This is a bit long, so pull up a chair and get comfy.
So many blogs I start and then I stop and can’t finish. So many tasks I can’t seem to keep up with. 3 teens that need me, looking for guidance when sometimes I question if I really know all the answers. I learn grief is just an up and down learning cycle. Grief is rebuilding a life, one day and one step at a time. Who knew? Learning about myself, life and the world that continues to spin all through the process. A beautiful song ( a fellow friend/widow shared) touched me. Seems to capture so much of where my heart is. Ready to move on, but still wishing for what was. My heart wasn’t ready for sudden loss. Writing helps me to see the beauty and joy that has transpired since that day. It’s slow as molasses…but it’s worth documenting the in between, as opposed to being stuck on the sad part.
No matter what life is going to move forward. I put my best foot out each day, praying for the right path to find me. Then just as i realize I am trying to create a path for myself, I am knocked off the path to realize my kids have needs and some come out of no where. More than enough is on my plate….from college planning to my teenagers gaining independence and getting people places and taken care of with love. Learning to let go a little more than I am comfortable with. And feel some guilt for asking my kids to take o more than they should at their age. It’s part of the process, raising my teenagers to become independent humans in this crazy world. Life continues to go on. The weight can get heavy. But, I have to find myself in the process. Embracing all the in between. Self acceptance and loving myself more than I can. I never took the time before to do this. It’s a challenge for me. But, I am trying. I seem to find myself loving and putting my kids center of all…but in the middle there is still me. I am finding “her”. Because before “her” was “us” and “us” is clearly gone. Along with all those plans that we had for our future.
So, I go on…on down this journey. There is no easy way to do it. Other than one step in front of the other. No matter what your loss is. Picking yourself up, moving the feet, and breathing…the feeeling of “alive” will come over me…and I’m able to move forward a little more. It seems easy to get stuck and sad when things become still and feeling without purpose.
Yoga has been the constant for me over the past almost 23 months post loss. More on part 2 coming soon…but this is just one little glimpse of why I turn to Yoga. It allows me to find perspective, self acceptance and love for who I am….and tremendous mental and physical strength. I am more than just a girl…or a “widow”. I am a something special…I have pieces of me to share. I hope to inspire you reading this to seek your fire to set you out moving. If through complete loss, I personally can get back up….so can you. Through movement strength is discovered. Not always easy….but can be done.
Teaching Yoga is a new journey, and I am so excited to share this part of my heart with people. Real people. I’m excited every time I walk into a new classroom to “sub” and see those bright little faces. That don’t know me from the man in the moon…but their innocence and worries are so light. That it reminds me, I have something special to share with others. And it really helps me put my grief in check. As surrounding myself around a bunch of 5-10 year olds during the day is a ray of light compared to loss. It gives me joy and hope and I am excited to continue to share this part of me as I journey along.
It is always easier said than done…but the goal is to keep stepping. Keep finding reasons to live. Find purpose and surround myself with those that appreciate the gifts I do have to share.
I had the day off and was “trying” to gather all for taxes. What a chore…one that Eric handled very well, organized, never looked over one detail and handed over to our CPA. I should be glad I” get to” do my taxes…right? I mean…I’m alive! But, instead it just upsets me and reminds me my tax keeper is missing. I am just a hot mess with all this stuff. With the move things are so displaced. And of course my system of book keeping is certainly opposite of Eric’s. And so I turn to writing to sort my thoughts out. I’m definately not a CPA…or anything close to that. I am not Eric. I am not even really a “Wife” anymore….I’m a “Widow”. It’s days like this or weekends when I’m alone and everyone has plans that I question why I am still here. Today (last week) is one of them. Last week Kailie’s First real Spring Show performance…and then last Friday night was Lexie’s senior softball presentation night….all without Eric. Pile a sad boy on top of that and an overwhelmed Mom with tax struggles…and I come full circle. Perspective…purpose….hope?
Post loss I have been given a couple of choices. And the one choice, seems to be the only logical one to chooose…which is to live my days (without Eric). I recall many days wishing I were not here. But, with 3 kids still here I am reminded quickly the other choice is not an option. I can’t give this life up, no matter how many times I’ve questioned the abrupt ending of my previous life with Eric. People tell me how strong I am, “living on”….I call it survival. Anyone else would do the same all while trying to rediscover the new life ahead.
Year 2 post loss has been harder than the first. It’s like reality in the face every day. The numbness has worn off, the shock…and here now left with questions….many questions….and deep void. I question God. I feel angry towards him. Yes, I admit that. I questions what if I should have? Why? I should have told him to stay home that night when he was really just jet lagged.
Now what? The void he left behind is so wide and vast I can’t even explain it. It’s so painful. Who would have thought? A friend once told me early on, after 6 months you will feel better and move forward. Wow, here I am almost 2 years later and I do not believe I am stuck. Yet, trying so very hard to discover my purpose (in the reality of year 2 post loss) now and with acceptance, it’s a challenge.
I see my life as a journey now….it’s all I can make of it. Trial and error. Carter is quick to call me out “That is not how Dad does it…”. But truth is everything that was is now like “Sailing into the Mystic.” Not sure if this was Van Morrison’s analogy to life in his song “Into the Mystic” – but I find similarities as I reflect on my own.
Soul searching has become a bittersweet love affair. As it has been painful to accept some of the answers and things I discover. And I admit I am still searching…everyday. I have to discover and find purpose in this life without Eric. But, why? Eric completed me, he completed our circle. In every way. And my life with him went on for more than half my life on this earth. That’s a long time! So, to wake up without him, and all these things constantly happening without him to be present…it’s pain to the heart.
I’ve discovered many of these questions I have will not get answered over night. Or maybe ever? Most are just trial and error…figuring stuff out. And at the end of the day I’m really only left with me….so that’s the question. Who am I now without Eric, without all our dreams and plans….our complete family? Under all my skin, bones, blood and organs deep inside my beating heart…there is a beautiful girl, a woman….she’s always been there. But she has to tap into that part of the soul to answer the hardest question moving forward. I’m building a new life…carrying part of the memories from my life with Eric in a positive way and especially for my children. I’m hopeful for opportunities that lead me right where I need to be.
