Rings

May 4, 2012

Our Rings

Our Wedding Rings
Picture courtesy of Larry Runyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know that many widow/ers agonize over what to do with their rings.  I was no different.  I loved my rings and when Chris died I had only gotten to wear both the engagement and wedding band together for six months.  I never wanted to stop wearing them. Chris was so proud of my engagement ring, that he picked it out by himself and how he totally surprised me when he proposed. I never wanted to let that go, I never wanted to remove that tie.

About a year later, as my grief shifted, I noticed I started hiding my hand.  I did this to avoid painful/traumatic questions. 

“How long have you been married?”

“What does your husband do?”

“What beautiful rings, where did your husband get them?”

Each of these type of interactions caused panic attacks and could throw off any forward progress I had made.  So  I started to think about taking them off.  It took me three more months before I did.  After not wearing them around the house to practice I didn’t take them on a trip to the beach and then never really wore them after. 

At first I felt a bit freer, like my hand wasn’t being weighed down, but it didn’t feel right.  I felt so vulnerable, unprotected. No longer could I know that people assumed I had someone waiting for me at home.  But I left them off as this was better than the questions.

I began to think about what I wanted to do with the rings. I have thought about combining our wedding bands together and adding some stones to wear on my right hand.  I have thought about turning the engagement ring into other jewelry or saving it for my nieces or to sell if I needed money some day.  I haven’t decided what to do yet.  I keep saying I will go to a jeweler and brainstorm ideas, but then I don’t want to, so I haven’t yet.

One other thing I have thought of was finding a widow’s ring.  I have always bemoaned the lack of societal practices for grieving people today.  I longed for the old traditions of wearing black clothes and jewelry.  I thought about getting a black diamond eternity band to wear on my ring finger, but again could never follow through because of price or indecision.

Then when I was at Widow Camp, a jeweler who I had seen online before, had a booth.  She had rings, necklaces, and earrings that all fit the needs of a widow.  I was instantly drawn to one. I tried it on and it felt right. You can see it here http://www.expressionsofgrief.com/WIDOWS-the-3rd-Ring-4mm-ETR1108.htm  

It felt appropriate and that it reflected where I am in life.  I am not married anymore, but I am not single either.  Widowhood is a distinct phase of life that is for me the most life changing of any phase of life I have been through. It should be equally acknowledged and honored as marriage.

I did a quick search on widowhood and this is what came up first from answers.com:

“Widowhood refers to the status of a person whose spouse has died and who has not remarried. Women in this situation are referred to as widows, and men as widowers. In the United States and other Western nations, approximately 6 percent of the total population is widowed and this proportion increases to about one-third of the population sixty-five years of age or older. Recent trends indicate that widowhood is becoming less common, largely because more people either never marry or are separated or divorced.

Widowhood is commonly viewed as a life transition. A transition is a major change in life circumstances that takes place over a relatively short period of time but has lasting effects on large areas of a person’s life. It requires the development of new life habits or ways of coping. Widowhood is one of the most stressful life transitions, although most people adjust successfully over time.”
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/widowhood#ixzz1trTVQ34W

If you read on it brings up some interesting points, but what rings most true to me is that:

1. It is rarer and rarer for people to be widowed, especially if they are younger than 65 (try 28)

2. That the transition happens relatively quickly

3. That widowhood has life long affects

So I am glad I have a ring to honor it now.

Changes?

April 24, 2012

So I haven’t posted in a while.  Probably for many reasons, especially because as I said before I have been stuck.  Falling into the pit of dispair, lying there for a while, slowly pulling myself back up, just to fall back down. It made it pretty hard to do anything other than function, like writing this blog.   What energy had I used to try and make small changes in my life.  These changes have helped some and given me some momentum that I hope is pulling me along.

Change number 1:  Still in progress – going through Chris’s stuff.  On New Year’s weekend, which was shitty anyway, I started tearing through his stuff.  Clothes, coats, old pictures, everything got pulled out and categorized.  If you have seen the Iron Lady, there is a scene where Margaret is sitting admist all of her husbands clothes and things sobbing.  That was me.  It was hard and I still have piles that I have to decide what to do with.  But in many ways the several bags and boxes I have given already make me feel so much lighter. I had felt for a long time that I was drowning in his stuff and I could no longer breath.  That has lifted a lot and my fears, that I would lose more of him, have been wrong. I haven’t lost any more of him than I had before and in many ways has freed me to feel his presence more strongly and with less static.  If that makes sense.

