Friday, October 28, 2011

recharge my soul

The other weekend (10/14-10/17) I had the privilege of attending the American Widow Project Fall getaway in Kennebunk, Maine. There are no words that could do justice to the experience I had over the weekend. I have gone to two other AWP events and each of them are different in their own special way. The first one I was only 3 months out. I didn't know my ass from my elbow and I can hardly recall anything from that time period but I know that meeting those other widows in those first few months probably saved my life. The second trip to Tybee Island was a couple of months shy of Michael's one year anniversary. I was just starting to feel comfortable with allowing myself to have a good time so it was a little scary for me but it just reassured me that it was ok to laugh and smile and to let my hair down once in a while.
That weekend seemed like it was on a whole other level. There were so many emotions that I experienced this weekend. With the anticipation of Michael's 2 year anniversary I have been feeling a little more crazy than usual. However, this trip showed me that what I am experiencing is so common and that I am just as "crazy" as any other widow. I almost felt like this trip was an oxymoron. Most people would expect us to be so sad and crying the majority of the time. However if I recall correctly, the majority of the time was spent laughing, sharing stories of our husbands, and really embracing life altogether. I'm not saying that there were no tears, because there were, but whoever was crying was quickly comforted by another widow who knew exactly what they felt and have even cried those same tears before. 
Each and every AWP event that I have attended is an opportunity to step outside my comfort zone. This time I really pushed the envelope. We got to go surfing! Now I have never been surfing and I really don't even know how to swim (except for doggy pattling) and I don't even really like going into the ocean. But I knew if I didn't take that step outside of my comfort zone I would regret it. And the point to living this short life is to live in absence of regret. Even though I swallowed enough sea water to support an ecosystem in my stomach, I do not regret it one bit. 

Also, during this trip, the AWP had the amazing honor and privilege to meet President George H. W. Bush and Mrs. Bush. It was a total surprise to us all and the majority of us were floored that we got to meet one of our nation's leaders. It was definitely a surreal moment. 
My reaction when I found out we were visiting the Bush's. 
I was in shock!

We all got to take pictures with the President and first lady. As the visit went on we were carrying conversations with the couple like we were old friends. I talked with Mrs. Bush about owning dogs and how Michael and I rescued Koby. There was also a time were each of us got to tell the president a little about our husband's and how they served and died for our country. After telling him about Michael I had a moment and thank goodness for sunglasses because I got emotional over the fact that one of our presidents knows about Michael. He knows his name, he knows how long he served in the Marine Corps, he knows that he served two years in Iraq, and he knows how he died. I still get choked up about it today because that's a huge honor and concept to wrap my head around. I know Michael would be so very proud. 

Barbara wearing an AWP pin that I put on her jacket!

Having a conversation with the first lady!!
That weekend also had a twist that I have never experienced at another event before. The house that we stayed in was donated to the AWP for the weekend by an amazing woman named Sue. Sue found out about the AWP through the People Magazine article and contacted Taryn looking to help out in any way. Sue was able to have the entire weekend, everything that we did that weekend donated to us. She asked the entire town to donate their services to us. When I say everything, I mean everything. A lobster bake for us to enjoy the first night, all kinds of foods, drinks and snacks for the entire weekend, the surfing lessons with our own private surfing instructor, transportation for the entire weekend, bicycles for us to use, breakfast at an amazing little place called HB Provisions, appetizers at drinks at the Kennebunk Port Inn, an amazingly delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant, an amazing dinner that was made for us by a professional chef at a very generous woman's house, a couple of gift bags full of merchandise from the local shops and I am sure I am missing a lot, but it was overwhelming how much Sue and the town of Kennebunk went out of their way for us. It was extremely humbling and I can pretty much speak for everyone there that we were all knocked off our feet. 

group picture outside of HB Provisions with fake President Bush

The incredible Sue serving up some delicious lobster!

Breakfast at HB Provisions

Opening up our gift bags was like Christmas morning!