What I have discovered after great loss is through soul-searching. Realizing tomorrow doesn’t matter…it’s not even here yet. I’ve worried that one until the cows come home. yesterday, well it doesn’t matter either…it’s already passed. What does matter is me. I matter! Yes, I matter…I have questioned my existence many days during this journey of life after loss. I’m left a Mom…of our 3 children. And I love them with all I have, they are my fire to living. But, where is the rest? Who am I now without Eric? Part of me or what I thought was me left when Eric left. I have to be filled up in some way to be a someone for my kids to look up to, to follow behind. But, what is that?
Before I was a wife, a best friend, a date, a hand holder, a sound board, a soul mate, a bicycle buddy, the best cook (according to Eric)….and soooo much more….Eric was my balance like a see saw…I needed him today. When he left all those things left me. I was left feeling literally beneath the earth. Rediscovery….finding myself again. Who am I? Step by step I uncover layers of who is inside me. I peel back the layers of the woman underneath before Eric…deep deep inside….there is a lot left, a lot of heart and soul and passion for people.
Well, my living everyday I have dug deep into my soul to discover there is so much there that is still waiting for me to set a fire to. And other things that I never knew existed…becase before I was too busy in this bubble I lived in with Eric.
So who am I? I am not “nothing”…No I am something! It took me a while to get out of my head to listen and search for “Who I am…” This has not been an easy question to gulp back and move forward with. But, with the help and discovery of Yoga I have been able to dig beneath layers of my heart that I didn’t even know existed…or maybe I did before, I just never gave myself the credit. Loss changes how I view myself now.
I’ve discovered (through Yoga and Substitute teaching and raising my kids/dogs)………..I am a kind soul, I have a gentle heart, I am a number one Mom, I am a craftsy and artsy gal, I am a sister, I am a dog lover, a dog Mommy, I am a teacher, I am a goofy person that likes to laugh, I am authentic, I am honest, I am a believer in living on purpose, I am a Yoga Instructor, I am a lover of coffee, soft blankets, warm soft dogs, an animal lover, a lover of tea, I am a best friend, I am a cousin, I am a daughter to the best parents that could have birthed me, I am a volunteer to many, I am determined, I am a rare and unique human on this planet!
Well, that is sure a lot of “Who am I”….I am not nothing. I am stronger, braver and more courageous in life after loss.
Sometimes instead of asking too many questions about the future…I have to remind myself life is in the “now”. And that has to be okay. So, for now. I will find the very best I can in each moment. Even as I sit here in a puddle of tears with taxes that I have no idea what or where…or well who even knows? My poor CPA. The tears will keep coming today….I have to take this time to allow these moments build into something bigger. Who knows what it is. But, I honestly can’t wait for the day I feel a life where I am living on purpose. It’s a daily practice. One day maybe I will be an expert at my taxes.
A follow up on the taxes…my CPA pulled through. I felt my blood begin to flow through my veins again as I postmarked each of our tax returns in the mail yesterday. Yep, one for each of us. A sell of a house, purchase of new house, purchase of 2 new used cars, sell of old car, sell of business equiptment, business, stocks, IRA’s, too many accounts to know what they are all for….marketplace insurance, 2 FFA projects, one child owing self employment tax, due to said “goat project”. And one getting a return because she worked and paid in too much. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to address and mail those 4 seperate taxe forms. What a relief and another box to check, I did it. Yep, I did those taxes and with the help of my CPA. Thank goodness for people with math skills. My blood is flowing freely now.
Still, I know that is not the reason I am living….I am living for more than checking a box and completing my taxes on time. That is not what life is about. I am living to share my heart with those who need it. Sometimes, life just gets cloudy and it’s hard to see past all the dust.
I pray for God to lead me to my purpose. I pray for a classroom of bright eager and curious minds. I pray for my ability to instruct a room full of Yogis into a beautiful svasana. Prayers for purpose….forward movement and the ability to keep my kids above water through it all. I pray for my kids to see a brave Mom that never gave up, even when all seemed to be going the other way. And even able to laugh when we should probably all be crying…humour is food for the soul. I want my kids to remember that.
Thank you for reading my blog and please comment your own journey.
So, on Valentines day 2016 I signed myself up to become a Yoga instructor. Everything about it felt right. Though financially I was really wondering if I was losing my marbles. I went for it…without much hesitation. I knew at very minimum it would be a source of therapy and way to deepen my practice of Yoga. And really what more could I lose…it was better than all those days on the closet floor. Yoga was a safe and beautiful place for me, where i connected. So, it felt right and I went with it. I was excited for the first time in a really long time. Strange not picking up the phone to share with Eric. My kids thought I was losing it…but in the end I think they are pretty amazed at all I have accomplished. I didn’t give up…even when it got tough.
What I gained in those months learning about Yoga I will never sum up in one blog. In fact, I find it’s on going. Yoga is a way of life. It’s not just poses or a work out. Although, yes Asana is one part – the work out part where you do the beautiful poses. But, underneath all that there are 8 limbs of Yoga. I began doing private lessons with a beautiful soul and she helped prepare me for the unknowns of training. What a beautiful friend and amazing Yoga instructor she is! So, I was making beautiful friendships…and what better friends than fellow Yogi’s!
Practicing Sun A
Down dog – Down by the river
During training I met some of the most amazing people, our group became very close. It was nice to pull myself into a totally different dimension and learn about something outside of myself. Which ironically, was really all about myself. Part of the learning became painful (emotionally) at times. At other times I found myself laughing at how practical and present Yoga really is in my life – when I allow it. Like lunch in the park and eating spontaneous chicken Schwarma wraps from the mediterranean cafe, below the studio. We had so many laughs and heartfelt sharing in my Yoga group, it was just a special place for bonding. And lord knows I needed that. Ironic how I went into it so blindly and came out with so much more than I ever expected! Getting out and being part of a group in fresh air made all the difference and that was a bonus in my training.
The painful part reached a peak for me towards the end of training. And sadly it hit me with one of those tsunami sized grief waves. Something about using all I had learned on another person…giving them that genuine touch and presence brought me back to my loss. I can’t explain it. Some of my PTSD (that night Eric passed) I just went into a bit of shock and blacked out. I had to step outside of myself and check in…was it me…do I push through, do I quit? I had worked so hard to come to this point and quitting seemed like the most unreasonable answer. Thankfully the directors were very understanding and allowed me to finish my training (last 2 weekends) on my own time.
