Grief has taught me a lot. But, one of the hardest lessons has been the lessons of judgement. Who are we to judge anyone? Regardless of what the circumstance is? Or how one handles their personal struggle? I want to start by saying I am guilty of being that person who placed judgement…I mean honestly who hasn’t at some point in their life? Unless you are perfect, maybe? But, I think we are all walking different paths, different socioeconomic levels, up bringing, etc. and the perception we have on what life should be like or look ike, it’s based on those things. So judgement exists in all realms of this world and I guess it’s a taboo subject. I find judgement so relevant even more now with such clear eyes, post loss. It’s sadly a part of life. I recall prior to losing Eric driving through intersections where there was that person holding up the cardboard sign “Job lost…need money….anything helps, God Bless.” The kids would ask (all buckled in their car seats) “Mommy, why is he holding that sign?” When my 2-year-old child asked me that question all I could think was how I wanted them to live a certain kind of life…and telling them what I really thought was too judgemental to crack their precious innocence and view of this perfect world we lived in. So, my answer was….”well they have made choices that lead them to the life under the bridge…” and then they would ask “Why Mommy…why can’t they get money to live in a house?” And I would always hesitate…because deep inside I couldn’t help but think…why? Why can’t they just get a job? I have bills too….So, deep in my heart I was holding judgement without ever even knowing what their deep-rooted motivation or problem was that lead them to needing to ask for money from strangers. I remember it being a hard one to answer every time we crossed those intersections. Almost like in my heart I didn’t want my kids to know because I was trying to protect them. I had my own perceptions, and suspicions as to why they ended up under that bridge. It’s so taboo to even speak the words in the world we live in? Or maybe I am naive? As my kids got older they would stare at the homeless cardboard sign people. It was so embarrassing. One time – one of my kids asked if we had something we could give them. While my girls were in Brownies and Girl Scouts we passed out food baggies to these people at the intersections. It lit up my girls eyes when they handed one of the goody/food bags out the window. Though, admitted I was terrified…alwasy thinking I’ll roll this window down hand the bag over, and in return they will hold a gun to our head and would grab us and all we had. Yes, I was scared of these homeless people asking for money. And so there it was…my silent judgement! But, what I didn’t realize then was honestly these bridge, homeless people, they had deeper rooted issues. But, always I held my judgement silent. But, I surely was thinking it. I recall not too long before Eric passed away we came to one of these intersections and there was this person, with sign and even a dog with leash. It was heartbreaking. The kids were so much older….and very concerned why the guy would have a dog and no job. it was a 100 degree Houston summer day and that dog had no water. Eric told the kids if he could get a job his dog would be eating and drinking water just like him and he wouldn’t have a need to hold the sign at all. Well, that explanation sounded so simple….just get a job and get out from under the bridge. Sounds simple enough. Eric always had such eloquent simple statements. Not like me where I ramble forever to make my point. I wonder now, was Eric also trying to keep it simple to maintain expectation for our children? I’ll never know. But, I always appreciated when he chimed in because these were real world problems in our kids eyes. I never knew the right words to say about the homeless.
In fact, prior to May 21, 2015 I knew very little of what went on in the house of a Widow…or Widower. My judgement was clueless and flawed – so flawed. I feel shameful. In fact, what was so sad, was across the street from me lived a beautiful neighbor that had just lost her spouse. They lived there several years as we watched her spouse decline from a courageous battle to cancer. From the other side I stood always glancing through my front window thinking….what can I do? I literally woke up every morning wondering how could I help. I felt helpless and knew that for her life must have been something I couldn’t even help her with. So, I kept my distance. Other than offering cookies, occasional couple dinners and my sweet daughters offered to dog sit and walk their dogs. I never felt enough of a neighbor or friend. I always pulled out of my drive wondering what could she be going through today? I was clueless back then. I truly was. I was ignorant and felt helpless looking back I feel selfish for not coming more out of my shell to offer more help. Surely there was more I could do but I just felt awkward and like she wouldn’t want my help. It sounds crazy? Right?
