Grieving for Two

After two and a half years of feeling this soul-changing, earth-shattering loss, I just realized something sort of huge. Well, I always knew it, but I just stopped and actually thought about it, and now I am able to put it into words. It is this: I grieve on behalf of my husband more than I grieve for my husband.

I hope that makes sense. I miss Don more than anything. I miss him and our life together literally every time I take a breath or walk a step or speak a word. I miss him in the rhythms of everything that I am, and some nights and some days and some moments are still horribly painful and intensely emotional.. However, after two and a half years, I have finally, (sometimes) started to actually believe that I might be sort of, kind of “okay”, and that a new brand of joy and life will happen for me again somewhere. It is already happening, at times, in very small pieces. As I continue to process and heal through the loss of the love of my life, I am beginning to feel things other than pain and despair and roads to nothing. I am beginning, slowly, to be able to see the colors inside my own world again – and to know that not only will I survive this, but that I will also create and build a new world for myself, while always proudly taking my husband and our forever love with me, blending him into my future.

So there is that, and all of that is good. It is progress. A lot of hard-earned progress.

But lately, and probably always, I have noticed a pattern within myself and the way I grieve. A large percentage of the intense pain that I feel, the really tough pain that I cannot seem to let go of, is pain that I am feeling on behalf of my husband. When I get really sad about the fact that I will most likely never be a mom and we will never have the family we wanted together, that sadness almost immediately turns into sadness for him. Suddenly, my heart aches and pounds with thoughts of: I am 42 and will never be a mom, but at least I get to LIVE. He will never be a dad, AND he doesn’t get to be alive anymore either. His life was just taken from him, in a flash, in a few seconds, without warning.

When I get scared about my own future and growing old or getting sick and being alone, that fear eventually turns into feeling pain on his behalf: Maybe I will be alone forever and grow old alone, but he will never get to retire or be a grandfather or even a father. He will never get to move back to Florida like he wanted to one day. He will never be the old curmudgeon he was so looking forward to being.

I find that I spend a LOT of time feeling my loss on his behalf, almost as if I were him, and I’m somehow feeling it from the insides of his heart. Instead of thinking: “This is so unfair, why was he taken from me?”, most times I am thinking: “This is so unfair, why was his life cut short? Why doesn’t he get to live anymore?” I carry the grief for me and for him, and it feels extremely heavy. There is no sense of peace or logic when your partner dies so suddenly. No warning. No goodbye. No good morning. No goodnight. He was not sick. Not ever. He was in no pain. Not ever. Our lives were only beginning together. He was just here, and then, he wasn’t. How can that ever make any sense?

He was ripped off. Life ripped him off. He got screwed, and that is just how I feel, and I know that is how he feels too. I can just hear him saying with that dripping sarcasm of his: “Really? That’s how it all ends for me, huh? I collapse on a Petsmart floor and just die? That fucking figures. What a rip-off. I want my money back!” He would be smiling and joking as he said this, but to me, it isn’t funny. It isn’t funny at all. It is endlessly unfair and cruel, and I am forever feeling the cruelness of it all, through his eyes. I travel into his soul, and I hurt for him. I sob for him. I ache on his behalf, and I don’t know how to stop. These emotions make me feel crazy and manic and strange, but they keep forcing themselves inside me, and they play like a broken record, and I feel all of the hurt for him that he can’t feel. And the feeling that he was “robbed” of life is so strong, because he had a traumatic childhood – a crazy, most likely bipolar mother, and a father that he didn’t even know was his father until the age of 20, and that barely gave him the time of day. He didn’t marry the love of his life or find his true happiness until age 42, and he was gone at 46. Everytime I think about how cruel that is, or how little quality time he got, it’s like the pain starts all over again. It would be different, maybe, if I believed in some sort of “heaven”, or some place where people who leave Earth exist in another life somehow. But I don’t believe that. I see him and feel him as Energy – and so, to me – he is just out there as part of the universe somewhere. Maybe he is a star or a particle, or maybe pieces of his energy travel throughout the night sky, like a soul or a spirit. He is something that I can feel in my heart, sometimes. He is there, but he is not a person who is able to live a life anymore, and so the fact that his energy still lives does very little to make me feel like he was any less robbed of life.

