My Mother Was Right

The last time I wrote a blog post I was in an anxious and annoyed state over the seemingly endless list of things I thought I could not do without Ben.  At the time, the top of the list of annoyances was the fact that I was headed off to Camp Widow where I would be attending a Saturday night Masquerade Ball and there was no one to zip up my dress.  It sent me into a full blown panic.

Well, one week-ish later and I’m here to tell you that I survived.  Not only did I survive, but I thrived.  Yes, I said it … I thrived.  And I’ll let you in on a secret I have always known on some level but often refused to admit …

My Mother Was Right.

Yup.  I’m writing it in this blog and I’ll never again be able to deny it.  My. Mother. Was. Right.  She told me I wasted too much time worrying and it turns out she knows exactly what she’s talking about.  Zipping up my dress turned out to be a non issue.

I arrived at the San Diego airport and discovered that I am perfectly capable of retrieving my own luggage and finding my way to a hotel without Ben.  Who knew?  (Apparently my mother knew).  I asked a few questions around the airport and made my way right to the area where the ride pick up is, AND …. I used a Lyft.  That’s kind of a big deal considering we do not have Lyft or Uber in BC, and yet still I figured it out.  Imagine that.

I was aware that there was a bit of a gathering at the hotel bar on Thursday evening, and as much as I wanted to hide in my room and stress out in anticipation of the next morning, I didn’t.  I forced myself to go downstairs all by myself and find the bar.

You may be wondering how one finds the rest of the Widows in a strange town, in a packed bar, with no signs pointing out which way to go and no one wearing a black veil.

 

I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances.  I walked over to a group of women and said something to the effect of, “Are you all widows?”  Class act #1 for the weekend.

I guess I now have a radar for widows because it turns out I asked the right people. They were indeed widows and they welcomed me with smiles, and in return I promptly burst into tears.  Class act #2.  There I was, standing at a packed bar and all I could do was cry.  Not because Ben is dead, although that reason is never too far away, but because it was such a relief to realize for certain that I wasn’t alone.  There were so many of us, and every single other person there appeared to be smiling.  By the looks of it, it seemed there may indeed be life after loss.

The next morning I made my way down to registration and the first thing I saw on my way in was this:

An entire wall of loved ones, and mine was front and centre. Ben The Titan.

The second thing I saw that morning was Amanda.  She was standing right behind me in line.  Alone.  So I said “hi” and guess what?  She said “hi” right back.  Imagine that.

A bit later in the morning Amanda and I met up again after attending our seminars of choice, and she walked out with Mary.  So I said “hi” to Mary too, and Mary said “hi” right back.

That evening we all went to dinner and somehow I ended up standing next to Lynessa.  So I said “hi” to Lynessa, and Lynessa said “hi” right back.

And then this happened:

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And that, folks, is how you do it in Widow World.  You say “hi” and they say “hi” and the next thing you know you are dressing up in weird outfits and hanging out together late into the evening.  And then you hook up on FB and spend a lot of time sending ridiculous videos to each other and making plans for how they will pick you up at the airport when you arrive in Vegas in November.

Saturday night was the Masquerade Ball and you may recall that I wrote this paragraph (below) before I went to San Diego, when I did a “dress up practice run” at home:

There was no one to zip me up. I was enraged.  Did you ever watch the Friends episode where someone stole Ross’ sandwich at work and he turned into Red Ross? I turned into Red Wendy.  Maybe Whacko Wendy.  I lost my sanity, upstairs in my bathroom that day.  I went into a frenzy of twisting and turning and trying to reach behind me and push the zipper up, and when that didn’t work I tried to reach down to grab it.  I am not that flexible.  Nothing worked, and I was furious.”

After all that angst would you like to know how it turned out?  You probably think one of my new found friends zipped me up, but you’d be wrong.  I could have asked them and I’m quite sure they would have helped me out, but it turns out that I didn’t need to.  It seems I had discovered my widow comfort zone and I found myself walking up to a complete stranger at the elevator and asking, “Would you mind doing up the clasp on my dress?”  Guess what she said?  “Sure.”  And that’s all it took.  (Also, it turns out that Camp Widow offers a “Zip Up” service, but in my defence I didn’t realize that until after I was back home).