Change number 2: Ongoing? – focusing on new things and new people. I have made an effort to spend my time on doing new things and meeting new people.  Just living in my old pattern was trapping me in the pain of my loss, so I joined new organizations, took a photography class, and made some new non-married friends. People who share interests and want to talk about things other than being married and having babies.  I went to Widow Camp East (http://www.campwidow.org/) this past weekend and felt at ease and more myself than I have since Chris died.   For you other widow’s out there. If you can swing it, you should go.  I was a little terrified of going, not knowing anyone and generally being an introvert. But it was amazing and inspirational.  All of these activities have gone towards making me feel a little more in charge of my life and like I have regained some of my independence.  It opens up hope for a future full of adventure.

Change number 3 – complete – I cut my hair!  It is about shoulder length now.  I haven’t had it that short since 7th grade.  It might not seem a big thing, but I just felt like I needed to look different. It was weird to continue to look the same so I just went to the salon one day and had about 7 inches taken off.  It felt good. I felt lighter and it takes so much less time to dry and style. 

For me some small steps have helped.  I still have lots I could do, should do, need to do to try and make my life easier and new.  Some times I don’t have the energy for it and just sit at home and watch TV.  That is ok too.  Those are my recharging days. A few of those and I start to feel like I can take on another change, however small.

Some new realizations

October 3, 2011

I feel like grief is a continual attempt by my conscious and subconscious to figure things out.  There are so many adjustments that have to be made to your life after losing a spouse that everything changes.  Your daily life, your hopes and dreams, your fears, your habits, your emotional state and mood. Nothing is familiar, decisions are harder to make.  I try to make plans and I usually find that what seemed ok, a day later seems like a terrible idea.  I was never this variable before.  It is a huge adjustment for me, to realize that I have to always have an escape/back out plan, that I can no longer depend on myself to be consistent.  It makes me incapable of following through with anything … when I have the energy to even attempt it. 

I have also realized that I need to develop a new social circle.   I had always thought that I would be able to continue with my friends, who have been wonderful since Chris died, picking up new hobbies and patterns, but my friends were my friends.  But now I don’t think that is true.  Not because of how they act or how they treat me, but because my life path is no longer theirs.  They are married and starting families and I am widowed and on my own.  They are planning and building, while I am breaking apart.  For me it is too hard to watch.  Chris and I wanted to have started a family by this point and watching others who we were close to continue on that path is excruciating. 

It makes me feel so ungrateful for all they have done for me, but I can’t handle the pain of it.  It would be easier if I lived on the other side of the world and all I had to do was send emails from time to time and send gifts, but living 20 minutes away and having to stand by while their lives go on is awful.  It’s not that I don’t want them to have it,  but I want it too.  I want Chris to be alive.  I want to wake up next to him, I want to be going to sonogram appointments.  Instead I have panic attacks, deciding whether to get rid of his phone number, and flashbacks about the worst parts of his death.  The gulf between us is too great right now.  I can’t pretend that nothing has changed. Everything has changed.

So now, I realize, I need to make new friends.  Ones who aren’t married.  But how do I do that?  I don’t want to join a “singles” group.  Dating isn’t remotely possible or appealing.   So I guess I will just keep trying to find groups to join and hope that some of the people are not married.  Do I have the energy for that? I don’t know.

So far I have come up with some ideas, many of them are based on rediscovering things I enjoyed long before I met Chris:

Volunteering (various groups are possibilities Habitat for Humanity, Hospice, Museums)

Community Theater (use to enjoy theater in High School)

Archaeology (started volunteering so far, it’s a good way to spend time, people are generally in college or older and married, so no luck on that front)

Book club (through the library?)

Hiking club

It has been hard facing these facts: I am no longer married, I am no longer getting ready to start a family, I no longer belong to anyone, I am on my own.  It is gut-wrenching everyday.  But I get up, and go to work, and come up with ideas of something to do.

I think I need this blog again

September 21, 2011

So I went on hiatus.  Many people do for various reasons.  I felt back in the late spring that I needed a break; that writing on this blog was too painful for me. 

Now, 4-5 months later, I think not writing on this blog is painful for me.  I am not sure what changed or when it changed.

So hello again.

I have had a terrible week.  One of the worst in a while and I feel fairly alone.  Mostly in the sense of being able to express where I am and how I am doing.  Part of it is my fault.  I am not good with spoken words.  I really can’t get out what I am feeling. I have always been better on “paper”.  Where I can think and switch and replace until I feel like what I want I have down is what I mean.  No one tries to add to it and I don’t alter it for the audience.  It is purely me.

