I Wanted to go First

4:45 am Sunday.  I just woke up from a dream about Jason.  It felt so real that I thought for sure he’d be sleeping next to me when I got up this morning.  And then we could go to Village Tavern sticking to our usual brunch date.

I fell asleep on his side of the bed and he came home in the middle of the night, returning from one of his Europe or Asian adventures.   He quietly slipped into the room and crawled into bed on my side, kicking off his shoes but keeping the rest of his clothing on.  He would do that sometimes when he was extremely fatigued from a 24-hour period of plane hopping and flying around the globe.  I was already awake so I turned around to face him and he said “Why are you sleeping on my side?” and I told him it was because I didn’t think he was coming home.  His response was “Don’t be silly, you can’t get rid of me that easy.”

He’d say those exact words to me often when I was worrying about one of his upcoming business trips.  I would drop him off at the airport and as we hugged and said our goodbyes, my lip would start trembling.  He knew the first sign of tears was a quivering lip fighting to smile so he’d quickly turn and walk into the airport, trying to spare me a long and emotional goodbye.   I would be on edge until the moment I was back at the airport picking him up.   I would hug him and notice the various smells he brought back with him of Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, Oslo, Helsinki, Brighton, Copenhagen….and the list goes on.  His passport is ridiculous and I still have a large envelope full of Chinese currency from his last trip.

Back to the dream:  If felt very legitimate so I was expecting (hoping) to wake up to his morning breath and snoring.  Instead I woke up with a death grip around one of the extra pillows and facing my old side of the bed.  I never face that direction now that I’ve moved.  I don’t like seeing the vastness of an empty bed.  And once again reality knocked me to my knees, and then swung a left hook and a relentless upper cut just to ensure I stayed down.  All I could do was cry as I revisited the day I saw him in the hospital, seemingly asleep but dead of course.  That image is thick scar tissue covering so many of my happy memories.  His eyelids were just slightly open, enough to see the edges of the dark brown,  and his arms were placed by his sides.  The Project Linus blanket was encapsulating him tightly and pulled up to his chin, so the only thing visible was his face but it was overpowered by the various tubes coming from his mouth.   All I could do when I told him goodbye for the last time was kiss his forehead and his cheeks, and stroke his hair.  I held his hand too hoping he would squeeze it but the warmth had already left.   We’d go to bed sometimes holding hands and communicate by giving little squeezes.  When Jason would stop squeezing back that meant he was asleep.  He always fell asleep before me.  I really didn’t believe he would die before me too. I was hoping I would go first because I couldn’t imagine being without him.  Still can’t most of the time.


Time to Take A Leap

I want to say thank you to everyone who has commented on my posts lately.  Just knowing so many others are facing the same daily challenges and treading water too gives me the inspiration to keep my head up, and my paws on the keyboard.   It also makes me sad that so many other widows and widowers trudged through Thanksgiving without an essential part of their being.  Don’t worry my friends…the holidays will be over soon and then we can have an anti-Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration.  This reminds me that I need to hit the craft store soon for my iron-on “2014 Can Suck It” letters for my t-shirt.

I spent this Thanksgiving digging up the backyard and expanding the patio area since I can’t get grass to grow anyway.  I ate frozen lasagna for dinner and pre-mixed salad from a bag.  And I was completely okay with this break from tradition.  I always end up overeating and feeling guilty for the mass murder of turkeys anyway.  I kept so busy and distracted that I really didn’t even notice it was Thanksgiving…and I’m certainly not a participant of the Black Friday chaos.  I was anticipating Thanksgiving to be much more difficult than it was, but whenever I started to feel that sense of despair creeping in I tried to refocus my thoughts on my memories of last Thanksgiving. My sister and her family came from Ohio, an occurrence that has only happened a handful of times in 20 years.  Jason and my niece played Xbox Kinect and my sister conned me into taking her shopping at 8pm on Thanksgiving….never again!  But it was a great Thanksgiving because I rarely get to spend holidays with my family due to the distance, and we went through a lot of beer and wine.  Uncle Jason really seemed happy and my nieces and nephew loved him.