I learned a lot this weekend.  I learned how to support and be supported by strangers who became friends.  I learned how to laugh at some of the crazy things that happen to everyone when their person dies.  (Turns out pretty much everyone has been told “I know exactly how you feel.  My dog died.”  Don’t even get me going on that one … that’s for a whole other post.)  I learned that there are people way, way worse off than me and they are still smiling.  I learned that widows have a dark sense of humour and I am not the only one who thought it was hilarious that the hotel put the signs for a wedding reception and a widows camp right next to each other.

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(I cannot tell you how many widows I overheard saying things like “Should we give the bride a business card?”)

And finally, I learned that My Mother Was Right.  Everything has a way of working itself out just like she always says, and worrying is a big fat waste of time.  It turns out, after all, that I am in fact brave.

So, if anyone out there has experienced a loss and has considered going to Camp Widow in the past but was held back by fear … you should go.  Trust me on this one.  I wouldn’t steer another widow wrong.

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Who Will Zip Me Up?

I have recently discovered the latest in a list of annoyances caused by being a … a … a … (I still choke on the word “widow”) … alone.

As I write this post I am preparing to board a plane this afternoon for San Diego … Widows Camp.  There.  I said it.  I am forcing myself to go despite the almost unbearable amount of anxiety it is causing me.  I know, I know … I am going to meet with people who may actually understand me and all the shit I’ve gone through, and I should not be anxious about it.  But sometimes knowing how I should feel is just not the way I actually do feel, and this is one of those times.

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(That is not me, btw.  But it demonstrates quite well how I feel right now.)

There are plenty of reasons why I am so anxious about attending the camp.  Where do I start?  Flying alone, finding my way from the airport to the hotel without my husband, having to walk into that first room by myself and feeling like all eyes are on me, worrying that I will spend the weekend silent because if I talk I may burst into tears.  The list goes on.  But the biggest reason for my anxiety is actually the part that is intended to be the most fun …. the Masquerade Ball.

The Masquerade Ball, so lovingly planned by the woman who founded the Soaring Spirits Organization and intended to provide everyone with an evening to dress up and get out and have some fun, is causing me untold amounts of anxiety.  I am not a dress up kind of girl at the best of times, although I would comb my hair and throw on a nice blouse for my anniversary dinner each year.  Basically I live in yoga pants and tank tops – they’re comfortable and quite frankly I don’t really have anywhere to go that requires anything fancier.  Until now.

The Masquerade Ball is on Saturday night, and while there are several reasons I am anxious about it, here’s the top four:

1. I don’t know how to dance.  Ben was an awesome dancer.  For a big, rough looking man he sure had some good moves on the dance floor.  “Ben” was synonymous with “rhythm.”  I, on the other hand, never managed to advance much beyond the old 1-2 side to side shuffle.  (Unless I am drunk and surrounded by those who have known me forever and will love me no matter what.  Under those circumstances I am an awesome dancer.  And singer. Just sayin’)

2. I don’t know anyone.  Not knowing anyone raises those old teen anxieties of standing on the sidelines at the high school dance.  Yes, I know that many people arrive at camp without knowing a soul and people get to know each other before the Saturday night event.  Knowing that does not ease my anxiety, because secretly I fear being the first person to attend this camp who doesn’t make any friends, and therefore will be the high school student standing alone on the sidelines at the dance.

3.  I don’t really know what to wear to a masquerade ball.  It involves a dress.  The last time I wore one was at Ben’s funeral, and I looked terrible.  Yes … terrible.  I’ve seen myself on video and it wasn’t pretty.

4.  I don’t own an appropriate dress.  I do have a sundress that I have worn on one occasion when it was simply too hot for anything else, but the only pair of shoes that go with it are flip flops.  I don’t imagine that flip flops are appropriate for a masquerade ball.

Ever the practical person, I decided to try to ease my anxieties by dealing with each one head on to see if I could find some solutions that might help me to relax.

