that keeps coming to mind for me is, 'It's just not fair.' Because it's not.

Nothing is.

It's not fair that Craig died. That someone else was dumb and Craig and I, of all people, paid the price.

It's not fair that we were good people, worked hard, paid our taxes and still had to suffer so much.

It's not fair that we didn't get to have kids of our own, that Craig's neices and nephews will never remember him, that he will be forgotten so much sooner than he should have been.

It's not fair that I know so many jerks who took his death as an opportunity to take out their frustration on me, to berate me, to judge me, to show off how stupid they could be.

It's not fair, it's not fair, it's not fair.

I sound like a three year old having a temper tantrum in the candy aisle. Maybe I should be.

Some people in life really do seem to get it all... perfect house, perfect kids, perfect life. And then there are the people like me. My life is one big tragedy. If Craig's death is the climax, what does that mean for the remainder of my life?

It sucks.

I want off this ride now please.

I just want a normal life with normal people in it. Is that so much to ask for?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I Miss Our Talks

Hey Craiggie,

It's just me again.

I don't know how to reach you. Still.

I'd talk but it mostly just feels like talking to the air. Writing seems more concrete. I hope you get my messages anyhow.

I still need to talk to you, every day. It's almost been a year, Craig, and still, still I want to tell you about my day. Remember when you'd pick me up from work? We'd have to time it just right so you wouldn't get a ticket for parking illegally and so I wouldn't have to wait more than 10 seconds because I was always dressed innapropriately for the weather. 13 years in Calgary and I still haven't figured out the right clothing-to-weather ratio.

Then I'd talk your head off the whole way home. Sometimes I'd have to change my outfit in the car because I hated wearing work clothes out to the movies or dinner or anywhere else. You'd be cracking up and grabbing my leg or bum while I was trying not to giggle or let some random pedestrian see I was stripping in a moving vehicle.

Or in the mornings, over coffee. You hated mornings. I didn't. But you'd sit there, wrapped in blankets like an overstuffed coccoon, just sipping your coffee patiently while I yammered on. I miss our mornings. I drink tea now. I don't like coffee anymore. It's too much like us. And I surf the web while I drink. Sometimes I turn the t.v. on so it feels like someone is there. But sometimes I just like to feel alone.

Most days you'd come home from work and I'd be cooking dinner. Our little kitchen that always felt two feet too small. I hate other people in my kitchen. But not you. You'd sneak up behind me and grab me and I'd yell at you not to spill anything or get burned. But I'd still be laughing. Then you'd sit at the counter all earnestly and demand I do a cooking show for you. I'd start out with insructions on how to properly saute mushrooms and would end up disecting the psychology of bosses who micromanage all day. You'd just sit and listen, sipping out of your Transformers cup, looking like an overgrown kid.

I miss our talks.

Even though it was mostly me talking and you pretty much just listened. You always were a good listener. Did I ever tell you I loved that about you? I hope so.

I wish we could talk just one more time.

Just one more.

I have so much to ask.

This time, I think I'd be the one mostly listening.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Beautiful Lies

It's pretty unusual for me to read something these days that makes me tear up. Call it numbness or denial, I'm not really sure which.

But today I came across some widows posting about lies that got to me. They were talking about the lies we tell the ones we love to set them free. Several posted about their spouses losing battles to cancer and other illness, how they sat by their bedsides in those final minutes, holding their hands, watching them suffer and finally whispering in their ears, it's ok, you can go now, I'll be alright. Beautiful, brave, selfless lies.

I wish I had the chance to lie to Craig. To tell him it was ok, that he could go, that I would be alright. It would have taken every ounce of strength I had, but I would have lied to him, for him, in a heartbeat.

I told many other lies after Craig died.

I told family and friends that I was ok.

I told them they could go, that I would be alright.

I faked smiles and put on make-up, lying a thousand times over about how I felt, that I wasn't being eaten alive from the inside out.

I lied about eating so my mother wouldn't know I hadn't kept a single meal down in months.

I lied at work to my bosses about how much sleep I was actually getting and how much work I was pretending to do.

I lied about just how much time I was spending at home, alone, crying on the floor.

I lied about how often I sat on the floor in the closet, smelling Craig's clothes over and over again, until they had lost all traces of scent.

I lied about what I was doing, when I was doing it, why I hadn't answered my phone.

I pretended I was functioning, breathing, okay.

I lied for everyone else but I also lied for me.

I lied to let them go. So they wouldn't have to worry or intervene or do anything at all. I could see it in their faces, that begging look, imploring me to wave them off with a quick smile and an 'everything is ok' to alleviate their conscience.

