A Path Built on Love

BIG. LIFE. CHANGES.

I will be leaving NYC.

I will be leaving my apartment, my teaching job of 16 years (that one hurts), and the greatest city in the world – the only city I have known and called “home” for the past 26 years, since I was 18 years old and moved here from small-town Groton, Massachusetts.

I know this is the right decision for me at this time, and I know it is a decision and a choice that will bring better things to me and to my life – but that doesn’t make it any less sad or hard or heart-wrenching. What is keeping me sane and keeping me from crying my face off every second of the day in sorrow, is the knowledge that I have built a family here in NY – and that family will welcome me back, and NYC will welcome me back with open arms, whenever that might happen.

It has ALWAYS been a struggle living here. This city likes to make life impossible, and that “impossible” became excruciatingly harder when my husband died 5 years ago. It is SO much harder doing this alone, on one crappy income. The dreams that we had for our future, are much more realistically chased, when you have another person who can hold down the fort while you go on that audition – or who can work extra shifts and get you both through the summer, because you lost your summer job unexpectedly. So, I am not giving up on my dreams. NEVER. I am merely shifting them a bit in order to make them more reachable, for the life that I have today. I’m taking a slightly different route to get there. Let’s call it the scenic route. And it will be a terrifying, beautiful, and absolutely poetic adventure.

So where will I be going, you may ask?

I can finally announce and say with absolute confidence, that the book I have been off-and-on writing for the past 3 years, will be published and released, sometime in 2017. How do I know this? Because I have a plan. This will be my last semester teaching at Adelphi (again – still can’t talk about that without crying. Told my boss and friend of 26 years, Nick Petron, yesterday, and it was so emotional for both of us. Going to miss those kids/students like mad …) This year, when I go home to mom and dad’s for Christmas break, I’m not going to be returning to NY. Instead, somewhere around December 20th or so when the semester is over, I will be packing up a U-Haul one more time, with my 2 kitties and everything I own that I don’t choose to throw away – and driving it home to mom and dad’s house in Massachusetts. For the last 2 years, ever since I did the fund-raising campaign for the book, I have been super-stressed out about writing it and finishing it. When Im not working multiple jobs teaching, writing, directing shows, just to get by – Im STRESSING about NOT working, and trying to find work. I can’t write in a constant state of stress.

The portions of the book that still need to be written, is our love story. How we fell in love. Our dating life together. Our engagement. Our wedding. Our marriage. The highlighted beautiful moments that live in my heart. These parts must be written from a place of joy and happiness, and absolute hope. I can’t get to that place, emotionally, when the space around me is filled with stress. So I can’t write. And when I can’t write, I stress out about not being able to write, and I stress out that I OWE YOU PEOPLE A BOOK – all these beautiful people who donated and who believed in this book. All the beautiful people who continue to read and follow this blog page. I kept saying over and over these past couple years, that if only I could have a few months of sanctuary – where I could just write my book in peace and quiet – with NO worries of job or money or bills – then I could FINALLY get it done.

Enter my wonderful parents. My dad called me one night with an idea. Knowing that I have been feeling restless lately about NY, and about just wanting something different, and knowing that I want to finish the book desperately – he said: “Why don’t you come here and live with us – temporarily – for 3 or 4 months or however long it takes – with the specific intention and purpose and goal of FINISHING THE BOOK. You’d have your own room / home office to write in, your kitties can come with you and we will take them in, and no worries about bills or rent. Plus, you could see your niece and nephew more, and be home with family for awhile. You could treat it like your full time job. Get up 5 days a week, and just write, until its done. Once it’s done, then you decide what comes next, where you’ll end up, what you’ll do. Hopefully all of that will become more clear once your book is out there. It might open up new doors.”

As soon as my dad said these words, I could literally FEEL the stress slowly leaving my body, just at the mere thought of having the tranquil space and time and luxury of no job or bills hanging over my head – to write in peace. It made me feel so calm, and that is how I knew, it was the right decision. When something or someone gives you that feeling of peace and tranquility – that feeling of calm – it is my opinion that you should keep that thing or that person close to you, and bring that thing even closer.

So, I will be in NYC until late December, and then going home to complete the book. I’m guessing I will be there until March or April, but I’m not really going to worry about it. My goal is to finish it, and then continue down whatever path appears in front of me. There have been many signs pointing me toward Chicago lately, as a possible city for me to attempt life in for awhile – so that is a very big possibility. There also may be a specific gig / situation happening in Florida (another top secret thing I can’t talk about just yet – but if it happens – it would bring me to that state eventually), so I could end up in a number of places, and right now, I feel open to all of it. The future is in front of me, and the unknown path awaits.

I’m terrified. I’m anxious. I’m incredibly excited. And I’m ready.

I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I’m following my intuition, my heart, and a path that’s been built on love. Isn’t that what life is all about???

I Am Not What I Feel

A few days ago, I returned from Camp Widow San Diego, where I attended and gave my 10th comedic presentation. Since 2013, I have been a presenter at Camp Widow in all three locations; Tampa, San Diego, and Toronto. Last weekend was my 10th time standing in front of over a hundred widowed people, and hearing them laugh. It is truly one of my favorite sounds.

The week that I spent in San Diego was incredible. It was filled with friendships, old and new. I learned lessons, I experienced realizations about my grief and my process, I had moments of helping another person through their tough emotions. There was dancing and drinking and swimming and relaxing and healing and laughing and crying and loving. It was absolutely wonderful.

And then I had to come home.

There is this feeling that those of us who attend Camp Widow refer to as “Camp Crash.” It is a very specific sort of deflated and depressed feeling that one gets, after having been in the supportive, loving, understanding “everyone here is just like me” bubble of a camp widow weekend. It is a very real and powerful set of emotions, and it can truly mess with your head. Well, my crash began the second I stepped outside of the Marriott Hotel in San Diego, about to get into the cab to the airport back to NYC. As I stepped into the taxi, my face felt the PERFECT weather of San Diego, and instantly I got very sad.

Then, on my red-eye/overnight flight home, the WiFi wasn’t working. I was seated next to a couple who argued and fought with each other in a cruel manner, the entire 5 hours. The TV’s weren’t functioning either, so I had no way to escape my own panic and anxiety that comes with every single flight. I hate flying with a passion. It terrifies me.

Suddenly, in mid-air, and seemingly out of nowhere but not really, I started to miss my husband who is dead. I mean, I really started to miss him in that visceral, all-consuming, pit-of-your-stomach way, where you just want to find the nearest corner and sob your guts out. Except I was in mid-air, on a plane.

My husband Don was in the Air Force. Years before I met him. He was Flight Crew Chief and Mechanic, for the F-16 planes. He made the planes safe, just like he did with everything else. His job in life was to make things safe, and he made me feel safer than anything, just by being near me. When we flew together, he would put his arm out and say: “Just hold onto my arm, Boo. I got you. Nothing’s going to happen to you. Just squeeze my arm, or dig your nails into it. Whatever you need to do. And if something scares you, ask me about it and I’ll explain it. Nothing is scary once you understand it better.”

But those days of grabbing my husband’s arm and feeling safe were gone. This time, I grabbed at the arm-rest to my right in the aisle seat I was in, as I tried really hard not to cry out loud. The couple next to me kept arguing and screaming at each other with the attitude and clueless-ness of two people who know nothing of the sudden shock of death, and I sat there, like a child, on the verge of a tantrum stemming. Suddenly, I couldn’t think of any other thought than how much I missed my husband, and how much I wanted him and only him back, right this minute. Suddenly, the unfairness of how HARD my life is now without him, how hard EVERY SINGLE THING is, and how exhausted I feel after doing every goddamn thing ALONE and by myself for 5 years, came rushing into me. Suddenly, I just wanted to run far away, except there is never anywhere to run when you are in mid-air on a plane, and your husband is forever dead.

The last 90 minutes or so of the flight were awful. There was something like turbulence, but worse. I don’t even know what it was really. The plane kept dipping over and over again, dropping really fast in altitude, and making my stomach do flips. Nobody else seemed to notice or care, and I was alone in my panic, holding onto the arm-rest for dear life. The plane shook and made weird noises – noises that my patient and loving husband would have explained to me in a calm and non-condescending voice, if he were alive. Noises that wouldn’t stress me out, if he were still here to make sense of them. Nothing is scary once you understand it better.

Once we finally landed, my luggage ended up on the wrong carousel for almost 2 hours, and when I finally retrieved it, I had to walk with it half a mile throughout the airport to find where the taxis were to get home, due to construction in the airport. My phone was dead and not functioning right, and my brain was even worse. I plopped down in my bed, fixated on the picture of my beautiful husband in his EMS uniform that says “Everyday Hero” in the frame that his work gave him, and sobbed my guts out.

Suddenly, and finally, I couldn’t stop crying. This was more than just camp crash. This was life crash. I lost my Summer teaching job last month, so I have no job or income until September. I’ve been stressing out about this for the past month, and looking everywhere for work before my cash supply officially runs dry, and my stress and emotions finally came to a head the second I landed in NY. As did everything else. The reality of my situation. The exhaustion of living life without my husband for almost 5 years. The confusion of dating and trying to find love again, and being in situations that involve other people’s fragile emotions, and that I have no control over. Wanting things that I can’t have, and not knowing how to make my heart feel differently about them. Knowing that the heart feels what it feels, and I can’t stop it. The frightening thought of hurting someone, or hurting myself, or trying to do everything right and still ending up alone anyway. Trying to just be in the moment, but always terrified of the future and what’s around the corner. The feeling of having absolutely no idea what I’m doing, where I want to be in life, or what comes next for me. In life, I feel exactly as I did up in that plane – suspended in mid-air, and terrified.