–       Reason 1.   The only way to fix this problem would be to take some dance lessons, and there wasn’t enough time.  So, the answer to this problem?  Try to look busy on the sidelines for awhile until I can make a discreet exit.

–       Reason 2.  Literally cannot be fixed until I arrive.  No solution for the time being so I may as well put it out of my mind.  Or just keep worrying about it.  Either way.

–       Reason 3.  Google told me that people wear fancy costumes and hold masks up in front of their faces.  I love the mask part (no need to apply make up) but the dress part?  Oh my.  Still, now that I know the answer I suppose it is technically no longer a problem.

–       Reason 4.   The answer to this one was easy … go and buy an appropriate dress.

I decided I could not go and buy a fancy gown like the ones that Google says are worn at Masquerade Balls because it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase, but I figured I could find something slightly fancier than a sundress.  I spent about 7 hours in two different stores trying on gown after gown after gown and gagging at myself in the mirror.  When I was finally sweating like I had just finished a 10K from all the changing of clothes, I happened to see a plain black dress hanging on a hook.  Long.  Simple.  Rather elegant.  Comfortable.  Affordable.  And, hopefully with a little help from a pair of Spanx (and possibly dimmed lights) … it would fit.  Hallelujah!

The sales lady packaged it up and off I went, stopping at one other store to buy out every pair of Spanx they had along with seven different bras that I thought may possibly work under this dress. (This was not cheap, I might add). Finally I arrived home, squeezed myself into some Spanx, pulled on the extremely awkward strapless bra and stepped (almost excitedly) into the dress to see how it all worked.

And ….

There was no one to zip me up. 

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I was enraged.  Did you ever watch the Friends episode where someone stole Ross’ sandwich at work and he turned into Red Ross? I turned into Red Wendy.  I lost my sanity, upstairs in my bathroom that day.  I went into a frenzy of twisting and turning and trying to reach behind me and push the zipper up, and when that didn’t work I tried to reach down to grab it.  I am not that flexible.  Nothing worked, and I was furious.  I normally would have sat down and had a good cry, but I was just too mad.  I was mad at Ben for not being here and for leaving me to try to figure out how to get myself dressed for a Masquerade Ball all by myself.  (Not to mention that I wouldn’t have to attend this ball if he hadn’t gone and died on me.) I was mad at Ben for causing me to sweat so profusely in my efforts to practice zipping myself up that I left sweat stains on my brand new dress.  I was mad at Ben for dying.  Period.

When I finally sat down on the edge of the tub due to exhaustion from all my raging, it occurred to me that I clearly need this camp. 

Once I was calm I discovered that if I pull the dress over my head instead of stepping into it (thank God for jersey material), I only need the zipper to be down a few inches instead of all the way to my waist.  Then, if I sort of shimmy and pull at the same time I can manage to reach that last little bit of zipper and pull it up.  I felt like a bit of a warrior,  but I am still pissed in general that I no longer have anyone to zip me up.

Yes indeed, I do need this camp.  Hopefully my next post will not be about how the zipper burst during my crazy shimmying efforts to pull it up, and how I was left half naked at a Masquerade Ball standing on the sidelines.

Hug your family.

PS.  I also bought some pretty gold sandals to wear so I can ditch the flip flops.  Now I’m worried that I may be overdressed at the Ball.  😉

This One Is For Robert K.

So, apparently I lied on February 5th when I said I was done posting on this blog. Although, in my defense I did say that I was going to stay non committal …  I left myself a little opening incase I felt moved to blog, and I happen to feel moved to blog.

Recently I decided to sell Ben’s Apple Extreme Something-Or-Other.  I didn’t really know what it was and had to google it in order to find out, but I did know that it wasn’t being used and hadn’t been used for the entire year.  Like everything else Ben bought it was essentially brand new with the box and everything it came with originally.