And truthfully, it was usually so much easier than telling the truth.

We all lie.

All of us.

But sometimes, I think, it's ok.

Because sometimes lies can be beautiful too.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Arguments, Purses, and Little Red Hearts

I have found myself lately struggling to hold onto my good memories of Craig. I had a problem with this early on after he died and it seems to be cropping back up again - I can remember all these awful fights and horrible things he did, but seem to struggle to remember all the wonderful moments we had, which I know far outweighed any of the bad.

Why does this happen?

Is it because the emotional pain associated with the bad memories is that much stronger than all the feel-good butterflies that came from the happy moments? Am I only now analyzing a relationship that wasn't as good as I had previously thought? Or is it simply because the anger is easier to deal with than the sadness?

My guess would be the latter.

Anger gives us focus, it gives us energy. Anger leads to outrage and outrage leads to rattling of sabres and, ultimately, action. It can spur you off the couch and give you the energy and motivation you need to get that paperwork done, clean the house, and start checking things off that never ending to-do list.

Well I just realized the other day that Valentine's Day is coming up and it got me pondering all sorts of things, including the above sentiments. You see, I have mixed feelings about Valentine's Day.

I used to insist Craig buy me flowers and a card or something, anything. Craig wasn't so great at the 'planned romance' - he was more of a spontaneous kind of guy. It wasn't unusual for him to leave getting me a gift or making a dinner reservation for Valentine's Day (or birthdays, or anniversaries, or any other special occaision) until the last minute only to have it all fall apart, leaving him looking like a jerk and me mad as hell.

But then out of nowhere, on a random January morning he'd send flowers to my work with a note just to say he loved me. Or I'd come home to my favourite chocolate bar sitting on my pillow and a note taped to the door that he couldn't wait to see me when he got home. C- for planning but A+ for winging it.

Over the years I realized it mattered less and less what Craig got me or where we ate dinner on Valentine's Day. In fact, it wasn't unusual for us to curl up on the couch with a couple movies, a bag of chips, and an unnecessary amount of ice cream.

Last Valentine's Day wasn't all that different. I reminded Craig a few times in January to make a reservation somewhere so he could take me on a date. It was a super busy time of the year for me at work so even this was pretty hit or miss until the day of as to whether or not I'd even be able to make it. As usual, Craig never got around to making a reservation and didn't find much more than a card for me. A rather obnoxious one covered in little red hearts and a cutesy puppy dog that I'm pretty sure was designed for an eight year old ready to confess his love to a pretty blond classmate.

Given that Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday and I was actually able to celebrate it properly, I was a little miffed about his lack of planning this time around. There might have been some serious wifely pouting and cold shouldering going on.

Having been married for over four years, Craig knew trouble when he saw it. In what has to go down as one of the smoothest recoveries of all time, he announced to me that he was actually going to buy me a Coach bag (something we definitely couldn't normally afford and that I was constantly drooling over photos of online). I had been begging and begging for one for months to no avail. I knew Craig was more or less pulling this one out of his arse as a gift simply to save himself, but I didn't care, I was getting a Coach!

We spent hours at the mall (something both of us hated in equal measure under normal circumstances) pouring over all the glorious bags at the Coach store. I oohed, I ahed, I wept for joy. Craig stood patiently, shuttled from one bag to another amidst my squeals of 'Look at this one!' and 'It's so gorgeous!' in the most good natured way possible. He was a saint. Not once did he complain or sigh or beg me silently with his eyes to please hurry the hell up or put him out of his misery.

In the end I practically skipped out of the store with my brand new Coach, excited beyond measure. I ended up forking over my credit card for it, not Craig, but that hardly mattered to me since we shared all our accounts anyway.

I love that Coach bag. I have used it ever since. It is beyond precious to me. Not just because it's gorgeous or because I waited what felt like eons to get it (which it is and which I did).

I love it because every time I hold that bag I remember my poor Craig, so intent on making up for his gift oversight, that he stood patiently in a girly girl purse shop at the mall for hours on his one day off, just to make me smile. That he wanted so badly to make me happy for just one day that he didn't just shell out some cash for flowers or chocolates but spent hours in misery, pretending he wasn't, just because he loved me.

And that is one damn good memory.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is It My Turn?

I don't know what I would do without my widda friends. Most of them I've never even met - just correspond with online. But they know my struggles so intimately because they are their own struggles as well.

For months I have watched many ahead of me in this journey hit their one year mark. There seems to be this deep, lasting grief that takes hold close to this important date. Sometimes it last weeks, sometimes months, sometimes more. Most of the widows/widowers I talk to cannot explain it or how to fight it.

