Kentucky Mom to Twins and More

Monday, February 19, 2018

Please don't tell a widow to "get over it"

I recently put sheets on my bed.

Well, it was really just putting sheets on a mattress. A mattress that hasn't had a set of sheets or a comforter on it for nearly three months. It's been 90 days since the day he left. It's been 90 days since the blood-stained carpet was ripped up and thrown out. It's been 90 days since the sheets and comforter were washed and donated to Goodwill. Not too many days after that, all the bedroom furniture was sold and the walls were painted, too.

It's been 90 days that I've been in a carpetless, empty room (save his favorite ugly chair) laying on a mattress with only a throw blanket to cover up with at night. I want to erase my memory of a day that will forever be a nightmare that plays over and over. I wish I could undo the grief my children and I have felt since that day.

Many an internet stranger have left comments on my blog posts that I have written over the past couple months. There are people out there who have never dealt with a devastating loss, yet apparently are experts when it comes to losing a spouse. One guy commented, in a roundabout way, that I needed to "deal with my grief" instead of projecting my feelings of hurt and loss on everyone else in writing my stories. One woman berated and judged me for "taking off my wedding ring too soon." One woman told me, "blah, blah your stories are boring and sad." (Strangely I feel like this bitchy, mean lady and I could've been friends maybe in an alternate life).

But I'm not going to be mad at discouraging comments people write me. I know there are life lessons one can take from internet trolls who criticize you when you are down. The troll serves a purpose here, too.

So, I will address the grief question. I am going to humor that know-it-all who has never known the reality that is walking into a room to find their spouse and best friend dead on the floor. I wonder if having to see, hear and remember daily the screams of their spouses' parents and siblings at the knowledge of that death would be part of the process of "dealing with grief." How about questioning what you could have done differently that morning 90 days ago, and if anything you did differently could have changed the fates that day. Is that "dealing with grief?" Does the every day recollection of your son's tears the morning his father died hold any weight in the "dealing with grief" category?

I want to know if pulling out every shirt, every pair of pants, every hat from the closet— and holding it close to breathe in the smell of them one more time before you donate it—if that is "dealing with grief." I wonder if it's normal to live in your husband's ratty, old college sweatshirt... morning to night. And is it ok to keep his deodorant in the vanity drawer, just so you can hang onto one last olfactory link to the person you slept next to for almost 20 years? Are those indicators of "dealing with grief?" I wonder if the woman who questioned me about my rings would care that I take my wedding rings out of the wall safe every couple of days to look at, hold and remember the days those diamonds were on my left hand ring finger. Could that be classified as "dealing with grief," too?

I wonder if choking back tears when your daughters tell you they want their daddy is "dealing with grief" ... Because I do that almost every day, too.

I would argue that any person who just lost a spouse—no matter how long they were together—will agree that "dealing with the grief" is probably more painful than having a limb chopped off and probably just as messy. The tears from "dealing with grief" can come on as fierce as a hurricane and harder to stop—but you still try to hide them with assurances of being "fine." Dealing with the grief means sometimes you have to put on a happy face for your children, your coworkers, your neighbors—because if they knew the profound sadness of your heart, their heart just might break, too.

I've connected with quite a few young widows the past 90 days. Some of them blindsided by the death of their spouse, others had time to prepare for getting their hearts obliterated. Our stories seem to vary widely—some of their husbands died of cancer, like mine. Some died from suicide. Others died from heart attacks or aneurysms. But if you really look at all of us, our stories are the same. We face an unimaginable grief every day. We try and relate the unexplainable feelings of loss to friends around us. We try to explain any and all of it to children who can't even tie their shoes yet. We see the people who tiptoe around us not to offend, or we deal with those who tell us to "just move on," or "get over it." (Note to friends of grieving widows: Telling someone whose heart was ripped and shattered to pieces to "move on" is a huge no-no).

We are "dealing with grief" every. day. we. wake. up. What it looks like will be varied. It can present as empty smiles. It can be tear-stained cheeks. It can be a laugh one minute and wailing the next. It is "why God"s alone at night or busying herself with her childrens' extracurriculars. It can be pajamas at 2 p.m. and it can be ratty sweatshirts as a daily uniform. Yes, there are countless books about coping with grief—but to be honest, there are zero rules to follow. There is no timeline for how long it will last. There are absolutely no guidelines for "dealing with grief."

We can't undo it. There is no getting over it. There may or may not be a way to move on from it. Grief is now a torturous life experience sewn into our hearts. How we move forward, carry on and exist from here out is every widow's choice. She will know, and she will decide how "dealing with grief" will look in her life.

And sometimes it may be just as simple as her putting sheets on a bed.

This post was published Feb. 26, 2018 online here at Cure Magazine.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Today, on Valentine's Day, I wear ashes

Today I wear ashes.