This part sounds sad – right? Not graduating with my Yoga group, all these people I had bonded so closely with. It was a bit of heartache. But, I knew I needed to tend to my needs and get in check with that before forcing something that brought up deep sadness and anxiety. I had even finished my paper on Taoism with a fun play doh activity (I didn’t get to share). I was honestly feeling very mixed about where I was and how I get over the hurdle I had stumbled upon. I saw this out of no where. Strange how grief works and shows it self when least expect it.
Well, strangely this is where is all gets really great! After a couple of month break – continuing to practice, but contacted from Director to finish training, and she was hooking me up with Sue – another friend that also didn’t finish in our group. At the time, I didn’t really recall getting to know Sue so well during training. I recall her shy and quiet and reserved. I was a bit hesitant when I saw we would finish together…but in the end I was so glad to not finish on my own. I was actually surprised she didn’t finish! So, suddenly I felt less alone. And I was excited to meet up with her to move forward in this Yoga journey.
And so for several months Sue and I met…we would practice, go through our notes, videos and practice more. We created our playlists, worked on cueing, sequencing and we helped each other in so many ways I can’t even begin to tell you. We started meeting at Sue’s place and every time she would make a lunch for us. Or we would walk over across the street for a yummy wrap and then we would sit and laugh and talk about life stuff. We even encouraged each other to offer a free Yoga class in our community. It was a small turnout but so awesome down by the lakes in my community. As a bonus I met a neighbor and had friends join along. It was a chilly but beautiful sunny Sunday!
So, here i was finishing my yoga certification, with little hands on from the director…just me and Sue. We had to dig in and learn on our own. With some guidance, but it was up to us. She and I delved into it all. We studied and laughed and ironically shared personal struggles in our lives. Things just come up, as we went through the sequence, my sciatica, a call from Kailie (car accident one day)…we would get interrupted but Sue would always find a way to just sit and listen and bring around the positive. We became such good friends. It’s amazing to think who I saw Sue as during training, so much more of a beautiful human being underneath it all. What a precious soul. I was able to connect to her on a level I can not describe. Let’s just say we are all working our own underground struggles. Most don’t talk or share about so openly. Sue shared with me and I shared with her. I felt so normal with Sue, where we could relate and laugh and then practice Yoga, bringing all our real life situations into the picture. It was more than I ever expected from finishing out the certification. She and I observed over 15 extra classes and boy that was a huge help. I was able to understand sequencing better and it just all came together in a bigger picture.
So, looking back, I think God set my path exactly as I needed it to be. I needed to take a break and get my head together, realize it’s okay to share my heart like this with others and not always be reminded of Eric…it’s a good thing to share the heart. But, I had to come to terms with that….it’s ultimate “acceptance” and that’s all I’ll say about that. And I didn’t expect that to ever be a problem for me. Grief works in mysterious ways. And this was a real lesson for me. I’m thankful everyday it worked out the way it did. Because Sue and I became such close friends. She is such an amazing spirit and has shared with me so much more out there in this big world than just Yoga. Gaining her friendship through this process was more than a bonus ….it was a blessing. She taught me so much about life and living with joy.
So, it took me longer to finish…but in the end I believe my certification is so much more sacred and special the way it ended. Sue and I embarked on a special friendship and Yoga journey together and a bond was created. Just at the time I needed it. She didn’t know it, but in some ways working one on one with her helped me take time that I needed to come to terms with the acceptance part, sharing my heart genuinely. I am capable of that…but I want to be genuine. I needed time to sort that out…and turns out Sue was the person that was ready to move my speed and vice versa. It was a compliment to each of us. Sue had her strengths and I had mine…and it was so good to share feedback honestly with one another as we went along.
During this journey, I created a very small space in my home for practicing Yoga. It was kind of big deal…as at the time there were very little areas in my home I could go without reminder of Eric. Setting up my little space gave me encouragement to keep moving forward against all fears. And I spent any occasion or opportunity practicing my meditation and practice. On my terms. It turned into a small slice of heaven.
I’m just so glad everything worked out the way it did and YES I’m a certified Yoga instrucotr…who knew? I’m proud of my accomplishment, and even more proud of a very special formed friendship. Sue and I celebrated at a little lunch spot only she would know about (because she knows all the good places) and it was perfect, just she and I. I’m looking forward to learning more yoga with Sue as we go along, try new things, like rock climbing, holy yoga…Sue has so much she wants to introduce me to and I am just beyond grateful thinking about how lucky I am to have been hooked up with Sue on this Yoga journey. My heart is full. and I am beyond to have the certification completed now, so I can share my passion for teaching with others. My heart is fully capable and that part makes me so happy.
I learned Yoga is an ongoing process of learning about oneself. Part observing and part acceptance.
I learned Yoga is a healing and meditative place that is always open for me to retreat to in times of stress or just to find focus away from the chaotic world that surrounds me. It is the one thing that roots me to the earth, to find balance when life is a bit wonky.
I learned I am strong and determined. I had to be patient with my 45-year-old body. I learned it is still very capable, but needs extra care. And that’s okay – because I will attract those people who desire the extra care too.
I learned I don’t have to be upside down in crazy poses to be a good teacher. I can just be original, be myself through my heart and genuine nature connect.
I learned Yoga is a way for me to connect with people, which come from all walks of life and situations. Allowing myself a place to reflect and empathize on an entire different level after loss.
I learned the heart is gentle. It can not be rushed. I had to give it extra time to accept its ability to give and receive from a sacred place, with no tears or regrets that I can’t share this with Eric. He would be proud of me!
I learned that Yoga tapped me back in touch with my deep passion for teaching, connecting with people and being surround by young souls (and old).
I gained a community of non-judgemental friends that are open and loving and embrace difference.
I learned I am not the only one traveling a rocky road…we all are…and in the end we are all connected. Traveling this road through training was part of me taking steps in to the new future…and it has helped me tap into “Kimberly” that girl…she’s unique and special in her own way.
I learned sharing this practice with others fills me up, that part of my heart that I have void (for Eric) and now it feels good to release this to others, that may be just like I was that first time I walked into a Yoga workshop. It’s not the same, but it will do and makes my heart warm.
I can be a light in someone’s life. I can be bright and a source of inspiration.