I can come to terms with having to live the rest of my life without him here on earth.

Somehow.

But how can I ever come to terms with the idea that he died at all? And how do I stop feeling pain for him? Where my sadness ends, his begins.

And so it goes …

Resurrection

So, this new ABC show “Resurrection” has already caused me to have two seperate dreams, and has filled my mind with anxiety, and this is before even seeing the show itself. This is solely from accidentally catching a few seconds of a commercial for it. (I will not be watching one more second of this show. Obviously.)

The first dream I had about this show was great. In the dream, my husband, who was dressed in his E.M.T. uniform and had white light around him and was clearly a spirit/soul, kicked down the door and walked onto the set of “Resurrection”, (which, in case you don’t know, is a show about people that die and then ‘come back to life’ for good) in the middle of filming, and said angrily: “Enough already with this premise. What are you doing? I understand this is fiction and all, but you’re hurting REAL people with this shit. Real people, like my wife, with REAL loss. She was trying to get to sleep tonight after a long day in a long week, sat down to watch a bit of TV, and your ridiculous commercial made her cry for 20 minutes while clutching my photo. You are asking your audience in your ads to “imagine the impossible” – their deceased loved ones coming back to life. Well, guess what? It IS impossible, and it’s never going to happen for her or for anyone else that has lost their spouse or their child or anyone they love dearly, so why on earth would they ever want to IMAGINE it??? Don’t you think that my wife has had that fantasy millions of times? That I somehow come back? That it was all some horrible nightmare? But that isn’t ever going to happen, because in the real world, when people die, they actually DIE. So to ask people to “imagine the impossible”, that is just asking for heartache on top of heartache.”

In the dream, he continued his awesome rant on these people: “Film this shit at your own risk, it’s a free country, but just know you are hurting my wife, and millions of others, and I don’t like people who hurt my wife. She is hurt enough already. Good Day. (pause) I SAID, GOOD DAY!!!” Then he knocked over an expensive camera and kicked the door again on his way out, shouting as he left: “And how about casting her in something already? She is massively talented, unbelievably funny, and since I’m DEAD and all, she is really struggling. You asshats!”

Don has visited me in my dreams quite a few times, but this was the first time he came into my dream to communicate with someone other than me. And “asshat” was his very favorite insult term, as was the “I said GOOD DAY!” line from Willy Wonka. So although it was quite a silly dream, it made me feel protected by my husband, who could somehow see that just watching a commercial for this new TV show made me so upset and shaken up. Obviously the producers and directors and creative people involved with this show have every right to make such a show and air it, but I truly do not understand who their target audience would be. It would have to be people who have never experienced death – people who have never felt the trauma, devastation, and intensely horrific pain of losing someone very close to them. I just cannot imagine that anyone who has felt the earth-shattering quake of death, would have any interest in watching a show such as this. I truly cannot think of a premise or TV-idea that would be more painful than this to sit through.

Back to the two dreams. The second one happened last night, and it almost destroyed me emotionally. This time, I had a dream that my husband was alive, just like in the premise of this cruel new TV show. That this was somehow all a nightmare. That he never really died, and it couldn’t be explained how or why he was alive, but he was now alive, and back for good. In my real life, on the morning he died, after I was told by the nurses in a closed room what had happened after I rushed myself to the hospital in a car service, not even knowing WHY I was being summoned there – I sat in the hospital bathroom, after calling our immediate family and a couple friends – and I typed into my phone on Facebook: “This is the worst day of my life. My dear husband had a heart attack and died. I don’t know what to do next.”

In this dream, there was a knock at my door, I opened it, and it was Don. He said: “I’m here, Boo. It’s going to be okay.” I fell to the floor with shock and he picked me up, and we held each other for an eternity. Then I typed on Facebook: “This is the best day of my life. Don is back. He is ALIVE! I don’t know how, but its true. The past 2.5 years were all a big lie. I got my husband back!!!!”