I also spent this weekend discussing my directionless future with my parents.  And this was probably one of the deepest conversations I’ve had with my dad in years.  Maybe all the honesty and dialogue was due to my knack for making an overly strong bloody mary, but let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t do any drunk texting or emailing last night.  My dad had me ready to submit my letter of resignation at work and had I been able to type a legible letter, then I probably would have done so considering the empowerment I was feeling after our talk.

I’m terrified of failure when it comes to major life decisions, like quitting my job for example.  But tonight my parents both encouraged me to spend the remainder of my life doing something that makes me happy…and if not for myself, then at least for Jason.  He wasn’t afraid to take a leap despite not knowing how the landing would turn out and he always wanted me to do the same, but I never did.  I always had an excuse for not jumping.    This fear has stunted any potential dreams I’ve had and has kept me paralyzed.

My 85-year old dad told me “life is too short to spend it being miserable” and I immediately thought about the 31 years Jason spent being happy, and how he would have made sure he was doing exactly what he wanted to be doing….or he would change it.  But he would not allow himself to be in a toxic situation that was negatively impacting his potential to become a better person.

It is clearly time for a change, safety net or no safety net.

“Golly Gee, Renee Seems Depressed…”

It’s 3:09 am on Thanksgiving and my Ambien has worn off.  I had a rough day at work because I was told by another coworker that there has been “concern” about how disengaged and depressed I’ve seemed lately.  “Well, no shit” I thought to myself.   I asked if my work performance has suffered at all and the response was no.  So…I come to work and I do what they pay me for without any issues, yet because I’m not as talkative and happy as I was 8 months ago then something is wrong.   And rather than speak to me directly about these concerns my mental state is being discussed behind closed doors.  I really like this level of openness and trust.  Sets a great example.

And yes, something is very wrong.  My 31 year old husband died without warning on April 13th and I’m still trying to get my head around it while trying my best to act normal, whatever the hell that even means anymore.  I lost my husband, my best friend, my one true confidant, my identity and the entire future we had planned together in just seconds.  However I’m expected be the same jokester and happy-go-lucky person I was when I was married (and much much happier).  Yep, I’m disengaged and depressed.   I do tend to get a little quiet and withdrawn when everyone around me is talking about Thanksgiving plans, or what they are buying for their wives or husbands for Christmas.  I don’t have much to say because all I am thinking in my head is how I feel completely alone and all I want for Christmas is the impossible.  I want Jason back.  I do apologize if I’m not full of glitter and pixie dust these days and my quiet and disengaged attitude is ruining the holidays for others.  I’m just a little selfish I guess.

This sounds extremely bitter but I wish for just 2 minutes those around me who are criticizing my coping mechanisms could find themselves in my shoes.  Just for 2 minutes and then their lives could go back to normal.  I just need them to understand that I am dealing with this as best as I can and  I will never ever be the same person I was before Jason died.  That Renee died on April 13th too and she’s not coming back either.

My office is like an aquarium.  There is no privacy at all.  I have trouble even finding a bathroom in my building that is uninhabited so I can have a good cleansing cry when I start feeling the panic of my reality set in.  I asked for the opportunity to work from home from time to time (at least through the holidays) when I’m having a rougher day than usual. That arrangement was great until other people in my department didn’t feel like that was fair, and had to whine and complain about it like emotionally stunted 5 year old who still only has a concept of “self” and of no one else.  Guess what?  Life isn’t fair because if it was then my husband would still be alive and people who commit murder wouldn’t be.   Someone even made the completely insensitive comment about how they’d like to trade places with me.  Would you really?  Would you like to plan the funeral of your husband and have to say goodbye to the person who you thought you’d be married to for another 50 years?  I’d give ANYTHING to go home at 5pm and tell Jason about my day.  I’d love to have weekend plans that involve something other than watching TV alone and eating frozen pizza or cereal on my couch.  I’d love the opportunity to wash his laundry or put his dirty plates and bowls in the dishwasher.  I’d love to clean up the dirt he’s tracked throughout the house after a muddy trail run.

I’ve decided I won’t ask to work from home anymore.  Instead I will cry, scream, have panic attacks and roll around on my office floor when I need to, as I do on those days I need to work from home.  And then people can criticize those coping strategies as well because displaying emotions makes them uncomfortable.  Yes, crying in front of  my coworkers is uncomfortable for me too.  I get it.   Clearly the expectation is that I should just be “back to my old self” by now.  Apparently grief does have a timeline for those who haven’t experienced it yet and I should be over the death of my husband after a few months.

