Writing Your Grief Prompt #10

“Evening falling…a soft lamenting…”

The world softens

Fading light

Burning in my skin

Aching in my bones

Nights are worst

Racing thoughts

Hard to breath

Loneliness creeps

Like a prowler

Echoes of joy

Memories of pain

Stillness reminds me

He’s gone away

No goodbye

No reasons why

Now I’m alone

Abandoned by those

Who said I love you

Anger and fear

Scare away rest

Anxiety and depression

My companions

Snuggled in close

Whispering to me

Chasing away sleep

Tears flowing

Drowning in grief

What might have been

What never will be

What once was

What I’m afraid

Never will be again

Why am I here

Where do I go now

Why is this happening

How do I heal

There is no rest

For the grieving

When sleep comes

So do nightmares

Waking up sweating

Tears streaming

Body trembling

Wishing for arms

To comfort me

Wishing for words

To soothe me

Only echoes answer

When I call for help

Holding desperately

To the hope

That I will heal

That I will love

The nighttime again

Smile at the stars

Revel in the moonlight

For now

My bleeding heart

Prefers the day

Musings 7/10/2019

Grief is so much different than I ever imagined it would be. Sure, I’ve been sad before. I am not sad. I’m devastated. I didn’t know Grief could go this deep. I didn’t know a person could hurt this much and survive it.

I guess I assumed, like most people, that becoming a widow was crying and wearing black and pining for a lost love. That it was piles of tissues and drawn curtains and people bringing food. That, someday, you recover. I wish I had been right.

Grief isn’t like that, at all. I mean, those things are part of it but such a small part. For me, at least. I’ve been trying to find a way to explain, even in part, what life with grief this heavy is like. So, I’m going to try.

The first days of grief are surreal. I have yet to find words to describe the pain that comes with hearing that your husband has taken his own life and is hanging inside your home. How do you describe feeling your entire life shatter and feeling yourself die with them?

When they told me, I collapsed to the ground. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t hear or see or even comprehend what was happening around me. I think I was incoherent mumbling things. I may have been screaming. I don’t know. I just felt the searing hot agony of the words “I’m sorry ma’am. He’s inside and deceased.”

It was like something we’ve all seen in movies or on tv. Something that may even have made us cry. Except this wasn’t a movie. This was my life. My sweet, beautiful husband was hurting enough to end his life and I didn’t know. I couldn’t help him. He was GONE. DEAD. SUICIDE.

I remember being on my knees on my neighbors living room floor minutes after they told me he was dead. I was rocking, arms wrapped around myself, wailing. Screaming. Hyperventilating. Holding myself so tight, as if I could hold all the shattered pieces of myself and my life together. The pain was white hot. I never imagined pain that excruciating was possible. It was breathtaking.

They told me not to look out the window because they were bringing his body out of my house. They were taking him away. He was dead. I was never going to see him again. I was never again going to touch him. I was never again going to hear him say my name. My love, my life, was on a gurney and being loaded into a van to be taken to the morgue. Even typing this is making me moan with the pain of it. The tears are hot on my face as I try to tell you how this feels.

I couldn’t sleep or eat for weeks. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t think. I needed help to do EVERYTHING. I begged for my friends and family to let me die. I spent so much time on my knees, begging, wailing, screaming, sobbing…hoping I would wake up and it would just be a nightmare. But it was real.

The coroner called me that first night, telling me when his autopsy would be. The people for organ donation called me a few minutes later to tell me they were going to take his eyes and skin and bone marrow and to ask me some questions. Can you imagine a phone call like that, hours after you found out your husband died?

I wasn’t left alone for a moment those first few weeks. Maybe it was a month. I was rarely left alone for weeks after that. Everyone was afraid I was going to kill myself. They were right, I was going to. My friend Nate, who is almost solely responsible for me being alive today, told me recently that he was even afraid to use the bathroom for fear that I would die while he was in there.

I was in a fog of pain, rage, unspeakable grief, fear, despair and desperation. I don’t remember most of what I did or said in the first few months. I planned his funeral. I made arrangements for his body. I bought flowers. I wrote his eulogy. I spoke to hundreds of people. I don’t remember nearly any of those conversations.

It took months before I could sleep or eat. I literally cried all day every day. My body stopped functioning normally. I didn’t go to the bathroom. I often threw up what I could manage to get down. I was diagnosed with “broken heart syndrome” aka cardiomyopathy. It’s when you’ve had a severe emotional shock and your heart temporarily stops beating correctly in one section, forcing the other sections to work harder. I was also diagnosed with trauma induced amnesia and short term memory loss.

