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widow

Grief, Guest Posts

Still Talking

November 21, 2016
death

By Susan Barr-Toman

A few months after my husband died, Patti Smith was coming to the Philadelphia Library to talk about her second memoir M Train, a collection of essays. I called Missy right away. Patti was our thing. I was actually excited about something. We had to go together. Missy had given me Just Kids a few years ago. I’d never been a follower of Patti’s music, but I loved her memoir about a lifelong friendship founded on love and art. The two of us had a mini-pilgrimage to NYC. We’d traveled to the Hotel Chelsea, which unfortunately was under renovations at the time, and drank a cocktail next door at the El Quijote, where Patti had hung out with Janis Joplin.

The library would be my first outing since Pete died. At this point, everything was hard—eating, shopping, watching TV, making phone calls, getting out of bed. I needed to look forward to something that didn’t require much of me. But even with this event that required nothing of me, I needed someone to be with me in public, among strangers.  The day before the event, Missy said she couldn’t make it.

When my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer, people—those who’d experienced the death of a close loved one and the therapist I’d started seeing—warned me that death would change my relationships. Those who I expected to be there for me might not be. Others, unexpected, would be. Death affects people profoundly. Some people can’t be around it for an array of reasons. They’re afraid or they’ve just been through it themselves. And it turned out to be true. People I barely knew showed up and people I thought would be my core support did not.

Missy was one of those people. I’d imagined when Pete died that she’d practically move in with me and the kids. Instead, a few months before he died, she abruptly moved to D.C. for a new job. Of course, she hadn’t expected that she’d move in with me, and over the last few years, she’d taken care of her parents until they both passed on. She needed a new start; she’d had enough of death.

Without her, I didn’t want to go to the event. I was feeling a little devastated. But years ago, I had renounced the Catholic guilt trip. I would not make her feel bad in the hope that she would find a way to come. I said nothing. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Julien’s Castle: The Way of Grief.

November 26, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Nancy Sharp.

He was young and French. Perhaps he didn’t understand. “I said I’m widowed,” loud enough this time to make myself perfectly clear. “Okay. So?” he asked, with a bemused smile.

“And I have three-year-old twins.”

I expected him to run. Hadn’t I frightened him away?

“What are you doing here,” he wanted to know, the crisp night air making smoke between us as he spoke. We stood under a streetlight, the din of a raucous Oktoberfest party at Zum Schneider, an indoor Bavarian biergarten in lower Manhattan, still in earshot.

It was a curious question.

I might have told him any number of things: that I was only escorting my friend Lisa that night because Lisa was missing Germany; that I didn’t even drink beer; that my command of the French language centered around ten high school phrases; and, that I was too old for him, which if he only stopped to look, he would see.

The eye sees what it wants to.

“No, really, what are you doing here?” he asked again, sweeter this time.

He seemed to be looking through me. It was piercing without being lewd.

The heat of his gaze embarrassed me and I blushed.

“How old are you?” I blurted out.

“Twenty-seven. And you?”

“How old do you think I am?”

He cocked his head to the right, reddish-brown curls sweeping his ear. He was fixing hard on my face, his hazel eyes flickering under the street lamps.

“Twenty-nine.”

“That works.”

And yet, crisp jeans and glossy lipstick did nothing to mask what little identity I felt beyond widowhood, even now, nineteen months after Brett died. Had he not been so boyishly handsome, I might have been the one to walk away. Dropping the Widow-Bomb on a twenty-seven-year-old was bound to burst this flirtatious bubble so what exactly was he waiting for?

I was certain he would leave, perhaps even stagger backwards and say, “Well, nice meeting you,” heels moving quickly as he politely returned to his drunken friends. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Motorcycle Widow. By Joyce McCartney.

March 12, 2014

Motorcycle Widow. By Joyce McCartney

I. Want. My. Mommy!

I contemplated that title.

I mean, after all, I’m 42 years old. It seems weird to make that declaration.

But, think about it, in a normal circumstance your Mom is the person you go to when you’re hurting the most.

Fall out of a tree: Mom can make it better.

Skin your knee: A Band-Aid and a kiss from Mom makes it better.

Fail your first class: Mom is your biggest cheerleader.

But, at 40, when you’ve lost your parents before 25 and are faced with losing, quite suddenly, the man you love; the man you spent 40 years looking for; the man you never thought you’d meet?

It’s abysmal. And your friends are there. And, you meet friends through that. And the parental-types in your life are there.

But, like a child at its first day of school, unsure and insecure, YOU WANT YOUR MOMMY!

In my last blog post, I mentioned you shouldn’t get me started on how new loss makes you revisit old loss.