I feel like a failure. I feel scared. I feel like I should know what Im doing by now, or like I should have it more together than I do. I feel like a fraud – like someone that people look up to, and really they shouldn’t , because I’m just as clueless as everybody else. I feel tired of making decisions, and I feel sick of struggling. I seriously feel like I cant make one more decision, after 5 years of making EVERY decision, big and small. I just want somebody to say: “Relax. I got this. Let me take care of this for you.” I feel like dirt when I can barely support myself. It feels bad. When you don’t know how you will pay your next bill or next month’s rent, it makes you feel less human. I feel shaken up by life and trauma and grief, and I feel like that shaky feeling will never leave. I feel like having a temper tantrum. I feel, I feel, I feel …….

And then I remind myself, I MUST remind myself, that I am not what I feel. I am not my feelings. They are just feelings, and they matter, and they are revealing, but they don’t mean that is who or what I am. Just because I feel like a failure right now, does not mean I am a failure. Just because I feel terrified, does not mean I will be terrified my entire life. All of these feelings and thoughts are frightening for me right now, because I have never felt them before, and therefore, I dont understand them. And things that we don’t understand are scary. Nothing is scary once you understand it better.

I no longer have my husband here to make me feel safe in the world. And that sucks. Sometimes it REALLY sucks. And I don’t have him to lean on when I’m scared, or to help me when I can’t pay the bills, or to say: “Its okay, Boo. I’ll pick up some extra shifts this month, and we’ll get through this together.” That is no longer a thing. Nobody says that anymore. And I do not want to go through the rest of my life with nobody saying that anymore. I can’t do it. I want to have that teammate in life again. But until then, I need to remind myself that I am not what I feel.

Maybe if I keep repeating it enough times, I will finally, actually believe it. Or, if anything, I will understand it better. And nothing is scary, once you understand it better.

The Champ

So let’s get right to it. For the first 3.5 years after my beautiful husband died, the very idea of dating or “someone else”, literally made me sick to my stomach. It made me feel physically ill, and I couldn’t even discuss it without having a slight panic attack. The idea of someone else talking to me, touching me, or being anywhere near me, made me want to vomit. That’s just the way it was, and I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I was in way too much grief to even come around to THINKING about how freakin’ lonely I was.

Then, around the beginning of year 4, there was a slight shift inside me, for no reason whatsoever, or because it was finally time for that shift to happen, that went from feeling physically ill – to feeling sort of “okay” with the idea, but still not willing to actively pursue anyone. Then, about 10 months ago, someone appeared out of the blue. This person was not pursuing me, and I was not pursuing them. But they appeared in such a way and at such a time that it felt like it was meant to happen. This person was not only a fellow widow(er), but also knew my husband. We started talking, and over time, building a budding and wonderful friendship. We met in person in March, and our connection felt more real, because now I could touch it. I could look into this person’s face, and in it, I saw not only kindness and a beautiful soul, but also being around this person face to face gave me this overwhelming feeling of protection and safety – like Don had specifically chosen this man to protect me, because he could no longer do it himself. The details of why I feel this way don’t matter here, because I want to protect this person’s privacy, but the time we spent together over those few days was meaningful, beautiful, and the perfect mix of familiar and brand new, all in the same moment.

When I returned home, I was very excited about this connection. Several people, even total strangers, told me over and over again that I was glowing, asking me point blank: “Have you met someone?” I thought the answer was yes, because when I left this person, we seemed to be on the same page as far as continuing things at a turtle’s pace – but as it turns out, this person is nowhere near ready for a relationship or commitment of any kind. This person is not in a place, emotionally, to move forward with me. He is very aware of how I feel, and he agrees that there is something between us, but now is not the right time. So, we continue to be wonderful friends, and I have chosen to trust in the outcome, and to have faith in the possibilities and potential of what we might become. I’m kind of a romantic like that. Plus, I really do feel this is coming from my husband Don, and he would never steer me wrong. He has sent me sign after sign after sign, that this is him who sent me this person. And I am listening.

Meanwhile, the act of spending time with this person and going out with them to dinner and breakfast and many other things and places – it gave me just a tiny taste of remembering what it’s like to have that special person in your life again. It reminded me what it’s like to spend time with someone who thinks you are special or pretty or who holds the door open for you or kisses your hand and forehead. (Seriously – who does that??? This amazing guy, that’s who.) When I got back home, I started to think to myself just how much I MISS all of that in my life. Having someone to do things with on weekends. Go to dinner with. See a movie with. Holding hands. All of it. So, in a conversation with my incredibly smart friend, she suggested that while this person that I very much care about can only be my friend right now and nothing more, that perhaps I would be a better friend to HIM, if I were getting my own needs met elsewhere; i.e; going out on a casual date now and then. Perhaps if I could have that back in my life again here and there, I would be more content, and therefore, not be pushing my friend to go places he isn’t ready to go right now. This seemed like the most insane idea in the world to me when she suggested it, but the next day, I got an email from a popular dating site, offering one month free membership. Next thing I knew, I was creating a profile and putting up my pictures. That was about 4 weeks ago.

And let me tell you, the past four weeks have been a complete shit-show. (one of my dead husband’s favorite terms, so I figured it was appropriate here.)

Here is what I have learned in four weeks:

Dating sucks. Dating on dating sites sucks even more. The last time I “dated” was decades ago. As in, the mid 1990’s. NOTHING is anywhere near close to the same anymore. First of all, nobody speaks to one another. Nobody knows how to have a conversation. People no longer talk on the telephone. They text. As in, right away. And if you ask them to speak on the phone, they type back in a little box that they “dont have time for all that.” Really? But you have time to sit here and type back and forth like robots? The way this particular site works is that it shows you pictures and profile info about a member, then you click YES or NO on if you’d like to chat with them further. If the feeling is mutual and you both want to talk, the chat box opens up and you can type back and forth. The purpose of this is to keep everything anonymous and safe at first, so you can chat within the confines of the site without giving out phone numbers or even names until you are more comfortable. (most members use a screenname instead of their actual name.)

At first, only seconds after I joined, I was feeling a bit cocky and good about myself, because I was getting a BOATLOAD of chat requests. “Well this isn’t so bad”, I naively thought to myself. Then I started clicking on them. This is when I quickly realized that this was going to be a train-wreck of epic proportions. Here is just a short sample of a few of my first day chat conversations. And no, I am NOT exagerrating or joking. These are 100% real. Names have been changed, obviously. Everything else, real:

John: Hey gorgeous

Me: Hi there, how are you doing today?

John: I’ll be better when you’re pressing those titties on my face.

DELETE AND BLOCK.

Greg: Hey Darlin … sup???

Me: Doing okay tonight, how about yourself?

Greg: I don’t have time to talk on here. Here’s my digits. Hit me up right now 714-6**-****. Ill be waiting.

END CHAT. (this was 90% of the chats. They DEMAND your number or demand to give you theirs IMMEDIATELY.)

Carlos: Hey baby, I love brunettes. You got nice curves too. Any chance you are kind of bossy and could boss me around and tell me what to do, insult me a little?

Me: WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN, YOU LOSER!!??? I’M NOT BOSSY!!! NOW LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE!!!

Carlos: Oh yeah, that’s so hot …..

DELETE AND BLOCK.

Tom: Hey Sweetie. Love your long hair. I hope you don’t have any of that going on below though. I like my women to be nice and clean , totally shaven. Hit me up (phone #)

DELETE AND BLOCK.

Yeah. WOW.

That is just a small sample of the moronic crap I’ve been dealing with the past few weeks. Most of these people, as you can see, just want something sexual, with someone they don’t even know at all. Then there is the category of men who chat with you, call you on the phone, have a number of nice conversations with you, and then completely disappear forever with zero explanation. This happened to me with 3 different people I was talking to.I am told by others that all of this is “normal”, and that you have to weed through all the crap in order to get to the good and decent guys that are supposedly on these things. It’s sort of like shopping at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. You gotta spend 3 hours rummaging through 18 racks of awful clothes to find one pretty good pair of jeans.

There are no manners in today’s dating world. No class. No sense of building a foundation of some kind. No courtship of any kind, which is disappointing, because I really do love romance and courtship. The person I met a couple months ago is such a true gentleman, and I absolutely love that. He doesn’t realize just how rare and special he is, but I do, especially now. Today’s dating world is thoughtless. Just mindless and pointless texting that leads to more nothingness. The whole thing is extremely depressing. And just when you think you MAY have found a decent one, you still haven’t. There was one guy who seemed normal, sweet, and we had a nice long chat online. He gave me his number and I called him, and we had a nice phone call too. Our phone call was not sexual in nature by any means, but after we hung up, he sent me a text telling me how sexy my phone voice is. I said thank you and left it alone. Then, two minutes later, he sent me a long-winded voicemail where he basically “got himself off” while describing all the things he would do to me. I WASN”T EVEN ON THE OTHER END OF THE PHONE!!! Later, he left another one. In this one, he referred to his penis, several times, as “The Champ.” As in, “The Champ is so ready and big for you right now. The Champ is monstrous. The Champ is standing at attention.” Finally, I texted him back and told him that “The Champ” would be getting a call from the police soon, if he didn’t stop leaving me these sick voicemails. He stopped. “The Champ” finally threw in the towel.