I had no energy. I couldn’t do anything for myself. Just showering took everything I had. I couldn’t even walk across the house without needing to sit down. I couldn’t remember anything. I couldn’t even get my own groceries or do my own dishes.

I would end up screaming and crying many times a day. I wanted to die so badly. I wanted to die more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life. I hated everyone who was making sure I was surviving. I felt like they wanted to me suffer.

Then, one day, about 2 months in…everyone left. My house became my tomb. I wasn’t well enough to be left alone. I would lay in the middle of the floor, screaming, sobbing, puking. Snot and tears and slobber and vomit all over my face. Fighting that hard not to kill myself. I would hold one of Bobs shirts or pictures and writhe in agony.

I had panic attacks every day, at least once a day. Full on panic. Chest pains. Hyperventilating. Sobbing. Screaming. Sometimes vomiting. Sometimes it would take me hours to pull myself out of it. Sometimes I would be catatonic. I would lose hours just sitting and staring out into nothing.

My hair started falling out in clumps. My digestive system stopped working. I had hives almost every day. My body hurt so much that my clothes felt like fire. I still wasn’t sleeping. I was barely eating. And I was alone.

People sent me messages to say they were thinking of me. Reminding me to drink water. Making sure I was alive. I appreciated them at first. After a while of only getting “thoughts and prayers” messages, I started to resent them. I needed people with me in person. But everyone was too busy. I felt abandoned. I felt like I was alone in a sea of grief and darkness. I felt so small and insignificant.

I remember telling someone that I felt like a tiny toddler who was floating in the middle of the ocean, at night, in the middle of a hurricane. I felt so tiny and helpless and it was almost impossible not to drown. I was so fucking scared. I was scared to live and scared to die. I was in hell.

I read his suicide note. I cleaned his pee off the garage floor. I packed away his clothes. I threw away the chair he used to stand on to tie the rope he hung himself with. I read his journals. I threw away his toothbrush and his razor. I visit his grave.

I’m 8 months in now. I still can’t really think. I’ve learned coping mechanisms to help me keep track of things. I have nightmares every night. I have panic attacks a few times a week. I cry most days. I’m always overwhelmed with the competition between the anxiety and depression. I have stretches where I can’t eat or sleep.

I’m lonely and scared every day. I’m so very , very angry all the time. I need people to help me and I don’t know how to ask anymore. So many times I’ve asked and got nothing but silence. I’m sick of empty words. I often hate everything.

I have moments where I’m almost happy. I have moments where I feel something other than pain. I am grateful for the help I have had and the love I’ve been shown. It’s really so very hard to be positive sometimes. Bob is gone forever and I hate it so much.

People think that the worst is over after the funeral. They couldn’t be more wrong. The worst is just beginning after the funeral. As the shock wears off a bit and the reality of everything sinks in is when you need people the most. I am likely looking at years before I’m even anything close to normal.

I am in counseling. I’m reading everything I can about grief and recovery. I have severe PTSD. I have a traumatic brain injury. My hair has turned white. The path is a long, long one.

I have hope for the future. I have hope for happiness and success. I have a purpose. I have focus. But it is quite a struggle.

If you know someone that is grieving, go hug them. Go sit with them. Take them a cookie or some tacos. Take their garbage to the curb. Do their dishes. Mow their lawn. Just sit and hold them while they cry. Hold their hand. Take them for a walk. GO BE WITH THEM IN PERSON. Don’t say you understand. Don’t say it will get better. Don’t say their loved one is always with them. Don’t do it. Just say, “I love you. I’m here. I’m sorry.” And then be there. Don’t send a message. BE THERE! They need you and they don’t know how to ask. They don’t know what they need. All they can think of is needing their loved one and it’s impossible. So, they don’t know what else they need. BE THERE, for fucks sake. Nothing you’re doing is more important, I promise. Don’t make excuses. You may save their life.

Writing Your Grief Prompt #8

Today I’m supposed to write about my mentor in grief and how they’ve encouraged and inspired me.

I can’t do that because I don’t have one. I have read books by people who have survived devastating grief. I’ve talked to people who are going through it as well. But I haven’t had someone to mentor me. I haven’t had someone that’s been there to help me through the horror of it all.

I’ve had to be my own guide through the maze that is catastrophic emotional injury. I’ve had tons of people to hold my hand for a moment and encourage me but almost none of them understand what this is like. I’ve had to find inspiration in other ways. I’ve had to rely on myself.

