Everything’s Dependent

There are many things that make widowhood difficult. Too many to count. Widowhood is reveals who we are as people. It makes your weaknesses all too clear and it can show strengths you never knew you had.

Randy’s death revealed a lot about me, as a person. It seemed like every day I was learning more about myself. There were things I saw that I wasn’t very happy with. Usually though, it was just interesting to see how life changes a person.

When you are a widow, you spend a lot of time by yourself. The grocery shopping, the bank, the laundry, the car maintenance, etc. You usually do it all alone. When you are a widow with children, you do all those things when you can manage to squeeze it in. I found myself going to Wal-Mart and the grocery store at night. It might be 10pm before I walked into the store. I noticed I felt strange.

At first, I wasn’t sure what I was feeling. I was use to feeling sad when I did errands and took care of appointments by myself. Even anxious sometimes. This was different. And then it dawned on me, I was scared. Why would I be scared? Now that I was alone, suddenly I was afraid of the dark?

When I was young, 17 or 18 years old, I used to run errands the same way. Randy would stay at home with the baby and I would make quick runs to the store. Over time, the baby got older and we made a lot of trips together. If we couldn’t do it together, we just didn’t do it. We rarely went out without the other one. In fact, we rarely went out without the kids. It created a dependency that I had no idea existed. I always considered myself independent.

Randy worked nights. I use to taking out the trash, cleaning everything, and dropping the kids off at school. Standing on my own two feet after his death was one thing I didn’t think I had to worry about.

It seems time passes us by faster than we can realize. We were young when we found each other. We were young when he died. Even though we were so young, we still had spent 10 years of our lives together, almost 7 of that was as a married couple. After years with my spouse, I had because reliant on his company. He was my boundary and my security blanket. Now, he was gone and so was my comfort.

I had to learn to live again…without him. I had to regain my independence. Day by day it happened.

If you find yourself feeling anxious or scared, look at what is going on when it happens. Are you afraid of the dark? Before you can work on each piece to become whole, you have to be able to see all the pieces. The worst has already happened, right? Staring down the fear is the first step in the right direction. Whatever happens, it can’t possibly hurt more than losing your spouse. Don’t be afraid to step out of your box and become whole on your own.

I know not all of  you listen to country music, maybe none of you. I listen to it all. As discussed in my last post, there are words that just jump at me and stick with me. The style of music doesn’t matter. What matters is whatever I am reading, whatever I am feeling, makes sense to me. This chorus makes sense to me:

Straight ahead, never turn round

Don’t back up, don’t back down

Full throttle, wide open

You get tired and you don’t show it

Dig a little deeper when you think you can’t dig no more

 

That’s the only way I know

I post this because it describes, in a very general way, how I face each new challenge. I post it so that maybe it can help you face your fears. You don’t have to be afraid of the dark.

 

 

Dating…Again

Being alone was hard for me. Really hard. Raising three grieving children on my own, between a criminal proceeding for my husband’s death, fighting insurance to pay the bills they were responsible for, and dealing with my grief all at the same time was a challenge. To say the least. My counseling, volunteering, and exercising helped release some of the anxiety, but none of it made me less mentally exhausted. None of that provided the type of loving hand I really needed.

I was tired of doing it all myself. I felt nearly defeated. I felt like I wasn’t sure how long I could do it all by myself. And, of course, when I say by myself I mean with the help of everyone I knew because no one can do that all completely by themselves. Even all of that help doesn’t replace the deep intimate friendship that one shares with a partner or spouse.

I had developed two close friendships after Randy’s death. I spent most of my time with these ladies. When we were together, we also were together with our ten collective children. That’s a lot of kids. I loved the time playing games and letting the kids be kids. It was chaotic and loud, but nice to see everyone laughing and indulging in a little laughter myself. The new friends would ask me if I ever thought I would find another soul mate. We talked about it often. It’s hard for your friends to see you without something they think is so normal, and maybe even view it as necessary. Eventually, I did feel ready. I also felt a little guilty.

It had only been about 7 months since Randy died. I wasn’t ready to get married, but I was ready to enter the world and start making new connections. I really struggled with the guilt. How could I claim to love someone so much, but then dump all over his memory by craving another relationship? Maybe this is a justification to make me feel better, but my conclusion was it was because we were so close that made me want to get out and meet more people. Randy and I had a very intense relationship. He was my first. We learned a lot together, we grew up together. We started dating when I was 15 and he was 16 years old. He was killed just after his 26th birthday and I had just turned 25. Ten years is a long time. Especially during a time when you are learning who you are and what the world is really about. We did all of that together.