It has also been made clear to me recently, that many can no longer deal with my pain.  It is very disheartening because I try very hard to keep the worst of it to myself and God.  I don’t complain and whine and cry for hours. I generally try to focus my time with people on that time, what we are doing.  I felt so demoralized to hear that my efforts have been wasted.  Why do I bother?  It makes me want to retreat more.  To simplify and minimize my life to a nice little controllable box.

I have spent so much energy trying to keep engaged in life, even if it is different. I volunteer, I have a few new hobbies, I plan things to do on a somewhat frequent basis.  I go to work. I support myself.  I am still alive.  I think I have done fairly well considering the trauma and shock and grief of Chris’s death.

I just feel very sick about it and the most helpless and ready to give up I have felt in a year. 

How do I pick myself back up again?  Well I thought writing about it might help.  Since speaking is so hard.

I know another problem I have that makes it hard for me to share, is that I am an independent person.  Chris is the exception to this.  Outside of him, I have never really wanted any inputs in my decisions, any opinions on how I look or feel.  As time has gone on, with something as personal and deep as my grief for Chris and our family that will never exist,  I have stopped talking about it with those I am close to who have a stake in my life (family and friends).  I just can’t handle their input, at any level.  What do they know of being widowed at 28, only 6 months married? 

I have always been a grin and bear it kind of person (when I did one of those silly online quizzes, my guiding philosophies were Stoicism, Utilitarianism, and Realism).  So my internalizing of my grief from my family and friends feels comfortable to me, like an old wound that is flaring up (not that the wound from Chris’s death is old).  It is easier to share with people outside these circles.  I share with my support group and I share with my therapist, I share with God, and now with this blog again.  For me, this is the most comfortable, the most bearable, the most palatable. 

You do not have a stake in how I am other than a general support and well wishing.  You do not care about my moods or my approaches or my habits.

I am struggling and I am trying to find methods to deal with it that suits my personality so I can survive.  For me it is more in the written word not the spoken.

Thank you for reading, those of you who do.

A stranger

June 1, 2011

I went to dinner with Chris’s folks tonight.  It is always nice to see them and catch up, but it can also be hard.  I don’t know how to explain it other than being with them reminds me of a life I will never have.

They talk about Chris and he sounds so real. They knew him for longer for his entire 30 years. 

I feel like Chris is so unreal to me.  He is a figment of my imagination as if I made him up to hurt myself.  Like we were never together, never married.

Chris to me was the daily things.  The phone calls, the tv shows, the books, brushing teeth together, talking on our porch.  Without those daily connections, I don’t know who he is.  I don’t know who I was with him. Our relationship is gone, it is over.

For me, the moments of peace, of heaven on earth were just being with him.  Just sitting or laying next to him, feeling him close.  Without that, I don’t have him.

I have spent the last 13 months without Chris. It is still painful to talk about him.  The happy memories are still drowning in pain.  I can survive the day.  I am function.  Walking, with no direction, but walking.  In many ways I don’t want to dredge up the memories, I don’t want to remember my old life, the life I always wanted.  The pain is too much.  I have finally carved enough space to get through the day.  The wound has a slight healing and I don’t want to open it up.  The pain is too great. 

It is like my heart has put up a walls between Chris and I so that I can keep going.  It makes me sad. It makes me ache, but I learned over the last year to trust my heart and my brain.  They know what I need to do to heal.

It has been a while …

April 26, 2011

I have been MIA, I know.  The last month has been interesting.  It has been hard and grueling, spending more time alone and less time sleeping.  I am running low on energy.  Posting seemed like too much effort.  Plus what did I have to say that hadn’t been said?  The ups and downs are still going up and down.  But there have been some shifts.

The beginning of April was a low point.  I couldn’t believe so much time had passed.  The weather took me back to last spring when he died, when he was dying.  It made me sick. 

Then the numbness came back.  Thank God; it was welcome.

Then the anger.  By God I was so angry at Chris I could barely breathe.  I was tired of the pain, of my life being ruined and over, of having to clean up his mess and putting his affairs in order.  Even now, a year later, I still have stuff to tie up.  I was so angry I could have beat him.  He has disappointed me more than any other man in my life. It was unintentional and he wouldn’t have chosen it, but it happened.  Sometime I wonder if I wouldn’t have been better off without him.  I had him for such a short time and the pain of being without him is so great, that I am not sure it was worth it.  (sacrilege, I know).    I don’t think I want to ever get married again. I have no desire to be put through this again.  To entangle my life, just to detangle it again.  No thanks.