I can laugh and be human and show my true colors through teaching, and I think people will connect with me!
Yoga is healing…it is a mindful practice, always forcing you to face the root of where you are. Where you need to be and be okay with it. There is never any hurry. And I suppose this is some of what I love most about Yoga.
Bonus! My new house has a special room all for me – and practicing Yoga, bigger than the old house. Can’t wait to share more about that beautiful space. It’s a bit of a retreat and good for checking into the present moment.
I am so excited about the continuation of this journey. I will stay updated on my blog – so hopefully some of you can come follow me and try my classes. I would love to share our connections and grow friendships through our joys and sorrows. There is always light, the more we share and connect the better a world we live in.
Be a light….find your spark and never think you are too old to try. Yoga was a bit of therapy for me. But, in the end I discovered it’s so much more….I will continue to share my learnings along the way. My Yoga journey will go on and on and on….in all parts of my life. It will continue to spark my light, to slow down, discover inner strength and peace and focus on present moments. My hope and goal is to teach yoga, connect with young and old. And a real bonus would be for me to bring yoga into the classroom one day soon. What a beautiful fun thing to share with kids!
Yoga is healing and I recommend it to anyone and everyone. It will embrace you and force you to face all that lies within you and most importantly the present moment…the only moment that really exists.
Whatever you are facing in your life…the one part I take away from my loss is that jumping in feet first (into the unknown) is sometimes a good thing. New beginnings are necessary to moving forward, creating a new life and carrying the best parts of my previous life (prior to loss) with me in the process. Facing my fears has been mandatory in healing (though painful at times). And I am still working on that part. But, come so far, thankful for following my heart.
Thank you as always for reading and encouraging me through this journey. It has been a beautiful unexpected discovery of self.
P.S. Free Yoga led by the one and only – me! This Sunday, message me or reply in comments if interested in attending. 9-10 am. It will be a beautiful class and maybe even a few laughs.
I always say Yoga found me because it was not something I was looking for at the time. There I was standing in Mountain Pose, looking over at Jenny and we both giggled…I felt silly, I felt a laugh (after months of nothing but tears)…and that felt good. In fact it felt amazing spending a couple of hours in a Yoga Workshop…feeling stillness and comfort. Which I almost missed if it weren’t for Jenny forcing me in that car and out of my house that day.
You see, for months after Eric passed away I found retreat on the floor in my closet. Partly because this is where I was closest to him (with his presence gone), his suitcase (he still had not unpacked, just returned from business trip the night of his passing)…all his clothes, cards over the years from him, my wedding dress, his high top boots, his hats, caps, trinkets, pictures, and so much more was in that closet that had some connection to Eric on an intimate level I can’t even explain. It was a sacred place.
Even our dog Rosie wanted to stay in the closet with his things (he adored her so much and trained her well!). I also felt this was a place in our house as far away from the kids as I could be, trying to hide them (from seeing me such a mess). I felt so trapped with no place to go. There were days in that first 6 months – year – I’m not even sure what kept me from staying on this earth. The buckets and showers of tears that came from my eyes….were endless. And some days I could hardly catch my breath. There was no hiding from Eric…he was everywhere – yet he was gone from everywhere (physically). The pain was so unbearable. I walk in the kitchen and he is missing from the coffee pot. He is missing in the bathroom, missing in the backyard, missing from our sofa, missing from our bed, his clanking spoon against his ice cream bowl (that irritated back then….oh how I missed it)…missing from our table, his chair empty…only 4 of us now…his desk and squeaky desk chair, missing from tinkering in the garage…working on our car – everywhere. He was nowhere to be felt. It was so painful to be in my house. Yet, I found it even more painful to come out of my house. Because coming out of my house meant witnessing people. I didn’t want sympathy, I didn’t want questions, I didn’t want anything other than Eric. And so I just stayed in my house and hid in my closet with Eric’s things. I couldn’t sit in our room, where I recall those last moments with his body on the floor, repeating chest compressions, never knowing if he were alive or breathing….Lexie and I screaming for him to wake up…waiting for EMS. So when I went in my closet post loss, I quickly skirted through my room, past the bed, across the floor and closed the closet door. It felt a bit like a retreat to Heaven looking back. Because I felt him in that closet, pouring my heart and tears all over everything. It sounds crazy, but it was where my comfort was in the early days. I recall begging for him to come back, send me a message, just come back to me some how and some way. It never happened no matter how many times I fled to that closet. But, I felt safe there, and safe to cry my eyes until I could cry no more.
Clearly I couldn’t stay in the closet, I had to some how keep moving for my kids. A lot of my movements felt robotic. I remember very early on most of those days I would receive messages, texts, my phone would sometimes ring…I mostly couldn’t reply or answer on most days. There was nothing I could say, nothing I could ask for. All I wanted was Eric. And even more so I still had no idea for weeks what the cause of his death was. So, I was constantly guessing and wishing for answers…anything. And everyday I would get a distraction with these texts for a few minutes here and there. But, back to the closet I would go if the kids weren’t around.
So, yea…Yoga!? It was this one day, my very best friend said she was not going to take “no” for an answer any longer, she insisted and made a plan for us to go to a Yoga Workshop. And as i recall she said even she needed to find some peace. She instructed me to throw on some kind of workout clothes and meet me at the driveway. She said we were going to both find some inner peace and meditate and she said to me…”Kim, this is just the beginning…you just wait and see.” I think this was the first time I felt a little less alone. Like she was going to grab my hand and help me out of this dark abyss I fell into.
I remember when I got out of the car, sitting in that workshop I felt like someone had stripped me naked. I can not explain the feeling any other way. I felt like the world was moving and I was standing still. In fact I felt like it was moving a million miles an hour and I was stuck in a time warp. It was such a scary anxiety rollercoaster feeling. Another blog on anxiety and dealing with PTSD/death post loss later.