Now, it wasn’t always pretty, but even the worst storms can have beauty. Our relationship was beautiful. We slept intertwined every single night, when he was home and not working. It never got old. Even when we weren’t getting along, I didn’t know how to be without him. So, when I had no choice, but to be alone, I felt lost. Maybe that is rationalization and maybe it’s the wrong reason to start dating–whatever it is, it is the truth.

I told my friends I thought I wanted to meet someone. I was terrified! I had all the same questions my friends did. I never understood why someone as handsome and well like as Randy wanted to be with a slob like me, could I really get that lucky twice? On top of being just an average girl, now I was an average girl with a scarred heart and three children. What dummy would get involved with that? There was only one way to find out. Jump in.

My girl friend, V, wasn’t wasting any time finding out. She immediately went on the hunt. She left notes for a friend of a neighbor, who was a firefighter, and she left  a package for me at one of my neighbors so I had to go to his house when he was home to retrieve it. Ah, matchmaking at it’s finest. I was completely embarrassed and thrilled at the same time. Neither of her plans seemed to be working, so I joined Match.com.

I had no intention of finding Mr. Right. I just wanted to escape reality a bit and maybe feel a spark again. I met a couple of people from Match.com. Neither worked out. It felt a little creepy and it definitely felt wrong. They agreed.

One day, V decided I should meet the neighbors with the firefighter friend. The fact he didn’t respond to her note wasn’t enough, she had to completely throw me out there for humiliation. The neighbor, M, and V came up with a plan for me and the firighter to meet.  M held a little party, which I found out later was common for her house. Mr. firefighter and me met, along with my kids. I figured if that didn’t scare him, not much would. After a little while, the kids went home with V and left me there to fend for myself with a bunch of people who seemed friendly enough, but were still strangers.

I wasn’t sure what to think about firefighter. He seemed to drink a lot and every other word out of his mouth was the f-bomb. He seemed rougher around the edges than I really wanted, or needed. He seemed very uninterested too. For the next week, they invited me over all the time, and I went often. Sometimes with the kids, but usually they stayed with V.  I came to see that firefighter wasn’t all bad, he was growing on me. I can’t say he felt the same way. He kept his distance. Even though he had my number and we had been around each other, he seemed rather preoccupied. Finally, I overheard him and another party goer talking about this girl he was ‘trying to get with’. The girl wasn’t me. Ah. It all made sense. He was acting uninterested because he was.

The next weekend was my birthday. Which, is also always the weekend of our hometown carnival. Friday night, I went for a few hours just to see people. I felt so out of my element. I left early because it felt a little strange. These were people I was always with when Randy and I were together, and now here I was, single. I decided it was my birthday weekend and I was going to figure out how to have fun again. I was all in the mood to go for it–anything. I decided I was going to get myself ready, hit M’s house for a minute or two, and then head to town and see who I could see. I was going to go to the carnival and then the bar. I just wanted to see people.

My mom had watched the kids Friday night, after birthday celebrations with family. V had offered to watch them on Saturday for me. They could just stay the night. What a deal! I wanted to go to the local store for a drink before heading to M’s to hang out. On my way out of the street, I saw firefighter who stopped.

” Where are you going?”

“To the store for a Pepsi. Why?”

“I was just curious. I thought you would be at M’s.”

“Well, that is where I am going after I get a drink, but only for a minute and then I’m going out.”

“Where?”

“To town. Gonna see who I can see.”

“What the F***? You aren’t going to invite me?”

“Uh, you have had my number for months now, haven’t used it. Why on earth would I ever think to invite you?”

“Well, you could have called me.”

“No. I couldn’t have. And even if I did have your number, why would I call if you so clearly aren’t interested?”

“Well, the road goes both ways.”

“Hm. No. If you wanted to call you would have. Are you saying you want to go or what?”

“Well, maybe, where ya going?”

“Homecoming, bars, and who knows?”

“Well, I don’t want to go to a bar, but I’d go to the movies.”

“The movies? I don’t know. I really wanted to go out. We’ll see. I’ll see ya back at M’s”

I got my Pepsi and went back to M’s. For some reason, they all decided to play wiffleball. So, all the time I wasted looking nice was ruined by sweat. I guess the movies were looking better.  The game was over. I hear firefighter say, “You coming to my house while I shower or am I coming back here?” Of course the room was filled with ‘ooooooo’s.

“I’ll go with”

He paid for the movie, as a birthday present. We saw Spiderman. After the movies, we went back to M’s. Everyone was playing Euchre in the garage. About 2am, people started talking about being tired. Tired? It was my birthday. I was having fun and all the sudden starving. I tried to talk firefighter into going back to town and getting a burger and a piece of cheesecake. He was smiling, but telling me no. It didn’t sound or look like a firm ‘no’. I figured I could win this one…and I did. He said, he’d do it on one condition, we go back to his house and I would massage his back. Eh, whatever. I was in.