Then I woke up. Shaking. In shock. Feeling sooooo confused. It was so, so, so real – that I actually thought he might be alive, and that he never died at all, and maybe THAT was all a nightmare, the thinking that he was dead. I sat in my bed just baffled and trying to figure out where I was. Those of you who are widowed and reading this will totally get what I’m about to say next – this morning, I went RIGHT back to those first few weeks and months after the death, where each morning you wake up confused and scared, and thinking “Wait, what happened? What is real? Are they really gone, or was that just some weird dream?”, and you have to get up and physically find something tangible that PROVES to you they are actually dead. So that is what I did. I searched for my box that is hidden away in my closet, the one containing the funeral cards and the Death Certificate, and the autopsy report. I was actually saying out loud to myself: “Please be empty. Please be empty, box. Please, please, please …..”

It wasn’t empty. Of course it wasn’t empty. Saw the certificate and collapsed into sobs. Dreaming that my husband was somehow alive, was probably the most painful of all the dreams I have had so far since his death. Because at two and a half years, I KNOW he is gone. I know he is dead. I know and live inside this reality every single day. But there are STILL flashes of moments in my life, seconds or minutes, where my heart and mind just doesn’t want to believe it. STILL. Ever. So all it takes is a silly premise from a new show to place my exhausted and stressed mind back into that place of “Well, just maaaaybe ….”

Since the next 6 months of my life are unbelievably stressful with overlapping jobs, gigs, writing projects, my book release, and too many things to name here – I’ve been having LOTS of horrible, awful nightmares lately. Caitlin, my counselor, tells me that is VERY normal and that because Im so stressed and busy, that is when the PTSD-related stuff from “that day” and other days will come back just like it was yesterday, because sleep-time is the only time that my brain has to process everything going on inside. I called her 2 weeks ago, frightened, because I had a VERY REAL nightmare where I was in a Christmas tunnel with Don, like a Disney ride with all Christmas-themed things, and then suddenly a dark cloud pushed us into this room, and he collapsed right in front of me and died. Then I was forced to WATCH as he was burned and cremated, and it was VERY violent and graphic. I couldn’t stop sobbing on the phone with her, and one of the things she told me was that, even though it feels incredibly awful and terrifying, it is actually a GOOD sign that I’m having these types of dreams now, because it means I’m processing things and working through them,and that my heart is now ready to work through them. So if we take each dream and break it down and talk about what feelings I’m processing with that one, I will be able to let go of some of the guilt and the fears that I have always had, surrounding the time around his sudden death.

The cremation dream was the most frightening dream I’ve ever had, but dreaming that he was still alive and that his death was all a big mistake – was so much worse. For a few minutes and hours today, I was living in complete torture, not knowing what was real, and yet not wanting to find out and realize, all over again, that my husband was actually gone. How many times must I be forced to realize, again, that he is actually, really, truly gone?

Sybil

If there’s anything I have hesitantly learned over the past 2.5 years since Dons death, it is that grief is always changing. Always. Sometimes that is a comfort, and other times, it’s a huge pain in the ass.

It is a comfort because it is important knowledge to keep in your back pocket, on those days or nights when you feel as if you are in so much pain, that you might actually die. If you can pause the horrific pain for just long enough to remind yourself that you probably will not feel like this tomorrow – that can be helpful.

It is a pain in the ass because it feels like every single time you finally come to grips with or get used to having a particular emotion, the grief takes it somewhere else completely, and you don’t feel it anymore. Instead, you feel some other, weird version of it, or something totally different, something you are not at all familiar with. And even the “different” part is not only different, but different for each individual person going through grief. Often times, there really isn’t anyone else who understands what the hell you’re talking about when you say: “Two days ago I was bitter and angry at all younger couples, the ones that are newly in love. Today I’m over that, but now I’m pissed off at anyone who has been married for 50+ years! Next Thursday, I shall despise all squirrels, because they get to live, and my husband doesn’t!” Yes, these emotions may sound completely ridiculous or exaggerated, but they are neither of those things. They are very real and often very isolating and scary for the person sitting inside of them, waiting for them to become something else.