I put an ad on Craigslist and had several texts back and forth with some guy who wanted to buy it but he wanted me to drive it out to Pacific Center for him.  I may get a thrill from collecting a dollar or two by selling off unused items, but certainly not enough to drive into Vancouver to pass it on.  No thanks.  If you can’t come here to pick it up then you’d best find another one elsewhere.  (Silly guy, because it was a great deal.)  Anyway, the guy was a bit of a goof and kept texting me at all hours of the night over the course of last weekend until he finally believed me that I wouldn’t be bringing it to him.  He said he’d think about it, and then on Monday he texted me a photo of an Apple Extreme Something-Or-Other he had bought from someone else.  Really?  Not sure what the point of that was.  The conversation that followed went something like this:

Me: “and?”

Him:”I bought one from someone else so I don’t need to buy yours.”

Me: “good thing I didn’t drive to Vancouver then.”

Him: “well I would have bought yours if you had brought it to me.”

Me: “I am not that desperate for a  buck.”

So that was that and I was kind of chuckling over the fact that he seemed to think I would be shattered that he would not be making the purchase, when my phone went ‘ding’ and I looked at my email.  Lo and behold, right at that moment another gentleman was asking me if it was still for sale, and there began another conversation that made me smile:

Him: “Still have the Apple Extreme?”

Me: “Ironic that I should receive this email today (long story) but as it turns out I do have it.”

Him: “Perfect.  Tomorrow evening for pickup work for you?”

Me: “Well, apparently I will not be out on some wildly romantic Valentines excursion so it seems that tomorrow will in fact be a good time for pickup.”

Him: “I totally forgot about VDay being tomorrow!! How about Wednesday as my lovely wife expects me around!?”

Me: “Ha!  I’d suggest you pretend that it didn’t take an anonymous craigslist seller to remind you about Valentine’s Day.  Wednesday is fine.”

Him: “I pretend real well because at my age I forget real easy.”

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I got a laugh and a sale at the same time.

Wednesday night rolled around and my craigslist buyer arrived at my front door.  I opened the door and was greeted by Robert.  Robert-With-The-Friendly-Smile and cash in hand which I happily traded him for the Apple Extreme Something-Or-Other.  And then, surprise surprise, he handed me a gift bag containing a bottle of wine, a box of chocolate and a Starbucks card.  I was so puzzled until this lovely man explained.  He told me that he and his wife had read my blog.  So had their daughters.  And he told me he thought I was wonderful.  Then he gave me a hug and away he went, leaving me with tears in my eyes, a smile on my face and a reminder of how amazing people are.

I don’t know how to reach Robert K.  I sent him a FB message but we all know how those work when you aren’t “friends” with someone.  He’ll probably discover it in a few years. So I wanted to write another post that I hope he sees just to say …

thank-you-robert

You made my one-day-after-Valentines-Day-alone a little sweeter.  And you reminded me about all the lovely people out there who are not Craigslist Killers (yes, that thought always crosses my mind before I sell something) but instead just want to bring a little light into someone else’s day.  I’m not amazing, but you are.  You are amazing, Robert and Robert’s wife.  Amazing.  Thank you.

You would think that for someone who suggested she may not blog again, that would be the end of this unexpected post. But it’s not. I have one more story about selling off Ben’s unused items that also made me laugh the day after I met The Amazing Robert.

Recently Raegan and I discovered a brand new OtterBox for an iPhone 6 plus (Ben’s) that was still in it’s package.  Neither of us could imagine why he hadn’t used it considering how expensive they are, but I have no need for it so I priced it for a quick sale on the local FB site.  It sold immediately and a lady came by to pick it up.  Sale over and I did not expect to hear from her again.  But I did.  I received a private FB message from her that read:

Hi Wendy. I had a look at the case when I got home tonight and I realized that it is not a Otter box you sold me. It is called a crseology case. A cheap Chinese import. I would like to know if this was a mistake.

OMG.  I could feel my face turn red and there wasn’t even anyone around to see.  I quickly looked at the photos I had taken of the case (kept in the original Otterbox) and discovered that she was right.  The word “Crseology” was stamped right on it and I had never noticed. How completely humiliating.  I had to convince a complete stranger that I had not intentionally ripped her off and that in fact it was all Ben’s fault.  Lol. I felt like I was stammering with embarrassment as I wrote back to her.