And then there was my first date. An actual human male that I met for drinks and dinner in person, a couple of weeks ago. We had talked in the mindless chat box, then on the phone twice, and he lives local-ish, so we agreed to meet up in the city at a Cuban restaurant. The evening was nice, but there was no spark between us. It had a friendship vibe, but we laughed and talked and had a seemingly nice time. I would give it around a B- if I had to rate it. At the end, we hugged each other goodbye, and I got back on the subway to come home. In that moment, all I could think about was how if this was my friend that I met in March, he would have been a gentleman and made sure he put me in a cab home, would have made damn sure I got home safely. This guy held the doors open for me at the restaurant, but it didn’t feel genuine. It felt like he was showing off. By the end of the night, once he realized in his own head that he wasn’t into me or that he wasn’t “getting any” or whatever, all the “gentleman-like” behavior stopped. By the end of the night, he was over it.

The next morning, I woke up, and I decided to leave him a message on the site just thanking him for the date and saying I had a nice time, and maybe we will do it again some time. You know, because that is what a polite person does. A few minutes later, I received this message response:

“I will not be seeing you again. I do not date fat girls. You do not look fat in your pictures on the site, but you are fat in person. And I don’t go out with fat girls. Bye.” When I tried to respond back, he had made his account so that I could no longer reach him. He had disappeared with no explanation, as these men seem to like to do.

I was crushed. Not because I give a shit what he thinks – I didn’t really even like him. I was crushed because this is what is out there for me. Crushed because some men are so shallow and mean. Crushed because I didn’t want to do this in the first place, and it was supposed to be fun, and I was supposed to have a lighthearted and fun time with it. Crushed because talking to these idiots and trying to navigate these stupid conversations and figure out what their agenda is and who is being honest and who is going to disappear after a really nice conversation – is really exhausting and not what I want to be doing with my time. Crushed because I’m 44 years old, and I am so tired of being alone. Crushed because NONE of this would be happening, if my husband wasn’t forever and always DEAD.

On my drive to work that morning, just an hour or so after this had happened, I spoke to my friend on the phone. I had to pull over to talk to him because I was sobbing and felt like I was having a panic-attack. I told him what had happened, and told him about why I’ve been doing the dating site thing, and how none of these clowns even come close to the true gentlemen and beautiful soul that he is – and he listened and he said all the right and supportive and lovely things that a good friend should say. And it was the most real and meaningful conversation I have had in weeks – just sitting there pulled over in the car, talking with my beautiful friend – which is right where I wanted to be in the first place.

Love after loss is not for the weak of heart, folks.

Strap yourselves in. It’s going to get extremely bumpy.

(YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME AND APPRECIATED.)

Slight update: Since that awful first date experience, I have talked with and met one really nice guy through this dating site stuff, and we had a really nice time together and will probably hang out again at some point. I have also been talking with a couple others that are very nice people, and it’s been interesting, to say the least. My friends and family keep saying how “proud” of me they are, for “getting out there again”, for trying this, for daring to open my heart again, and for not waiting around for someone who isn’t ready, and instead, putting myself first and getting this dating thing out of my system.

But the truth is, its extremely exhausting. The truth is, I’d rather be talking to my friend on the phone, than going out with most of these people, or spending time trying to navigate all of this. I’m not sure how much more energy or time I really want to devote to this little project. It was supposed to be fun – a way to just be part of the social dating world again for awhile and feel human again and loved again, because I’m finally ready for that and longing for that. And because the person that I want those things WITH isn’t in a place to be able to do that with me, so I’ve been trying to find pieces of that magic in other places. But the truth is, you can’t re-create magic. What I have with this person, is special between US, and will remain between us. I won’t find pieces of that by looking for it somewhere else. So I’ll just have to hold onto it and keep on keeping the faith that one day this person, who is most likely reading this right now, will realize that I AM FUCKING AWESOME, and he should just be with me already because life is really fucking short and why not help each other through it and have some joy within our pain. In the meantime, this dating stuff is starting to feel like work, and I’m not even getting paid for it. It really is like shopping at a flea market or yard sale, and I always hated yard sales. Too much junk.

All I wanted was to go out now and then on a Saturday night, and have a date and be treated nicely and have that feeling of slight euphoria when you come home, at the thought of something new. It doesn’t have to mean anything or go anywhere, except just two people who are hanging out together, because they are tired of sitting home alone with their cat. Is that really too much to ask for? Apparently, it just might be. I wanted this to be SIMPLE. But nothing about dating in today’s world is simple. It is cruel, dismissive, and thoughtless.

And people wonder why so many people drink. Or eat cake.

I’m gonna need a lot of cake to deal with these clowns.

Prince Died and I Can’t Tell You Because You are Dead Too

When the person you thought you would spend your whole life with is dead, there’s this weird thing that happens each and every time a person of fame or celebrity dies. It kind of goes something like this:

“Holy Shit! Prince died! I have to tell Don, he LOVED Prince! Oh, shit. I can’t tell Don that Prince is dead, because Don is dead too. Well, FUCK!!!!! ”

It is an odd feeling to crave and long to share the death of someone else, with your husband, but then realize over and over, that you can’t, because he is also dead. And then you start to wonder weird things, like, does he already know that Prince is dead? Maybe he knew way before I did. Maybe his Purple energy showed up somewhere nearby my husband’s energy and their energy hung out together. I don’t know if I believe all this stuff people say about them “playing guitars together in Heaven”, or anything like that – it just seems rather silly. But I do know that energy exists forever – it cannot be destroyed and it cannot end – so if we are made up of energy, and energy lives on and on, then Don is energy, and he is somewhere. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I know that on some level, it helps me to keep going when I tell myself that.

So maybe Prince and his genius mind and musical talents have somehow met up with Don and his passion for all things guitar. Maybe their souls are chatting, if souls can do such things. Actually, I know souls can do such things, because Don’s soul has chatted with me many times. So who the hell knows what goes on after we die? I do not pretend to know such things. I just know that whenever someone dies here on earth, I always long to tell my husband. To share in the experience of processing their death, together. And each and every time it happens, it always feels weird to me that I can’t share it with him. There are so many weird things about loving someone who is dead. This is one of the weirdest.

Also, the way that we, as a people, treat a celebrity or icon’s death, is so very strangely different than the way we treat a civilian death. I always LOVE what immediately happens when an artist of some kind dies – people start collectively sharing every single thing that artist has ever done. They share it on social media, from their phones, their computers, posting links to all of the massive talent everywhere and anywhere, sharing it with the world. Eventually, people find long lost clips of this artist, and they share those too. Longtime fans of this person bask in the memories of their talent, while newer and younger people become fans for the very first time. This artist is remembered in the healthiest and most beautiful way possible – by sharing the legacy of what they left behind. It is in this way, that a true artist never dies. They live on for generations, through their albums, movies, videos, dance routines, songwriting, epic guitar shredding, and whatever else. This is a beautiful thing that people do. Sharing with the universe, and keeping these people alive forever.

So why on earth do people NOT allow us to do this same thing with people we love who have died, people who are literally a piece of our very soul? Why is it that it’s perfectly acceptable and normal and celebrated, to share the work of famous people who have died, and share their legacy – but when a widowed person shares a photo or a memory or anything at all about their spouse – they are told to “move on”, or made to feel as if they should put those pictures away. They are shamed into thinking that remembering and honoring the person who was their very heart, is somehow wrong and unhealthy, and that they must not be grieving properly if they can’t let them go by now. There have been so many times where I have shared a photo or a memory or even written a blog post about my dear husband, and some person who knows next to nothing about losing a spouse and knows nothing about my life, feels the need to condemn me or give their baseless opinion about how “unhealthy” it is to be sharing that stuff. Really? Is it unhealthy to love your person forever into eternity? Is it unhealthy to make damn sure they are never forgotten by the world at large? Is it unhealthy to live your own life in honor of theirs, and in honor of the love you will always and forever share? I don’t think so. I think it’s goddamn beautiful.

We, as a society, should be embarrassed at the ways in which we make people who are grieving feel. If you have shared video links of Prince or David Bowie or anyone else famous who touched your soul and recently died, yet you are uncomfortable or judgmental toward someone who shares pieces of the person they lost who died – you should be rethinking your behaviors. Everyone leaves behind a legacy. The ones who are famous just get seen on a larger level. But everyone is a legacy to someone. Just because a person isn’t known to the world, doesn’t mean that perhaps they were someone else’s world. And that person wants to share them with the universe, so that their soul stays alive forever. When the people we love die, that is all we have – our memories, and that eternal soul connection. Our relationship with that person continues on a soul level, and that literally means everything to us. Don’t ever take that away from someone.

Keep sharing the people you love who died.
Share them with the world, and NEVER be ashamed.

RIP Prince – legend of guitar, innovation, and beautiful lyrics.

“I feel like Im looking for my soul,
like a poor man looking for gold.”

“When the day turns into
the last day of all time,
I can say I hope you are
in these arms of mine.

And when the night falls
before that day,
I will cry.

I will cry tears of joy
cuz after you,
all one can do,
is die.”

“In this life,
Things are much harder than in the after world.
In this life,
You’re on your own.
And if the elevator tries to bring you down,
Go crazy, punch a higher floor.”

– PRINCE

(COMMENTS ARE SO WELCOME AND APPRECIATED)

I Will Never Move On

Last night, I was talking to a new widower friend of mine on the phone, when he suddenly shifted the topic of conversation and posed a huge challenge to me. Im not sure if he saw it as a challenge, but I did. He asked me to do him a favor. When I asked him what the favor was, he said, very matter-of-factly, as if it were the simplest of things to accomplish: “I want you to change the world.” Oh, IS THAT ALL??? Should I do this right in between my morning coffee and my teaching job? Or perhaps I could fit it in right after cleaning out the kitties litter box and my second load of laundry. Maybe I can multi-task and get this done while I simultaneously file my taxes. Sure. Change the world. I will get right on that. (Can you sense my sarcastic tone?)

