Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve

It has been a while..

It will be exactly 18 months tomorrow, since he left.
18 months since the sky fell and my world was changed forever.
18 months of pain and healing.
18 months of feeling cared for and feeling so alone.
18 months of trying to figure out the new normal, new life, new beginnings, new me and hating a lot of it.
18 months of learning to sleep, live and be alone.

There are only a certain amount of people in the world who really understand how grieving the loss of a spouse to suicide is so different that any other grief. It isn't harder or easier, it is just different.  A different kind of hell. It is hard to explain to someone else, even when that person is grieving themselves or has grieved before.  I'm part of a unique club that I never wanted entry to, never expected to be a part of and want out of desperately. My membership began July 1, 2013 and sadly, I'll be in the club for the rest of my life.

Dates have always been significant for me.  I used to love calendars.  Boxes on the calendar meant birthdays, celebrations, appointments, vacations, days to look forward to and days to remember. They meant holidays, friends and precious spare time.  Filling boxes on the calendar meant life was happening and I was engaged, living and excited about what was to come.

Then, the July 1, 2013 box changed everything.

It would be unfair to say that every day in the last 18 months has been black.  Although there have been a lot black ones, especially in the beginning, there have been red, orange, blue, purple, yellow, green & plain white ones, too. It started with days filled with tears, hurts, horrible discoveries, wanting to die, sweat, anxiety, fear, loneliness and longing.  Those days slowly changed into days where I feel I will never catch up and days where I feel like I'm on the top of the world. Days where I push myself hard physically and accomplish things I haven't in years and days where I don't accomplish anything and just stay in the sanctuary of my bedroom. From there days filled with unexpected lovely moments, sunshine, love, dance, friendship, laughter, care and adventure appeared.  Those are my favorite, but don't always appreciate them as much as I should. Probably, because I get frustrated that it isn't like that more or even all the time.

I can see progress..  Things are better, even the days I fall apart and I become a weepy, ugly crying, desperate, hot mess. (Like today.)  I still have hope.  Or at least I try to. I no longer want to die. I want to move forward, get better. Live my life, have adventures and maybe even someday... Someday. So, I keep trying.

As the calendar moves forward, each little while brings a different challenge. There always seems to be some major thing I'm trying to get through. I look back at the last year and I have overcome a lot of them. Others, I have put in a box and let distraction wash over so I can avoid them.  Those are the worst because they are always there. They block the road ahead and I can't move forward until I take them on. I'm just stuck, resulting in feeling like I'm just going in circles, lost & alone. (Again, like today.)

Specific dates are my current challenge. (Well, among others)  I look at the calendar now, and the empty boxes terrify me because they represent the scary unknown. . They trigger anxiety attacks, fear and panic.  They trigger loneliness and the knowledge that all I can do sometimes is go through the motions and just kill time.  Wait for time to do it's thing, when all the hard work of healing can only go so far and things just need to sink in.

I can do every day.  I've had 18 months of practice.  Days, nights, weeks, months. Trying, every day.
It's the boxes where some annual date is marked that are the hardest.  Those who have lost a loved one will tell you just how difficult those days are.  I don't get to practice those as much.  The anticipation of them is grueling.  Days, sometimes weeks leading up to them are horrible, full of anxiety, fear, memories and thoughts I can't control or take hold of. Today is one of those days.

I have always loved doing nothing on this night and simply cuddling up with my partner, and reminiscing about the year past and dreaming about the coming year.  Nothing fancy. Just the security of being with the man I loved was all I needed.  That, and an amazing midnight kiss.  During the times in my life that I was single on this day, it was always being surrounded by friends and bringing in the new year with abandon.  Celebrating a new beginning.

Last year was awful.  Just 6 months into this Suicide Widow Journey and I was far from OK. In fact, I was a fucking basket case. The shock was wearing off and I was melting down. Crying, shaking, unable to make coherent sentences unless they were shorter than 4 words. I had maxed out on the anti-anxiety meds and I was still out of control.  Even sitting up was hard. I remember shrinking into a booth into a heap while trying eat a bowl of oatmeal at a local diner. The new year was coming and my life was a mess and I feared the same shit was on it's way for 2014. Not one aspect of my life was in order.  And, I was alone.  A close friend rescued me and actually spent the entire night with me.  I cried, slept, cried, wailed, slept and cried more. I worried I was done for.  Most of those first annual dates are excruciating.