For the last couple months I have been feeling pretty good. Still sad, but moving forward. I have someone amazing in my life who loves me, I moved to a great new home, I've begun to feel like I am re-entering the human race, dipping in one tiny toe at a time. I even took a sunny vacation in the tropics.

Then tragedy hit on the way home and it has felt like I've taken 10 steps backwards.

Scratch that. 100 steps backwards.

I feel this overwhelming grief creeping into every pore of my being. I have all sorts of wonderful things coming up in my life that I can no longer muster the excitement for. I find myself crying at all hours of the day and night with no idea what is triggering it. I am tired. I am miserable.

I know I'm ok, I know things are looking up, my life is steadily moving in a better direction. But this sadness just seems to be taking a foothold and no matter how hard I self-coach or try to cheer myself up, I can't seem to shake it.

Am I approaching the one-year funk? Is my widow card making its reappearance? And most importantly, how long is this damn grief going to be dragging me around?

Help me out, wids.

Tell me this gets better.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Damaged Goods

This week I realized just how damaged I am.

Not just from Craig's death, but from everything that came before it and everything that followed.

Craig and I never had a perfect marriage. Who does? We fought, we yelled, we got on each other's nerves. When you get together as teenagers, you are bound to one another before you have even begun to grow up, before you have any idea what in the heck you are doing.

We went through all the usual teenage drama. There were ups and downs, ex-girlfriends I had to beat back with a stick (not always effectively), struggles to be our own people, and financial strain... and all while trying to figure out what we wanted to do and who we wanted to be. There were a few years there where I could love Craig or hate him all within a five minute period.

But things changed.

We got married, we calmed the hell down, we learned how to respect and appreciate each other. The last couple years we were married were pretty great. The last few days were amazing.

Craig and I got into an enormous fight the weekend before he died. It was a Saturday. We were talking about moving to Vancouver (my home town). I argued that I was living in this hideous city I hated for 10 years for him (sorry Calgary), and without kids it was the perfect time to be adventurous and maybe try my home town for a couple years. He wouldn't even consider it. The fight was not only rare but extremely unusual when I finished it by yelling something and dramatically exiting the room. I'm not even sure where it came from, but I hollered half-hysterically at him, 'I've always loved you more than you loved me!'

Craig just sort of stood there with a deer-caught-in-the-headlights stunned look on his face. It would have been funny if it wasn't so sad.

But we made up. He never followed me when we got into a fight (if I left a room, he would wait me out until I came back to find him). This time he did come to find me. And reassured me he loved me. And we talked and talked just like we used to. I went to work on Monday happy, reassured, and full of hope that we were, in fact, utterly perfect for each other and would be together forever.

I was so happy.

It only took one more day for him to wind up dead on the side of the road and my entire world to come crashing down around me.

As far as I think I've come and as tough as I think I am, I've realized I am still just as broken as that first day.

I live in fear that my new relationship will be filled with the same hurts and struggles, that I may spend years being miserable with someone before I can find happiness.

I am terrified of being happy. That if I let myself embrace joy, fully and completely, I will be sidelined once again. That death and tragedy will come find me, over and over and over.

I am scared that I will once again be left alone, that those closest to me will turn on me or look the other way, and that I will, again, end up helpless and hurting.

You think you can control these fears, keep them at bay, but they find ways to creep in. Lighting can strike twice, nothing is sacred. I experienced another loss this week and all these fears came flooding back in to overwhelm me - it's my own fault, I let myself forget, I let myself be happy. And this is what happens.

How does one seperate oneself from your past? How do you find that magic lightswitch that turns your old self 'off' and your new self 'on' so you can try again without lugging around all that excess baggage?

I'm tired of feeling like I'm wearing my old life around my neck like some oversized noose. The effort required to drag that weight around everywhere I go is exhausting.

And more than anything these days, I just feel tired.

So very, very tired.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Behaviour of the Bereaved

A little quote today on one of the stages of grief:

"Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be 'talked out of it' by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.

During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair".

I include this quote today as a gentle reminder to others that when a griever seems to want to be alone, that is perfectly normal and acceptable. It is nothing to do with you or what they think of you as a person. They are not trying to subtly tell you they dislike you or prefer the company of someone else. They are simply grieving and behaving normally for someone in that much pain. Sometimes being alone is the most helpful thing for them.

When the magnitude of the loss becomes too great, it can bring us to our knees. We need time to think, to ponder, to go over the details of our loved one's life and death over and over again in our minds until we can find some measure of resolution on some aspect of it.