The constant shifting and changing of grief can be very confusing. You feel one way, then another, and another, and another. You can stay in the same bracket of emotion for as long as a few weeks or even months, or as little as a few hours! What’s worse, is that each emotion is so strong and specific, that you often feel like some hyped-up version of Sally Field’s character in the classic movie Sybil, because there is no way that a sane person with only one personality, could experience all of these many layers of feelings, on a loop, over and over and over again, for such a long period of time. Until my husband died, I never knew , for example, that there could be so many different variations of sadness.

There is sadness that is solely about missing them, and nothing more. There is sadness that has other things attached to it, such as guilt, fear, and panic. There is silent sadness, that sits inside you for days, while nobody else notices. There is “crying and driving” sadness. There is “must run out of the room RIGHT THIS SECOND because I’m going to burst into tears” sadness. There is sadness for you. Sadness for the one who died. Sadness for your past. Your present. Your future. Sadness from watching a TV show, or commercial, that isn’t really about the TV show, but about your new reality. There is sadness for all the people who will never know your loved one, and more sadness for all the people and things your loved one will never know. There is the kind of sadness that seeps out when you are hearing another widowed person’s story, for the first or the hundredth time, and it finally just hits you. There is the sadness that is so visceral – so raw – that it stops you cold in the middle of a NYC street, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people, and you just sob. There are many more kinds of sadness, but sadness is only one of a billion emotions, and each emotion has it’s own list of variations, so if I sat here and went through them all, you might not have time for all that. You, dear reader, might actually have a life. So I think you get my point.

Sometimes these shifts in grief emotions are completely sudden, coming out of nowhere and assaulting you. Other times, they are so subtle, it might take someone else to point them out to you by saying: “But I thought you were feeling better the other day when I saw you.” “I was. And now I’m feeling worse.” To be honest, it’s a little jarring to never know what to expect from your own brain and heart. One minute you are feeling pretty mellow and calm, and the next, you want to poke yourself in the eyeballs with ice picks just to distract yourself from the fact that your husband is actually still dead.

I think the perfect way to describe these ping-pong feelings is this: About a half an hour ago, I sat down to write this piece for my book. Except that it wasn’t this piece. It was a completely different piece I was going to write about grief, called “Don’t forget Your Hat.” But now, that piece will have to wait a few days, because the instant I started to type, something completely different came dancing from my fingertips. Suddenly and without warning, I was writing and typing about the ever-changing emotions and many faces of grief. Why? Hell if I know! That is just where my grief-infested mind took me. And in an hour, I will travel somewhere different. That’s just how it works, whether you want it to or not.

Talking to the Echo

There is a space where my husband’s voice once lived,
a big empty hole that sits in the center of my hours,
my days,
my years.
It mocks me by following me wherever I go,
And it feeds off of it’s own nothingness,
Sipping on the hollow void,
A cruel silence where there used to be sound.

It follows me everywhere,
But it is most cruel whenever I try to be my creative self.
I can write something,
Perform something,
Shape something,
And in that creative process,
I still look into the air, thin as a wafer,
And ask my husband,
“How does this sound?”,
Or
“What do you think of this, Boo?”
There is a pause that lasts ten thousand years,
And then nothing.

Where he used to help me write,
And add his humor to my scripts,
There is nothing.

Where he used to sit in the crowd,
And clap loudly,
His big and wonderful laugh,
Being heard above all the others,
There is nothing.

Where he met me after the show,
Outside of the club or the theater,
Sometimes with flowers or cards in his hand,
Wearing his pride for me in the pupils of his eye,
Saying, “I’m so proud of you, Boo”,
Twirling and hugging and holding my hand,
There is nothing.