The feast we enjoyed the last night in Maine

There was also another twist, CNN was there for the filming of the documentary clip they are going to air for the 2011 CNN Hero Awards Ceremony, which Taryn in nominated for (which you can vote for her, ten times a day, everyday!) We were all pretty apprehensive by the thought of cameras there to capture some of our most private moments. I felt like we were a mix between the Real World and True Life (This is the true story, of 12 military widows, picked to live in a house. You think you know, but you have no idea) However, in the end I feel like the CNN crew actually enhanced our experience. They weren't around the entire time, and when they were, they weren't intrusive at all. They just wanted to capture what it was like for a young military widow and how the AWP has impacted our lives since our husbands deaths. We each did individual interviews and it really caused us to think and vocalize what the AWP means to us and what it means to be a military widow. At the end of the weekend, each of the crew members shared with us what the weekend and the experience of meeting military widows meant to them. And it was really cool to hear an outsiders perception of us. Each of the guys who shared with us got choked up when expressing us to how that weekend effected them. It was a really humbling experience to hear that we are some of the strongest women these guys have met and that we were not at all what they had expected. 

Tim, who sort of coordinated the filming schedule, is a Chris Martin look-a-like!

The amazing camera guy Mick!

Taking pictures of our photographer, David.
All in all that weekend was a peak moment for me. Something that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. That weekend was by far the best weekend I have experienced since Michael's death. I do not want to know what life would be like without other military widows and I am thankful that I don't have to. I went home refreshed. I went home not caring what others thought when I brought up Michael and not afraid to talk about him with people who never got to meet him. I left a lot of emotional burdens in Maine and went home feeling much lighter. I went home with my soul recharged, feeling like I can take on the world. 


Monday, October 10, 2011

1 year and 11 months

Lately, I have been having such an overwhelming need to write. I have noticed that when I need to write, it's typically when there is stuff going on - grief stuff. I have somehow been floating in between contentment and a weird sense of normalcy. I have school, school work, my new obsession with the gym, volunteering and worrying about graduate school to thank for my facade of happiness. 
However, the second anniversary of Michael's death is approaching much faster than I would like. It's almost like October 1st brought a wave of grief. All of a sudden, the temperature dropped, the delicious pumpkin spice has popped up everywhere, plans for Halloween are being formed, conversations about the holidays are floating around. 
All are reminders that in a month - it will be 2 years since the life I knew and loved ended. 
That facade has been slowly cracking and it's about to crumble. I have been experiencing so many flashbacks, it's unbelievable. 
Flashbacks of the moment I found out. 
The funeral.
Old friends who were there for me that have disappeared over the years.
Seeing my beautiful husband laying in a casket at the wake and not being able to look at him.
Screaming in the shower the morning after it all happened. 
Rushing through the hospital only to find out he was already transported to the medical examiner. 
I am starting to remember things that I couldn't remember for the past two years. It is absolutely crazy that it seems like it has been an eternity since I saw his face, touched his skin and kissed his lips but the hurt and the pain feels like it all happened just yesterday. 
And still, all I can think about.... is... why? 

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I admit, I have been avoiding this blog like the plague. I haven’t wanted to write about what I have been feeling/going through because I haven’t wanted to deal with any of it. This blog has been one of my biggest sources of therapy and writing on it meant that I was a widow. That I had lost my husband. I have been hiding my grief by escaping - running away whenever being at home long enough started to feel uncomfortable. I fled to New York three times to be with my brother, California, Kansas, and Las Vegas. I have been trying my damnedest to act “normal” - whatever that means. All of this hiding and avoiding has been building and building. I have been getting angrier and angrier. Taking it out on other’s or simply pushing it aside just like I would push aside any other emotion associated with losing Michael. I thought that if I tried hard enough to try to pick up my life and act like I was ok, that I would really believe it, that I would feel ok. 
I have been noticing that I have been feeling angrier and madder more and more each day and I didn’t understand why. Today I finally broke down. Anger is not an emotion that I deal well with and it has been eating at me. I wanted to scream, break something, punch a wall. It was probably the maddest I have been in a looong time. I realized that it’s because I have been hiding from my grief. And maybe this intense anger is just another component of my grief. 
I miss my life with Michael. I miss everything about it - the good and the bad, the peaks and the valleys. I miss having my best friend. I miss the life we built together. I miss the future we had to look forward to. 
I feel like I have gotten so strong this past year and nine months but tonight, tonight I have crumbled into a weak, mad sobbing mess. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

tree and other inanimate objects

I don't understand the strong attachment I have with Michael's belongings or any thing that represents him. They are just things. They aren't him. The attachment that I have to some of his things are sometimes crippling. On Saturday I had some trees removed because the week before there was a nasty storm that came through the week before and it knocked down one of my trees. I took advantage of having someone come out to remove it and I had two palm trees that had died the winter before, but I was too lazy and cheap to have removed after they died.