Please understand that asking the griever to do the work - to call you or to stop by your place or to make all the effort to connect - is asking too much. They are the ones hurting and will need you to make the effort.

Even in times of isolation and sadness it is important to let the griever know you care. While they may not want to see anyone, a simple email, note, or phone call saying you are thinking about them and still care can make a huge difference. I myself kept every phone message and email I received from people, including the ones I never had the chance to reply to. I still read/listen to these from time to time when I am feeling low.

Rather than looking at the griever's behaviour and trying to decide if it is normal or not compared to your own, understand that they are in a position you cannot even imagine. Your ideas about what is 'normal' behaviour for them are misguided, at best. You may think you can imagine what 'you would do in their position' but that is actually impossible. Instead accept them for where they are at knowing that their pain is too deep and overwhelming for you to understand without having walked in their shoes. Be the listener they need rather than the giver of advice. Remember, they know far more about grieving than you do at this point.

And above all, do not hold this behaviour against them later on down the road. While you may never understand why they chose to be alone at certain times or why they seemed so sad for so long, their behaviour was still completely normal.

As difficult as it may be, you must remind yourself that it is not about you. It is about the loss of their spouse.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Widow's Work Is Never Done

I know I've whined about this before, but I'm going to do do it again... death is so much work!

There are lawyers and insurance companies and criminal charges and courts and banks and paperwork and funeral homes and credit card companies and the list goes on and on and on...

Just when you think you have conquered the Mt. Everest of Crappy Paperwork, you see you are just in the middle of a mountain range, and that you have many more piles to go.

The day before yesterday I tackled some of these 'piles'. I keep going through Craig's stuff in phases - to try to do it all at once would leave me buried and I'm pretty sure it would take days for anyone to dig me out.

So far I have gone through his clothes five or six different times and given away as much as I could each time. This is key. Never try to give it all away at once. Just make two piles - the 'shirts I hated every time he wore them' pile and the 'clothes you will have to pry out of my cold, dead hands' pile. Obviously the latter being the ones you want to keep. Then it doesn't feel like you are throwing away everything - just the stuff you didn't like or don't have a particularly strong memory attached to.

Eventually, though, you get to the last few boxes and it's time to make some tough decisions.

This go around was that time.

I had to say goodbye to many things I actually really did care about. You see, the closet full of clothes is just one burden. There is also Craig's books, his paperwork, his toys, his shoes, his sports equipment, his workout set, his music, his movies, his jackets, his jewellery, his ashes, his notebooks and letters, etc. So to maintain sanity, I have to work on all these things. I have to give away what I can, because there is just. So. Much. Stuff.

Anyway, this time around I made myself give away all but 10 things. That sounds like alot but if you knew Craig, you'd know he had a wardrobe bigger than mine.

This time around I gave away all his business shirts, include the four he still had in the drycleaning bag from the day before he died.

This time around I gave away his flannel shirts, so soft and comfy, that he wore when we went camping and when he went on his friend's bachelor party campout the summer before.

This time around I gave away his brand new tailored pinstriped suit he had just bought the week before for a job interview. He looked so good in it dammit.

And this time around I finally parted with my wedding dress. I never cared about my wedding dress, not really. It was nice, it was pretty. But I never had that sobbing-in-the-store reaction other people seemed to have. Every time I tried to sell it on ebay or give it away Craig would get super pissed. I used to tease him that it was more sentimental to him than it was to me. Ever since he died I couldn't stand to let it go.

I also gave his parents a box of all his report cards and little projects from when he was in elementary/junior high. Damn, he was one cute kid.

It took me the better part of a day to sort through this stuff.

And then it took me an entire day to recover.

I literally did not get out of bed yesterday until late in the evening (outside of a few pee and food breaks of course). And I probably wouldn't have gotten out of bed except that I was forced by an irritatingly well-meaning and persistent friend.

But this is the toll grief takes on you.

It saps your strength, your energy, and every last spark of happiness. It took an entire day for the sadness, the guilt, and the general misery to wear off from just getting rid of those few things.

It has been 10 months and it still catches me off guard. One little task like this can set you back months in the grieving process.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that a widow's work is never quite done. I will be dealing with Craig's things for years to come.

And unlike the rest of the world, the burden feels like it is all mine.

I am the one who needs to let him go. I am the one who has to fight the guilt for every little piece of him I let go of. I am the one who swallows that anxiety that each little piece is a memory I will no longer have.

I look forward to the day when I can open one or two boxes and see the things that mean the most and remember him with a smile instead of all these tears.

Please let that day be soon.