So, here I was 4:10 am, May 21, 2015. And this was almost 2 years later from watching my neighbor across the street…hold silent judgement on those “bridge/homeless” people…and I woke up to my own nightmare. So, now my perspective has become a very different reality – life and judgement. My spouse died instantly (what they call a sudden arrhythmia). We were sleeping, and I heard a snore. My typical tapping on the shoulder didn’t shudder him. Instead it got louder. I instantly jumped and within minutes following 911 instructions, lowering my husband with my 16-year-old to the ground. Chest compressions for what seemed like eternity. He never once showed me signs of life. No wink, no wriggle, no nothing. I had no idea what was happening. Emergency services arrived and strapped him down in device I wish no child to ever hear or witness. The pounding noises on his chest, intubation and pushing every drug to revive him. I still was clueless screaming for him to wake up at his feet. Kailie ran for her bible. Carter explained in my ear as all chaos is happening around us….his Dad was brain-dead (after 15 minutes) and he felt they wasted time, needed them to get him to the hospital. How he knew I still don’t know. Lexie screaming in the front yard for her father to come back.
Since that day….I have walked a questionable path. All that was before that day, all the dreams, all the future, all the hopes we had for our children. My perception and judgement of what the world was supposed to be? Gone in an instant. I never realized how little support existed for a young Widow. And the judgement. Even worse. Phone calls, suggesting I do this or do that. Looking back, I wish I would have knocked on my sweet neighbors door, woke her from where she was probably sobbing in her pjs in her bed. And just held her, sat with her, quietly. Just being a comfort. Drinking some wine or watching a movie together. Writing her letters and mailing them each week. I think that would have made her whole day back then. But, I would never have done it. Why? Because I myself was rather dumb to what I could do and even more dumb as to how much pain she was probably experiencing raising 3 young kids. Trying to find her new way of life without her forever soul mate. I ponder this very often when I find myself judged. I’ve been on both sides of the fence now and never wish this side for anyone. So, for those of you that judge me, or don’t understand why I write about my memories. It is how I am processing, finding acceptance, finding a new way of life. Moving forward! Finding supporters of grief to bond with in my new life. Finding people to share their own stories and share love. I’m not stuck. I’m not looking to fill Eric’s shoes. I’m content with the path I must keep seeking. I’m not happy about it. But, I am mindful and trying each day to grow my legs and learn to be the best mom I can for my children. When you see the Widow approach the stands, save her a seat…invite her to be part of the group. Don’t ask her if she’s okay. She’s not okay. Instead share the present and acknowledge their name. Share in her kids successes. Be a friend. Not just on the weekday, reach out to her on the hard days, Friday and Saturday when the house is quiet and her partner is missing. My husband may be gone physically. But he will live on in our hearts forever. Don’t judge me for living with a heart in my chest. I am human. We all are and I think our world shall be a better place with love and compassion for human process and grief.
So, about a week after Eric passed away I recall being driven around by my Mom, my sister…never reallly knowing where we were going. Looking for buriel plots, funeral plans, funeral attire…washing my hair….feeding my dogs.
All seemed pointless and unnecessary. I was so lost. So lost I can’t even begin to tell you. But, they were taking me where I needed to be. I was so totally numb and in shock. Still convinced Eric could have been saved, questioning if only I called 911 2 seconds sooner….if only i didn’t hesitate to wake Lexie to lower Eric to the floor…if I had just told him to come home that night, early….all those questions on repeat, numb, shock….heart broken in pieces. like a broken puzzle.