The anticipation leading up to today was not fun.  I cried, was anxious, was actually scared & whined to those closest to me. I so wanted this year to be different. This year I had hoped for 1 of 2 things.  Either to celebrate with friends.. (Which didn't work out for a number of reasons) Or to just be with one special friend where there is no pretense, just 2 friends hanging out.  That didn't work out either.  No one is at fault..  It is just how things rolled out.
So, I'm alone.

This morning I felt like I'm in the same spot I was in last year.  That not one aspect of my life is in order and I'm starting out the year a hot mess.  Crying, lonely.. Feeling like I have just gone in circles... And, I'm alone.

But, as the day progressed and the sun went down...
I realized, I am ok.
Yes, there are tears... A lot of them...
Yes, it hurts... Badly... .
Yes, memories fill my head.  Good ones and bad ones.  Vivid ones and obscure ones.  Happy ones and painful ones.
Yes, I hate being alone.
But... I am ok.

It is different from last year.

And, hopefully, it will be different next year.  Maybe, I will be with those amazing friends or maybe, I will able just to be with that one friend, sitting on my porch, just hanging out...  Or maybe...

If anything, I'm hoping for less tears, less fear, less pain...  And not being alone.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What just happened?

This Christmas is hard.  What was once my favorite holiday, now is becoming a tough daily fight to stay focused and not spend every waking moment in tears. All I want to do these days is lay in bed and cry. 

Last week I noticed that the ring Thad gave me that I now wear on my left ring finger was slipping off said finger awfully easily.  Uncomfortably uneasily. Scared it was going to slip off and be lost forever, I ventured to the mall to see what could be done. 

Thad made sure I knew how special I was to him by giving me every Christmas and every birthday, a little something, in a little blue box from Tiffany's.  Nothing extravagant, but just a little something.  A charm, small earrings, my ring etc.  I loved it.  He was such a romantic.  I feared because the cost of the ring, and the engraving, that sizing it would be impossible.  But I walked in there hoping something could be done so I could continue to wear it on my ring finger. 

I walked into the store and was immediately overcome by a wave of tears.  Seriously, I have only been inside a Tiffany's 2 times.  Including this trip.  I tried to gather myself together and pushed further in.  I was approached by 2 sales people at the same time.  A young man and a young woman.  There was something in the young man that pulled on my heart, so I followed him to his counter.  I began to explain, in tears, the significance of the ring, that my husband had passed away a few months ago and my fear of losing it but wanting it to stay on my ring finger.  He was so sweet.  He took the ring from me and we began to discuss ideas what we could do. 

During the conversation, he asked me how my husband had died.  God, I hate that question.  It will stop the conversation immediately and become really awkward, really fast.  I looked at him and started to cry again and said.  "He suffered from Depression and Anxiety for a very long time and committed suicide on July 1st.".  His face went white and his eyes welled up in tears and for the first time I saw the raw pain behind his eyes.  He told me he had been suffering badly with depression for a couple of years now and that he often thought of that himself. He looked at me with eyes that just plead.  "Help me."

I stared at him for a moment and then got a chill that ran from the base of my spine, all the way up my neck.  What on earth could I do?  What on earth could I say?  Why would God put this man in my path when I was such a mess.  How could I help him? 

Then I simply said.  "Are you thinking that your family and loved ones would be better off without you?"  He nodded slowly.  I took his hand and pulled him to the corner of the counter away from other customers and asked him softly.  "Do I look better off to you? That is what my sweet Thad thought.  Thought I would be better off without him because he was so sick and he wanted to unburden me.  Do I look better off without him?"  I began to really cry.  Right there in the middle of Tiffany's.  "I'm not.. Not by a long shot.  I doubt myself every day,  want him back every day, I have so many unanswered question and I am devastated by his loss EVERY DAY!  Do you know you are loved?  Please look at me and realize what your choice will do to those that love you."

He asked if he could hug me and I wrapped my arms around him and whispered... " Be kind to yourself.  Reach out to those who love you and tell them what you are going through.  Let them help you.  Let them carry you.  I promise it will get better.".   He let me just hug him and said.  "OK, I will".
I just looked at him and said.  "Your life is worth living."

