I Miss You

Fourteen months ago I held your hand and told you it was okay to let go, that it was okay to leave. That we would all be okay. Fourteen. It seems like it is both a minute and ten lifetimes ago. The world is so different right now. No soccer, no races to run, no physical human contact. Everyone is hunkering down as best as they can, and your absence has never felt so raw and vast as it does right now.

I was supposed to be doing a virtual yoga retreat, and instead I sat on the back steps and cried. I watched an older couple walk the trail, someone else with their dog. The awareness that even if a couple is separated right now by having to distance and quarantine, they eventually get to (hopefully) see their person at the end of this is so heavy. Heavy because for me at the end of this, it’s still what it has been for fourteen months: the awkward stumble through the days hoping at some point I’ll feel like I am not making a big mess of everything. I won’t feel like the odd person in the group, the physical reminder of “the worst that can happen.” Honestly I don’t feel like that all the time, but the things that distract and do their best to fill that void are gone right now. I can’t travel, I can’t engage in the sports that carried me to you and through losing you. I can’t hug or touch anybody. So all I can focus on is that during this time, we should be in it together. You should be here, working from home, complaining about all the damn IT tickets you have to sort through, and you’re not. It’s silent. Unless I call someone or talk to the cats, no human voice fills this house anymore. And while before you I was used to that, now it seems so strange. My brain cannot accept it at times. It can’t make sense of it.

I have been doing things, lots of things on my own. Like yesterday, I weeded and edged the garden. I posted about it on social media. I post a lot of things on social media. Some might think it’s this need for external validation, and maybe it is a bit. Not for the obvious reasons. The truth is, I could share something that went viral, millions and millions could like and share and praise it, but it wouldn’t matter. None of it matters because the one person, the one voice I want to hear recognition from no longer speaks in words that I can hear. You are silent, and have been for some time.

Fourteen months. It seems so short when I think about the possibility that there are many clusters of fourteen months ahead. Is that how long it is going to take? Waiting for when maybe, if there is such a thing, our souls will reconnect again. I like to think you are sending people to me during this time, to boost and carry, to distract and heal. But, some days, it feels like there isn’t anything to any of this, and those days, like today, are really, really hard. This isn’t how it should be. And this isolation only emphasizes it.

I miss you all the time, Dan, but especially today, I miss you more. When I walked down the aisle, it was to a string instrumental of Incubus’s song “I Miss You.” It’s a bit of a weird choice for a wedding, but that version is so beautiful, and the first words of the actual song were something that resonated with how I felt with you in my life, every morning. It’s funny how now, knowing all that happened, the song is still very relevant. Very real. It’s been more than ten days, and some points I really do feel like I am wasting away. I worry how people react to knowing those things, knowing the deeper feelings. Everyone wants you to tell them what I said we would be when I was holding your hand that night: okay. And over all, I think I am. Most of the time. But when I miss you, when I really, deeply, soul-shatteringly miss you, I don’t know what okay means.

But I promise you, I will figure it out.

Dreaming

Widows and widowers often hope for their departed person to visit their dreams. I’m convinced they likely do more than any of us remember, but often you can hear a widow lament they “never” dream of the one they miss the most. I’ve had a few dreams with Dan, amd they are always comforting and loving.

A few nights in a row now, regardless of when I head to sleep, I’ve found myself waking almost on the dot at 3:30am. The time has no known significance for me in regards to Dan, he passed on a Tuesday evening close to 8pm. But the repetition of this waking hour is intriguing. Usually I doze back to sleep, or futz around thinking and eventually pass out.

A couple nights ago, after finally getting back to sleep I started dreaming. In the dream, someone told me (no idea who this was, a mysterious detached voice?) that Dan was here and healthy. I saw him, beard intact, smiling, and instantly felt that comfort that’s been missing for almost 14 months now. I was told we could spend the day together, doing anything we wanted. I don’t recall all of the activities, but I remember us laughing, having a great time, thoroughly enjoying each moment.

The end of the day approached and it was made known that this was a do-over of the last day Dan had alive, that instead of being sick he got to spend it with me, doing anything he wanted.  I was then given a choice.  I could take this day with me as a beautiful memory, and go back to the life I’ve been living without Dan, replacing the memory of the actual last day I had actually had with him.

My other option was to stay here, in this Groundhog Day like existence, redoing this day over and over again with Dan for eternity.

I woke up before I ever got to speak my choice.