But, one thing that I recall vividly was seeing the person under the bridge as we were making our way to all these important places for Eric’s funeral…at the intersection, with the sign. There he was, one of the homeless. I had been crying for days, non stop, rarely air in my lungs. But, when I came to this intersection, sitting in the passenger seat I recall my heart dropping to my knees. The tears started to subside….I recall all judgement that I had deeply hiding in my heart come to surface. I recall wanting to roll the window down and get out of the car and ask if he would like to talk to me, to cry with me, to listen to what brought him to the bridge. I recall thinking he must have come to a very dark place to find himself at that underpass asking for money to live, eat and breath. I recall crying for weeks thinking about how horrible I was to feel the way I had. I wondered what loss he possibly experienced? I never admitted this out loud to anyone. But, it was there. I couldn’t find one person who may understand the depth of the loss I had just been dealt. But, at that point in time I saw this homeless person as maybe the one who could understand. All my prior judgments – gone, gone in an instant.
You see, my little judgement, thinking well just get a job. Just like Eric suggested to the kids. Wouldn’t it be nice if life were that simple? Life is not simple at all. I recall wanting my Mom to pull over so I could get out and talk to him about my loss and see if he had also been lost some way. Maybe he could help me after all. I realized after all my secret judgement….my loss of Eric threw me into the same bucket. I was lost with the bridge people, right there along side them, completely lost. Oblivion, total darkness. A new life, so many multiple losses on top of losing Eric. And it became so clear….the extra pair of shoes I needed to fill. How on this earth would I ever catch my breath to accomplish this. Not just for me, but for my 3 kids, our house, financials, all of it. One after the other they added up and the more I thought about Eric and every where he was supposed to be I cratered. Wishing to connect with these homeless people. I kept thinking they will have the answers. Thinking those were the survivors. They have walked the hardest walk, not knowing what they have been through…but seeing where I was now, I realized loss is loss. It can take you to all sorts of places. After months and months of self discovery, waking up day after day, crying, spending months on my closet floor, caressing my wedding dress, reading all Eric’s cards to me over the years – I couldnt’ find reason for still being on this earth. I was feeling at the bottom of the river, right along with all the bridge people. I felt they were my friends, even though I didn’t know them. I began to smile and wave at them when I
came to the intersections. I never had much to give them, but my smile was huge considering I had been crying for hours for days on end in the beginning. It made me smile to see I wasn’t alone. I didn’t know their story and they didn’t know mine. But, I found inspiration in their courageous way of overcoming whatever loss they went through. They made the choice to ask for help. This is my weakness. I relied on Eric, for so much, so much so I will have to make an entire separate blog on that. My weakness among many, is how to ask for help. It sounds so easy, just ask for help. But, when I relied on him for 25 years of living through all we had, he was my helper. I saw these homeless as courageous, asking for help when Lord knows what has been thrown at them.
Eric was my right hand man, soul mate, and best friend…my husband and father to our 3 kids. The smile to strangers was the beginning of me reaching for “help”. It was tiny baby step. But, from there it grew. I felt a whisper in my ear every time I saw the homeless at the intersection. I heard them with their dark eyes, saying “You will find a way…you will get the courage….” And it is still a work in progress. Even after almost 22 months post loss. I have to force to ask for help, it is out of my comfort zone. And Eric and I never asked for help, so it’s just not natural on top of all else. So, I keep the question always lurking in my head…how do I fill Eric’s shoes? It’s a daily task with 3 growing teens missing their one and only father.
So, from that point on my view of life started to take on a whole different perspective. I was seeing things that I had never seen. Finding gratitude in things that I honestly don’t recall even existing previously. Though I’m sure these things were always there. I just was too busy living in my perfect bubble of a life. What motivated me to write this entry on “Judgement” was recently I had someone from my past (a dear old friend in fact) reach out to me through a Facebook app. a message. I should make clear there was no request on my end for his feedback, nothing. Clear out of the blue Facebook messenger goes off. He starts by saying….”You have to let go of your past….move on, Eric is gone….you must be strong for your kids…Eric’s not coming back….stop with the tributes to Eric….your friends clearly aren’t being honest with you otherwise they would have told you by now to move on…no man will ever accept you as long as you continue to carry Eric with you and tribute him….they will run for the hills…it’s time to stop looking in the rearview mirror because your best days are ahead of you….clearly your friends think they will feel alienated or they would have already told you what I am trying to tell you, which is the honest truth….you must move on….” This message said a lot more. But, those are the bullet points. The bullet to my heart. I had to stop and catch my breath, remember to breath….think before reacting. I will stop to say that as a Widow (of 21 months now) this one tops the list of all “Widow Flubs or advice or whatever you want to call it”.