The anger has passed (for now), the numbness has passed (for now) and I am left in an odd place.  I don’t know how to describe it other than resignation mixed with sadness and the need to be free from pain.  I have come around to know (most days) that my marriage is over, that I can no longer expect Chris to fill the role of loving husband or expect myself to play the role of wife.  My love for him lasts,  but our relationship as it manifests on Earth is over. That I am on my own.  Only I can clean up my mess.  Only I can choose to grab grief by the balls and keep walking.  Only I can focus on the present and what I have.  Only I will feel the pain and loss of Chris as a husband and soul mate. Only I can walk this path.  

Where does this leave me, facing the anniversary of Chris’s death?  It leaves me feeling stronger and more independent.  Tired of being a widow, having to sever my ties to Chris as my husband.  Lonely, but determined to use it for good.  Closer to God than I have ever been in my life.  Living with a completely altered world view.  More tired and world-weary than I could have imagined.  Confused, numb, sad, lost, but tinged with a sense of wanting to survive to live.  To cut myself free from a painful past, to enjoy the present, and not worry too much about a future which stretches on frighteningly. 

I don’t know it sounds like a lot of drivel to me when I read it.  I still don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I guess I have stopped trying to know and it is starting to set me free.

I am back

February 22, 2011

It has been a while since I posted since I went on a trip to visit a friend of mine in Argentina.  It was a good trip.  Chris and I had decided to go once we knew our friend would be moving there so I decided to go anyway. I went with some friends and generally was able to enjoy myself.

I had some hard days, I missed Chris desperately, thought constantly about him and how he would have loved the trip, missed being part of a couple.  But I was able to laugh, really laugh for the first time since he died.  I ate delicious food and enjoyed amazing scenery (picture seeing the Andes from a hot tub on the roof of a hotel).  I was able to basically ignore Valentine’s Day (whew) and get a bit of an escape from “being Chris’s widow”. I was just myself again for a while and I think overall it was good, it was healing.

I was in such a bad place before I left, that it  came at a good time I think. 

But coming home was hard.  It always is.  The little part of my brain that pretends that Chris will be waiting for me gets sucker punched as soon as I walk into the door.  I desperately miss being in his arms.

So now, I don’t know where I am.  Well I know where I am but my heart is all over the place.  One minute it  is numb, one minute it is trying hard to find something to be happy about, then it is angry, then it is stuck in a flashback of that morning in the hospital.  It is all over the place and it was exhausting. 

It makes me want to run away to go somewhere and pretend my life isn’t complete shit.  Sadly I don’t have enough vacation time to run away. So I guess I have to get back into finding a way to live with what I have.

The rollercoaster continues.   

Broken emotional bones?

February 7, 2011

I am broken without you baby

I have been wondering why it is so hard for me to do simple things: schedule a hair cut, meet up with friends, call friends back, do laundry, walk in my door, etc. …

I think it is because I am broken and it is painful to do pretty much anything.  People in deep grief should be compared to someone who has broken every bone in their body, torn every muscle and now has to heal these wounds, learn to use them again (sit, stand, walk, run) and do it all while experiencing great pain.  Would we expect this person to be able to walk normally at 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, 2 years?  How long does it take to gain back basic functioning?

I feel like those around us would find it easier to understand the physical version. They would recognize the pain and that you are severely damaged and healing will take years and that you will never quite move the same. Their expectations would be different, more realistic I think.

As it is, I think it is hard for them, and me, to understand to the depths that my heart and soul have been damaged and how much I have to learn about the new me, the new life, the new world I am in.  That I can’t be expected to run a marathon (emotional equivalent: go to a friend’s wedding?, be a superstar at work?, not be continually overwhelmed by life?) or even walk a mile.  The fact that I am standing and I dressed myself should be considered a miracle.  That I have moments where I can laugh and enjoy my family and try to focus on how much Chris and I loved each other should be considered extraordinary.

I crave an external sign of my pain so that others can see my wounds and I don’t have to find a way to struggle to communicate to those who aren’t also broken by grief.

Ugly emotions

January 25, 2011

There are a lot of ugly emotions associated with grief and I have been overwhelmed by them this past week.  It is draining to try to handle them the way I want to: acknowledge them, experience them, and try not to be consumed by them.  