In all honesty though, after I got off the phone and stopped to think about it some more, the challenge did peak my interest in many ways, and I was somewhat flattered that anyone would think that little ole’ me could ever be capable of something as huge as world-changing. This friend of mine finds me inspiring, mostly due to the honest way in which I write about grief. What he doesn’t know (until right now, when he reads this) is that him giving me that challenge has inspired ME. He has inspired me to try and do better. The fact that he believes I am capable of such a thing, is providing me with the fuel to light the fire that sits inside. I would have never thought to make it a goal to change the world all on my own, but now that it’s been planted in my head and heart by someone else, I might as well give it a shot, right? I heard a quote somewhere recently, that really stuck with me. It said: “Change the world, by changing your mind.” Or “change your mind, and change the world.” I can’t remember the order that it was said in, but it almost doesn’t matter, because it pretty much means the same thing. It all comes down to perception. The way that people see or perceive something, has to first change, in order for everything around it to also change.

So, with that in mind, I am going to write about something that truly needs to be written about. I am going to put it all out there, and hope that the message gets passed around as much as it needs to be passed around. I am going to count on my widowed community to help me share this very important and vital message, by sharing this blog piece with any person who has ever told you or implied to you in any way, shape, or form, that you need to “move on.” I am going to write the truth, and then wait for that truth to become contagious. Just as this false idea that people who lose their spouse or partner need to “move on” has spread like wild fire, this new message needs to cause a fire ten billion times bigger. This fire needs to put that old one to shame. It is time to make a change.

Any widowed person will tell you that we have heard time and time again, the endless parade of well-intentioned, thoughtless comments that come our way, within minutes of losing our life partners and the life we knew. These comments include such classics as: Everything happens for a reason. // Time heals all wounds. // God never gives you more than you can handle. / It was God’s Plan. // God Needed Another Angel. // I know exactly how you feel. // You need to get over this. That is not the full list of whoppers – just a few of my favorites. But what all of these comments have in common is this: they make us feel worse, not better. They make us feel like our emotions aren’t real or don’t matter, because they are dismissive and they don’t validate what we are actually going through. The truth of the matter is, nobody could ever know what we are going through or what this IS, until they themselves have gone through it. Most people want to help. Unfortunately, most people are pretty clueless as to how their words can affect us, and most people don’t stop and think about just how insensitive these cliches can feel, when heard by someone who is in tremendous and very real pain. On top of all that, we, the ones who are in the tremendous pain, are told over and over again to just put up with these thoughtless comments. We are told that people are “only trying to help”, or that “they don’t know what to say”, and we should smile and nod and be grateful that they care. I’m sorry that people don’t know what to say. But I also feel like it’s time to change the conversation from “they don’t know what to say” to “let’s teach them what is not so good to say, so that we can stop using that as a convenient excuse to say hurtful and unhelpful things.” As the brilliantly smart and world-changing Maya Angelou famously said: “When you know better, you do better.” I think it’s time we do better.

So let us begin with the King of all Insensitive Comments: “You Need to Move On.” “It’s time you moved on.” Or any other of the many variations that include the phrase and the idea of “moving on.” Of all the many comments that are said to widowed people, this is by far the most common one, and also the most harmful. The reason it is so harmful is that this message is implanted into the widowed person’s heart and soul, over and over again, at EVERY stage of their grieving process, by many different people. We begin to hear this “move on” mentality on the very first day that our person dies. Just hours after my husband’s sudden death, I was informed that making the decision of whether or not to donate his organs would help me to “move on.” Then, at his funeral, I was told that the services and the wake would all help me to “find closure and move on.” A week later, when I was being held captive in the four walls that used to be our home, I was being told in condescending voices that it was “time to donate some of his clothing, so that you can start to move on.” Four and a half years later, and people are still beating me over the head with their chants of moving on. “Why aren’t you dating anyone yet? You need to move on.” “Why are you still going to that Widow Camp? Don’t you think it’s time to move on from that?” “Why are you still talking to his family? He is dead. You aren’t his wife anymore. So they aren’t your family anymore.” (Yes, someone actually said this to me. Really.)

These awful ideas are repeated into our souls, as if stamped onto our foreheads by people who have no idea of what they speak, and this becomes harmful. Because we start to believe it. We start to believe that there is something wrong with us for NOT wanting to forget about our person. We start to think that maybe we are doing this all wrong, and maybe we are weak and stupid and not well, because we still love them and we don’t want to place them on a shelf in our past, to collect dust forever. We start to very slowly lose pieces of ourselves, and unwillingly lean into what society is telling us instead. All of this is extremely harmful to our souls. Why?

Because none of it is real.

Because it doesn’t exist.

Let me say this as simply as possible:

There is NO SUCH THING as moving on.

It’s a lie.

It’s a fairy-tale concept, invented by those who don’t know what to say.

It is invented out of ignorance and fear.

They want you to move on, so that they can feel more comfortable with your presence.

If we can all just pretend that this scary death thing never actually happened, then it would all simply go away.

Except it doesn’t ever go away. Not for you. Not for the person living inside of it. It becomes you, and you become it, and you become wrapped up in each other. Death and life become one, and everything is different forever. The death of a spouse or partner is different than other losses, in the sense that it literally changes every single thing in your world going forward. When your spouse dies, the way you eat changes. The way you watch TV changes. Your friend circle changes (or disappears entirely.) Your family dynamic/life changes (or disappears entirely). Your financial status changes. Your job situation changes. It effects your self-worth. Your self-esteem. Your confidence. Your rhythms. The way you breathe. Your mentality. Your brain function. (Ever heard the term ‘widow brain?’ If you don’t know what that is, count yourself as very lucky.) Your physical body. Your hobbies and interests. Your sense of security. Your sense of humor. Your sense of womanhood or manhood. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. CHANGES. You are handed a new life that you never asked for and that you don’t particularly want. It is the hardest, most gut-wrenching, horrific, life-altering of things to live with.

To top it all off, people who still have their partners beside them, treat you differently. People like to think that they suddenly know what is best for you. People treat you like you are a child who cannot make decisions. They want to treat it as if it were maybe a divorce instead of a death. They want you to put that person in your past, like some “ex” lover or some regretful mistake. These insinuations are beyond hurtful to the widowed person, who is still and always will be very much in love with their person who died. And so, what ends up happening, most times, is that the widowed person feels more and more alone as the months and years go by, until eventually, they just stop talking to their friends about their loss altogether. Their friends and family then wrongly assume that because they don’t talk about it anymore, they must be “over it”, and therefore, everything is fine. Meanwhile, the widowed person continues to suffer in silence and mounting isolation. For us, it is a very scary place to be. And this is how the cycle of unhealthy perceptions of grief and death continues.

In the past four and a half years since my husband died, I have become friends, both online and in-person, with a lot of widowed people. We help each other. We call each other family. We are the family that you gain, when the family you knew is gone. We talk to one another about the pain and the heartbreak, and the changes and the shifts, and the complexities of life after death. A huge part of the reason I am writing this blog today, is that I have seen countless upon countless posts in the closed and private widowed groups, where a widowed person has been forced to hear from some family member, friend, or acquaintance, some form of “you need to move on.”

The way they say it comes in many forms. One widow parent who I know, was judged and lectured by her family, because she dared to share memories with her own children about her husband /their father. The family told her that she shouldn’t do that because she wasn’t helping her children to “move on from him. ” They told her it was not healthy for them to be “sad” over his death. Another friend was offered money by a relative, for every picture he took down from his nightstand, of his deceased wife. Another friend was pushed into a new relationship before she was ready, because her buddies thought she should “get out there again and start dating.” Another friend was judged because she still goes to the cemetery often, to visit with her husband. On and on the judgments come, each one breaking my heart more than the one before it. And while I cannot stop these people from giving their clueless and harmful advice, I can hope that maybe some of them are reading this somehow, and I can ask them to do me a favor.

I can ask them to ask themselves what kind of message do they think they are sending to their widowed friend or family member, with this type of “move on” mentality? Really. If you are reading this now, I would like for you to think about that for a minute. By telling a widowed mom or parent that they shouldn’t share stories with their children about their dad, isn’t that sending a message that their dad’s life meant nothing? Isn’t that sending a message that they should simply forget he was and IS their father – just pretend he never existed? And what about the widow or widower who goes to their spouse’s grave-site – whether its on special anniversary days, or a couple times per week? What message does it send to tell them to stop going there? Isn’t that like telling them their love didn’t matter? Isnt that like implying that erasing them from their hearts is better than honoring and remembering them with love? Why on earth are we shaming people for loving others eternally? Why are we making them feel as if that is not normal, when in fact, it is not only normal, but probably the most beautiful thing in the world. When a celebrity dies, we gather on social media and we share their pictures, their art, their music, their talents. We celebrate them and remember them, and we say “Hey, remember when he did that one film? That was a classic that will last until the end of time.” Yet, when the person who was the center of our universe dies, and we dare post a picture of them or speak of them a few months or years after their death, we are looked at with judging eyes. We are given pity and lectures about how “stuck” we are, and we are made to feel as if it is very, very bad what we are doing. This is so wrong, and so backwards. We should not have to shamefully love our people. The entire message of the move-on mentality, seems to be this: forget about them. Its in the past. Pretend it never happened.

But here’s the thing. That is not possible. You cannot forget love. You cannot pretend it away. The death of the person you love, only ends a life. It does NOT end a relationship. The truth is, LOVE is the only thing that we get to keep forever. Love is the only thing that we can take with us. Love is the only thing that never, ever dies. To take that away from someone, is not only unhealthy – it is cruel.