Needless to say I returned her money with my head hanging in shame (metaphorically, since I actually eTransferred it back to her).  I have no idea how that phone case made it into an Otterbox case, but here is my best guess.  I suspect that my sweet Ben who always liked to save a buck ordered an Otterbox online by someone who was advertising them for cheap.  Not one to pass up a bargain, I suspect he made that purchase from an unreliable seller and got ripped off but didn’t want to tell me about it because he thought I would tease and torment him relentlessly.  Which I would have, to be honest.

Now you may ask yourself why Ben wouldn’t have just thrown the case and the box in the garbage so that I would never find out, right?  That would have been the reasonable thing to do, but this is Ben we’re talking about.  Ben The Hoarder who never threw anything away.  Ben The Hoarder who kept every box from everything he ever purchased, “just incase.”  (Admittedly though, his need to save boxes has earned me some extra money over this last year when I have been able to advertise items that still have their original packaging. So I guess it might not have been the worst habit ever.)  I suspect that he just couldn’t bring himself to get rid of it.  “Just incase.”

I imagine he is laughing his head off over my awkward moment, since he knows I would have laughed at him if I had known what happened at the time.

That’s all for today, folks.  I’ll see if the mood hits me again.

Hug your families.

I Still Look For Him

I still look for Ben.  Yes I do.  Not so much in person (although I do confess to scanning the cafeteria at work in hopes of catching a glimpse.  And also,  I can’t get a coffee from the office Tim Hortons without picturing a particular moment where Ben and I were once standing nearby having a rare chat while working), but rather, I tend to look for him online.  The internet.

I have read everything that exists about Ben on the internet.  In fact, I wrote most of it. But still I look, as though I’m hoping he might post a new picture or write something in a new guitar forum.  I continue to read and re-read all the online comments on his obituary, and I continue to regret not having had a written guest book at his service.  I like to read about him and about how others felt about him.  I like to hear his name.

When I run out of things to look at online about Ben, I do a little further research about Collecting Duct Carcinoma just to see if there are any new breakthroughs.  Don’t ask me why.  I can’t imagine if I would be elated or royally pissed off if there was a breakthrough. (Elated for others, pissed off that it didn’t happen in time for Ben.) Recently I did find this online … the conclusion of a 2016 study:

Conclusions: Our analysis identifies several coding and non-coding transcripts differentially expressed in CDC vs CCC and normal kidney, resulting in alteration of a number of cellular pathways associated with cancer pathogenesis, progression and prognosis. These results pave the way to a deeper understanding of a rare tumor as CDC, driving the development of new, targeted therapies for this aggressive disease.

Well.  At least its nice to know scientists are still looking into it.  From the rest of the article I gleaned that there may be a gene problem in people with CDC.  But then again I have a difficult time deciphering the science-speak so I could be wrong.

In any case, I have now lived 10 1/2 months without My Love.  It is officially December, Christmas is rapidly approaching, and I still look for him. I wonder how long that will go on for?  The instructor for the workshop I’m currently taking would love that I just said that.  She wants us to get curious about our thoughts and feelings instead of being judge-y about them.  So there it is.  I am curious as to how long I will continue to search online for signs of my dead husband.  Maybe it’ll take forever.  I won’t judge myself.

When I can’t find anything new online about Ben or about Collecting Duct Carcinoma, I then spend time searching for people who can understand me.  In other words … widows. I am not fond of that word.  Widow.  Widow. Widow.  Blech.  But still, the only people who can understand me happen to be those people, and I long to be surrounded by them. Surrounded by people who “get” me.  Yes, yes, I know other people love me and have even experienced other forms of loss themselves.  I am not suggesting that one loss is better or worse than another … they are all terrible, but they are different.  If you haven’t lost your life partner then you don’t know how I feel, and that can make a person feel very alone.  At least, it certainly makes me feel alone.  So I’m all over the internet throwing in as many different search terms as I can think of in an effort to find people who understand me … “widow” “death of spouse” “husband died” “I’m too young for this shit” “why the fuck did my husband die” … stuff like that.  (I should probably spend time googling how to cure a foul mouth.  But I digress …)