I can fight the nothing
With the opinions of other caring people
In my life.
My parents, my friends, my counselor.
Sometimes that helps.
But most times,
Try as they do,
They do not respond in the way that I am searching for,
In the way that I long for and need,
Or they arent always there,
At the ready,
Waiting to be the response
to words
that I speak.
That is what a partner does.
Partners are there,
And they say the thing that you long to hear,
And they make your ideas shine,
And they put the period on the sentence,
Or they suggest that maybe it needed a comma,
Instead.

The nothingness where my husband used to be,
Causes me to feel so much jealousy,
When I am forced in a room with couples,
With marriage or long-term partnerships,
And when I hear the literal words
Of a wife saying to her husband,
“Honey, what do you think of this?”
It is like a slow stab,
And it pierces my insides,
Silently,
While nobody notices.
And it hurts.
Oh boy, does it hurt,
To witness the simple thing,
Of somebody saying words,
And somebody saying words back.

The nothingness where my husband used to be,
Makes me needy,
Much more needy,
than I ever thought I would be,
than I ever wanted to be.
When I write blog posts,
like this one,
I need to hear and read the comments,
Or I feel worthless,
Like I am talking to that thin air,
Or talking to myself
Again and again,
And again.
My constant status updates,
On Facebook,
are a helpless and desperate plea,
to seek out connection,
and fill the gaping wound,
that cries,
in that space,
where my husband used to be.

It is almost like,
I need to fill that space,
With 200 comments,
A thousand voices,
To make up for that one voice,
I can never hear again.
And since none of those voices,
Are his voice,
And none of those people,
Are him,
It does not fulfill,
What I need fulfilled.
It helps.
It helps in the same way,
That throwing a raisin into a manhole
Would help to fill the space
Of that manhole.

But it hurts.
Oh boy, does it hurt,
Because nobody is him,
Nobody ever will be him,
Not ever again.

And I try to remind myself,
Or ask myself,
In those moments,
“What would Don say?”,
Or I will attempt
To hear him
And listen for his voice,
There to complete my sentence.
But there is no sound.
No feeling.
No hint of his essence.
And with each new moment of silence,
The memory of what he might say,
Becomes less certain,
And it drifts away in a rowboat,
Leaving me at the shore.

There is a space,
Where my husband’s voice
Once lived.
I cannot stare at it,
Or find it,
Because it is all around me,
But I feel it.
I feel the nothingness,
And this is why,
I am terrified of finishing things,
Of things ending.
Like when this book is finally written,
Printed,
Published,
And a box of them is sent to my door,
And I open the box,
And it is filled with my dreams.
Books that I can look at,
And touch,
And know that the words inside are mine,
And the stories inside are mine,
And I will look into that thin air,
And say out loud
To the nothing,
“Arent you proud of me, Boo?”

And yes,
I know he is proud,
But that is not the same,
As hearing him say it,
And instead,
Hearing the loud roar of silence,
That comes just seconds,
After my own shallow voice,
In a room filled with people,
Or alone,
Always alone,
Talking to the Echo.

Lighthouse

I got an email today that made my heart do a little dance. It was from a fellow widow friend of mine, whom I’ve only met online, and who also happens to be a therapist. This was what her email said:

“I was on the phone with a client yesterday, and I asked her where she has found support online. She told me that most of the support sites were pretty useless, but then mentioned 2 sites that she liked, one of them being your blog. “Those are really the only two,”, she said. So, there you have it. Not only one of a woman’s Top 2. But one of her only 2. ”

Talk about powerful. Somebody out there, someone I have never even met, read my words on a page and found “support” in them. And someone else whom I’ve never met, decided to share that information with me, so that I would know it. And now I share it with you, so that you will know it too. Because if we don’t tell people that they have made a difference to us, affected us, shaped us – how on earth will they ever know? All it really takes for isolation to become connection is for someone to say the first word.

It got me to thinking, as my heart was doing pleas in the corner. I started thinking about all of the ways in which everyone is connected. Sometimes you can feel that connection, that bond, like a jolt of lightning that goes through your entire body. Other times, it’s more subtle, like someone reminding you of it in an email. Either way, it is there. That connection. It is always there.