And It’s Okay

The first year following the loss of your partner is a complete mindfuck at times. You have all these “firsts” to push through: the first holidays, the first anniversary of when you met, when you got married, when they died. You don’t know how you get through it, but you do.

Then the second year comes.

You think, “okay, I got through ALL of those hard dates, I did it. Now I have to do it… again? And again? For the rest of my life? What the fuck.”

I’ve heard/read/seen that the years following the first year can be even harder than the first. Reality has set in. You can’t cash in all those trials to get your person back. You are here, they are not, and this is it. Whatever happens next is on you and you alone. Sometimes that can be utterly soul crushing to think about. Other times it’s enlightening. You have made it through a terrible time, you survived one year, surely you can survive even more. The days will have ups and downs, triumphs and failures. Things you can’t believe you figured out how to do, and simple things you can’t remember how to accomplish. It cycles and spirals and can leave your head spinning if you don’t find a way to occasionally ground yourself.

Yet the drifting isn’t always so bad. Your anchor is up, you have no idea where you will make landfall, but you know when you do you’ll just figure it out. The best plan is having no plan, no expectations. Because as much as you can read and absorb the experiences of those who have been through this before you, it won’t exactly be the same. It won’t completely align with the expectations you create for yourself from this extensive grief research you have conducted night and day. You’ll be kind of prepared but not really. But it’ll be okay. You’ll just figure it out, like all of those times before, over and over again. You’ll be strong when you hate being strong, bracing against the storms you’d rather just sleep through. Soon they break and you can see the light, the sun. You expand your lungs and just breathe.

And it’s okay. It’s been 13 months, and it’s okay.

There Are Too Many Options

I’ve been hit with writing blocks.  Well, that isn’t exactly accurate.  I write a lot of things in my head.  All the time.  There is a constant chatter-wheel of thoughts and stories and things I want to share zooming through my brain-space, especially when I am doing something routine and near-automatic.  But, often in those instances I am not near a keyboard, notebook, or place where it is appropriate to be on my keyboard or writing in a notebook.  I squash the thoughts away and sometimes they return, but more often they are forgotten to the place where all unrealized creativity goes.  That hasn’t been the only reason for my blocks.  I stopped engaging in the writing group because I felt overwhelmed by how many “better” writers there were.  This spiraled into a bit of self-loathing about writing and wondering why anyone would want my voice, that of a fairly privileged white female, added to the masses.  I’m not asking for an ego boost here, just being honest about why after a flurry of activity things died a little.  But, to get better at writing you need to simply write, so here I am pulling my own proverbial teeth to try to get over this inspirational hump of sorts.

You, guys.  I just have to say being a widow brings about something that might seem like it could be “exciting” but in reality it is terrifying, confusing, consuming, paralyzing.  I guess you could say there is some element of excitement, but not in the “yay!” more in the ” think I can try this but I’m fucking scared” way.

There are too many options.

Loss is terrible for all parties involved, but the widow/widower’s reality suffers a very unique upheaval.  There are countless posts, books, articles about the profound impact death has on the widow, especially the young widow.  To break it down simply, your entire future plans are put into a dumpster, said dumpster is set on fire, and then a tank blows it up.  In my case, we got married, we tried to start a family, we bought a house, and then Dan died.  I am no longer married in the technical sense, I could potentially still have our kids, and I now live in a house that was supposed to be increasingly filled with people and not cats (though the cats are tempting…).

What do I do now?

The future I chose, the future I decided I wanted, is gone and I cannot have it back no matter how much I try to barter with the universe.  I have to choose something else now.  Not all choices have to be made with immediacy, but some have to be made sooner than others.  I’m going to be 37, not 27, and that has a lot of heavy pressure.  Do I trudge forward with what we banked and become a single parent?  What if I wanted to get married again?  Do I actually want to get married again?  Do I even want to stay in Pennsylvania?  Where would I go?  What would I do?  Who am I becoming?  What parts of me that I was used to no longer serve this weird combination of new me and old me?  What do I do for the holidays?  Last year I traveled, but is that sustainable?  Can I actually afford to keep the life that I currently have?  Do I want the life I currently have?  Am I just living the shell of the path Dan and I were walking?

How am I going to figure any of this out?