So what did I do – how did I respond? You see my second big weakness is confrontation. Being ugly, that’s not me. I have a bad habit of being the pleaser. So, instead of calling him a big bully. I fell to my knees and literally gasped for air. For hours, my soft heart crumbled to the floor. My soft heart, which I am well aware of it, it gets the best of me. I cried for myself, I cried for my kids, I cried for Eric missing….I cried because I felt like a failure. I cried with a feeling of suffocation. For what? For being “judged” on how I am trying to regrow my legs and step into a new day and new life each day. Here I am, didn’t ask Eric to leave me. Didn’t ask for being a Widow at age 43 with 3 teens alone. I find myself struggling daily, conquering doing all the Dad stuff now. Most I fail at, but try I do. I’ll try anything for the sake of trying. As I know, I know good and well the worst thing that can ever come of it is death. There is no worse fate…so trying each day, regardless if I fall or get up or just mess it all up….I do because I know the next time I can try a different way. The chances of me dying are slim…why? Because I’m still here! The Lord left me for a reason, so I’m here. I was not chosen…Eric was. So here I am with capable legs….left with 3 beautiful and amazing strong resiliant children. I am working from and honest and loving heart because what I am trying to do is build a new life for myself to find myself, dig deep to redefine and discover that passion that was always there pre – Eric….(all that was lost is void now). I never knew then 21 months ago I was going to have to let all the 25 years of dreams we had gone and start a new. I am well aware those dreams are gone. All we worked for, watching our kids, celebrating their joys and carrying them through the failures. Being together at the end of the day. Those were the things I thought I would have. Not this life of trial and error. Where I walk in the solo Mom into games, dances and other activities….where most are with their partner sharing in their children’s successes and achievements. I am alone now, looking at my financial status, college funding, child raising, accepting the loss of my best friend, my soul mate, my children’s father, juggling my children’s grief, on the daily…..the list of my loss goes on and on.
So, for those that judge – I have this to say… Loss has taught me it exists in all of us. On some level. So, who are we to judge someone elses situation? Life is a journey and what we make of it is how our life is defined. I can wake up each day and try all I might. Each day these feeble but strong legs try to walk, each new step with courage.
For that so-called “Facebook Friend” – here’s how I really feel. His comments and opinions deeply hurt me. What people don’t understand that have not experienced grief…is one thing can bring you right back to that horrific day. He said many things about how I should be handling myself, “stop looking in the rearview mirror….better years are ahead of me..none of your friends are honest with you….” He judged me. Judged me for allowing myself to grieve and process in a way that strangely allows me to boldly move forward. He concluded all my friends that are in my small circle are “not honest friends”.
Thankfully, I have had a week to process this and really allow myself to work through the important part. As I seriously was letting my mind reel on about attempts to get back out in the world to work a real job. I started imagining if he was right then who would want to even employee this woman this “Widow” with the grief and bullseye on her chest. The woman who was trying boldly to regrow strong independent legs! I cried on and on…feeling the depth of pain that is so indescribable. Imagining maybe he was right? I allowed myself to believe it. At my very lowest. Maybe people really think it’s time I forget the love and my children’s father? But, How in the world? How do you erase so many beautiful years? Do I allow 1 persons judgement of my walk define me? I sat on my bathroom floor, soaking my puffy eyes to relieve them as I planned to substitute teach the following morning. I had to make myself look presentable. I had to not look like a victim. I don’t want sympathy. If I could ask for one thing it would be to live in a world where judgment was non-existent. Where we could spend more time helping each other and connecting building a better place off our own losses. Using them to propel us into a bigger brighter future. Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic. But, it’s where my wish rests. And I’m hopeful to be supported and surrounded by those people.