We all inspire hope to someone. All of us. You might not even be aware of it, but it’s true. Right now, right this very minute, you might be striving to get to where someone else is on the path of life. Meanwhile, at the exact same moment, there is somebody else who wants to be exactly where you are right now. You are inspired by the ones who are a bit ahead of you, and others are inspired by you. If you look forward to the ones in front, you think: “I saw that person in total darkness, and now they are no longer in that darkness. If I just keep going, I can get to where they are too.” If you look behind you to the ones who are a bit in back, you think: “I remember what it was like to be there, where they are now. It was awful there. Maybe if I just keep going, they will be able to see my frame through the darkness, and they will know that they can get to where I am too.”

In the beginning, all you can see is pain. Nothing else can get in, because the pain is everywhere. In the beginning, most of us are not capable or do not have the energy or motivation or care to look outside of our pain and into someone else’s. Our own pain is much too overwhelming. Until it isn’t. Eventually, the pain begins to spread itself out, like the end of a morning fog, and it makes some room for more of the sky. In that sky, and in that fog, you can just barely make out the lighthouse that sits far away in the distance. The pain is still there – it is always there – but now you are able to shape it and mold it and turn it into something more than just pain. Like my friend Michele, who took her pain and with it, created a community for widowed people everywhere, by founding the Soaring Spirits Foundation, and Camp Widow. Or my friend Janine, who I met at Camp Widow last year, and have become close friends with ever since. She and her pain packed up their life in Texas, and started a new one in NYC, using her own courage as the building blocks to glue together her new world, after the sudden death of her husband Jim. And there are countless others, each of them a beacon of light, scratching and clawing and finding their way to the top of the lighthouse, always fully aware of the others behind them, still wandering through the fog.

It is the ones in front of us, who offer pieces of what our own future might look like, if we just keep going. It is the ones in back of us, who offer us perspective on how far we have come already, especially when we are feeling like giving up, or feeling judged or like nobody can see us.

Keep going. Keep walking. They see you, in the same way that you see them. They are looking at your every step in the hot, thick sand – and they are saying with their tired and hurt voices: “If he or she can get there, maybe I can too.” You are somebody’s lighthouse. And someone else is yours. And we are all silently helping each other, even when we don’t know it. Maybe, especially when we don’t know it.

Isn’t that cool?

Pictured: me w/ my friend Janine at Camp Widow. Lighthouse in Montauk, Long Island.

Treading and Waiting …

So it’s Monday, which means I just finished another counseling session with Caitlin. This one was longer than normal, because I talk too much, I ALWAYS go over my “time”, and because I haven’t seen her since Dec 18th, when she went to the Rockefeller Center Tree with me, to help me face the place where Don proposed marriage to me back on December 18, 2005.

I hope it is not too weird to say that I love this woman. Just as a human being in the world, I truly do love her. She means so much to me, and not in a creepy “What About Bob?”,obsessed with my therapist sort of way – but more of an “I’m more convinced than ever that Don put her into my path” sort of way. So I love her, for those reasons, and many more.

For about 15 minutes yesterday morning, I thought that Caitlin might be hurt or dead, and I had a mini-panic attack as I paced my apartment, re-living the same 15 minutes or so of that hellish July morning when I got the phone call from the hospital saying only: “We have your husband. You need to get here immediately.” Yesterday, I re-lived the 15 or 20 min it took for me to hang up from that call, get a car service, and then RUN into the E.R. waiting room like a marathon sprinter, where nurses and doctors surrounded me and took me into a private room and made me “sit down” so they could tell me the thing that would shatter my soul and make me break into ten thousand pieces for eternity – that my husband had a massive heart attack, and “he didn’t make it”.

Now, as someone who lost her partner to sudden death, I have re-lived that day many, many times. But it is always different. Sometimes I re-live the entire day, in sequential order. Other times, I re-live the first few minutes where I was jarred awake by the ringing phone, or the moment when I saw him lying in that tiny room in a tiny bed – just lying there, dead, with his white socks on his feet. Other times, I even re-live it as if I were my husband – from his perspective. I start picturing what it was like for him that morning. While he was at the PetSmart, stocking shelves with pet food. When he collapsed, did he know it was coming? How instant was it? Did it hurt when his head hit the hard floor? How long was it, really, before his manager found him and attempted CPR? How much longer was it before that ambulance arrived? Was he wondering where I was, or was he scared? The questions and scenarios are neverending, and I’m not entirely sure if they will ever fade to black.

