It’s 1:25 am, and I am wide awake. I left my friend Stacey’s house around 9:45 pm. Before I left I explained to her how frustrated I am because at that moment I felt so tired and I knew I would get home, lay down in my bed, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I can’t ever sleep. Why? I think I have become afraid of the darkness. I fear to be alone in the dark and alone in the night because no matter how well I did during the day, my feelings and reality comes crashing down on me when I am laying in bed without my Nick.
I haven’t written anything lately because I haven’t been able to find the words to explain the way I have been feeling. On June 20th it had been four months since Nick died. Four months. 122 days. 2928 hours. This is around the time that people begin to think that a griever must be “getting better.” The griever is starting to figure out their new normal. The truth is, this is around the time that reality begins to kick in. This is when those who have suffered loss begin to realize that this path is for “them” to walk and only “them.”
The day before the four-month anniversary was Father’s day. A day that I was not anticipating a meltdown. I have the most amazing Father in the world. Those of you who know my Dad know that I am not just saying that because he is my Dad. My Dad has been there for me my entire life and this year has proven he will be there for me NO MATTER WHAT. I was supposed to walk down the aisle with my Dad this coming October. He was supposed to give me away to a man who met the bar that I had set very high. Instead, he was given the task to help me through a time that I never imagined in a million years I would have to go through. Instead of paying for a wedding, he was paying for a funeral. My Dad loved Nick, and he loves me, and I am so grateful to have him by my side through all of this.
So why would Father’s day be so hard when I undoubtingly have one of the most amazing human beings as a Dad. When I scrolled through all the Facebook posts of all the Dad’s with their children and the proud wives of their husbands I was reminded that Nick will never experience being a Dad. Nick would have been an amazing Dad. I would have loved watching Nick as a Dad. On Father’s Day, I was reminded that this will never happen. The great thing about grief (insert sarcasm here), is you never realize the moments or the days that will cause you the most pain. So how do you prepare? You don’t. You just embrace each feeling and find a place to hide so you can honor your grief until you can pull yourself together to go on with the day.
This past week I went to Saskatoon to meet with a group of fellow widows and widowers. There were four gals and two guys. Three of us very early in our grief. What amazed me was there was no awkwardness, no alcohol, and no judgment. We all sat around the table with pop and water, and we shared our stories. One of the widowers lost his wife on the same day I lost my Nick. When he said his wife died on February 20th, I smiled, and I said: “Nick died on February 20th too.” I can’t explain the moment in words because it was one of those moments, that only those who have loved and lost would understand. It was an instant comfort to know that that day was not only the worst day of my life, but it was the worst day for someone else’s life too, and we are both still alive to share the story.
After the dinner, I went to my new friend Leah’s house for the night. As I mentioned in earlier blogs, I met Leah through my cousin. She is what I now call my widow sister. Another woman from the dinner joined us at Leah’s, and we all sat around in the living room with Timmie’s and talked about the loves of our lives. We shared the experience of the day they died, the memories, and the pain we have endured since. These women are a life saver, and that is putting it lightly. Leah’s smoke detector kept beeping, and we laughed because we thought it was our men fucking with us because none of us would know how to fix it. I had known these women for less than six hours, and I already felt like they were family.
That night I slept in Leah’s room, and she slept with her little ones. There were pictures on the wall of herself, and her beloved and I felt comfortable. I could see these pictures of this handsome young man happy and alive and realized, he too, is very much dead. I say it like that because those are the words that are hard to say but are our reality. I felt comfort because not only did I realize that I am not alone, but neither is Nick. Before I went to sleep, I said, “Hi Gary.” I slept well that night. As you know, this rarely happens.
Leah gave me a book called “Permission to Mourn” by Tom Zuba. He is a man who not only lost his 18-month-old daughter but he also lost his wife nine years later when she was 43. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, he lost his 13-year-old son six years later.
I sat here tonight in my bed, and I read the entire book. Tom talks about how people want to see us “get better” and “keep busy” and “move on.” We do this because we think that this is what we are “supposed” to do. Then night time rolls around, and we are in this room, by ourselves, and we are hit with what feels like a ton of bricks. In comes the grief that we have been suppressing all day long because that is what we are “supposed” to do.
Here is an excerpt from his book:
They tell you
that by keeping busy,
you can keep your mind off of “it”
being the truth
that someone you love
and the world as you knew it
shattered in a million or more little pieces.
You hear people say
“It’s so great to see you out and about.
You’re really doing well. You are so very strong.”
While deep inside
you know the toll
that faking it
to please others
is taking on you
You wonder how long you can hang on.
The pain seems to actually be getting worse.
You feel pain
on top of pain
on top of unbearable pain.
And at night
when you finallly drop into bed
exhausted from all the scurrying
and the running
and the pretending to be just fine
you begin to get a glimpse of your new life.
You begin to feel your feelings.
They bubble up.
They have to.
You can only deny
and pretend for so long.
So it’s 2:30 am now, and I am sitting here typing this blog because I can’t sleep. I have read an entire book and watched an entire documentary. I lay in my bed in the darkness. I am afraid to rest because when I do all of the emotions I have been pushing away all day long come to me in full force and there is nothing I can do to avoid it. This is my reality. As soon as I shut my eyes, the nightmares begin, and the pain becomes unbearable.
I never thought I would be 30 years old and afraid of the dark but the reality is, the place I used to feel the most safe with Nick is now the place I feel most alone and most terrified.
Today’s entry is to remind people that grief is a way of honoring our loved one. I have laughed, I have loved, and I have experienced joy since Nick died, and I am so incredibly proud of myself for that. But today I want to remind you that those who have lost a loved one will never “get over it” or “move on” or “get better”. Those who have lost a loved one will learn to carry their loss and learn to not feel guilty for the life they are living that their loved one can’t.
Today I traveled down the highway on the way home from Saskatchewan with Nick’s ashes beside me. I looked at him and said “I am going to live this life for both of us. I don’t know when I am going to feel better, and I don’t know when I am going to stop crying, but I am going to live. For both of us.”
Today’s entry on my calendar said the following:
“When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place” -author unknown-
When Nick died, I wanted to kill myself and today I want to live. I don’t know why I held on, and I don’t know what living is going to look like yet, but I am going to live, for both of us.