But, let’s face it: how can new loss NOT make you revisit old loss?

I remember when my dad died in 1988. My mother was a ROCK.

The morning he died, we left his hospital bed and went to church (a Catholic church) and, she and I, side-by-side, said the rosary together. As the youngest, and an unexpected child, I’d spent a great deal of time with my mother: shopping, cooking, attending her rosary group.

We lit a candle on the Joseph side of the church and then, I watched her prepare for the reality of my dad’s death. Despite the funeral home’s offers, she got his burial ensemble ready herself. She was a strong, strong woman. She’d seen him, and our family through so much.

SHE is my rock.

Unfortunately for me, she’s not here. And, like a badly behaved child who doesn’t want to listen to its babysitter, I just, some nights want to scream “I WANT MY MOMMY!”

And, I do. I would give anything to discuss this thing we share together. This widowhood.

Alas, my mommy died 8 years after my father did, after a valiant (it’s always valiant) fight with cancer.

And, I forgot what she’d taught me.

But, lately, I’ve been coming around to her ways.

I’ve learned that saying the rosary, like we did the morning my father died, is meditative, healing, necessary.

Photo courtesy of m_bartosch at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of m_bartosch at freedigitalphotos.net

I fell away from the Catholic church after her death. I would say I’m ready to return but I’m not sure, though I’m exploring it.

But none of that changes the fact that: I.Want.My.Mommy!

meinwisconsin usinillinois uswiththebike
Joyce McCartney is a 42-year-old journalist in northeast Indiana. On October 4, 2012, the man with whom she intended to spend the rest of her life was killed in a motorcycle crash in rural Indiana, leaving her an unmarried widow. Her Motorcycle Widow blog http://motorcyclewidow.wordpress.com was created to help her process Tom’s death and the grief. Joyce has learned along the way that the blog is helping others process their own grief and has a few regular readers with whom she has connected through loss.

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane and the founder of The Manifest-Station.  She’s leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is NYC in March followed by Dallas, Seattle and London.  

beauty, Grief, Guest Posts, healing, loss, love

The Weekly Countdown.

January 10, 2014

By Megan Devine.

I relive our last week again and again.

Every single week is a count-down. Every Monday is that Monday, the day you came home from Colorado. The day I left work to pick you up at the airport, even though you insisted you would be fine to walk, with your orange backpack and new Tevas, happy to be walking. Every Monday is your first Monday back, going to dinner. You are so excited to see me. We sit together on the wooden bench, you showing me photos on your phone: here is the place where we stopped to look out at the mountains below. Here is a shot of the cabin where I stayed. Here is the old truck they used to drive around the ranch. And look, babe: I knew you’d appreciate this one – look, it’s a mummified antelope. It’s been dead in the desert so long. I knew you’d want to see the bones.

Every Monday, I live it again, sitting there in the pizza place, wondering why I am distant and tired. Wondering if it is just food, just needing to eat. And I look at you, feel your body close to mine, and I know it’s just the food and the long day, and the clients, and all of everything. Because you, you here next to me, hearing the joy in your voice, the affection in your touch, this is where I want to be.

I live it again every Tuesday, as we both return to work. As I call you from the awful discount store on my lunch break, wondering if I should pick up plastic glasses, since you keep breaking the heavy glass ones on the hard tile floor. “No,” you say, “No. We’ll be purging stuff and packing soon anyway, no sense getting anything new.” We’ll be moving soon.

On Wednesday, each Wednesday, I forget what that Wednesday held. We talked, we worked, we had our life. I relive living that, even when I don’t remember what we did.

Every Thursday, that Thursday, you are here on the couch, your work day still not done, our computers propped open on our laps as you ask me to help you format your new invoices. The cat climbs up in your lap, shoving the computer aside. On Thursday, each Thursday, I relive our closeness on the couch, how much easier it is now to help you with computer things, your old tech-defensiveness gone. Just a by-product of goodness, I think then, and I think again. We are so happy now, so comfortable. Things are going well. So many good things coming.

On Friday, you are working late, you’ve said you’re working late. But you call just as I am going to the grocery store, and you decide to come along. We buy mint chip ice cream, laundry detergent. Dog biscuits, greens, ribs. We buy a roasted chicken, because it’s late, and we haven’t eaten yet.

At home, I start dinner – leftovers, fajitas – while you climb in the shower. I cook peppers and sing. You come out, that last Friday, our Friday, warm from the shower, in your light blue long sleeved shirt that shows your muscles, your indigo sarong around your waist. You wonder why I waited to chop the onions – “they would be done by now,” you say. And I stop. Smile at you. Say, as we’ve been working on: “you are always particular about your onions. I guess I figure it’s easier on me to delay dinner, to have you irritated with my not making a decision, than it is to hear your disappointment. To have you wish I’d done it differently.” You smile. Lift an eyebrow. You say, “yeah, you’re right. I do do that.”