Today I’ll put red food coloring in the kids' mac and cheese to do something fun for my little valentines.

Today I will avoid the grocery like the plague for fear of shedding tears at the sight of rose bouquets.

Today I’ll take the dog on a walk. She will probably be the only one who kisses me today.

Today I’ll eat red and pink peanut M&Ms and smile remembering how you hated when I breathed on you after eating them.

Today I will take a valentine card to your grave because I can’t imagine not giving you one.

Today I’ll sit alone on the couch without you.

Today I wear ashes. Because I pray to God they’ll get me back to you one day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What I know about love

Wednesday is the 14th day of the second month of the year. Valentine's Day. "Love is in the air," they'll tell us.

For so many people, it means flower deliveries, fancy dinners, wine and chocolates. Lingerie and sex too, I suppose, for the lucky ones (those not in the doghouse). Restaurants will be booked, Macy's will probably sell out of red panties and heart-patterned boxers and social media will be flooded with love stories and pictures of red roses in vases atop desks.

These are the things I have enjoyed for so long too, but now they all vanish this year. It's ok I tell myself, this is part of the grief crap. It's part of that "Year of Firsts" after your husband dies, when you don't have a love anymore. I will probably look through all the sappy cards he had given me the past 19 Valentine's Days (we met a week AFTER Valentine's Day in 1998) and I'll reminisce about how we fondly remembered this day as our firstborn's due date 11 years ago. I'll envision the bouquet he sent me across the country on our very first Valentine's Day as a couple and all the chocolates he surprised me with in between. But I'll get through it. I'll be ok. It's just another day now. 

I'm not the only one feeling like this, I realize.

There are countless people out there right now, wishing February 14 would just. go. away. So many people are hurting and struggling because of lost loves. Many of them go unnoticed— behind that grocery cart as she stares at those red, cupid boxes of candy at the checkout, standing in front of the Valentine card section at Target, realizing she doesn't have anyone to buy a card for anymore. She's invisible to that couple holding hands in the parking lot, too. They don't see the knife that just pierced her heart right then.

Since my husband has been gone these past couple months, I've been writing about it. In response, I've gotten dozens of messages from widows (and widowers, too) from all over the country, sharing their stories of loss with me. I don't know why. I am the last person on Earth qualified to give any advice, pep talks or suggestions on anything related to life in general, really. But still, they continue to reach out. I joined a young widows group online. One story is more heartbreaking than another. One widow's anniversary was Valentine's Day. Some of these women and the stories of how their husbands were taken away, make my story look like an episode of Punky Brewster with a hint of cancer thrown in. My heart aches for each of them, especially their children— many younger than mine —begging for answers about where daddy went. I know too well, the lack of answers that hold that silence.

The heartbreak is palpable through the emails. The keyboard is usually stained with tears after the exchange. So many of them frozen with fear, with grief, with anxiety and heartache for their future and for their children. Many of them not knowing the best way to carry on. All of them wishing it were a nightmare to wake up from.

I don't have answers for any of it. I'm still figuring out the way, too. I only tell them to lean on friends and family and people in their lives who offer help —knowing full well that it's not easy to do. I wonder so often if these women are alone in their grief, maybe they don't have people to lift them up and help with their burdens. Maybe she doesn't have any friends to bring her a pot of soup or take her kids for the afternoon so she can cry alone. I really don't know how to help these new people in my life.

So, I write. I'm writing you, asking YOU to help them. There are so many heartbroken people that need kindness, encouragement, an ear to bend. So many are hurting every day—not just on this made-up, Hallmark card day of flowers and candy—but every single morning they wake up without their lovers. So this Valentine's Day, please, look for them. Be that kindness, that encouraging word, that ear. Be the love they feel that day.

My 8-year-old daughter was humming this morning while coloring. I stuck my head around the corner to hear her better. I don't know how she came across this song, but I smiled when I recognized it as The O'Jays' version of "Love Train." I laughed when she sang it out of tune, "People all over the world, join hands, start a love train, love train."

Out of tune or not, the message couldn't have been more clear if it were spelled out on a conversation candy heart. LOVE. Pass it on.

This blog was originally published here at on Feb. 13, 2018, where it was requested to run exclusively.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Wrapped up in Daddy

My son hasn't said much or talked much since his father's death a couple months ago. The counselor said he's at the age where he will be closed off. He may be angry or cranky at times, likely for no reason. He is old enough to understand this heartbreak, but doesn't know quite how to process it. He's also a pre-teen, which means these would all be normal characteristics that I'd be getting used to anyway. But I don't like when he doesn't laugh. I don't like when he doesn't smile. I don't like that he doesn't talk or ask questions about his dad. 