Each of these splits in the road have multiple splits of their own, and if you are the type to argue with yourself internally and imagine every scenario possible then you can imagine how many difficult nights I have had trying to fall asleep with all of this spinning at hyper-speed.  “Maybe you should see a therapist, and meditate” you might say to me.  I’ve already got the first half of that, and the second I am working on.  But ultimately, all of these options, all of these choices have to be made by me and me alone.  I cannot let anyone dictate the path, because if it is wrong that just opens the can of worms of resentment and I don’t want to have any of that heaped on the well-meaning people in my circles.  It’s tough, it’s so gut-wrenchingly fucking tough.  At times it seems the further out I get from when I lost Dan, the more confusing and unreal life becomes.

I can only hope through being open and curious, unapologetic and determined, leaning into what scares me a little, I can sift through the infinite options my life has ahead of me and figure out what the new path is.  And maybe the “new path” is just taking a few steps, being okay only knowing what those few steps are.  Being a little uncomfortable but accepting of the fact I may not know where the road bends and loops.

I really have no idea, but I’m trying, because a little over a year ago I said goodbye to my love, my husband, my future, and woke up alone.

Stop and Gaze

I signed up for a workshop that focuses on writing your grief. There are daily prompts to guide the day’s writing, and sometimes it is easy to put my thoughts together. Sometimes it is not.

One of the exercises I literally rolled my eyes at when I first read it. We were to open a newspaper (who has any of those anymore?) and randomly pick words to put together in a poem of sorts. The story behind why was beautiful, but the practice itself seemed, for lack of a better word, dumb to me. Until I did it. I grabbed a copy of a fitness magazine off my bedroom floor and decided to see what jumped out at me.

The exercise ended up being enjoyable, who knew? So I’ve decided to share my “found poem” here and I highly recommend you try this, even just for the entertainment of sharing with friends. The poems don’t have to be deep, they can even be funny. Just give it a try and see what you come up with.

Take care of your body and brain
Meditative bliss still eluding you?
The process takes two hours
Why not devote some effort?
The big guns obviously aren’t for everyone

Barely visible
Erased
Breathing problems
10 seconds
Tools to soothe
Move forward

What’s making you feel happy and grateful?
Sounds a little like medicine
Being bold
A new way
Joyful
Feeds your soul

It isn’t real
The perfect evening
Mornings are hard
Recover and get stronger
Fierce
More deeply

Plenty of time
Cutting back
Keep calm
An adventure
Spiritually awake
Stop and gaze

Magic

This Date Is Difficult

I’ll always wonder who you might have been.

I’m not the first nor will I be the last person to share that quote and sentiment, but it’s one that reverberated throughout my head and my heart space today.  January 13 carries a dual burden in the “Krissie’s Rolodex of Difficult Dates.”  It’s somewhat amazing one person can remember so many terrible incidents.  Trust me, I remember the good dates as well, but the hard ones, the really gut-wrenching, soul-shattering hard ones, are a bit clustered together and so they pop up quite easily.

January 13, 2018 was the day I was supposed to be giving birth, going by the last menstrual period of the cycle I got pregnant for the first time.  Dan and I had been married for only six months when we started trying.  Being 34, I was a bit worried that my age would be a hurdle.  On our third month of trying, I excitedly showed Dan the positive pregnancy test and we did as normal young adults do and began planning it all our in our heads.  We planned who we would tell first and when, we talked of names and if either of us cared what we might be having.  At six weeks, in a very traumatizing ultrasound appointment, I experienced true, raw grief for the first time in my life.  There was no heartbeat, no baby.  We’d come back a week later to confirm, and then schedule the first of many surgeries to remove and then fix what removing that failed pregnancy did.  If I had known I had a structural problem ahead of time, I’d have a two year old toddler with me right now.  The gravity of the reality that never came to be hits me like truckload of pianos every now and then.  Grief has visited me, quite often, ever since.

I sometimes wonder about my never-to-be two year old, especially around times of pregnancy announcements, gender reveals, baby showers, and birth posts.  Would I have wanted any of those things had it not gone so wrong?  Were they a boy or a girl?  Would they want to be a boy or a girl?  What would their name have been?  Would their eyes be as deep brown as Dan’s or a little lighter like mine?  Whose nose would they have?  Would they want to play soccer like Mom and Dad?  Would they understand when I explained to them their Dad got really sick and was sorry he couldn’t see them grow up?  Would I be enough to fill both of those roles?