Then, the following morning I woke up at 5 am, and showered, attempted one last eye soak….I opened my foggy eyes, knowing I needed to be fully open and looking alive to love on some kids. I needed inspiration, something to snap me out of my feeling of worthlessness. So, I put on some music to “save me”. I have found music is therapy when all else fails. And I found this song. Helium, by Sia. I realize this is a theme song for a show I have not even seen and maybe the meaning is really “raunchy”. But, as naive as I am…sadly I haven’t had the thought or gumption to see this movie. So, without knowing more about they lyrics…I listened to them….with an open mind. Please don’t judge me. I just listen to the words and can imagine my lungs as the helium and then falling to the ground every time the judgments and eyes glare or look away from me. Everytime I fall who is there to save me now? It was Eric pre loss….The song describes to me the deep fulfilment of love, support and what happens when it disappears? Where do you go? Where will you go if your love suddenly and instantly disappears from your life? All that you had. Where do I go when the judgement creeps in? I would call on Eric before he always had such great wit and wisdom that made it sound like all would be fine. We would be okay. And off we went. Things weren’t always perfect, but we always were a team, bouncing off each other in hard times. All the non-tangible things you have no idea. The hug when you feel defeated, judged or just empty. The eyes that say, hey I’m right here, “I got your back!” Yep…it was Gone in an instant, the body falls to the ground. Listen to the words…”The Helium, fills you up…then raises and lifts you….you want to play tough…move forward…but then you fall to the ground….” See if you feel it too? I can relate so well, and it brings me full circle with this walk in grief and judgement of my journey in moving forward. Even with my best efforts, some days I still fall. But, the good news is, I look at my kids and realize there is no other choice, I’m all they have, so I get up…I now discover and find other things to fill up the “helium.” Such as my loyal furry dogs, my children, soft blankets, comforting music…listening to nature…practicing Yoga and meditating. surrounding myself with teaching children…being with people to connect and share a smile, laugh and be totally 100 percent human. Perfectly flawed, I would have it no other way.
What I have learned is that life is what I allow it to be. My journey is personal. One or two or maybe there are a lot who judge my journey in grief. But, to me and maybe to others they view it as special and courageous. I have the unique advantage of knowing my time here can be cut short at any moment. Therefore, I will not fake any second while I am here. I shall continue to follow my passion in Yoga. Which helps me dig deep within my soul, finding strength and acceptance, within myself and others. Sit with my children and be their biggest supporters, even when all eyes are giving me the look of “Oh look…here comes the Widow with out Eric…” I will fight to be present in every part of my life. I have been given a gift through loss. One very important one, which is total non-judgement of any human being or situation. I can smile and wave at the homeless and not feel such fear. I can empathize with the unimaginable reason they have come to the streets. My very own journey has allowed me to see that when all you can see is darkness, it takes courage to find the light. It takes holding on to Hope when there is nothing else. However long it takes…as long as I continue to step boldly – with heart, with passion in whatever I chose to do…I shall seek the light. The light is finding me. I was told just this past week when substitute teaching that I was the best sub ever and they hoped I came back everyday. Awww, music to my ears. The feeling of being needed, so much innocence and love in that simple statement. I miss from Eric…but in small doses I find it elsewhere. Not the same, not ever the same. But, it feels amazing. There is no judgement in that. Of course, some days it gets cloudy and it’s difficult to see the light, but the less I worry about how it’s all going to work out the more I can focus on the light, on myself and more importantly on my children and just being totally present. There is no rush. I have nothing to prove to anyone. This is my story and to that Facebook Friend…well you are no friend. He does not know one quarter of what I have accomplished emotionally, physically or in any other regard in the past 22 months post loss. I’m proud of where I am. I’m still here, which is a blessing to my children, my parents, my sisters, my best friend Jenny and all my wonderful other friends that have been a constant connection through it all. It’s sad in some ways, because at one point in my life he was so well-respected and needed in my life. At a time when I was working through college and needed a role model, you were that person. But, sadly at age 62…I feel deep empathy for you that you can not find light in one’s personal journey with loss. That you view past memories as “the end” garbage….”gone”. It is in those moments that true joy presents itself. I think these precious moments are tiny droplets…where if we don’t slow down….we will miss them all together. I shall continue to reflect on my memories and love I have for Eric and shall always remain in my heart. And I never expect anyone to fill Eric’s shoes or his place. My heart is capable of loving bigger and greater, the heart can expand. I feel it’s tripled in size in just the short time I have been away from Eric. Grief has a way of expanding the heart.