I’ve been mostly alone in my grief, a sideshow in other people’s lives. A tragic figure that everyone feels sorry for and is secretly glad they aren’t her. I know, I’ve been there, too…before all of this. I remember seeing other Army widows and being so thankful my husband was alive and that I wasn’t one of the ones grieving. So, I do my best not to be angry at the people who feel like that about me now.

I’m doing my best to find the love, help, guidance, support and understanding from wherever I can. I’m learning that I’m alone in this journey and I need to find a way to be okay with that. My counselor and I talk often about finding a way to stop being crushed by the disappointment and hurt that comes with being alone most of the time.

I’m learning to be my own hero. I’m learning to be my own inspiration. Little by little, step by tiny step, I’m finding my way through the pain and grief. There’s no marked trail. There’s no “right” way. There’s just whatever way you can find.

I’m thankful for those who have held a light for me when I was lost in the darkness. I know there will continue to be those moments and people. I’m also learning to be thankful for the moments when there was no one here to help me. It made me have to learn how to help myself. So many days almost ended with me choosing not to continue. But every day I found a way to hang on.

I’m only 8 months out from the death of my person. I’m only a few months out from being a ghost, in shock and barely surviving. My journey has just begun, really. I’m not giving up hope that I will find a healthy, well adjusted mentor who understands this journey I’m on. Until then, I guess I will continue to guide myself

Musings 7/09/2019

I’m tired…

It’s just the beginning of this arduous journey and I’m already exhausted. I had breakthroughs today. I realized how huge of an undertaking it is to heal from trauma this severe. It’s daunting and just the thought of it makes me want to take a nap.

I’ve had a backslide over the past week. I’m back to not sleeping and racing thoughts and upset stomach and full body tremors. I even started wringing my hands again. It’s crazy how quickly I can lose my footing for seemingly no reason.

I realized today, with the help of my counselor, that I haven’t accepted some pretty important truths about my life as it is now. Also, I haven’t really let myself say a real goodbye to Bob. Plus about a million other realizations about how much work I have to do.

I’m going to manage it. I’m going to slay the demons. I’m going to save myself. I’m going to build the life I want. I’m going to do it but I need to accept that it isn’t going to happen overnight or even soon.

I’m tired. I’m scared. I’m lonely. I’m hurting like hell. I need to find a place where I can rest. For now, I will do what I can. Exercise. Healthy food. Marijuana. Support where I can get it. But, right this second, I think I need a nap.

Writing Your Grief Prompt #7

“Found Word Poetry”

I can not comprehend why

What twirled inside your head?

Why you felt you had to die

Now I’m rebuilding my life

Did you know the impact?

The shadows cast on tomorrow

I feel foolish for believing

Now life is filled with emptiness

I’m drowning in emotion

Some too painful for mentioning

I’m in constant need of support

While still holding my boundaries

Anger is my constant companion

Am I dealing with this well?

Echoes of you ring in my ears

Horrific nightmares rule my nights

I’m trying to look forward

My perception of everything has changed

Nothing is as it was before

I’m trying to fight the alienation

And working to regain my sanity

That is my first priority

Writing Your Grief Prompt #6

“How do you, ‘be to my sad self hereafter kind’?”

Kindness to myself after devastating loss and searing grief is:

-allowing myself to cry when I need to. Before this, I didn’t let myself cry. Now, I cry all the time. I don’t just cry from sadness. I cry when I’m sad, happy, angry, afraid…

-allowing myself to feel whatever I feel without judgement. I seem to feel everything much deeper and profoundly than I did before becoming a widow. The positive and negative are all so much stronger for me.

-allowing myself to rest. I don’t feel like I always have to be busy. In fact, I can’t. I need to rest more than I used to. I don’t stress about my house being a little messy or what people will think if I spend a day doing nothing. My life depends on taking time to rest.

-holding boundaries. I have suddenly become able to say “no” when I need to. I also don’t feel I have to explain myself because people don’t understand most of the time anyway. I do whats best for me because I have to. My grasp on life is tenuous. I absolutely must do what is best for me.

-learning to use kind words when speaking to myself. There’s no sense in beating myself up. Most of the people I thought loved me and were going to be here with me disappeared. I spend most of my time alone. I need to be my own best friend.

-being my own cheerleader. I’ve learned to be very proud of myself for small victories and big ones. I’m working on pushing myself to be the best I can be. I acknowledge my successes and make it a point to celebrate them, even if it’s just for a moment.

-I cook myself healthy food. I used to love to cook for Bob. Acts of service is my love language. So, I’m beginning to cook for myself. It’s an act of love and I am learning to love myself more.