But this was a bit different. Yesterday, my panic and fear and anxiety was more specific in it’s attack. It was focused on those 15 minutes or so where life was on pause – where you are just sitting in the water – treading – and waiting – for something, or nothing, to happen. And you have no idea whether the happening will be something, or nothing. Cries of despair, or sighs of relief. It was that awful thing of knowing in your gut that something horrific has happened, but not being able to confirm it, until you have more information. The living inside the hell of your own mind, to find out whether or not your life is about to change forever, or not. I did this all yesterday, as I was once again sweating and pacing and saying out loud to nobody and the universe: “No. This is not happening. This is not happening. This is not happening.” The same exact chant I said out loud, over and over again, on that unthinkable day, just two and a half years ago.

And so there I found myself, chanting the words again, begging my heart to please begin beating at it’s normal rhythm, instead of this frantic, lightning-speed thing it was doing. Yesterday morning, I turned on the news, and there was a huge 3-alarm fire in a high-rise apartment building in NYC. I had missed the first few seconds of the story, so I did not catch the exact address, but it had just happened only a few minutes before I started watching the story unfold, and they were showing the massive flames and smoke coming out of the high windows, a giant hole being slowly shaped into the side of the building. The whole thing was very “9-11-esque”, and Caitlin was there on that awful day. At the time, she worked at a bank inside one of the two Towers, and although she obviously made it out alive, the day, for her, was filled with trauma, due to all the horrific things she witnessed. The type of things that you really never forget. But now, beccause of her experience on that day, she is often able to relate to me and the many traumatic, P.T.S.D.-like emotions and experiences that I go through, as someone who lost their partner to sudden death. And here I was – watching this high-rise that looked like the high-rise where she lives, on fire. This is not happening. This is not happening. This really is not happening. Is it?

The address they gave for the building is the exact corner of the building where my counselor lives. The building looked a LOT like her building in the live pictures. They said the fire started on the 20th floor and went up above that. She lives right above the 20th floor. This was not good. There were just too many coincidences, and my stomach was doing flips. How would I cope without her? It’s only been 3 weeks without seeing her, and I’m about to lose my sanity. What if she is hurt? Or dead? Or NOT dead, but had to be in or around that building and be traumatized all over again by fire and smoke and chaos? Have I told her enough times and in enough ways how much she has helped me? Is it too late? Again? I kept trying to breathe, but nothing came out except for stifled sobs and terrified groans.

As I waited for her to respond to my call and my email, which were both different versions of a crazy person screaming in all caps:”ARE YOU OKAY??? PLEASE SAY YOU’RE OKAY! PLEASE DO NOT BE DEAD!!!,” I felt as if it was the longest 15 minutes of my life. Except that it wasn’t. I already had my longest 15 minutes, back on July 13, 2011.

It was approximately 15 minutes or so before Caitlin responded to my cries of “YOU CANNOT BE DEAD!!!”, and told me that she was absolutely fine, and that it was not her building that caught fire, but the one right next to it. Right next to it? What are the chances?

So today, when we had our session and I heard her voice talking to me again for the first time in weeks, in that comforting and quiet tone that she has, I felt myself talking back in one huge sigh. Each time she spoke, her timber enveloped me and held me like a warm and safe blanket. I told her that she is not allowed to die, at least not before she writes the Forward in my book. She laughed, and we continued on with our conversing, the both of us possessing that incredibly dark humor that we use to cope with life and death. “Don’t you worry. I’m not going anywhere”, she said. And for now, I will just have to believe her.

That is, until the next time that I find myself waiting and treading water, inside of those 15 minutes of not knowing whether the something you will be facing, is something terrible and tragic – or nothing at all.