He asked me to return and let him help me with anything else I might need and then looked into my eyes and thanked me.  Thanked me over and over. Suddenly, my ring didn't matter anymore. What mattered to me was that this guy understood what I was telling him. We stood there for a moment each took a deep breath. Then parted.   I waved to him as I left and sat down on a bench outside of the store.

What just happened?  Oh my God, what just happened?  Did I just reach out to someone in the middle of Tiffany's and possibly save his life?  Save his family and friends from this horrible pain?  Did God just really use me like that?  WHAT JUST HAPPENED??  Did I imagine that?  Did I just have that conversation over a counter in Tiffany's? 

Since then I have been to that mall twice and each time I want to walk into Tiffany's and see if he is there and OK.  But I'm scared.  What if what I said made things worse, or didn't help..  Or, what if it did?  What if he is getting the help he needed and is doing better? 

All I can do is pray and be thankful for that moment.  Be thankful that I left my heart and eyes open enough to see his pain.  I just wish someone had been there to let Thad know, that I would never be better off without him. That I would be so devastated by his loss, that for months I would cease to be able to function normally.  That I would miss him so much, it causes physical pain.

That a huge part of me is missing and I feel so alone.  Especially at Christmastime. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Surrounded by him

There are so many incredible things that happen when you are married to the right person and you let go of the junk and just let yourselves connect with each other.  The world becomes a less harsh place because you have each other to lean on and go through life together.  It happens in friendships and other relationships too, to a degree, but not like it does in a marriage. In our marriage, I was part of a great team. I was loved like I had wanted and needed to be my whole life.  I was safe.

I think often about when we were first married and had to deal with some pretty ugly family issues right up front. After a horrible confrontation, we went home and he held me so tight while I cried.  Held me as long as I needed him to. He got on the phone to try and remedy the issue and gathered the troops of other family members to make the situation right.  I knew he would protect me when push came to shove.  I knew that I would always have him in my corner.  It was an incredible feeling.  Trust has always been a hard thing for me, but there were times when I trusted him so completely.  I never felt more safe in my life. Not ever.

Moving to a new city where I had no support system proved to be pretty difficult for me.   It was scary, stressful and triggered a lot of fear.  It did for him too.  Imagine, living alone, keeping your world simple, bare and drama free.  Then, these 2 fun-loving, singing, lively, loud and loving women move into your house with their little barking dog.  They change everything around. Paint, put up shelves, bring clutter and mess into your quiet, minimalist life. But, they also make life warm and full and happy.  They fill your house with laughter, good food, love, caring, forgiveness and a bit of drama.  For a man with anxiety issues...  Well, let's just say it was overwhelming at times. Sometimes it was so frustrating for both of us. But, sometimes he would look at me and smile and just revel in his new life and take it in. Those are the memories I cherish the most.  Being part of that loving partnership.
 Nobody's perfect.  Although we did our best to not bring old baggage in, those old tapes would find a way back into our heads and really mess things up.  He would forget we were a team and make these unilateral decisions that drove me bananas.  I would forget how trustworthy he had proved himself to be and hide my hurt behind anger for protection and hold a grudge and shut myself off for a short time.  Sometimes the rifts were easy to recover from, sometimes it would take longer, but we would find a way and reconnect, closer than ever.  We would lie in bed, in the dark and just talk.  Talk about what happened, talk about how to do it differently next time, talk about how much we loved each other, talk about being together for the rest of our lives. There would there were times I would ask him to take off his wedding ring because I needed to talk to my best friend about what a jerk my husband was being.  So, even in the rough times I was safe and cherished because of all he was to me. 

On especially bad days for me, where connecting with words wasn't enough, he would take making me feel safe to a new level. (The first time he tried this, I thought he was crazy!!)  He would lay me down on our bed face down and he would lay on top of me and wrap his legs around mine, cradle my head and just whisper to me, "I've got you, Peanut.  You are OK, Baby.  I'm here and nothing is going to hurt you."  I would lay there, surrounded by him until the fear or nightmares went away and I could just feel safe, loved, warm and cared for by him.  It was, by far, the most amazing feeling I have ever experienced.  Nothing in my life had come close to that before.  Nothing.  It was so pure, raw, intimate and caring. We took such great care of each other. It wasn't perfect and there were times we failed each other, but there was always forgiveness and understanding and safety.  If we only knew what was coming, maybe we both could have been better prepared.