The girls talk about daddy all the time. One of the twins is certain that he sits next to us at mealtimes. She insists on giving me one extra hug and kiss each night, telling me, "that one is for daddy." My little one draws daily pictures of her daddy as an angel, and even wrote him a thank you note for coming to his funeral (I'm doing a kickass job at raising polite people over here). She told me the other day, "I really want a daddy," to which I didn't have an answer.

They miss him so much. I do too. And I say, "I miss your daddy," so many times a day that I probably don't even know I'm uttering it out loud. One of the twins told me, "Mom, quit saying that all the time." I feel like I just want to keep him here, keep his memory fresh for us so that he doesn't fade like some worn-out T-shirt.

Speaking of T-shirts, I have been hanging onto a pile of his old shirts in a corner of the closet that I knew I didn't want sitting in a heap forever. His college shirts, his workout shirts, some shirts he wore to bed. Some friends of ours said they would have them made into a blanket. While I hated the thought of cutting into the fabric of the shirts he wore regularly and the scraps just thrown out, I agreed.

What resulted is a beautiful tapestry of my children's father that I know we will cherish forever. All the pieces of who he was, are woven together in a cozy quilt for my children to snuggle under - his favorite pastime. There's the T-shirt he wore to every country concert we ever attended - that thing could have walked around by itself. There's the green Irish shirt he wore to mow the grass or work out in. There's the red Coca-Cola T-shirt he wore out boating all the time. There are several firefighter T-shirts from the days he volunteered at the firehouse. There is that one navy Notre Dame shirt that touts the football team's undefeated 2012 season (undefeated until they got spanked in the championship game by Alabama). He still wore that shirt proudly every weekend though. There's that smaller, blue Colorado Rockies T-shirt he wore most days when he lost the weight after he got sick that sparks different memories for us, too.

All these pieces of him, memories of him, sit close to us here in the living room now. We call it the Daddy Blanket. Any time they want to feel close to him, any time they want to be near him, they cuddle with this blanket. For them, it's like having him here to watch movies with us. It's like he's near while they build a sofa fort with the blanket ontop. They all want a corner of this blanket.

I caught my son under this blanket the other day watching TV. He wasn't talking. He wasn't laughing. But I did catch him smiling. 

This post was also published Feb. 11, 2018 here at Today Show Parents.
This post was turned into a video story Feb. 24, 2018 here at People Magazine.
This post was also published March 1, 2018 here at Her View From Home.
Love in every T-shirt

Friday, February 2, 2018

Cherish that Superbowl husband

I was cutting coupons today when I noticed how all the manufacturers are selling the Superbowl foods pretty hard right now. Hot dogs, chips, salsas and dips—they made my mouth water, but also my mind wander. It traveled back to Superbowl 2003 when my husband and I were only married a couple months. We went to a party with a bunch of other young and innocent 20-somethings who only had football, beer and chili on their minds for a day.

I remember he laughed with his friends, ate tons of chili, drank booze, bet on the game—basically just enjoyed life that day. He and the guys even went outside for an impromptu football toss in the snow. I remember feeling a little slighted that he was doing all that instead of really paying attention to me. He didn't really "check on me" to see if I was having fun. He didn't bring me a drink or ask if I wanted chips. I don't know if I was pouty toward him that night—probably, because everything was about ME back then, you know.

My perspective has obviously changed over the years. I suppose it's a damn shame it's too late now.

Early February usually means a lot of sarcastic lamenting on social media from wives whose husbands will be preoccupied with the game, with the guys, with food. We'll see the silly memes and read the Twitter jokes about that age-old Superbowl husband and wife dynamic. I'm all for jokes—we were that couple too. But if I could make just one request this Superbowl Sunday to all those wives/partners out there, please hear me out.

Let him drink beer. Let him shove pizza in his face and laugh with the guys. Let him be present with his friends for the length of that game. Watch him, too—but not with glaring or resentful eyes—and really see him. Don't see him as having "more fun" than you or not doing his household share or not playing with the kids. See the gift that is HIM, being here. Being alive. The ability to eat, drink, laugh and be present here, right now, are unexplainable gifts. Cherish the beauty in that stubble on his face that you get to kiss on later. Smile at the greatness of his dad bod—even if his is a belly that has ingested too many Doritos, because believe it or not, you are lucky you get to snuggle it later. Listen to and enjoy his laughter. Look and really see the person you are fortunate enough to share life with and have next to you, warm in bed each night.

Acknowledging the realness of your partner, flaws and all, will probably make you a more grateful, happier person. A person who won't have any regrets, especially when he's no longer here. Regrets like how you wished you had just one more Superbowl to soak in everything that made him HIM.

This post was also published Feb. 3, 2018 at Perfection Pending by Meredith Ethington.