-loving myself like Bob loved me. He was so supportive and gentle and encouraging and generous. He believed in me and pushed me to do things I didn’t think I could do. He made sure I was safe and had what I wanted. One of his last notes to me said, “love yourself like I ♥️ you”. So, that’s what I’m trying to do.

Musings 7/7/2019

8 months today. 8 months since the last “I love you”. 8 months since I’ve seen his face. I hiked until muscles failure to distract me from the pain in my heart. It didn’t work but I’m tired. Maybe I will sleep.

Writing Your Grief Prompt #5

“Hi. I’m Your Grief”, she says. I stare, hoping to catch a glimpse of something in her that will make her presence in my life make sense. I love her and I hate her. She’s my constant companion and my worst enemy. I am desperate to try to understand her.

She’s disheveled and she moves as if she is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her shoulders are slumped forward and her back is slightly bent. Her head is hung down enough that her messy hair is in her face and she looks up at me through her tear soaked lashes. When she walks she drags her feet as if they were just too heavy to lift off the ground.

Her gestures and speech are slow and deliberate. It seems as though she must weigh each thing she does and says to see if it’s worth the effort. She seems to be in pain. Even when she blinks, it seems almost more than she can manage.

“Can I please sit down?”, she asks. “I’m terribly tired”.

She slowly lowers herself onto the dark leather couch and lets out a sigh that seems to come from her very soul. She leans her head against the back of the couch, closes her eyes and takes a moment to gather herself.

I take the opportunity to look her over. You can see that she was beautiful once. Hers is a face that once held hope and love and joy and laughter. Now, although she’s young, there are deep lines etched on her face. Lines etched by countless tears, like deep canyons etched by flowing water. Her cheeks are sunken from her inability to find the desire to eat. Her skin is pale, almost as if she, herself, has died. There are dark circles around her eyes from lack of sleep. Her hair is stringy and greasy. It looks as though she hasn’t showered in a week.

Her body is thin, almost fragile looking. The clothes she is wearing hang loosely on her frame. They are wrinkled and dirty. Perhaps she’s forgotten to change her clothes? Her nails are too long and the polish is chipped. Her socks don’t match and she’s missing an earring. Her entire appearance relays a message that she is hardly able to care for herself.

She opens her eyes and turns to look at me. When her eyes meet mine, she starts to cry. The tears well up in her eyes and slowly but steadily run down the tracks on her face. She doesn’t bother to wipe them. She knows it’s a wasted effort. There are too many to keep up with.

“I miss him”, she whispers, her voice barely audible. “Life is so hard now that he’s gone. Why did he have to die?”

A small moan escapes her lips and she wraps her arms around herself, as if doing so may hold her together somehow. She starts to rock forward and back, ever so slightly. Her breathing is shallow and ragged. Gods, there is so much pain there.

“I’m so tired. I don’t know how to do this alone”, she says. “I don’t sleep. I hardly eat. I don’t remember when I last took a shower. I know I’m a mess but what can I do? Being alive hurts so much. Dying would be a welcome break. I’m lonely and I’m scared and my mind won’t turn off. My body feels like it weighs a million pounds.”

Then she trails off, seemingly distracted by a thought. Her eyes become even more haunted and she stares off, looking at nothing but seeing something in her mind. She holds her breath and then let’s out a wail that sounds more like a wounded animal than a human. She doubles over and weeps. The sounds coming from her are the sounds of pure devastation. You can hear her heart breaking.

Her body is shaking now. Her breathing a ragged and she’s rocking a little harder. She’s wringing her hands so hard it looks as though she will pull her fingers off. The muscles in her jaw are clenched and her face is the picture of agony.

Without warning, she explodes off the couch. She screams and seems to grow larger. Her face contorts with rage as she begins to scream. This scream is different. It sounds like a banshee, a battle cry, a scream of pure anger.

She sweeps her arm across the coffee table, knocking everything to the floor. “IT’S NOT FAIR!!”, she screams. “WHY DID HE HAVE TO DIE?!”

She picks up a picture of him and throws it against the wall, glass shattering and wood splintering. Her breath is heaving as she trashes my house. She is sobbing and screaming and, while I know she’s speaking, the words are incoherent sounds of rage and sadness. She breaking anything she can. She’s throwing things around the room like a tornado of grief and anger. It’s as if by breaking things, she can make some of her pain dissipate.

I’m stunned by her sudden shift from soul crushing sadness to murderous rage in what seemed like a moment. I didn’t see it coming. The violence in her actions, the sudden strength, the need for destruction is startling.

“I FUCKING HATE EVERYTHING!”, she screams. “NO ONE UNDERSTANDS! NO ONE CARES! CAN’T ANYONE SEE HOW MUCH THIS HURTS! I CAN’T DO THIS! IT’S TOO HARD!! I need someone to help me. I’m afraid. I’m lonely. It hurts so much.”