Some might tell me the miscarriage was a dodged bullet, because certainly going through Dan’s terminal cancer while also caring for a baby would have been impossible.  It might have seemed that way, but I would have done it.  I would go back and alter whatever past event I could to have Dan be the father he wanted to be, even if it was just for a painfully short time.  And that drive is what led us to trying again, in spite of his cancer’s resistance to chemo, in spite of all the signs that he was already heading towards the end.  We pushed on because all of our dreams were crumbling in front of us, and it was one dream we didn’t want to give up on.

I loved Dan with every ounce of my being, so much that I stuck countless needles into my stomach and butt to try to make him a father before cancer took him from this earth.  I hate needles.  I mean, pass out on the floor HATE needles.  I remember the smile on his face the day we transferred our embryo, our 6BB.  That smile was worth every stinging syringe I stuck in my belly, every inch of bloat and discomfort, every “deep breath, okay you can do this” pep talk I had with myself as I plunged what looked like the world’s longest strip of steel in the side of my ass-cheek.  All of that was worth seeing his smile when I told him I loved him and that I was heading back to transfer.

I will always wonder who 6BB might have been.  Dan wouldn’t have made it to the birth, he was already too weak to be at the transfer.  January 13, 2019.  We threw our last seconds of the game, hail-mary pass into the air.  But nine days later, we’d find out it didn’t work.  Hours after that call, Dan would pass to whatever is on the other side of living, and leave me with the ruins of the life we tried to have.  How different grieving this past year would have been with a pregnancy and baby.  How many places I would not have seen, nor people I may have met, had that last ditch effort worked.  Some might call that a blessing.  But for me, it’s not so easy.  In the deepest parts of my soul, I’d exchange every beautiful sunset, every breath-taking mountainscape, every moment of wonder at the world’s canvas, every incredible human I’ve had the pleasure of sharing space with for Dan and either of our potential children to be here.

I’m left now with the biggest decisions of my life to make, and no life partner to make them with.  I have to weigh how much I want to see things through, versus how much I may need to run in the opposite direction to find my way through life.  I have to ask myself, at my very core, can I take the heartache alone?  Can I handle the disappointment by myself?  Or do I walk away from all of it, and let it rest with Dan and the wonderful, amazing memories of him?

Where do you go from here?

January 13, you’re a bastard of a date now.  I’ll always wonder who you might have been.

Here We Go

Writing the first post of a blog always seems daunting to me and often (as is the case with restarting my blog) arrests any start I intend to make.  I procrastinate and put it off for some time when I will feel more “inspired.”  And then the questions roll in.  How am I going to grab the reader’s attention?  Do I give a lengthy backstory on what brought me here?  Should I just spit facts and details to flesh out who I am, or think I am, at this point in time?  Or do I just throw the reader in the middle of things?

How many books and stories and movies have we encountered where that is exactly where we start the journey.  Smack dab in the thick of it.  We have no idea yet what brought this character to their current predicament or where they are going next.  We get sucked into the moment and, piece by piece, the story fleshes itself out.  We are given tidbits and insights along the way, much like you would when meeting a fellow traveler on a lengthy trip.  Initially you are complete strangers, and maybe by the end you have shared intimate details you wouldn’t dream of dispensing to your closest friends.

A lot of things have brought me to resurrect blogging.  In the past, I was pretty peripheral and terrible about it.  The fluffiness of my running/fitness blog isn’t something I mention to many people, and yet there is still a small attachment to it.  As is evident by my refusal to ditch the handle “phillynerdgirl” in spite of coming up with it more than 7 years ago.  I’m a sentimental person, and the juvenile-seeming handle is not spared from that.  It really has nothing to do with the content of this blog while at the same time having everything to do with it.  I am a girl, I am a nerd, and the major city that has my heart is Philadelphia, PA.  An area that significantly shaped who I am right now, and brought about the most incredible and awful chapter of my life thus far.  A chapter that is rapidly closing and the next one is just beginning.

In 17 days, I will honor the anniversary of my husband Dan’s death.  I never imagined in all my 36 years I would carry the title “widow” well before becoming an elderly person, and yet here I am.  Wrapping my brain around it gives no relief to the reality of what happened.  It will never make sense.  I could write at length about what brought me to this widow life, and over time I will.  But for now, dear reader, you are stepping in at the point where I am making moves to redfine who “Krissie” is going to be going forward, and I hope you will stay for a while.  Welcome to the other side of things.

Argentine Patagonia