Another of my friends got engaged this weekend.  I hate that it upsets me so much but it does.  There are so many complex emotions surrounding these types of situations that it is overwhelming.  It causes me pain, because I remember that happy time in my life and know I will never be there again.  Even if I do fall in love again and remarry (the main word being IF) it will never be as exciting and wonderful as the first time around.  I am too different.  I will never be that carefree.  It reminds me of all the plans and hopes I had with Chris which have now died with him.  Honestly it makes me want to give up.  It takes me back to those very dark first months, where there wasn’t a moment I didn’t beg God and Chris to take me away.  I don’t feel that way all the time now, only when I am at my worst.

This pain makes it hard for me to be happy for my friends.  I guess it isn’t that I am not happy for them, but its hard to be excited. It’s hard to listen to it, to pretend I don’t want to pull all my hair out. It’s hard to watch as others’ lives go on and live a life like what I wanted with Chris, while I struggle to find a reason to live.  Its hard and I hate it.  I hate that I have to work to rejoice with my friends in their happiness.  They did it for me when Chris and I were engaged and then married, even when their lives were not ideal.  It is a struggle and it is exhausting.  It is only going to continue given the phase of life I am in.  Late 20s and early 30s is all about engagements, marriage, buying houses, and having babies. I was a part of that, now I am not, nor will I be. 

But I try my best.

When I feel that deep pain from the reminders of a life I will never have now, I get angry.  Very angry.  And I find that I am mostly angry at Chris.  Whether it is fair or irrational or whatever, it is overwhelming. It is unfair that I have to do this without him. It is unfair that I will never have one wedding anniversary with him, much less the 50 we hoped for. I am fucking angry at him for leaving me .  If he showed up on our doorstep, I would punch him and throw things at him for putting me through this.  He was supposed to be with me until I was old and gray, not leave me when I was 28 to try to care about my life again, to try to live without him. 

I was perfectly fine before him.  Independent and happy, traveling and hanging out with friends and family.  Then he came along and he showed me a new kind of happy, a kind of joy that can not be felt without him. He persuaded me to give up my independent ways and I adjusted to a partnership and planned a future. I could never go back and he left me before we really got to enjoy it. 

Sometimes I think I would have been better off never meeting him.  The pain and devastation of his death far outweighs the joy of our time together right now.  Maybe if we had been married for longer and had kids, I wouldn’t feel this way. But I sometimes wish he would have left me alone.  I know it’s not fair to him, as he doesn’t deserve it and didn’t “do it on purpose” , but the emotions are there and I have to feel them.

I know many widows don’t like to say this, in many circles being this angry at the deceased is sacrilege.  I am not proud of it, he was an amazing man and loved me more than I deserved, but I am angry.  And he is the one bearing the brunt.  But he can, because he is in Heaven now and he loves me.

Another part of the struggle.  This is where I should do my metta meditation exercises right? 

I am a work in progress.

Baby,

It is Christmas and it is cold and dark.  I spent last night with your family and it made me so sad to know that they don’t get to have you for Christmas anymore, they don’t get to have me either, as I am not really me anymore. 

 We sat around the table that I remember from when we were first dating and I was so nervous and wanted them to like me. I kept expecting you to walk around the corner and sit next to me, kiss me and joke around with the rest of us.

I went to your grave today.  I don’t go as often as I should, or maybe I go to often.  I hate that you are there alone in the cold.  Every time I go I hate to leave you.  I know in spirit you aren’t there, but I am desperate to be close to you, and the body I loved the hands, eyes, hair, arms, back, feet are there.

I wander through my day seeking you out, but can’t find you.  I email you, I write you, I write here.  I talk to you, I listen to the old message I have that use to make me laugh but now makes me cry.  I walk around the house from room to room, touch your things, putting on your clothes, looking at pictures, avoiding pictures.  My urge to be with you is limitless, instinctual, and can never be satisfied.

How am I going to get through tomorrow and the day after.  My first Christmas without you.  We only got 4 Christmases together, two while dating, one engaged, one married. What is worse is all the Christmases we will never have.  We will never get to watch our little ones have their first Christmas and stay up late to build gifts for them.  It weighs so heavily on my heart; I don’t have the words to express it.

I wish I had something positive and uplifting to say, some wonderful Christmas message. But I don’t.  All I have is my undying love for you, my handsome husband, my sexy beast. 

I love you forever,

M

Chris napping with our first tree in 2008