And then we stand, at the counter, your back to the window, and you fold me in your arms, still warm and damp, my head on your shoulder, in just that right spot. And we breathe. Our bellies matching. The firmness of your abs against me, your arms tight around my back. We stand. That Friday. That Friday I re-live. That place I want to be.

On Saturday, each Saturday, this always only Saturday, I am up first. As I wait, I watch the two of you, still sleeping, the long galley view from where I sit: me in the kitchen, the dog in the living room, you in our bed, all of us in a row. When you’re up, we make breakfast. We discuss the books we’ve each just read. Your mother calls. We all do the happy dance about your son turning 18 in three days. “We’re almost there!” your mother says. “I have three days to go,” you say, “don’t jinx me yet.”

And Sunday comes. Sunday keeps on coming. It arrives every week. Every week I live it all again. The previous days, the eternal warm-up, the countdown, that last time, the last.

On Sunday, you say, “bring or wear water shoes, we’ll go to the river with Bo.” We have breakfast at our usual place: fried green tomato BLT, pancakes, hash. You hold my hands across the table. You say, “I’m sorry I’ve had to work so much. I promise, after this week, we’ll have a normal life again. I’ll take weekends off. I’m sorry I’ve been away from you.” As we leave the diner, you trip on the flopping, separating edge of your new shoes. Hands on your hips, forehead creased, long deep irritated sigh. “We’ll take them back, babe. It will be alright,” I tell you. I tell you about your broken shoes which may or may not have gotten stuck on some reeds, holding you down in the hours to come.

This Sunday, every Sunday, we go back and pick up Bo. Bo who dances and squeals and paces waiting for the door to open, waiting for us to bound into the car, waiting for the river to open up in front of him. Waiting for us to play. We drive to the river, windows open, your arm out the driver’s side, Boris’ head wedged between your shoulder and the door. That Sunday, right now, you ask me how most dogs die, having never had one of your own before. We talk. We’re us. I tell you some dogs know it is their time, and they wander off into the woods. You smile. Scratch his head. You say, “that’s how you’ll get to go buddy, just walk off when you know.”

I live this every week. Every week the countdown. Every time we touch. Every time we talk. Every day, the last day. Not knowing anything except us and love and sunshine, and our plans, and what we expect to come.

Every Sunday, right now, you carry our chairs through the woods. Every Sunday, right now, we wade through the high water that has covered the forest floor. Every Sunday, this Sunday, right now, we play, up to our waists in pine-needle-filled dark water, throwing the ball for the dog. Every Sunday, I worry. I look for Boris when he disappears. And every Sunday. Every Sunday, right now, you call to me from the water’s edge, saying, “don’t worry about him here babe, he’s in heaven.”

Now, you turn away from me again. Now, that Sunday, every Sunday, now, you turn away from me again. Right now, Boris has come back, and he and I are playing in the woods. Now, right now, sitting on the couch watching the numbers tick on by, now, right now, you come up for air and cough. On Sunday, and Sunday, every Sunday, I wonder if you need some help. On Sunday, I turn away, refusing to think that thought. And now, right now, this Sunday, that Sunday, here I am, looking back as you call out. Looking back. Here I am. And now, right now, there you are, holding on to the top of a tree, trying hard to keep your grip. And now, right now, here I am, running in to the water after you.

And now, right now, here I am, running in to the water after you.

My name is Megan Devine. I’m a licensed psychotherapist, writer, and teacher. I’ve spent my life learning and sharing what I’ve learned. None of that mattered when I suddenly became a widow at the age of 38: normal life at breakfast, whole new world by lunch. What I do now is different than what it was before that day. Or maybe, it’s the same thing in a whole different form: I listen. I hear what you’re carrying. I help you find ways to carry it that are most true to you. I help ease the loneliness inherent in this path by walking with you: not changing your reality, but helping you to bear it. Honor it. With a combination of validation and practical tools, I help you live the life that’s asked of you – with as much peace, grace, and integrity as you can.

Megan Devine is a writer, licensed psychotherapist, and grief advocate. She’s the author of the audio program “When Everything is Not Okay: Practices to Help You Stay in Your Heart & Not Lose Your Mind,” available on her website, www.refugeingrief.com. She writes for the Huffington Post, and the grief support site Open to Hope. You can talk with Megan directly ~ just click on the toolbox page on her website to find out how.

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