I will never move on from my husband. I will never NOT love my husband who died. I will never leave him in my past, like some forgotten old shoe I never threw away. This applies forever. Even if I should fall in love again. Even if I should marry again. Even if I should live every dream that I have ever dreamed possible. Even when I am old and gray and ancient, should I have the honor of being allowed to live that long. Even then. I will NEVER not be connected to my husband. He lives within me now. Whatever I do, wherever I go, I carry him with me. He is a piece of my very soul. There is no moving on.

Here is what I WILL do:

I will live the biggest and brightest and most colorful life that I can, because my husband does not have that choice. I will cling to every new joy that I feel in this life, because I am still alive to feel it. I will honor the life and the love that my husband and I shared, by being the person that he fell in love with. I will always find ways to keep remembering him and sharing his story with the world, because that is my duty and my HONOR to do as his wife, and his widow; and because sharing their story is how we keep them alive and relevant. I will continue to grow and to learn and to hurt and to feel and to fear and to fly. I will scream when I need to, cry when I have to, and laugh as much as my body can handle. I will tell all the people that I love, that I truly love them, and I will make sure they know this as often as possible. I will leave behind something of importance in this life, something of value, that someone , someday, can read or look at or see or feel, and it will make them think in a different way. I will love harder than I have ever loved before, and I wont feel guilty for loving again, because I will know in my heart that my husband’s love is inside every love I have going forward. I will choose to believe that he is somehow still here with me, and I wont question or doubt all the many times that I feel him. I will embrace his energy inside the music, and I will dance to the rhythms of our forever connected hearts. I will speak his name whenever I want to, and I will do this proudly, because that is what he deserves. That is what we ALL deserve – to not be forgotten, and to be spoken of with laughter and joy and remembrance, by those that will always love us. I will move INTO my future, step into my life, and I will carry him with me at every turn. I will take risks, and be afraid to fail, but go for it anyway, because I know that in the end, none of us get out alive. I will know that life is terrifying and chaotic and unfair and filled with sorrow and pain, but also exhilarating and wonderful and surprising and incredible, and a beautiful gift that keeps unwrapping, each and every time I make the decision to get out of bed. I will promise to do all of these things and more, and if I’m very lucky, maybe I can even change the world.

And I will never, ever move on.

The Road to Forgiveness

The face of grief is always changing. Grief never ends – it just shifts and changes, over and over and over again. The past few months, my grief tsunami has turned into something very different than ever before. I almost want to call it “profound”, but that sounds too pompous. I do feel as if this past year or so, I have been able to dig deeper into the abyss than ever before. I have reached inside, pulled out pain, and then started to make some sense of it, like solving a puzzle. Piece by piece, the joy inside the life that I have now, today, is starting to emerge.

It is my belief that in order to get here, I had to feel and analyze and break down and sit with every single fragment of my grief. It was probably the hardest thing I ever did. I am not finished. I might not ever be. There is no finish line – only sharp turns of major growth and awakening. But every single day, I wake up in a new way, all over again. I wake up with the knowledge that I am still and always learning.

At first, and for a long time, the death of the person you love most tears you apart and rips you in half. But if you do the grief work and face the pain head-on, eventually, it reverses. You take the pieces of the hurt and you tear THEM apart. You rip THEM in half over and over again, until you start to figure out what to do next. Until the pain is no longer suffocating you and ruling your life.

When this major shift happens, suddenly, there is room for love. In the past year or so, I have felt my husband’s love stronger than ever before. I have had signs from him, both literally and metaphorically, time and time again. I have felt his energy around me constantly. The best way for me to explain it, is that in the past 4 years since his death, I have gone from feeling like he is “nowhere”, to knowing he is “everywhere.” This does NOT make it somehow “okay” or “all better” that he isnt here with me on earth, and that I don’t get to live my life with him. Not at all. But knowing that he is everywhere, and actually feeling that on a constant basis, makes my daily life go from one of just existing, to one of truly living again. I no longer question or doubt my husband’s presence in my life. It just is, and I know this. The feeling has become so constant now, that it almost never goes away. People have asked me when or how do I feel him or know he is around. My answer is all the time. Everywhere. Always. I feel him right this second, as I type this. His soul is inside everything, and he lives in the rhythms of who I am.

Don with his friends on our wedding day

Don with his friends on our wedding day

Lately he has been talking to me. I actually hear his voice and he says very specific things. He has been talking to me a lot this year about forgiveness. There are so many people I have needed to forgive, starting with myself. In a story too long to share here (it is in my book), he actually took me somewhere and showed me what it would have looked like, if I had watched him die. He showed me why I needed to stop blaming myself for being asleep while he was collapsing. Then he led me to begin to forgive his father. His father, who never had much of a relationship with him, and who I blamed for a long time for Don’s death. (again, too long of a story for here, but in the book) He led me to begin forgiving his dysfunctional family, for not being there enough for him or for me, after his death. He made me see that their abandoning me wasnt actually about me. It was about their dysfunction and their pain.

I had to forgive so many people. People in my own extended family, and friends, for not knowing what to say or for not being there in the way I wanted or needed. Recently, a friend who was like a brother to me and who disappeared from my life soon after Don died, came back into my life again. We talked it through and we got emotional and we dug deep into it, and it was a hard conversation (or three) to have, but once again, I heard my husband’s voice, telling me: “It’s time, Boo. Just listen to what he has to say.” Tonight, I met up with him and our small close group of friends from before my husband died, and I saw him for the first time in over four years. I was so nervous, and scared, and really really excited to have my friend back, but in a completely different way. Our meetup went very, very well. It was like old times again, but yet not. We all felt Don’s presence there with us, almost as if he was the one who brought us back together. The whole night I just wanted to cry, because it just felt so damn good to be with my friends again. It was like a huge sigh of relief.

Our reunion, today

Our reunion, today

Forgiveness is so hard. Its one of the hardest things in life. I never really understood why, until this week, when I read an excerpt from Brene Brown’s latest book, that gave me goosebumps everywhere on my body, and suddenly it all made sense. For those unfamiliar, Dr.Brene’ Brown is an author, brilliant speaker, (look up her many TED talks), therapist, and researcher. She researches human emotions – things like anger, grief, empathy, shame, and forgiveness. She actually takes something like shame, and interviews thousands of people about it, and researches it, like science, to then break it down and figure it out. This amazes me. Her words have always moved me, but after losing Don to sudden death, they sometimes became a lifeline. This is the passage that made me go “WOAH!”, and that made me see forgiveness in a whole new light:

“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die. Forgiveness is so difficult for this reason, because it involves death and grief. The death, or ending, that forgiveness necessitates, comes in many shapes and forms. We may need to bury our expectations , or maybe our dreams about something. But whatever it is, it has to die. It has to be grieved. Forgiveness is not forgetting or walking away from accountability, or condoning a hurtful act. It is the process of taking back and healing our lives, so that we can truly live. So the question then becomes: What has to end or die so that we can experience a rebirth in our relationships?”

I never saw forgiveness as connected with grief before, and that understanding of it has changed everything for me. Now that I get why it is so difficult to forgive, and that it actually involves grieving and allowing something to die in order for something else to be born, I can more easily move forward with making the choice to forgive. Every day when I wake up, I wake up in a new way. I am learning, and always in the midst of becoming, whoever it is, I am going to be. Thanks for reading.

From Nowhere to Everywhere: Living at the Rainbow Bridge

In the beginning of the end of the life I once knew, there was nothing. My husband died and I felt and believed that he was just gone. I didn’t feel him or see him or notice his presence anywhere around me, so I assumed that it would always be that way, and I didn’t know how to live with that. It is bad enough when the person you love most just dies randomly with no warning whatsoever, and shatters your world apart – but it’s made worse when you cannot feel some tiny piece of their energy or spirit or soul floating around you. The thing that really sucked was all the many people telling me over and over how he is always here with me. I wanted to scream at them: NO HE ISN’T!!! STOP SAYING THAT!!! I DON’T FEEL HIM!!! HE IS JUST GONE FOREVER!!! A friend of Don’s, in the first couple of weeks after he died, insisted that he was a rainbow in New Jersey. She had seen a rainbow while driving to his funeral, and she told me that it was Don, and it was a sign. At the time, I literally was trying not to laugh in her face when she said this, because my husband would never come back as a fuckin’ rainbow. He just wouldn’t. He would come back as a lot of other things, but a rainbow isn’t one of them. So the term “My Husband Is Not a Rainbow” was born out of her observation and my reaction to it, and now, I have turned that very phrase into the title for a one-act play, a comedic presentation, and the book Im now writing.

The thing is, I was in too much pain back then for my husband to get through in any way whatsoever. Nothing else could get in. Not even him. Just pain. So in the beginning, he was nowhere. And I didn’t feel him for a very long time. Until one day, I did.

He started coming to me in my dreams. But these weren’t just any old regular dreams. They were visits. They were the kinds of dreams where I would wake up from them and actually physically feel his arms around me, or feel him hugging me, or he would say something specific to me, or often times we would have an entire conversation in the dream. And he was always already dead in these dreams. He was always coming back – his soul was coming back from wherever, to comfort me somehow, to help me somehow, just like he always did in life. He was trying to help me to move through and process his death. I would wake up and be shaken for days by how real these visits were. He was there with me. He had come to see me. I don’t know how the hell that shit works, but I know I couldn’t question it once I felt it. Sure, I tried to “logic” my way out of believing it was real, but he kept coming back. And in one of his visits, he told me to believe it. He said: “Does it feel real?” I said: “Yes.” He said: “Then it’s real.”