Also in my front yard was an oak tree that my real estate agent had bought for me after I purchased my house. He said it would represent Michael. He said that oak trees are strong and resilient, that no matter the weather, they would always live. Well I realized not even 20 minutes ago, after pulling into my drive way that the damn tree removal guys cut down Michael's oak tree! I was livid! I ran in my house and dropped my things and called the company that came out. I was shaking I was so mad. I calmly talked to the receptionist and told her what happened. She then put me on the phone with the manager who had come out the day to remove my trees. I was trying to hold it together as best as I could. I can usually hide my emotions but when he was asking me what kind of oak tree it was I just lost it. I had no clue what kind of oak tree it was... a dead husband oak tree?! I still can't stop crying. I keep telling myself it's just a damn tree. They are going to come out and replace it and it'll probably look the same. But all I keep thinking is that my Michael tree is gone.

As I started to write this blog I started thinking about everything else I have held onto with a vice-like grip. His clothes, his books, his underwear, his cologne, his toothbrush, everything that Michael had - I can't let go of. I know that having those things don't make up for his absence and they're not him. It's just another thing that I can't let go of. I can't let go of him. I can't let go of the fact that technically I am no longer married. I can't let go of his belongings. I can't let go of the fact that I am still so in love with him. And I don't want to. Letting go, right now, isn't going to make me feel any better, it's not going to take my pain away. I know that maybe eventually, I'll have to or I'll want to. But right now I want to still hold on. I need to still hold on because there is nothing else to hold onto.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Sorry I've been MIA lately. Just haven't felt like writing. Also I've been distracted. The first week of May I was up in New York visiting my brother for 10 days.
Then, 3 days after I got back, I left again. I went up to Orlando for a wedding. From Orlando I flew to LA to meet up with my dad and step-mom. We then went to go and visit my grandpa. A few days later, we hopped in my dad's new RV (he bought it from my grandpa) and we drove from California to Kansas.
I hung out in Kansas for a couple of days, then I flew back to Florida. I've been home for about a week and a half and I am ready to leave again. Too much time at home isn't good for me. Right now, I think the distractions are necessary.

Anyway, on to the main purpose of this blog...

You know those profound experiences, that you know for some reason, they will make it past your short term memory and be significant enough to be stored in that filing cabinet labeled "Long-term Memory"? And that somehow you know that you had that experience for a reason. That the universe put you in that particular situation for a reason that you may never understand until it hits you. Well, I had one of those moments yesterday.

I am starting to volunteer for an organization that has a crisis hotline available to anyone in crisis, may it be sexual violence, sudden death or domestic abuse in the Southwest Florida region. I am still in the process of completing the training, but it seems like it's a good fit for me. I want to be able to help others in their most desperate time of need. Maybe somehow, through the path my life has taken, I will be able to touch someone else's life and give them the hope and the strength to continue on. I don't want what I've been through to go to waste. I want to channel it and use it to help others.

Anyway, yesterday I went in for a lunch/training session with some of the other volunteers. I didn't know how the training session was going to go or what it was going to consist of, so I was really unprepared for what I was about to step into. As we got started, the speaker, who was a psychologist, tells us that the topic is on loss, grief and depression. Automatically, my heart sinks and my throat tightens up. I reminded myself that it was ok, I am good at holding it together in public. We quickly went over the first two topics - loss and grief. I opened up and shared about Michael because, obviously, my situation was relevant to the topic. What happened after that is going to stick with me for the rest of my life.

The doctor asked us all to close our eyes. Take a few deep breaths and focus on our breathing. She told us to imagine that we were walking up to a beautiful forest. That the sun was shining and it was a beautiful warm day. The forest seemed very inviting and told us to imagine walking into the forest. After walking for some time, you see a cottage. The cottage is very quant and seems harmless. So you decide to walk up to the cottage and knock on the door. After a moment, the door opens and it's your guardian angel.

Out of no where my breath gets short and I have to use all of my strength not to start crying. Because immediately I saw Michael. I saw his beautiful face. His gorgeous smile. It was like he was standing right in front of me. All I wanted to do was to reach out and hug him.