So back to Yoga…I couldn’t imagine why I was there in the first place. I think the top I was wearing was like 5 years old. Frumpy and outdated. What was funny is I remember Jenny complimenting it. I just thought – I looked hideous, outdated, a mess, lost dog…worse a “Widow”….not even a gray hair. But, here I was in a room full of other people who looked like they were all probably just finding some peace….not me. I wasn’t even sure what I was seeking. I was just following along. But, during this workshop I remember the instructor going through the limbs of Yoga….and that is when I began thinking…what – what is she talking about? I was all of a sudden curious and distracted from my time warp…seriously what was she talking about? I thought we were just gonna do some workout type thing. Oh no…it was much more…but yes we got to the yoga poses, basics. Child’s pose!!! And all of a sudden when we stood up to find a mountain pose I looked around and suddenly felt a little bit of blood flowing through my body. My legs lengthened and I felt my muscles find a little strength. Then, she instructed us to the floor and I felt a sense of calm come over me as we went to the floor in child’s pose. It was on this day…I could actually feel my heart beating, feel my air coming in and out of my lungs. All days previous I was focused on my great loss, my love…gone. And so this was a slight fork in the road if you will…from all those tears. It was then, I realized right there I was alive! Yes, I was still alive. All the days in my closet I begged the Lord to come back with Eric and just burn our house to the ground, all of us instead. Don’t just take him! So, my mind was so distracted from these sad thoughts. And I remember at several points I looked over at Jenny and we both would giggle. I think we both felt totally silly. Though at the same time I recall with each breath I was a bit emotional feeling guilty for still living, a part of me still wished those lungs would just collapse. But of course they didn’t…no they kept on inhale and exhale….
Looking back and reflecting on this first Yoga experience for me and getting out of my closet..I think that is just what I needed, I needed a laugh, to feel silly…to feel my breath – to be reminded “hey you are still breathing!” And I needed a friend that was ready to walk my speed. She listened to me, sat with me and welcomed my tears (if present). Even though I felt so far from normal…she made me feel needed and accepted and loved. Just taking her time to be with me. How she knew and was so generous with her time and spirit, I am forever grateful. I didn’t know it then, but a little seed was planted. Yoga.
So, every other week or so Jen would meet me at the Yoga studio and we would do an hour of Yoga and then have lunch. Sometimes I would show up crying because at any moment the tears seemed to spring on. A song on the way over in the car….dealing with the kids and their grief moments prior to leaving the house. I felt guilty getting out for this time with Yoga and Jenny. But, I forced myself to go. And I’m so glad I did though at the time it was a real struggle, a battle to go or not to go. To stay in my closet or get out of the closet?
Here’s me and Jen on one of our Yoga outings….We even took part in a local Yoga Festival, 5K run, Yoga and dance party. What a fun day that was! Cold and rainy but we trudged on.
So, one day after Yoga class my BFF says to me “Kim you know you can go anytime – the Yoga pass is unlimited and since i work you should not wait on me for the weekend…I think you would enjoy doing this during the week too…” Deep in my stomach I felt a little queasiness thinking of going alone. My gut instinct was thinking “I need to ask first…” But, reality was quick to kick in and I said “Okay, yea maybe I’ll try – I don’t know…I suppose I can go without any permission…and that part made me a little sad.” Eric wasn’t here to cheer me on with something new that interested me, or excited for me…it was just me. Doing the Yoga for me. So I pondered this thought for a little bit…to go alone or not to go alone? I know to most of you this sounds so ridiculous. But, I cheated myself for 25 years, living in this comfortable bubble with my 3 kids and Eric. Very frugal, quiet lives with our kids. My world revolved around that. I recall just a few months prior to his death I was wandering around Barnes and Noble…I get a text from Eric “Where is my bride?” And I laughed right there in the book store. He continued “Are we watching a movie tonight…when you coming home to your groom?” I giggled and let him know “on my way soon…” I miss his texts, hanging for a movie night…all that. Now I’m pondering going to a Yoga class alone. Wow. This was where I was. I felt so silly and lonely. No one to text…”headed to yoga…”
And so the following week somewhere came courage….and I decided what could I lose? So, I downloaded the Yoga schedule to my phone (Just like Jen said to do) I planned out a class to attend – alone! Huge steps….and I went in alone! Yes, seems trivial to some of you reading this. But, it was a really big deal for me at the time. And I remember when I was in those classes the comfort I would feel every time. I remember feeling myself search my soul for self-love. It was difficult, but being at Yoga it forced me to be in tune with the present. Which was something I was struggling with. It forced me to acknowledge all of it, where I was and to find gratefulness in being – just here, here and now. I would always leave thinking…I’m going to ask the staff if they have a bed in the back. I think I could stay here longer. Pre loss I hardly ever gave myself an opportunity….like going to a Yoga class. It was all about us, the kids…the website…Eric. That’s what life was before.
You see what was happening at Yoga was so much more. I didn’t know it then, but the steps I took, the bravery to get out alone. To try something totally new and different. To be with people I didn’t even know. To go without telling Eric “Hey are you okay if I get out for an hour?” To leave my kids, feeling guilty for giving myself time…when I felt they needed more of me…their Dad was missing. These were tons of tiny firsts alone…adding up. I was gaining confidence, learning something new. Something new that felt good to me in a million ways. I was feeling accepted by total strangers. Even though they didn’t know my story. I began to wonder what their story was. What brought them to Yoga? I began to feel empathy not just for myself, but for everyone else in that class I was attending. I was making human connection. It was tiny steps…but all these little things were happening. And even greater I was discovering a new thing for me….Yoga. It became a bit of a love affair. How ironic? I lost the love of my life and filled it with Yoga. The one and only activity/practice that can leave you feeling “loved”. Truly, yes Yoga fills your soul with love!
I recall on Friday nights, which were the worst days of the week…next to Saturday and Sunday….I would retreat to yoga. An addiction was forming I felt going on. I would go any chance I could. I began to reach out to it when the anxiety and sadness would creep in. I began to try new things. I began to think about doing some of these beautiful poses that looked very intimidating! Most I could not even do….but I would try…I found myself falling a lot, laughing at myself…and better yet feeling totally okay with it. Where outside of Yoga class all the rest of my life felt uncertain, Yoga felt right. It felt
like it was calling me back after each class. So, I kept it up. I even shared one Friday evening with my middle child. She didn’t really want to go, but I begged her and she tried it. We had a great time and I recall giggling with her through a lot of that class.
