Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's been a while

  For whatever reason, people like to timestamp everything. Every event has an anniversary pinned to it. Birthdays, work anniversaries, wedding anniversaries, and deaths. A bunch of little milestones you "earn" and keep in your back pocket. 
I am coming up on 6 months into this new life. I've made it through Mother's Day, Father's Day, and a big holiday. I've also made it through my daughter's first birthday and countless dance lessons, doctor's appointments, dental visits, drop offs and pick ups at daycare, temper tantrums and laundry loads. But I still have some big ones to go. It's a journey, not a destination. 
I have tried to embrace my widowhood and become friends with her. After all, she isn't leaving. Ever. She can be a real bitch. She can make me feel absolutely lost and stupid. Almost like a bully to an awkward little school girl with head gear and glasses. But some days, she allows me to see past what everyone else sees about her. She lets me see what a unique and profound friend she can be. She has taught me about myself. About my pain tolerance. About my independence. About my true abilities and even new and old desires and goals. She has made me a (ever so slightly) more patient person. She has made me see that damn "silver lining" everyone talks about. She has made me give more of myself to the ones I love. 

(Photo by yourcandidmemories.com)

A lot of people have moved on past that initial shock and newness of what happened. I can't really blame people. They're just people. People get caught up in themselves. Life is hard like that. The offers to babysit disappear (with some exceptions of course! Thank you, Sarah & Emma!). People don't think to check on you as often. They may think you didn't like their check ins. Family and friends think you're tougher than you are. They don't realize you feel forgotten or angry about that. Everyone just wants you to be ok. And, honestly, they want you back to "normal". A lot of that help and understanding starts to taper off. People start calling the HOA on ya for not mowing your lawn often enough, as if learning to maintain your household alone, during a huge season of change in your life, alongside raising young children and working full time isn't a good enough excuse to put the grass on the back burner. (Can y'all tell I'm mad about that?)

But overall, we are doing ok. We are still here! My aunt is working on a quilt made of Jason's shirts. I see friends pretty regularly. The daycare is still very helpful to us. The girls laugh and smile daily. I laugh and smile daily. The girls cry daily, because they're babies! I don't cry every (single) day. And some days I do. I cannot allow myself to complain about my circumstance when there is still so much good about my life. I have a ton of people and things I care about in my life and I'm spending my time and efforts on them, while always thinking of, and honoring, my old life. As I always will. 

I have some life "projects" and things that I'm working on right now; new things I am doing and planning to do. Some are really just old projects I'm picking back up. More on that later! 

Until next time, here are some things we've been up to!

The girls over 4th of July holiday

Harper's 1st birthday 


(Photos by yourcandidmemories.com)


Sweet Lila being her cutest self

Me and Sara at an outdoor music event in Fort Worth 

Sarah & Lila at Emma's birthday party

Me receiving an award at work

Lila's first dance class

Me and Ashley making videos at 1am :)

Just keep swimming...


                         With love,
                           Claire 










Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An Open Letter To A Fellow Young Widow

  Last week I was watching the local news and the story of a missing mountain biker from my town caught my attention. Partially because it's a sad story with what seemed like an inevitable ending, and partially because of the parallels between the missing biker and Jason. This biker was also young, around our age, and also into mountain biking with friends on the same trails Jason liked to bike on. Social media doing what it does best, I started to learn more about the biker, Wes, and learned we had some mutual friends. I learned he had a wife, Shelby, and 2 young children, close to my kids' ages. I learned that Shelby works at the same hospital where Jason took his last breath. I paid attention to the posts of my friends as the story unfolded and learned that the search for Wes was taking a long time. All of his family's greatest fears were confirmed and I finally learned that I had yet another thing in common with this family. I have had Shelby on my mind the past week and I wanted to write her a little letter to let her know she's not alone. This is for her and for all the Shelbys out there. 

(The new bike Jason bought, without my knowledge, the week of his death. He never got to ride this one but had plans with his 2 best friends to ride that same Saturday he died.)

  Dear Shelby,
I've thought of you so much this week. I've flashed back to my own memories of moments that seem like only yesterday, yet a lifetime ago. Memories of planning my husband's funeral... at 32 years old. My children running around the house looking for daddy. My home full of people, yet feeling so alone, like nobody could possibly fathom this feeling. I can still feel that numbness I felt after picking out the right green shirt for him to wear at his service. I still feel that seemingly enormous weight of picking out pictures to put on a DVD for the service. Seeing pictures of him and our kids was like purposely stabbing myself in the heart repeatedly. I still feel tired from the countless hours I didn't sleep when I should have. I know you're feeling it, too. I know you're feeling shocked. I know you're feeling scared. I know you're watching your phone, like he is going to text you at any moment. I know soon you will wonder how you can maintain the whole house alone. Who will mow the lawn and what about the air filters? I know you feel like you're in someone else's life. After all, this isn't the shit you signed up for. Just 2 weeks ago, your biggest concern was which TV series you two would watch together on Netflix. Now you have to reconfigure your whole life and be solely responsible for the well-being of 2 little humans. You have to tell them about what happened. How do you tell children that they won't see their father again in this life? I still don't know that answer, Shelby. You now must concern yourself with how to afford to live and eat and get through life without your life partner. I know you are reading back through old texts and love notes. I know you're replaying your last conversation with him over and over. I bet you're even thinking of your last fight and what you could have done differently in your marriage. I know you have used dozens of boxes of tissues and yet feel like you have barely cried at all.
I know that above all else, your concern is for your children. More than for yourself. Because you don't know heartbreak until it breaks for your child.

All of that just makes me want to vomit right now. In the most literal sense. I have a physical reaction to reflecting back to that first month after he died. I have to stop myself because it is such a DARK place; a horrible time in your life. But you are not alone, friend. There are more of us. I feel your pain, too. I will carry some of this pain for you now. And one day, you will carry some for another of us. When you want to hate your best friends because they still have their spouses, just change your focus. And when you've seen one too many "great daddy" posts on Facebook, log off. And when you can't take it anymore, and you feel you're going to lose this uphill battle, get on your knees. And pray. 

But let me tell you what else is going to happen. You're going to be an empowered woman. You're going to build massive amounts of strength and character! I'm talking about becoming the kind of person you read about. The kind who are made out of wisdom. The ones who had to live it. You will become (even more than you already are) a fierce woman who took a horrible circumstance and rose. There will be moments when it all feels brand new again, as if you just found out what happened. Those moments will knock the wind out of you. And with each of those moments, you will build a little more character and a little more strength and get a little bit stronger. And your life experience will create a new and unique perspective for you. And you will emerge greater than you were. You will love harder and appreciate life even more than you did before... eventually. I'm still working on it. Everyday.

Someone once asked me 
What advice do you have for other grieving widows?

And I said, "I'm no expert at this early point in my journey. But the best I can tell so far is don't give up on yourself and YOUR life. It would be so easy to just quit caring. But you have the gift to be here. Use it. Breathe deep. Use your lungs. Yell. Run. Use your legs. FEEL things! Feel pain. Feel pleasure. Get out of your climate-controlled state of mind. Be hot. Be cold. Sweat. Listen to loud music. Be alive. Do what feels right and believe in something, whether it's God, your kids, whatever. Something out there is greater than you. 
Know that, and you're going to make it."

I stick by that, Shelby. I may be a stranger, but please, call on me anytime. Things will get a little better when you are ready for them and want them to. All on your own time.

          Love, prayers, healing and hope,
                          Claire