When the depression took over and he attempted suicide the first time on May 1, 2012, I had to step completely into the caretaker role.  I took over everything. I wanted him to focus on getting better, going to treatment and healing.  Get on top of the depression and anxiety again.   I took over the finances, I was the only income earner, I took care of all the business and he helped with the household duties as much as he could.  I had to turn off my emotional needs to keep afloat and take care of everything I had to for the next 14 months. As he got worse, I so wanted to be surrounded by him again, I wanted desperately to feel safe again, but he couldn't. He did try.  He tried so hard. Some days the depression was just too overwhelming and simply getting out of bed was a horrible ordeal.  I wanted him to fight for his life, but he just couldn't.  But, I still hoped. And hoped.  And hoped. Hoped that things would get better for him and us, that we would get our marriage back, our love back.  Be a team again.

The day he died and for weeks afterward, I was beyond lost.  My world had turned upside down and still has not turned back.  I was shocked, hurt, in so much pain. I was abandoned, alone and wanted to die. Fear engulfed me. I looked for him everywhere to pull me out of the deep, dark pit I found myself in, but he was no longer there to turn to. 5 months into this journey now, and the shock has worn off. I now know he is gone and not coming back, no matter how hard I cry, scream, wail, beg and pray for it.  My best friend, lover, husband, partner and soul mate is no longer part of this earth and is now part of Heaven and I know I will see him again someday.

But, at night, when the world is quiet and I'm alone in the bed we shared, I lay down on my belly and long to feel him envelope me, cover me, cradle my head and whisper those words that always brought me so much comfort.  Most nights I'm left feeling so scared, so fearful, so anxious, so alone.  I lie there in tears and wonder "Will I ever feel safe again?"   I sometimes dress one of my pillows in his t-shirts that still carry his scent, cuddle up, hold it tight, trying so desperately to feel him close to me again.  Nights have become so much harder.

There are some nights though, every once in a while, where I do feel him, or at least I believe I do.  Those nights are my favorite. I can lie there, feel him near and remember.  I feel warmth on those nights, I feel comfort and peace. I feel safer...  I still long to feel him covering me, but feeling him near helps so much and I'm grateful for those moments.  They make the days ahead just a bit easier.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wanting to Fix the Unfixable

In my old life, before my husband's depression returned and grabbed hold,  I was a "Fixer".  If a problem came up I would find the work around a quickly and adeptly as possible.  I wanted things to be better, and stamp small fires out before they became big ones.  I was good at it.  At work, at home, I could make it happen.  In my marriage and with friendships it was harder since we all have our own way of dealing with things and handling them.  But I always wanted to talk through things and find the solution.

For the last 5 days I have been a a VERY dark place. My grief has been raw, harsh, and unrelenting. I cried ALL THE TIME.  At the gym, in yoga, at home, in bed, in the car, with friends, alone.   Desperate cries, wailing, screaming and there was so much pain. Pain that doubled me over and made me want to vomit.  Pain that went through my entire body and stayed there.  Just pounding away at me.

I know I worried some people, but I could not just get past this part.  I was stuck. Missing him desperately, missing our connection, our relationship, his touch.  The guilt over the last 2 weeks of his life sat on me like an elephant, I ran over and over in my head, how did I not see it?  How did I miss it?  How could I not have been kinder, more understanding, more patient, made it easier for him somehow? How did I miss all the signs? How did I miss this?? But, that wasn't the real issue.

I dragged myself into my therapist's office yesterday, a hot mess.  I had just come from the gym after killing myself there to sweat it out.  Find some answers as I pushed myself to the limit, just trying to feel anything but the emotional ravaging that was happening inside. (Lord, I know that sounds so dramatic, but any widow will tell you...  That is just how it feels) I sat down and he took one look at me and said..  "Spill it."

I started to tell him about the last 5 days, What I had been feeling, doing, going through.  After he listened he simply asked.  You know what the real issue is don't you?  I was quiet for a moment and nodded my head. It was so simple..... I can't fix this.  The fixer can't fix any of it.