This went on for months, and in one class I recall hearing the instructor invite “anyone interested in learning more about Yoga (Yoga Teacher Training) to come out for an open house on……February 14.” I sat there thinking to myself he’s talking to me….this is my calling. After all I had experienced, the connections I had made and my background and love for teaching…it was all directed to me. And then when I got home after a few days I started thinking…that’s not smart to spend money on myself like that. Maybe I was just getting on the wrong track. And all this negative talk went on in my head…until I picked up the flyer from my nightstand and stared at the date….February 14. I immediately decided no this was a sign. It’s Valentines day without Eric, a first in 25 years….self-love, Yoga is self-love. Eric is not here to give me love, hugs, kisses, flowers – so I’ll go to this open house on of all days Valentines! And then figure out if I should sign up. I had no idea what to expect, but figured what could I lose?
So, Valentines came and I woke up with little tears. I missed Eric’s Valentines hug. But, I had this little bit of feeling that I was going somewhere special that day….and that felt Amazing! I woke up knowing I was going to this Yoga open house to learn more about Yoga, about being a Yoga instructor….I was going to the one place I felt comfort and love and acceptance. And so I went, I went knowing in my heart it was a sign from Eric, he was sending me love through Yoga. Saying, “Go….get up, go learn something new…go love yourself…you deserve it, it’s Valentines day after all and you need love.” So I went! And I went feeling some love from Eric, guiding the way on Valentine’s day.
Reflections Part 1 Yoga journey:
I tried something new I had never even hardly ventured to think of doing for myself even prior loss of Eric. Funny how loss forces you off your butt – get moving. Sitting idle only makes you (me) more sad, more time to sit in the muck of sadness and loss.
I found strength and courage in the new discovery of self acceptance. The new me.
I found a community of people who were accepting of all walks of life. I found comfort when I needed it most.
I discovered I was making connections with others and my loss propelled me further into reaching out to people.
Yoga made me laugh, made me cry and it helped me feel my own breath.
Yoga taught me I was still living….for reasons I yet knew…
I found joy in trying something new.
Yoga gave me a place to go when all world was spinning too fast. It was still and peaceful and just what I needed, and still do…
I learned I was not alone, my friend was there for me. All I had to do was reach out to her. I found gratitude for her ability to pave the way for me to find something to fill a void that needed love again. And her ability to just sit by my side in my new normal. She made me feel like it was okay, and encouraged me to keep going to Yoga…even alone. She believed in me. When I felt I had nothing left.
And this is only 1/2 of my Yoga Journey. My stories are too long I know! Please….check back soon for Yoga part 2. It has had lots of ups and downs, but through it all I have discovered strength, self-love, and acceptance for life and things out of my control. It is a practice of life…and this is where part 2 steps in….stay tuned….
As always, thank you for reading my stories. Please share yours and I believe through sharing we can lift one another up as we journey though this human world, battling through our losses (whatever they may be) to find joy and triumph through our sadness and fears. It takes great courage and hope. xoxo.
I originally wrote this journal on March 15, 2016, 10 months post loss (a 1st Spring Break without Eric)….
It popped up as a memory for me today. I re-read it and so many thoughts came over me! Happy and sad…yet as I reflect I can see how far I have come since that first Spring Break without him. And I’m amazed at the strength and humor I have found through these firsts (as 4). So here is the original post below…following with reflections and pictures.
Today was a tough day traveling alone, another first without Eric, but I survived, we survived. I’ve been up since 1:30 am traveling. Lots of things went wrong, but I will just sum the highlight of the day up by saying do not ever, ever, ever assume your rental car has the fast pass toll tag in a New York City toll. Do not gingerly get out of the vehicle to ask for help and try to pay. Better yet don’t approach an NYPD officer (unknowingly) for help. Do not tell the officer he scared you or you understood the danger of trying to exit the car (yes I acted bold and brave in a highly dangerous situation). Furthermore, always Lock the doors of the car so your curious smart high-tech teen son can’t exit the car to inspect or think he could operate the toll gate himself. I had no idea until I was escorted back to the car. He was only trying to help his desperate mom. He never meant harm and that doesn’t make me an unfit mother. I’ve never been so practically pat down and thrown in jail, all for just innocently acting with my guts and heart to pay a toll from the wrong lane. I drove for 45 or more min past the toll booth crying uncontrollably and feeling like such an idiot for trying to just solve a problem. It all resurfaced daily reminders. I realized how alone I am without Eric and how I’m also half as sure of what the heck I’m doing. I just roll with it half the time, but I do so from my heart. It’s scary alone and it turned my day from worse to feeling hopeless and dumb. I needed Eric today, and I miss him and his smart solutions. We were a team! Mr. NYPD officer wherever you are tonight I hope you will remember me, the 44-year-old mom that was just trying to pay the toll, and get to point B safely without her husband for the first time in big New York City highways. You didn’t know that, but I’m just a girl with a heart that was trying to find a solution. I certainly learned don’t ever exit the vehicle in the toll, as you (NYPD officer) stated several times “I’m gonna drill that in your head” I got it for sure. At the end of this day, I’m grateful for my kids that stand by my side. I’m grateful I made it safely to my sister’s house in CT in one piece, and most grateful for many hugs and warm embraces after a long day. I’m especially grateful for my sisters loving spirit and support. Days like this can be tough and painful, but I’m reminded even more what I do have and what and who remains by my side with warm smiles. I do believe regardless of my errors, Eric guided me safely from a dangerous situation. I would like to believe he is with me as I travel the unknown territory.
Reflections….first off, look at these amazing (pictures below) and so many memories my kids and I had with my sister, brother-in-law and cousins…all one of those “Firsts without Eric/Spring Break). We made some amazing memories…had I not fought the fear of taking the kids through the toll, highways, airports and many other courageous acts of unknown territory. Never underestimate the power of fear. Had I not faught through my fear – I would have missed so many opportunities for laughter, connection and fun. It was painful and there were tearful moments without Eric. Moments where I felt completely lost and hopeless, wondering what in the world and how will I ever? But, looking back I think we had far more happy and joyful moments than sad. We gained courage in the process. I didn’t think that at the time, but looking back. Wow. Just wow!
I drove through mountains (a first), to Vermont with my sister. It was scary, but I managed half (which was huge considering my fear) the drive! Conquering driving fears alone! In snow and sleet and steep mountain terrain!
We climbed amazing rope courses, we bungee dropped and ziplined 2-3 floors high from the ground! A first for me! Looking back, the experience was exhilarating. Even though I kept feeling like it didn’t feel right “alone” having fun without Eric.