And then he started sending me even bigger signs. He would put people into my life path, exactly when I needed them. He would send an anonymous person to donate to my blog, exactly at the moment when I was drowning in bills and rent and secretly asked my husband to please find a way to help me. He led me to new jobs and apartments and scenarios, and to a bonding with his adult nephew and half-sister that I never had while he was alive. The signs became more and more constant, and as I continued the hard work of grieving and processing and breaking down my emotions with my grief-therapist week after week, I started to feel him around me more and more. This was an intensely slow process, and there was a LOT of doubt and questioning and trying to talk myself out of any of this being anything other than total bullshit. But again, he kept coming back. He didn’t give up on me.

And then suddenly, and also at a grueling and slow pace, one year became two, and two became three. Somewhere inside of year three in my “after” life without my husband on earth, I started to really feel joy again. I started to notice things like autumn leaves again, or Christmas mornings, or the lightness of the first snowfall, or the way that guitar chord sounds in that Stevie Nicks song. And each time I noticed one of these things, he was inside of it. He was inside everything, everywhere, all of the time. And then it no longer became about trying to search for him and figure out where he might be after death – because suddenly and finally, I felt him everywhere. If I were to tell you stories about all the many, many signs I have received from my husband since his death, this blog piece would be 50 pages long. Most of the stories will be in the book I am writing, but I feel the need to talk about the two biggest ones here, today, in this blog. Because they connect to one another, and because they are so completely amazing, sometimes I still have trouble believing they are real. But he keeps coming back and showing me.

One of the places that my husband Don loves to give me signs is at “Camp Widow.” I have now been to this incredible Soaring Spirits International event eight times, and given my comedic presentation eight times. Maybe Don gives me signs when I go there, to let me know that Im on the right track in what Im doing with my life, and that he approves. I don’t know. But something he has been doing lately, over the past year or so during most of year four without him here on earth, is sending me literal signs with parts of his name on them. He sends me his name, sometimes in pieces, and other times, in its entirety. Don Edward Shepherd. He puts his name on literal and actual signs, and gives me signs through actual signs, which is totally his warped sense of humor. It’s as if he is yelling at me: “You see, Boo? That’s a SIGN, with my name printed on it. See that? A SIGN. It’s a sign!! Get it? How much more obvious do I have to be?”

The sign/name thing really started taking shape during my first trip to Tampa, Florida, for Camp Widow in 2014. Because Don lived in the Largo area of Florida for so many years and while we were dating, and because I had spread some of his ashes at Clearwater Beach a couple months after he died, I already felt him close to me while I was in Tampa. And then on Sunday morning, during our Farewell Breakfast Buffet, we were sitting in a big banquet room at the Marriott Hotel, eating our eggs and saying our goodbyes at the end of camp, when one of my widow friends pointed at the big coffee thermos in the center of our table and said: “Kelley, look!” She picked it up and showed it to me. Right there, at the top center of the thermos, it said “Don.” It was just typed there like that – “Don.” There were maybe 10 other round tables in the room, so I got up and checked each thermos on the other tables. Every single thermos said: “Don.” Now you might be thinking to yourself, how on earth is his name showing up on 20 or so coffee thermoses relevant? Well, one of our favorite movies to watch together and quote together was Steve Martin’s “The Jerk.” And one of Don’s favorite parts of the film to quote to me specifically, was a song that Steve Martin sings to Bernadette Peters, about a thermos.

It goes: “Im picking out a thermos for you. Not an ordinary thermos for you. But an extra best thermos you can buy, with vinyl and stripes and a cup built right in. Im picking out a thermos for you, and maybe a barometer too. And what else can I buy, so on me you’ll rely. A rear end thermometer too.” We would hold hands in bed and he would sing this to me in this incredibly silly voice. So in that moment when I saw his name there, it made total sense to me that my husband was not a rainbow, but he WAS a thermos. And then it got even better. I went up to the staff and asked them if I could purchase a thermos with his name on it, and explained why it meant so much to me. I think they thought I was a lunatic, but they told me they arent allowed to sell the supplies used in the hotel, but that they would go ask their manager where they bought the supplies so maybe I could buy it myself later on from that company. So the guy comes back and tell me the name of the company that supplies the thermos and some other stuff. The company is called “Edward Don and Company.” Their website is www.don.com So now we have his name on each thermos, and his first and middle name is the supplier company name. When you go to the site, it says in big letters: “Who is Don?”

sunstar ems

don thermos

Then last year, I attended and presented at Camp Widow in Toronto, Canada, for the first time. “Camp Widow” happened to fall on my birthday, which is September 26th, which happened to be the first day of camp events, that Friday. So I had arrived in Toronto on that Thursday night by train. I had decided to take the Amtrak train instead of flying, because I hate flying, and Ill do anything to avoid it. Plus, Don absolutely loved trains. He loved everything about them. He even loved the band “Train”, and their song “Drops of Jupiter’, which , as it turns out, is all about the lead singer’s mother and where she “went” after she died. But anyway, Don was obsessed with trains. He had the Lionel Train Engine Set in our apartment, he had model trains that he would put together, and he loved riding the train with me. He even had this dream of us getting married and having our ceremony on a moving train. We had found one in Cape Cod Massachusetts, but the logistics of doing it were too difficult and it was very expensive, so it didnt happen.

So I took the 12 hour train ride, and I felt very close to him while on the train. That night, I was in the lobby where the Wi-Fi was free in the hotel, writing my weekly piece for the Soaring Spirits blog “Widows Voice.” It had just turned midnight, so it was now my birthday officially. My good friend Joclyn suddenly ran in, yelling: “Kelley, you have to see this! You will never believe what I found today, just a couple miles from here, while walking around just outside the city.” She started to show me pictures on her phone. It was a picture of a small building. It was a train station. It had a one-word sign at the top center. The sign said: “Don.” I was in complete shock at what I was seeing, so I googled “Don train station in Toronto”, and I came up with a website for the Toronto Railway Historical Association, which explained in detail the history of the Don station. His name was all over the website. It was unbelievable. The Don station sits inside the Don Valley, which is across from the Don River. It had opened and closed several times throughout the decades, but re-opened for the final time with an open house in October of 2006, our wedding month and year. So it looks like Don got his wish, in some strange way, of having our wedding day on a train. Out of several 19th century stations, the Don station is the only one still in existence today. The Main Subway Line is called the Shepherd Line, and runs along E. Shepherd Avenue. So once again, my husband is still not a rainbow. But he is a train station. My awesome friends Arnie, Judy, and Angel, drove me to the station location, and I got out and took this picture.

don train

This year, about two weeks ago, I went back to Toronto for my second time presenting at Camp Widow. Once again, I took the train. About two weeks before my trip, I was screwing around on Facebook one day, and just happened to notice a link that someone had posted about something called “the rainbow bridge” in Toronto. I started laughing immediately, thinking to myself how Don is not a rainbow, but he WOULD be a rainbow bridge. Actually, it made complete and total sense why he would be a rainbow bridge. For those who dont know, Don was a paramedic, but he was also a huge animal lover and activist. He loved cats and dogs especially, and in his free time on his one day off, he both worked and volenteered at our local PetSmart in New Jersey, doing everything from feeding and brushing the kitties to helping out with their adoptions. That is where he collapsed and had the massive heart attack, on a random Wednesday early morning on July 13, 2011. My husband was a lot like me in his belief system. Neither of us really believed in the idea of heaven or hell, but he hoped that he would somehow see the pets he had lost when it was his turn to die. At his funeral, some of the staff from PetSmart gave me a beautiful plaque with a poem called “The Rescuer at The Rainbow Bridge.” It talked about a man or figure who lived at the Rainbow Bridge, and whose job it was to greet all the animals when they crossed over and make them feel welcome and at home. The Rainbow Bridge is the term used for a sort of “pet heaven”, a place filled with meadows and grass and trees and places for animals to play and run around and be happy forever. This is how the people at PetSmart saw Don – as the Rescuer who lived at the Rainbow Bridge. So, with all this in mind, I clicked on the link for the rainbow bridge, and quickly discovered it was only a couple miles or so from the Marriott Hotel we were staying at. I also discovered that once again, his name was all over this website. The rainbow bridge was just off the Don Valley Parkway, and could be found at the base of the East Don Trail. “I must go there”, I thought, and posted about it on Facebook, seeing if anyone else who was going to Toronto would have a car to get me to there.

Enter my friends Sarah and Mike. Sarah lost her fiance Andrew (she called him Drew) in a helicopter accident. Mike lost his wife Meghan to complications from cystic fibrosis. Sarah and I have became very close over the past couple of years, spending hours and hours on phone calls talking about life and death. This past March, Sarah and I both attended Camp Widow Tampa. We sat down next at a table during the meet and greet on night one next to a guy named Mike. Fast-forward to today – Mike and Sarah are in love and starting a life together. Mike and Sarah would be traveling to Toronto by car, so Mike volunteered to take me to the rainbow bridge. None of the three of us had any idea what to expect from this little day trip on the Sunday that Camp Widow had ended, but it felt as if we were supposed to be going there together. The best way to describe what we felt and saw is through lots of pictures. In true Don fashion, he just kept showing himself over and over and over again. Driving there, Sarah and I were both rushing to get each picture of each sign as it quickly passed by us. One after another after another after another:

don valley keep right

don valley pkwy

don valley north

don mills road

I was actually laughing as we passed each new sign. It just seemed so incredibly surreal. Sign after sign with his name. Why was he coming through so strongly in Toronto? Two years in a row now? I still dont know why. But the signs were literally all around us as we kept driving into our adventure ……

don signs gps

don mills roaddon mills rd small sign

donway East

Finally, after maybe 20 minutes or so of endless signs (there are actually more than this, but some are repetitive and I think you get the idea), we arrived at our destination of “The East Don Trail.” We had no idea whatsoever what to expect, except that there was apparently a rainbow bridge in here somewhere. Never in a million years did I expect to see this beautiful walking trail with the beautiful views of nature, exactly how I always pictured the Rainbow Bridge area looking – where animals go when they die. If such a thing exists, this is what it would look like:

don east trail

rainbow path

walking don trail

don trail pretty

don trail stream

don trail flowers

As we continued to walk in stunned silence, I noticed something. People were walking by with their pets. People were walking their dogs down these paths and right by us. It felt like we were someplace special, someplace meant for us and meant for the animals and meant for life and death to embrace in that moment through the trees and the flowers and the streams of water. It was magical. Eventually, before we reached the rainbow bridge, we passed a small bridge that had graffiti written all over it. On the outside , and on the inside. Remember when I told you that it felt like the three of us specifically were supposed to be there that day? Yeah. I wasn’t the only one who received epic signs. As we walked, there were weeping willows down the paths of trees, which was Mike’s wife Meghan’s favorite tree, and a sign she sends him. Then, on the graffiti bridge itself, in huge blue letters, the word STAR was spelled out. Sarah and her late fiance’s initials spelled the word STAR. (Sarah Treanor, Andrew Ridge). Since Mike and Sarah have been dating each other, she has seen stars over and over and over. Sarah and Mike both believe that their late partners have had a huge part in putting them together to fall in love. I believe this too. Especially now.