I couldn't fix his depression, I couldn't fix pushing him to try and get better in those last 2 weeks. I can't fix that this hurts, I can't fix how much I miss him, I can't fix how my daughter is grieving, how my friends are grieving. I can't fix how others treat me, judge me, hurt me during this time that I often feel like I'm losing my mind. I can't fix this ache in my heart that consumes me, I can't bring him back, I can't fix my paralyzing fear of the future.  I can't fix that in the end I wasn't the perfect wife, that I pushed him, yelled at him, wanted him to fight through this... I can't fix any of it!  It just is what it is, and it sucks, it hurts, it is so sad, and is so painful.

After more discussion we came to the conclusion that the only things that will "fix" it, heal things, are my letting myself to feel it all, go through the grief, experience it.  That I could go to another doc and be medicated through the pain, but I know that will only prolong the rough stuff.  I have to keep doing the things that keep me plugged into life. Reach out to those who love me, want to support me. Lean on my faith, my friends, my family.  Keep doing the things that help me feel connected to him.  Remember him, talk to him, talk about him, share his story, but not hold on to the guilt.  The depression was eating him alive, much like a cancer, he could not fight it anymore. It breaks my heart because, I wanted to fix it.  Needed to fix it.  After all.  It is what I do. 

So I'm left with the intense grief of losing an intense love.  The passionate pain of losing a passionate, loving and amazing connection. I'm left with the fear of what life will be like without him next to me.  He is no longer here to physically hold my hand, talk to me, hold me close, comfort me, give me advice, love me through the bad times. And that hurts so badly.

I just have to go through it, and it is going to suck for a while.
And what adds to the pain is knowing how this is changing me. 
I can't fix that either. 


Monday, November 18, 2013

His Hands

Many times, I am asked what I loved most about Thad.  The truth is so are so many things, that I cannot choose just one:

His amazing laugh
His romantic spirit
His velvet voice
His fierce protectiveness
His ability to use words and language in such an eloquent way
His love for me and my daughter
His love for his family and the desire to feel like he belonged
His kind heart
His sensitivity
His passion for politics and sports (OK, these drove me nuts from time to time)
His willingness in the beginning of our relationship to open up, let me in.  Let me see the soft spots, the damaged spots, the hurts, the desires and the dreams.  It made it so easy for me to do the same and to fall in love with who he really was.  All of him.  
His desire to make me feel safe
His willingness to try and learn how to be happy
His perseverance
His bravery in fighting his demons
His strong chest that comforted me so often
His playfulness
His passion for me
His way with animals
His adorable backside..  :)

I could go on and on.  He was an amazing man with so many layers. So many qualities that made me fall in love with him over and over, more and more. 

But, one of the things I miss the most and want to always remember are his hands.

His hands were flawed.  Because if his nerves, his nails were always chewed to the quick.  I tried quite a few times to give him at home manicures, or took him for professional ones, but he always ended up chewing the life out of those fingernails.

His hands were freaky strong.  Seriously.  There was never a jar he couldn't open or anything he couldn't get unstuck.  There were times I would struggle to no end to open a mayonnaise jar he absentmindedly put a bit to much twist on. I'd would have to wait until he got home to open it. 

His hands were so gentle.  Although he sometimes didn't know his own strength, when he took great care, his touch was so gentle.  They stroked my face when I was sick, stroked my hair when I needed comfort, cared for me when I was physically hurt.  His comforting touch is what I miss most late in the night when it is quiet and my grief overwhelms me.

His hands gave me pleasure, joy and excitement just by running his fingers over my skin. I miss his tickles, his foot rubs, even his awful massages and pulling on the excess skin on my elbows.

His hands fit me perfectly.  Every time he took my hands into his, it felt like home.  He loved to hold my hand in the car, in bed, watching TV, in church, sitting on our porch, on walks, at the movies.  Many times I would turn over in the middle of the night to find our hands intertwined.  

His hands looked amazing with his wedding ring.  The day I placed that on his left hand, I knew he was mine and I was his.  It stood as a symbol of our commitment and love. I used to love to touch his finger and wiggle the ring. I loved how it looked, what it stood for and how it made me feel so loved, wanted and secure. Nothing would give me a smile like the smile I wore when I saw that ring on his hand.