We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day authentically (as Uncle Rob referred to it). We ate Irish food, enjoyed irish music and had some great laughs together. This was a first for all 4 of us! It was fun to experience.
We made it to the top of one of Vermont’s ski slopes (one we never skied with Eric). A first! There were a lot of tears getting down, realizing our fearless leader was missing, but with a lot of fits and flinging ski poles and falls and stubborn feats…we made it “up and down” with some laughs a long the way. Hot chocolate awaited us! We made the best of it and learned maybe skiing didn’t have to be our Spring Break thing anymore…new memories were okay, some are a little too tough without Eric. But we learned it’s okay to do things differently, new is okay!
We honored Eric every step of that day skiing. From buttoning jackets to making sure our tickets were zipped up and cinched down. So many I could go on and on. We even caught snowflakes on our tongues! Need to find that picture! He would be proud of all his tedious lessons he taught us (and the kids). We were safe.
Kailie and I took a trip together down from the top, alone. Just me and her. We did it for Eric…just to show him we could do it without the tears. And I’ll never forget this moment with her. A moment of Joy! We took it slow down the green the entire way. What a moment of bliss with my middle child, alone! She just totally gets me. And I love that “get to” have moments with her like this one.
Carter skied down a black with Uncle Rob. He didn’t want to do it at first cause it wasn’t Dad…but once he finally went for it, he was so glad he did later. He talked about that months later and looking forward to spending more guy time with Uncle Rob. Melt my heart. That was a bonus in this trip! Carter took a first step in allowing another into his heart, made room for new experiences without his Dad. And that one experience I believe has helped him open up even more 22 months post loss. It’s a daily work in progress. But, that was a proud moment!
We tubed, I sat in the sun on the tube slope and enjoyed being present. I acknowledged how worthwhile it was to be living…pondering how lucky I was! It was a bittersweet moment. Enjoying watching my kids have fun with their cousins.
We clammed! Another highlight to this trip, freezing cold New England – but us Texans and Uncle Rob showed the way. What a feast we had later that evening!
I spent quality time with my sister, we hiked up the “Sleeping Giant” and I felt peace that day. I felt connection with the trees, and all the beautiful nature that surrounded me. I practiced my Tree pose and felt proud of myself for getting to the top. I wasn’t winded at all, my Yoga and Boot camps prepared me well…I was physically noticing my strength!
And YES – I can rally our troops and have everyone to the airport even waking at 1:30 am without Eric. That took strength. And sheer determination! I’m not sure Carter packed underwear! But it didn’t matter…we got from A to B and none of the small stuff mattered. Looking back, I am not sure where it came from, packing all the luggage, ski wear, etc. But the fact I did it and my kids picked up slack where needed….well, I’m just blown away thinking “Eric you (and I) paved the way and I am carrying out those plans….” I carry that part with me as I move forward and I am blessed with all he taught me. I can pack an SUV like nobody’s business – thank you Eric, you taught me well.
So, as I reflect on this past Spring Break first without Eric I am amazed. Amazed with the joy and happiness and memories we experienced. As 4! I realize now (not so much then) that happiness can exist as I move forward. It will never be as it was. But, it will be different. It’s not always easy to see myself accepting how things are. But, this trip (reflecting) brought some acceptance to what is. Small doses and experiences as 4 – as we go along…fight the fear, try something new….acceptance starts to show itself.
We are discovering new beginnings daily. Which I believe have brought us closer as a family. Not always peaches and cream, tough days. But the tough days I believe help us battle through the harder days ahead. And appreciate the good ones (like this last Spring Break trip). Looking back I was such a hot mess going through that toll booth in NYC. What a brave woman I was that day! I remember feeling like such a poor example (Eric would have never even attempted to get out of the car). Feeling so lost. But, looking back I think wow – I must have bravery deep in my soul. The Lord prepared me well. First, because I didn’t get hit by a car! We didn’t get a ticket! Yes…I got pat down! But, I am able to sit and laugh and learn that I need to be a little less like frogger. Yes, I am a brave soul! Always wearing my heart on my sleeve. I struggle with that. But, I think looking back my kids will never forget how brave their Mom was to try. I am always trying. I won’t give up this life….ever.
Thank you for reading this long post. I hope it empowers you to try something new, fight fear and find strength in the process. Even when it feels sad to push through the tough, know that you can look back and find something beautiful in the journey. I know I have and I continue to surprise myself. xoxo
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.
This has been a really challenging week for me. Softball games, tournaments, golf lessons, teacher meetings, fixing broken cars, dance contest season…and so much more happening each day without sharing with my husband and kids father Eric. Another Valentines has now passed without my love. And now another BBQ season without him. I’m not just missing Eric. I am missing his entertaining stories of the crazies out at the BBQ. I am missing memories of my kids spending time with their father out at the BBQ. I’m missing dancing a slow dance with Eric in one of the big party tents. I miss hearing him say let’s go out together Thursday night…just me and you. I miss sharing these nights alone with my parents (double dating). I miss standing with my Mom in a tent and him asking me, “Can I get you a diet coke or alcoholic drink?” I miss him standing a few feet from me admirning my “cool” dance moves. I miss people watching at the BBQ with him. I miss laughing holding his hand walking down the aisles of the parties. I miss all of that. And more. I miss especially knowing that after a late night volunteering shift, he would crawl into bed and curl up next to me. I miss spooning with him. I miss the smell of BBQ smoke all over him, his dirty socks and filthy jeans – needing to be washed after working all day setting up equipment at the BBQ. I miss hearing my kids laughter at the stories their father would tell them of the antics going on out at the BBQ. I miss my kids seeing their father as a volunteer “hero”. I miss them looking up to him and knowing he would be coming home soon to eat dinner with us after spending the day working a BBQ equiptment shift. All of these “missings” are just a drop in the bucket. Only another week and month of traditions I have to get through…and find new memories and activities to fill our hearts and minds with. But, in the end there exists a huge void. I walk around like a lost little dog in the forest….wondering okay…so what do I do now. When, all my mind wants to do is crater to the ground, cry and feel sorry for myself and my kids. I want to scream and beg for him to come back and would do anything to smell his filthy dirty socks.
