About Me

My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Write a Letter to Your Dead Spouse

It's an obvious exercise, but it's a good one. If you want to know what you're thinking and what you're feeling, writing is one great way to figure it out, and writing a letter to your dead husband or wife can be an excellent way to put it all out there. After all, who was once your most trusted friend? Who did you talk to about your most important thoughts and feelings? Well, you can still do it (although, sadly, it will be entirely one-sided.) Never mind about that.

Here goes:

Dear Ken,

It has been 5 years and 8 months since you died. Such a long time ago. It feels different today than it did a couple of years ago. I'm not sure how I feel about the distance that has grown between us -- the distance of years, and time, and experience -- my years of living while you have been dead.

I used to spend so much time wishing you were still living on this earth, still my husband, still a father for Natalie and Alec, still here to share a certain life we had made together. I wished that what had happened to you and to us had not happened. I was really very afraid.

I am still afraid sometimes, but not nearly as much. I also know that I can't live in a wishful state, wishing for something that will never be. I've worked from the very beginning on acceptance. Acceptance has been my mantra so that I could go on living without you.

You feel so far away from me. I've had to make too many decisions without you. I've had to go it alone even though you were once my most trusted, most loved partner and friend. I've had to go it alone.

Sometimes I feel sorry for people who are lost and asleep, who don't realize that they need to live without imagining that there is a better, different, more interesting place to be than right here and right now.

Sometimes I am afraid that I can't keep you alive enough Ken. Whatever I can do, it's not enough. You deserve so much more but you got exactly what you didn't deserve. You got to die.

I'm lying. I do wish you were still here. But there is nowhere to go with that wish. Nowhere to go. It's like wishing for my own immortality.

I'm sorry that you aren't with me or your children anymore. I'm sorry that your story had to be a tragic one. I'm glad we chose one another from the moment we met. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for giving me your wonderful family and for making two amazing children with me.

We didn't finish our story with a satisfactory ending. I hated the ending of our story but the beginning was wonderful.

Goodbye for now Ken. I am so sorry to leave you.

Love, Jill


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

When Hope Becomes Nope

When Ken was first diagnosed with cancer I was 40 years old; our children were 6 and 3. It was a busy, full time in the life of our family. We were scared, yes, but we were full of hope because given the statistics, he was more than likely to survive. That hope stretched out for four years, even when the statistics started looking less and less in his favor as one recurrence then another invaded his body.

How did we express our hope? So many ways. We continued to travel, he invested in his work, we'd set off on our bikes with our little kids, my chemo-bald husband and me. We got a new dog. Ken was a coach for Natalie's soccer team. We envisioned a future still. We lived. We got the best medical care America could offer us and fought for it even when the insurance company tried to deny us.

We got a boat.

Yeah, we got a little aluminum fishing boat with a 15 hp motor. Ok, I'm all for hope, but why did we have to be THAT hopeful. I wasn't meant to have a fishing boat ALONE without my husband. Uh-uh, that was a couple thing. I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH A FISHING BOAT!

Yes, it was nice while it lasted,  tooling around on Whitewater Lake with our two little kids and our crazy Airedale terrier. Ken tinkered with the motor showing Natalie and Alec how to steer the boat while I pointed my nose into the air, taking in the cool breeze, fully enjoying the ride. I saw parts of the lake that I never got to in our canoe or while swimming. Speeding along with other boaters reminded me of my own adolescence going to cottages with my friends in Ontario on rocky Georgian Bay or Muskoka where we'd spend days (and nights) maneuvering through the shoals, hanging out with boys under the stars, or just kicking back with water below and sky above. A motorboat felt like freedom, felt like fun, felt like good times, felt like youth.

Today that boat we bought with hopes of enjoying it for years to come sits on the dock of a house on a lake, a house that reminds me of better times and happier, carefree days with a sunny future with my husband, who was more than happy to drive me around in a boat. The boat, motor and all, now sits on the dock, on land,  no matter what season it is. In the winter it fills with snow and ice. In the spring, it thaws out. In the summer, well, this summer it has grown a nice little coat of moss inside, there are dandelions growing in it as well as a weed that looks a lot like parsley. The seat is covered in black dots of mold. It's a relic of times past. It's a shame.

Sometimes hope becomes nope. That's just the way it is. I'm not telling this story because I feel sorry for myself. I'm telling it because sometimes what you hoped for doesn't happen. Sometimes there is evidence. The evidence tells a story. You might want to tell that story. Why? Because it can help you let it go.


What object or place reminds you of hope that turned to nope? Take 5 minutes to write about it.