The day he died and the medical examiner brought me his personal effects, his ring was among them. I placed it on my hand and left it there until we met with the funeral home to make his arrangements.  I was so numb those first few weeks.  I don't remember much.  But, I do remember the private viewing and being distraught that although his ring was on his hand, his right hand was over his left and I couldn't see it.  And I needed to.  I needed to see his ring on his hand, touch it, wiggle it like I used to.  I don't remember asking or how it happened, but his hands were changed and at his public viewing, I couldn't stop touching his hand, his ring, him.  Longing for the warmth, strength, and gentleness that I used to feel when I touched those amazing hands. 

I now wear his ring around my neck on a chain, along with mine, on a heart shaped pendant.  I wanted them together, intertwined like our hands always were. Touching my heart.   On my finger I wear a band he gave me for Christmas one year.  The words "I love you" are inscribed several times, on the outside in a never ending message.

I love you too, Baby.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

For Better or Worse

It has been 4 and half months since my world was turned completely upside down.  

It feels like I'm on a major roller coaster with no restraints.  There are dips, turns, waves, corkscrews and awful pain as I hang on for dear life.  Sometimes gripping with all the strength I can muster and other times, wishing I could just let go and have it all be over, but knowing I can't.

The worst part is know that I have to get on this roller coaster every day. 

Just 5 and a half years ago, I spoke to the life of my life for the first time. I heard that voice and the comfort it brought and I knew I loved him.  It was a crazy, Whirlwind courtship that ended with a beautiful wedding on the beach just 1 year and 15 days from our first phone call.

On our wedding day I was so filled with hope, love and excitement.  I felt so full, so alive, I thought my heart would burst. It was an easy day to focus on all the "for better" that was to come. We were barefoot on the beach, surrounded by family and friends, uniting our lives, our families and our futures. I looked into the eyes of my soul mate and promised. For Better or for Worse.  It was one of the best days of my life, second only to the birth of my daughter. He used to say it was THE happiest day of his.

As an older bride and not my first time heading down the aisle, I was aware of exactly what the "for worse" part meant as well. There would be trips to emergency rooms, health scares, family deaths, job issues, money issues, miscommunication, drama, and just regular life stuff.  Are any of us really prepared for the absolute worst of the worst? 

Never in a million years would I have ever guessed that just 4 years later, I would be sitting here a Widow.  A Suicide Loss Survivor.  Grieving.  In so much pain, there are times I cannot breathe and feeling so lost and alone. Some days literally looking around and asking the question out loud..  "Where did he go??"

I'm desperate not to lose the memories I have of the wonderful times we had.  I'm desperate to keep the close and intimate connection we had that most people long for.  I'm desperate to have him be remembered as the sweet, kind, loving and brave man he was, not some statistic or stigma.   He was not weak, he was not a coward.  He was brave, my protector, my safe place in the storm.  His loss is the ultimate loss for me, that I have no idea how I will recover from. 

Depression has a way of eating the soul. Taking away logic and rational thinking.  I know he believed I would be better off without him because he was not getting better.  I know he thought he was making the choice that was best for me. He was so very wrong.  But, he just couldn't see it.  I know it was the depression and the evil one manipulating his thinking.  It breaks my heart to know how deep the depression was, how much he covered it to protect me and to finally find out how much pain he was in.  What he thought was better was really the worse.  So much worse.

I really hate hindsight.  

So, I'm hoping this space can preserve those memories.  That this space can help save someone else's life. That this space can touch someone else who lost a loved one to suicide, to help them know they are not alone and the pain they feel is normal.  That those sweet memories will someday bring you so much joy, that talking about what happened is part of healing, that the guilt and self hatred that comes with being a survivor are really your worst enemies and that you can move past those things and realize it was beyond your control.

But, most of all, I am hoping that this space can honor a wonderful man named Thad, who loved me with all of his heart. Who came out of the grey haze of depression for a while and had a colorful life filled with love, laughter, friendship, family and joy, until the haze took him back over and took him away from all of us that loved him.  I look forward to telling you all about him.

He will forever live in my heart and always be a part of me.