graffiti wall star

As we passed underneath the bridge, there were the usual typical writings all over its inside tunnel walls. “Fuck You”, “Eat Shit”, lots of pictures of drawn penises, and our favorite: “Dildo In My Bum.” And then, in the midst of all that disgusting and crude writing, was the word “Mommy.” This was a sign for me and Sarah specifically. For reasons much too boring and dull to explain here, Sarah and I have a private joke where we call each other “mommy.” And there it was, written on the wall. So damn weird.

graffiti wall dildo

mommy

We walked some more, and finally we came upon the rainbow bridge, a small bridge with a painted on rainbow. Something about it made me feel safe and silly and at peace. It reminded me of the animated style artwork that is going to be on the cover of my book. It was cartoonish and lovely all at once. It was the rescuer, taking care of all the animals and making them feel welcome and loved. It was everything that my husband was and is. I took out the bag of his ashes that I had brought with me, and left some right under the bridge, in the corner. We walked underneath the bridge and came through the other side, slowly looking at all the artwork drawn on the inside of the bridge. This was another thing I never expected – drawings on the inside that had actual relevance to Don and were MORE signs upon signs that this was him, SCREAMING AT ME, “Im here!!! Im alive!!! Im everywhere that you are!!!”

rainbow bridge me

rainbow bridge us

As I passed underneath the bridge, two of the drawings struck me. They were Don. One was of a man walking a dog, with a city skyline behind him. The other was of a man riding his bike, with a skyline behind him. We lived on Boulevard East in New Jersey, just eight minutes outside of NYC, and our street had the NYC skyline all along it. It was gorgeous. Don had a bike and he loved to ride it. He would ride it along that street, with the skyline behind him. He always wanted a dog, but our apartment building wouldnt allow them, so we had two kitties. But every dog on earth would come up to Don and love on him, and I have this vision in my head that always sticks, of him taking our neighbors dog for a walk, with that skyline view behind him. He was so at peace while walking that dog. It was magic.

bike skyline

man dog pic

When we came across the bridge and out the other side, we came across an older couple with two dogs. They were very friendly, and we started chatting, and they asked us if we were visitors of Toronto and why we were there. We told them the story about how all of our partners had died, and we were here for a widowed people event. We told them why we were at the rainbow bridge and the significance of it, so they offered to take our picture with one of their dogs.

meeting dog

As we were talking to them, another man walked by and one of the dogs sniffed him a bit, nothing serious. The man sort of over-reacted, and started rattling on to the couple about how they should probably keep their dogs on a leash. The husband said very matter of factly: “Oh really? And you should probably go fuck yourself.” It was EXACTLY what Don would have said in that same situation, and in that same kind tone, like he was telling the guy to have a nice day. It was so hilarious and re-affirmed that this place was indeed, a place for the animals to be happy and free.

After walking under the brige and saying goodbye to our new couple friends, we came upon The Don River. It was really gorgeous, and I took the rest of the ashes I had with me, and let them go into the river below. It felt like the perfect ending to an absolute perfect day. Don was all around me and I felt so calm and safe. And I didnt question any of it. Just like Don told me when he visited me long ago, if it feels real, then it IS real.

In the beginning, he was nowhere. And now, he is everywhere. And that amazing shift in feeling has made all the difference in how I live each second of this thing called life. Beautiful, glorious life. Thank you, Don, for showing up over and over and over again, and teaching me how to live once more. I love you. And for all those people who kept annoyingly telling me that my husband was “in a better place”, I say to you now, perhaps yes. In Heaven? Hell, no. Canada.

don river

don river us

Pinata

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the middle of a phone session with a grief-coaching client, and I found myself talking with her about that feeling you have when you realize that your “other” life has ended, and a new one must begin. We were talking about what it’s like to have to literally stand in the middle of nothing, and learn to pick up every single thing that has shattered around you. That feeling of being totally lost as the whole world moves around you. Immediately, a very specific image of what this was, came into my head, and then later that night, I had a dream about it, where the images were laid out for me like a home movie, and this is what I saw ….

Pinata.

Life after losing your spouse or partner is like a pinata. Think about it. The pinata is your life. Your new life. The one you never asked for. The one that came crashing into your old life, uninvited. The one that mocks you everyday with it’s loudness and bright colors, when all you can see is grey. Your new life sits there, perched up above you, lightly swinging back and forth in the wind, messing with your sense of balance and steadiness. You are standing below it. Below your life. You look up at it, and nothing about it is familiar to you, because it is not the life you had just five hours ago, or five days ago. Your tired eyes are trying like hell to adjust to this oddly-shaped thing above you, and you are trying to focus, when suddenly, out of nowhere, another shock to your system.

Suddenly, someone is behind you, and you don’t know who it is, and they begin to put a blindfold over your face. So now your new life that you don’t want is above you swinging in the wind, and you can’t even see it. In fact, you can’t see anything. Nothing. Your world is completely dark. There is no light anywhere. The worst and most alienating part is that life is going on around you. Literally all around you, on every side, kids are laughing and people are dancing and life is singing and humans are having a party. They are having a party while your life is suspended in mid-air, and you have been blindfolded.

So now you are terrified. You are shaking and your mouth feels like it’s filled with dirt and mud. You want water but everything around you is sand and dryness. You can’t stop sweating, and then this horrible stranger who blindfolded you grabs you by your shoulders, and starts to spin you around. They spin you around in a circle. You go in circles for a long time. A really long time just moving in circles, ending up right back where you began. No focus. No purpose. No point. Just dizzy and nauseous from all the spinning and all the confusion. Where did everybody go? Where did my life go? Where are my friends? They were here just a few minutes or hours or weeks ago. You ask all these questions and more, but nobody hears you. You are left alone. Spinning.

The stranger puts a bat in your hand. It feels like a baseball bat. Why would they do that? You are about to pass out, and you feel like you cannot possibly accomplish one more task. You just want to sleep forever or stop feeling pain and hurt, but the voices come and so you can’t sleep and you can’t stop the hurt. The voices come from the thin, dry air and from all around you, and you can’t really make out what they are saying. It doesn’t sound like words. Nothing sounds like anything in this world where you are blind and spinning without your anchor. You feel the hand guide your arm up toward the strange colorful object. You still can’t see and you feel insane. But now, now suddenly and with a fire that scares you, you are filled with rage. You are crying and you are pissed off at this life and these questions and this God you believe in, if you believe in a God – suddenly the space around you grows silent, and you start blindly swinging. You swing and you swing and you swing, and at first, you touch nothing. Your arm starts to hurt and you start to question your sanity again. Is there anything up there? What am I swinging at? What am I reaching for? I don’t have the energy. I can’t do it. I can’t do it, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t …

But you do. You do, because you are so tired and so disoriented now, and in so much grief and pain, that you don’t know what else to do except stand there with your limp in your legs and your Jello arms and swing like a motherfucker at your life. You do this for hours or weeks or months or years, sometimes taking breaks for work or other obligations you are forced to still take care of, even though you can’t see and you have been blindfolded and left alone in a foreign space. You scream and you cry and you beat the shit out of the ground in front of you with your bat, and you stab at the air over and over and over, still feeling nothing except the cracks in your own joints from swinging.

Finally, there is a swing you take that has such intensity and such lack of direction and such violence in it, that you somehow magically actually make contact with something. You have made contact with your life. You try and center yourself, and you swing again through the darkness and the blackness and the hopelessness and the fear. You feel the tip and the middle of the bat hitting on something, and it makes a thud sound, once and then twice and then once more. You swing harder and faster now, even though you are seconds from passing out. You swing and you swing and you swing, and you hit and you hit and you hit. And then there it is, all of a sudden, and why did it take so long. You hear the final thud of your life, as it shatters in pieces around you. There is no applause or cheering. Just a subtle loosening of your blindfold, as it makes its way down your eyes and then falls down around your neck. You look around you, and there is your life.

You are broken open. Everything is scattered in pieces, and the fragments lie all over the hot ground. Your blindfold is off, so you can finally see, but your vision is still impaired. Everything is fuzzy and out of focus. Everything looks like shapes. You don’t know where to look first, what to deal with first. Your life has been broken open all around you, and you are still alone.