As quickly as the rage appeared, it fades. She begins to softly weep again. She covers her face with her hands and sinks to the floor…unable to stand under the weight of what she’s carrying.

“I’m sorry”, she says. “Sometimes it just hurts so much. The anger comes out of nowhere and takes me over. That’s not me. I don’t mean to act that way. It’s just that sometimes…”. She trails off and melts into a heap on the floor.

She’s in the fetal position, arms wrapped tightly around herself. She’s mumbling incoherently between the sobs. Tears and snot are running freely across her face which is hidden by her tangled, greasy hair. She gags, choked by her grief and her tears.

It seems like hours before she quiets. She slowly raises herself to a sitting position and looked around, dazed. She tries to smooth her hair and she uses her shirt to wipe the tears and snot from her face. She looks at me from the corner of her eye. She looks embarrassed that I witnessed any of what just transpired.

“I’m sorry you had to see that”, she says. Her voice is raw and filled with embarrassment and exhaustion. She’s too ashamed to even look me in the eye.

She just sits on my floor, back against the couch, and stares off into space. She’s exhausted. I can see on her face, as she looks out into nothing, that she’s living her own horror movie. She’s the embodiment of everyone’s worst nightmare.

She begins to speak, her voice hardly more than a whisper. The tears are flowing again but she doesn’t seem aware of them.

“He was my whole life. I loved him more than I thought I was capable of loving. He was my favorite everything. When they told me he was dead, my world stopped. I felt myself dying. How can you be dead and alive at the same time? How can your heart shatter and still beat? I don’t know how this happened. He was so beautiful. He was so gentle and kind and silly and he was mine. I failed him somehow. Why did this happen to us? He didn’t deserve this. It hurts so much. Oh God, the folded flag and the guns and the Taps. How do I live through this? I don’t know how to do this. I’m so lonely. Why doesn’t anyone come hold me? I feel so small and fragile and broken. Why am I always alone? Shouldn’t people want to help me? Why is everyone afraid to be near me? Widowhood isn’t contagious. Holy shit, I’m a widow. My husband is dead. How did this happen? I need to eat but I’m not hungry. How long has it been since I’ve slept. I can’t remember anything. I know there are things I need to do. What were they again? What day is it? I miss him. Oh Bob, I love you.”

And it goes on like this. Thoughts and words tumbling together and out of her mouth, none of it in any coherent order. Her thoughts are clearly fragmented and jumbled. The grief and lack of sleep and trauma have made thinking nearly impossible.

She says she’s staying with me forever. She’s been here for 8 months today. Sometimes she’s manic, trying to do all the things at once. Other times, she’s so depressed that she doesn’t move from the couch. Some days she puts on a smile and tries to reach for a sense of normalcy. Other days she lets her grief and rage sweep her away.

She’s hard to predict, this grief. She’s always with me. She’s always talking to me. She’s constantly trying to make sense out of a senseless tragedy, to bring logic to the illogical. She’s always trying to find a way out of here.

I’d love for her to leave. She makes me so tired. Catering to her demands is exhausting and all consuming. Although, I think she’s here to stay. I think I need to learn to love her. I need to learn to help quiet her fears. I need to learn how to give her some rest, so I can have some, too.

More musings

I needed him. Be was my rock, my safe place, my home. I still need him. Without him I am an absolute disaster. I have no home, no safe place, no solid footing. He was the only person I’ve ever known in my whole life that made me feel loved for who I am. He made me feel safe to take off my armor and let my wounds heal. He was the source of my joy. He was my best friend and my partner and my closest confidant. He was my laughter and my hope and my future. He was my everything. I put all I had into loving him. I put all my trust in him. I put all my hope in him. I needed him. I needed him here. I needed his arms around me and his gentle eyes and the love he poured out for me every day. I needed the assurance that I would have him with me to face life’s battles. I’m a mess alone. I’m a mess without my safe place. I’m a mess without him.

Before him I didn’t know what it felt like to feel safe and loved and valued as I am. Since he’s died I sometimes wish I never knew. Because now that I know what I’m missing, it’s nearly unbearable. I miss loving him. I miss taking care of him. I miss making him laugh. I miss telling him how much better my life is because he’s in it. I miss everything. I can’t have that with him anymore. But I want to find it again someday.

I don’t do well alone. I also don’t do well with settling. So, I will figure it out until someone comes along who deserves all this love I have to give and is ready to give it in return. But sometimes the loneliness threatens to consume me.