So, please if you are reading this, don’t judge me, don’t ask me to throw those years away. My children are not garbage and neither is my husband or their father. He is and was and will always be in some way a vital part of their very existance. Eric is and always will be part of my heart, part of my soul. I carry him with me and send him gratitude for allowing me to have eyes that can now see past only the surface. I have eyes that are capable of connecting with the soul and through tragedy. I have the ability to write my story how I wish. And I wish it to be a beautiful one, with some realistic expectations of tough spots…but with each tough spot I will recall on my memories to help me over the bumps. Eric is always with me. Always. Judge if you wish. I’ll say it a thousand times if I want. But, I am not living in la la land….I know he is gone from this human earth. I know he can’t come back. I am processing my grief to find acceptance in that part. I have realized I am at a point in my life now where certain friends are no longer needed. Uncapable of compassion, understanding and feeling deep love and grief. And that is okay with me. The lord has set me on a path to discover those that are meant to be part of my journey. I am surrounded by real humans, the few very dear and honest friends that remain and even new friends (Yoga and through my Grief Journey) who are also part of my life, many walking their grief journey of their own…many new friends I have made in Teaching, full of acceptance that radiate from the heart. I’ve also remained close to old friends in the teaching world that work from the heart on a daily basis. What a blessing I have in these friendships. These are passionate people, real humans, with open hearts and minds. I’m blessed with friends that I choose to surround myself with now. These are people who are feeling life and experiencing it too. Not afraid to live fully without judgement, not afraid to witness or feel saddness. As that’s what life is about. The moments of life that are happy are the goal and they are brief. The journey is the part of life with these little spurts of happy thrown in their that make it all the more meaningful. It’s not about throwing away garbage. There is no wasted time. My past is part of my heart. There is learning and love and forward movement taking place. I may have big shoes to fill. But, no mountain is too big to climb. It just may take me longer and the road tougher. Never the less it shall shape me to be me. As all previous memories. I carry them on my road and in my climb to the path I am meant to follow.
If you are reading this – thank you for listening to my story. To my walk. Judgement has been a tough and new lesson I didn’t expect in loss and losing my love. Never let one persons words bring you to your knees. It’s not their life to judge. Grief is bad enough, no harder walk….no matter what journey you are experiencing. So, don’t judge their way of processing the walk. Things take time, just like growing a garden. Many factors are involved. So don’t judge my story. I’m taking all the time I need and I can’t wait to blog about all the forward movement I have made. It is amazing and beautiful and I can only imagine all the light Eric is shining down on me from Heaven. Wave at the homeless today, smile and make a connection. You may be the light of their entire day, that little bit of encouragment to propel them boldly into a new path….and reach out to a Widow/Widower on a Friday or Saturday evening for a movie or dinner in or out. You will light up their entire week. Share love, share your heart…the world is a better place with more love.
And remember “Weeds are flowers too once you get to know them.” A.A. Milne.
Love and hugs and light to all of you. xoxo