Eventually, after some weeks or months or years, you start to aimlessly wander around the space that is near you, searching for something. You have questions and there are no answers. But there is hope. There are shifts. There are changes. There is joy. There is laughter. It is somewhere, and now and again, you remember or feel what that was like. You can recall it, for a few seconds. But it disappears again because you are not ready. You have not picked up the pieces that are all around you. You realize that you have to start …….

pinata

Everything lying on the ground around you looks weird and unfamiliar. It is not candy or anything like that. It is all the pieces of what you must work through, what you must analyze and break down and feel. Sometimes you step on the pieces because they are sharp, so you have to then deal with them. Other times you bend down and pick up a piece of your grief.

This piece is the guilt. That piece is the anger. This piece is the jealousy and envy . That one over there is my future, the one I don’t get to have. The one I must grieve. That piece sitting in the rubble is the pieces of my children – the ones that were only born in the minds and hearts of me and my husband, as we dreamt of our someday family. That piece takes a long time to handle. That piece is a killer. This piece is loneliness. That one is the one that misses him. This one is my best friend being gone. That one near my foot is about the safety and security I felt with him, and no longer have in his absence. That jagged edged piece that I can’t seem to pick up still, is the one where I am no longer someone’s priority. The one where nobody is asking me what time I’ll be home tonight. And still, there are so many more pieces. The pieces of my life that I hit with a baseball bat came down in a flood, and there are too many right now. That one is old age and this one is getting sick and that one is dealing with more loss in my future without my husband. This one is my dreams. Our dreams. That one is the house we never got to buy, and the places we never went, and the anniversaries and vacations and kids and grand kids and retirements and years we will never ever have. The pieces are endless, but there they are. And you cannot fully life your life until you work through all these pieces. Some you come back to again and again, because they are just so hard and so painful to face. Others you are able to let go of or move through with a bit less harshness.

Eventually, you look out at the space all around you, and maybe you can finally see parts of the earth again. Maybe there are sections where all of your stuff and all of your fragments of grief aren’t taking up all of the room anymore. And then maybe you even have space for some of those things you felt in the distance before – things like hope, joy, beginnings.

When your life is taken from you without your consent, and a new one is forced upon you with zero notice, you are broken completely open and all the pieces of what lies before you emotionally, is scattered all over the ground. You are forever changed from this loss. This death. This is true. But the way that you change is up to you. At first, and for a long time, it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like nothing is a choice, because it isn’t. But much later, once you work and move through the pain and the hurt and the pieces all around you, you get to decide how you might transform, and what that will look like. You get to decide, because you are finally able to see.

This Monday, July 13th, is the 4 year anniversary of my husband’s death. One of the things I have decided to do as part of this version of my life, is to use that day to honor who Don Shepherd was and is. He was the most selfless person I ever knew. And so because of him, I have created “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day.” This will be the 3rd annual Don Day, and all details can be found on my public Facebook page for the Event. Anyone can participate:

https://www.facebook.com/events/828325530596844/

Coming up on 4 years, I am still working through the pieces that remain on the ground. I have picked up and moved through and stared in the face of many of those pieces, but there are still a few left to conquer. These days, I feel love more than I feel loss. I feel life more than I feel death. I feel joy more than I feel pain, but then again, my joy has pain inside it now. It’s different. Everything is different. But it is a thousand times more beautiful and meaningful than it ever was before, and my relationship with my husband is more profound these days than ever before.

It’s not ideal. But I’ll take it.

I spent almost 3 years swinging and swinging and swinging at that pinata.

When that bitch finally pulled apart and fell out all over the earth, it became mine for the taking.

In the distance, there are people having a party.

I think it’s time for me to join them.

(Note: If the above link doesnt work, Pay it Forward blog posts can be found right here on my blog, or search “Avalanche of Kindness: 3rd Annual Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day” on Facebook. The page is public so anyone can participate and join the page. Also, Where is everyone lately? I know I havent written as much as normal, and Im sorry for that, but I used to get at least a FEW comments. Whered you all go? Its like crickets in here… Miss you all!!! )

Breathing New Life …

Being a writer, and being someone who has used writing each and every brutally honest emotion or thought as my way of coping and crawling through this muddy hell we call grief – I have often found it next to impossible to read other people’s pieces about death and loss. They never seem to sit right with me. They are either too religious, too preachy, too covered in the plastic-coating of what the outside world thinks and wants grief to be, or just too unrelatable. They are too much of the wrong things, and never enough of the right things. Or at least that is what I have experienced.

It is rare for me to find a book or a film or an article or much of anything – that truly speaks to me in that “Wow!” sort of way. So I don’t find myself reading a lot of other people’s work. I write. I write all of the things that I feel nobody else says. I write all the words that others tell me they are afraid to express. I write the pain and the fear and the questions and the panic and the fight and the terror and the loneliness and the confusion and the “what now?” on the trainwreck that is this life.

Sometimes, of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes, now and then, rarely – I will read something so powerful, so beautiful, so poetic, so true – that it is as if that writer had jumped inside of my heart and brain, stolen my words and my soul, and printed them there in front of me. But that isn’t what happened. Because when you feel the kind of intense, all-consuming pain that a widowed person feels, or that a person who has been through loss and death feels – there is no reason for stealing. The beauty inside of your words comes from that gut-wrenching pain – it comes from that hole inside of your soul that used to be your life – and if you are brave enough to put it out there, it can be everything.

Me in my “after” life – at Camp Widow East, Myrtle Beach.

Recently, I was introduced by my dear friend Sarah, to an exceptional man named Tom Zuba. Tom is a widower, who, in addition to losing his wife, also lost both his son, and his daughter. All seperately. At different times. When I type that out or even start to think about the massiveness of that statement, I almost cannot breathe. And so I have no idea how this man breathes through all of that pain, as it piles itself onto his heart, over and over and over ……

 I have never met this man, nor have I “met” Sarah. But in this new, weird, widowed life of mine – they are my “internet” friends. Sarah and I talk on the phone often – we trade tears and laughs and brutally honest dialogue about our dead loved ones that we lost in a few second’s time. Sarah is a writer and a very talented artist and someone I really admire, and so when she told me I have to check out this guy’s poetry and what he has to say about grief and loss, it took me about 14 seconds after hanging up the phone with her to look at his Facebook page and his website and his words. His insanely beautiful, haunting words.

 And after I did that, his words caused a hurricane of action within me. His words left me with that rare feeling of “Wow!”, where I felt as if just reading them was not enough, so I sent him a message telling him so. And he wrote back. And then I wrote back. And he wrote back again. And we talked about pain and love and comedy and baseball and life.

 And now we are friends. Internet friends. But friends. And I know that we will find a way to pool our pain and our passions together, and meet up somewhere in the future, to create something that becomes that rare “Wow!” moment for someone else. But until then, I’m going to post here the poem he wrote that brought me to tears. The poem that woke me up and made me start to breathe differently – with new life. The poem that I’m going to print out and frame, and put on the wall in my home office, so that I can read the words every single time I feel like giving up. Every single time I don’t want to get up and feel this pain. Every single time I tell myself that what Im doing doesn’t really matter, and nobody really cares or reads or listens.

Every. Single. Time.

“Grief is not the enemy.
Grief is the teacher.

But its lessons are not learned in the head.
With the mind.
Its lessons are heart lessons.
Love-centered.
Filtered through grace.

Over 
and over
and over
again
our mind will say
“But, this is not fair.”
“I don’t deserve this.”
“Why me?”
“I will never get over this.”
“The pain will always be there.”

Don’t get trapped
in the viscous
replaying
voices
of your mind.

Grief is not a head-thing.
Not if you want to heal.

Healing grief 
is a heart thing.

And when the heart speaks
to you
in silence
it says
I know darkness
deep, all-encompassing, endless
darkness
so I will be light
for the next person.

I know loneliness
even in (especially in)
a room full of people
so I will be friend
for the next person.

I know terror
Indescribable,
inexplicable
terror
so I will be comfort
for the next person.

And I know despair.
Paralyzing
can’t-get-out-of-bed
life is too dark
despair
so I will be hope
for the next person.

And in time
with grace
and heart
I realize that
I am more of who I was
not less.

I am more.
Not less.

We think that grief is the enemy
to be avoided at all costs.
It is not.
Grief is not the enemy.
Great is the great, life-giving teacher.

Not in spite of the fact that someone you love has died.
But because of that fact that someone you love has died.

Grief is the teacher.
The life-giving, heart-expanding teacher.
Because you have chosen to say yes
to life
to love
to your beloved, 
really,
over
and over
and over again.

Grief is not the enemy.”

 

You can find more of this truth and inspiration at www.tomzuba.com or https://www.facebook.com/tomzuba1. To check out my friend Sarah’s blog and her words of hope and love, go to www.our1000days.com

As always, your comments are deeply appreciated and MATTER! Thank you …

 

The Beginning

It was February 25, 1998. I was living in an apartment with my oldest childhood friend Sarah in Forest Hills, NY. Our entire childhood together, we both had the dream of moving to NY and becoming performers. Now we were roommates, and on our way. Sort of. I was a Tour Guide at Radio City Music Hall, a part-time waitress in a hole in the wall Irish pub in the city, and I was auditioning now and then for acting work. I hadn’t yet begun my stand-up comedy pursuit; and my personal life was on a downward spiral. About a year and a half before, I had been through a hugely traumatic event that I had shared with absolutely nobody, except for a very rude and unhelpful “counselor” on an anonymous hotline one desperate evening. I will get into what happened to me later on in this book; but what’s important right now is that something had happened; and it had changed me. I was no longer trusting of men, and I had become very insecure and unsure of myself as a person. Im not sure why I didnt share any of this with Sarah;  or my parents; or a friend; or anyone; but I didnt. Continue reading “The Beginning” »