We had a lot of fun. When we got back to his house, I was thinking I was crazy. Unlike other dates, I hadn’t felt creeped out. Maybe because I knew we were just friends. He was into someone else. When we got to his house, we went to the bed, where I massaged and scratched his back for an hour. It was 5am. I knew if I didn’t go home and get in bed soon, I’d wake up there in the morning. Or, he would try something that I wasn’t sure if I was ready for. I left, happy.

Monday, me and firefighters friend, MM, who did like me, took the kids to 6 flags. We were just hanging out as friends. He loved 6 flags and I figured the kids would too. While we were there, my phone rings, it was firefighter. I figured he was calling to talk to MM, but being me, I played it up.  I answered the call with, “I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist me.” All I heard was laughter. I waited to see how he would answer.

“Actually, I wanted to talk to MM.”

Now, I laughed, “Oh, okay then. I see how it is. Too bad I bought you something today, because I am nice, unlike you.” It was flirting at it’s best.

“Really, okay. Should I come over after work?”

“If you want to, it isn’t a big deal. I was just messing with you.”

“I’ll be there about 11pm if that’s okay.”

“Yup. See ya then. Here’s MM.”

We were friends for months after that day. I quickly learned that f-bomb, bar hopping man was really just a lonely guy trying to be with people. He was a soft-hearted, caring, and loving man. I told him it was okay if he wasn’t interested, but we had to figure it out. We talked about the other girl and where he stood. I even helped him work on their relationship. I didn’t ever want him to wonder ‘what if’. One day I bought him a bear and told him I was falling.

My friends thought I was crazy. The truth was, I had no hold on him, no reason to be angry. And, to be real honest, I didn’t need anyone. Certainly didn’t need someone for the sake of saying I had someone. I wanted someone who really wanted to be with me and no one else. Eventually, that girl ruined it all and we both were okay with that. I did encouraged him to be friends with her because I felt like she really needed one.

That firefighter is now my best friend and husband, Tim. We rarely go out and when we do, it’s to a movie or the occasional get together. He doesn’t drop f-bombs every other word anymore and he is a great dad, to all of the kids.

I guess my friend, V, was right. He was a good catch. We have been married 8.5 years now. He has supported me through the anniversary of Randy’s death and birthday, school, two pregnancies, and now through taking care of our own family and my grandparents. I can’t imagine not having him in my life. And, now, over a decade later, I can answer my friends’ question: Yes, love can strike twice. You can find a second soul mate.

Letter to My Younger, Newly Widowed Self

Dear Sara,

Life is a blur. It doesn’t feel real. I know you don’t care about eating or even getting out of bed. It’s hard for anyone to imagine what you are going through, yet their lives go on. It goes on until they see your face. Then, it becomes all too real how quickly life can change. You are a constant reminder of everyone’s worst fear.

To make themselves feel a little better, to ease their discomfort, they offer you encouraging words. “It’ll get better. I promise,” they say. “Time heals all wounds,” they reassure. “Everything happens for a reason,” they add. You listen nicely and move on. Afterall, you do realize they mean well. And they do. To be honest, these comments are not about you. It’s about easing their own discomfort. It’s about wiping this particular nightmare from their sleep. It isn’t that they don’t know what it’s like or they can’t see the pain. They might know how it feels. Believe me, they can see the pain.

They know nothing can make you feel better. Nothing can ease that pain. There are no words to fix what you are going through. None. If they could do something to fix it, they probably would. So, put away the negative thoughts. Quit the banter going through your head. Cut them a break. Besides, they might just be right, or at least on the right track.

You can’t see it now, there is too much pain. You can’t even manage to get through a whole thought. Your world is spinning. Oh, believe me, I remember.

You are doing the right things. The time spent with the kids does matter. It’s okay to stay on the couch. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay not to return phone calls. And it’s even okay to give up on ever being happy. At some point, you will get out of bed, shower, and leave the house–all in one day, even. Eventually, you will smile. When you think of him, you might even chuckle. And, one day, you will miss companionship so badly that you will consider meeting someone new.

If I could pass on one thing to my younger, newly widowed self, it would be this: You will live again–and happily.

I don’t want to seem apathetic or idealistic. You work hard. You put in long hours. You worry and cry. There are good days and bad. It does get better. Eventually, time does help you put things into perspective. And, everything is going to be okay.

As I sit here, happy, looking back, I can tell you that much of what those do-gooders said was true.

Please, don’t be afraid. That is the one thing you don’t have to be. Be kind to yourself. Take time for yourself once in awhile; wrap yourself around the kids the rest of the time.

It’s a journey you didn’t ask for, but it’s one worth taking. Just hold on.

Love,

Your older, wiser, happy self.