I’ve thought about bringing the stack of self-help books on grief I’ve purchased over the past 7 months to work because I think there is a compete lack of education and awareness. But then I doubt my critics would have time to read them because they don’t have the endless amount of alone time I have now.  Oh, and apparently they are also working on their psychology degrees so they can diagnose and comment on my mental state while being experts on grief.  I was going to end this blog with an expletive but I’ll let my readers just use their imaginations.


Channeling Bonnie Parker

There have been many new “firsts” without Jason.  Since his death I’ve had his birthday, my birthday, our anniversary and now Thanksgiving.   In addition to milestone dates that have come and gone I’ve also had many new experiences that I wish I could have shared with him.   I’m much more fearless than I was and maybe that’s just because nothing is as terrifying as losing your husband, and I figure if I can survive that then I must be tougher than I thought.

I can watch horror movies by myself and not feel the need to leave the bathroom light on anymore. I can even look directly into the mirror at night and not fear what might be standing behind me.   I’ve gone on late night walks through the woods at my parents’ house armed with just a flashlight.  I’ve performed “Bette Davis Eyes” and “Beast of Burden” at karaoke all by myself…well a bit of whiskey may have been involved.  I’ve fired a few handguns at a shooting range and I intend to make it a regular event.  I’ve figured out how to use the weed-eater and change the line.  I’ve annihilated spiders as large as a half-dollar with just a tissue.   I’ve assembled complex Ikea furniture while Klaus reads the instructions to me.  I’ve pitched an 8-person tent with only minimal assistance.    I even got my very first speeding ticket a few weeks ago after 20 years of driving.  I feel like such an outlaw (and I’ve been watching entirely too much Sons of Anarchy)!  I’ve made myself wake up every day and push forward even when it was the last thing I wanted to do.  With the exception of the speeding ticket these are all moments I’m proud of and wish I could share with Jason…but then if Jason were still here I may not have had the incentive to do them either.

Although this experience of loss mostly makes me feel tired, spent and lonely, there are surges of energy and determination which rise to the surface unexpectedly and inspire me to do things out of my comfort zone.  And what is more uncomfortable than planning a funeral and standing in a receiving line at a wake??

Don’t worry Bonnie, I got this.


The Last Night

Tonight was our last support group meeting.  I already miss the friends I made  who were strangers to me only 6 weeks ago.   I remember driving home from the second meeting crying and screaming at the top of my lungs the word “why” over and over again until I was hoarse.  And I was so damn angry.  All I could think is why do people we love have to die?  Why do horrible diseases slowly steal dreams from us and force us to watch  our loved ones slip away?  How can the heart be strong enough to keep blood coursing through us and then just stop abruptly without any warning?  How can so much suffering and pain be stuffed into one tiny little room?   Why do words like ‘widow’ and ‘widower’ even have to exist?

I don’t have answers to any of the questions above but I know one truth:  I am far from being alone, and losing the most important person in my life has brought so many new people to my door.   I have many unexpected gifts from Jason.  I have a #2 Mom and a #2 Dad I didn’t have on April 12th.  I have 8 new friends who I would have never met otherwise.  I have a new niece or nephew on the way.   I have the experience and wisdom to hopefully help someone else now.

Each individual from my group is extremely special to me and taught me something unique.  Sharing stories of life and death in a stuffy room while tears cascade down cheeks is one of the most humbling experiences and I am a better person for it.  None of us wanted to be in that room but that’s how we spent the last 6 Mondays.  And now it is finished and I’m very sad.   Hugging everyone tonight and telling them to drive safe and have a Happy Thanksgiving made my lip tremble.  Will any of us really have a Happy Thanksgiving?  I hope so.

I cried the entire way home and repeated the names of our dead spouses in my head to keep them alive just a little longer.  I also thought about the 10 things I am grateful for and despite my sadness I came up with at least 20 things I am grateful for instead!    I’m most grateful for being the person Jason wanted to spend his life with and for having those 6 years together.   I miss him.