The doctor then tells us that our guardian angel asks us to come inside and sit down. Our guardian angel then says "Tell me your burdens, your losses, and I will carry them for you". The doctor then tells us to think about our earliest loss, our most recent loss, and our most profound loss.

This entire time I am trying to block her out. But I can't help it. I already have a river streaming down my face. I couldn't hold it together. I am usually pretty good at compartmentalizing my grief and saving it until I am in the comfort and privacy of my own home. But I couldn't hold onto that. I immediately thought of Michael. He was my most profound loss. Then my parents getting a divorce - that was my earliest loss. My most resent loss was a loss of a friendship with Michael's best friend.

Then the doctor tells us to imagine our guardian angel saying "Now let go of all of these losses, let me carry them for you. You don't have to worry about them anymore".

Immediately, in my head, I start screaming "NO NO NO"!! I don't want to let go of Michael. I can't. I don't know how. I don't want to. I can let go of my parents divorcing. That's easy. I can let go of my lost friendship. Friends come and go anyway. But my husband? My soulmate? I just can't. And I won't.

After she told us to open our eyes, I jumped up to go to the bathroom. I was a mess. I couldn't stop crying. That hasn't happened in public since the funeral... I think. The bad thing about it is that I didn't know anyone in that room. I had only met the volunteer coordinator once before and that was it. It was like a faucet was turned on and I couldn't turn it off for the life of me.

This was so eye opening to me because no matter how strong and composed I seem on the outside, on the inside I'm weak and hurting - it took going through that to realize it. I also realized that I'm not ready to let Michael go. Yes, I'm ready to be happy again, I am ready for a new chapter, but I just can't let him or that part of my life go. I was also reminded that I am still in the midst of my grief. Traveling and distractions aside, I am still in the thick of it all. Perhaps I should take more time to allow myself to feel the pain. I feel like I am in need of a balance. Equal parts of grief, pain, and sadness with happiness, joy and laughter.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Why did it slip my mind? Did I forget? Am I too busy to notice the passage of time?

On May 12th, it will be our fourth wedding anniversary. It didn't even occur to me until the other day that in less than a month, it will be four years since we said "I do". Four whole years. I am going up to NYC to visit my brother during that time and when I was making my arrangements it didn't even pop into my mind that I will be there for our anniversary. Last year I was so focused on that day and what I would do and how I would remember our commitment to each other. I spent months obsessing over it turning to make that whole week surrounding the day perfect.

I have to admit though, I have been extremely busy. So busy that I didn't even realize that it was April already, let alone almost the end of April. School and family life has really been consuming my time and maybe that's a good thing. I have been going through the motions just focusing on what I have in front of me and maybe right now, that's what I need.

But I still feel absolutely horrible for not even realizing it, for letting it slip my mind. That day was huge for us, even though our ceremony was small, it was still perfect. I just don't understand how I could have realized how soon it was and how fast it is approaching.

Nevertheless, I will be spending it with the best of company - my brother and best friend! And we will be in the best city! So I am sure we will make the most of it.


Monday, April 18, 2011


You know that movie Brothers.
With Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, and Tobey Maguire.
The story of the husband that is deployed to Afghanistan
and the Marines think he was killed
so they notified his wife and children that he’s dead
and his low life brother
hangs around the wife and kids
doing things around the house
being a father figure for the kids
and a companion for the wife.
But the husband was only captured
and then found
then returned home
only to figure out that his wife and brother have started a maybe relationship.

 Michael got to meet Tobey when he was training for this particular role

Well I had a dream very similar to the plot line of this movie.

Michael’s death didn’t actually occur
but everyone thought it did.
He was deployed or something and then he disappeared
so they notified me that he died.
We had a funeral and everything.

Fast forward to two years after his death
and I’m in a relationship with a close friend of his.
I’m not sure which friend this was,
but I just know they were close,
practically brothers.
I was very much so in love
with both of them.

Out of no where,
Michael comes home.
And I am torn in between his best friend: my boyfriend
and my supposedly dead husband.

I couldn’t make a decision.
I wanted both of them.

Then I woke up.
I hadn’t dreamed of Michael in such a long time.
This was probably one of the worst ones yet.