It seems each day presents a new reminder of Eric missing in my life, our lives – my kids lives. It’s the start of Houston’s traditional Houston Livestock show and Rodeo Cook off. I’m missing Eric’s presence and all the fun we shared during this week (and month of Rodeo). The BBQ kicks off the big Rodeo celebrated in Houston every year. Eric (my husband of 18 years) was a committee man for the HLSR BBQ Equiptment team. This year would have been his 20th year! Wow. Makes me so sad he is not here to be part of that. Every year during this time there was a hustle and bustle going on in our house. He had to take days off work to work around his volunteering schedule. He would be missing from the dinner table several nights due to meetings where pre-committee stuff went on, picking up the new badge and shirt and apron, vest. I will never forget when this all started. The first year we were married, Eric had applied 2 years previously to be accepted on the BBQ equipment team. Apparently getting on the team was one of these “who you know…” type of things. He was pretty let down when he didn’t get accepted those first 2 years. But, the year he did (finally!) get accepted he was so excited! I was excited for him. He was excited also because my father was on the same committee and it was just a fun event for him to volunteer with other men and women that enjoyed serving the community. My father was a bit of a shoe in the door for him and that part made my Dad proud. It was also the same year we had our first born child, Lexie. She was not even a month old when he headed out on a Saturday to “paint” the parking lot. There was so much preparation in setting up the parking lot…all the big tents, heaters, fans, lighting…on and on! It was a lot of laborious work. I remember that first year he served like yesterday. One because I was home alone with our first born. I had feelings of loneliness, sadness and missing out on the fun he was having out at the BBQ. He would come in very late some nights during this week. 5 am tear down and midnight shifts until all parties left the parking lot. But, my husband was amazing…because he always wanted me to be a part of it. He sensed my lonliness, and suggested we get a sitter to watch Lexie. He was going to take me into the best tents on one of the nights he was working. And so I was hesitant leaving Lexie alone not even a month old! But, my Mom volunteered and kept her for that night. Eric rode me around in the golf carts (only the BBQ committee men could access them), he took me into the “best of the best” tents and parties. We would eat the most delicious BBQ, rib eye steak, baked potatoes and casseroles. We would drink wine and really anything our heart desired. It was always a fun night together. Here is a picture of us one of those nights, I love this picture because it reminds me of how much I love (and miss) his face touching mine…
Maybe it was just me, but I always felt like a trophy wife on those nights. Like everyone he introduced me to…and he wanted me to meet everyone he had talked about…he made sure I met them. And they would always say, “we are so glad to finally meet the woman your husband talks non stop about…” I always felt so special. He toured me around to the best parties, the biggest bbq pits and made sure to find anyway to get me into any tent I was even curious about. Well, the fun didn’t end there! Every Saturday during the day during BBQ cook off was “Kids day”. No adult stuff going on…just hot dogs, burgers, mechanical bull riding, clowns and face painting. So, Eric always made sure we planned to bring the entire family out on Saturdays to enjoy all of this with his kids. The kids loved it. Looked forward to the fun every year. It wasn’t until they got a little older they realized most of the perks they were taking advantage of – was not for everyone or just anyone. They finally realized the special thing their Dad was doing…volunteeirng. And it was because he volunteered we could all enjoy this fun event as a family. I think when they were little and realized this they thought their Dad was a little like God…Really high ranking…because to them the memories and fun they had was just out of this world. They loved walking around seeing all the food, BBQ pits…treats and they also felt special to be a part of it. Here’s a really cute picture when the kids were tiny. They were soooo little. But, such a fun day. Eric was a proud Dad and I felt like a special wife to share all of this with him.
One recent year, Kailie (our middle child) was taking photography. Eric mentioned to her she should bring her camera to try to capture some great photos for a contest she had entered outside of school. So, she brought along her camera. And she captured the most amazing picture of a full pig on a smoker. It sounds really crazy! But, it was just one of those amazing moments…amazing memories. I’ll never forget she was trying to get a good view of the pig….her father said “Kailie lift the lid of the smoker….” and she responded “But, Dad I can’t we will get in trouble….” and he replied “No you won’t these guys will probably open it for you – I set their heaters up, let’s ask.” And she asked and when they saw Eric they asked her not only if she wanted the lid opened for her, but also if she wanted to try some of the pork. She stared at Eric….and he looked at her with only these eyes Eric could make (as if to say, what are you thinking – of course we want pork!). And so after she took this amazing picture we sat and enjoyed fresh smoked pork at a picnic table on a beautiful Saturday afternoon – family day. It was a really fun day, the kids were laughing the entire time that their Dad was able to get them fresh pig off a big bbq pit. I was feeling special, special that my husband was part of something bigger than himself. I felt honored to be with a man who gave his free time (which he had little of those days) to do so much laborious volunteer work…for a great cause. So, today as I sit here, alone….on Saturday “Family day at the BBQ”. I feel a huge hole in my heart. It’s a hole that I’m not sure will ever close up. The memories we had were amazing and special and grand while Eric served as a committee man. But, I feel sad and jealous that those days are over for us. We no longer have a free special way in – to enjoy fancy dinners out on the Adult nights….or enjoy the sights and smells and free entrances to the family fun on Saturday. Instead we are here without Eric and there are a lot of tears. Empty memories and a deep loneliness. The excitement for my kids as far as being part of BBQ is gone. There BBQ “God” is gone…and with that it does bring intense sadness that even with the best spoken words I can not describe the pain. And my heart feels heavy wondering, how will I ever provide enough for my kids without their father as part role model. Helping his daughter take a photo, try a new kind of food, fix a tire, change the oil…show his son how to shave, talk to him about whey his body is changing. So many “missings” come with BBQ back in town…with HLSR back in full swing. Eric’s missing presence brings full reminder of our loss.
Yet, as I reflect….I am grateful for the memories we did have and will always carry each one of them, all the dinners, dancing in fancy tents and face paintings and bull riding with my kids….and Eric. I pray his modeling and opportunities with their father was enough. I know it’s not. It never will be. But, my prayer is my kids and I find new opportunities that allow us to find acceptance with his missing presence. He is always in my heart, always in my mind and follows me in my soul. Forever grateful for the people that allowed my husband so many years of Volunteering for the HLSR BBQ. As it provided our family with forever memories. We were indeeed fortunate to have these amazing experiences together, once as a family of “5”.