During one of my many online searches I found something called Camp Widow.  There is one in Toronto, one in Florida and one in San Diego.  Each one is held once a year, with the one in Florida coming up next March.  I think I will go, even though it scares the shit out of me. What could it hurt? If nothing else, I’ll spend a few days in Florida.  Or perhaps I’ll wait until August and go to San Diego, which would be less expensive but oh so far in the future.  I don’t know if I can wait that long to be around people like me.  I currently feel like I’m from another planet and I need my own peeps, even if I haven’t met them yet. Take me home ….  (I feel like I should put a picture of John Denver in here.  Or maybe one of a country road)

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This week my Grey’s Group (Grey’s Anatomy, not Grey Cup.  Gray Cup?  Whatever.) came over to help me with dragging Christmas out from under the stairs.  By the end of the night the family room looked something like this:

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I put the tree in the opposite corner from where we had it last year.  I didn’t want to block Ben from having a proper view of Christmas.

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Right below the star on the tree you will see the first Christmas ornament we ever bought together. Christmas 1993.  Terribly tacky but oh how I love it.

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Right below that you will see the space I have left for the 2016 ornament that is currently en route in the mail. The last Saint-Onge Five ornament.  I will show you when it arrives.

By the end of the weekend the rest of the house looked something like this:

                       Note the live boughs going up the railing.  Pretty crafty, if I do say so myself.

You may recall a few months back how I was unable to bring myself to dispose of Ben’s toothbrush, until one day my cleaning lady asked me if I had a spare one that she could use.  In that instant I was suddenly able to part with Ben’s toothbrush without blinking an eye, because it was the practical thing to do.  She needed a toothbrush and I had one just sitting there.  Well, recently I’ve had the dilemma of what to do about Ben’s Christmas stocking.  To hang or not to hang.  After stewing about it and crying over it, the problem was again solved in an instant when Jaime asked, “Mom … can I have a new stocking this Christmas?” And then, when she saw the look on my face that can only mean “I-am-sick-of-wasting-money-on-things-you-already-have” she casually said, “Well maybe I could just have Dad’s.”

So there you have it.  Problem solved.  Ben’s stocking now belongs to Jaime.  And the spot where Ben’s  once hung will remain empty.  A reminder that no one can fill his socks 🙂

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So, it was a somewhat rough week but in the end it turned out ok with a few overall improvements that happened today.  The first was that an old friend and colleague of Ben’s moved back to BC and started work in my section.  That was nice.  I love to be around people who knew Ben at different times in his life.  It means I get to hear Ben’s name and I get to hear stories I may not have heard before.  It means I get to be reminded that others loved Ben too.

I also had the opportunity to have a solid laugh today with Zak … at Ben’s expense.  Zak had received a parking ticket for which the fine is $35 now or $50 later.  I told Zak he should go to court instead of paying, admit the offence but ask for a reduction in fine to zero dollars. I told him that when he gets to court he should tell the Justice of the Peace that he has to save all his money for school because his Dad went and died on him and therefore will no longer be paying for Zak’s college education.  The look on Zak’s face was priceless until he realized I was joking and started laughing.  And then Zak pointed out that he should probably save the “My-Dad-Died” excuse for a point in time where he was facing at least a $500 fine as opposed to a $35 fine.  He felt Ben might be insulted at only being able to save Zak $35 bucks.  And we laughed at that.  And we laughed again because Ben would have laughed too.

The final improvement to my week was this.  Fruit salad for dessert.

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Give your family some love tonight.  xo

And The Grief Goes On…

I’m sure this is the longest I have gone without blogging since the day we started writing about this fun fest called cancer.  With a small ‘c’.  I’ve thought about writing lately, but when the mood has hit I have looked warily at my computer and have ultimately decided that I would rather bury my head under the covers and try to find some solace in sleep.  I wonder if I am “over” blogging.  I’m not sure.  I suspect it is more about the blanket of grief hanging over our lives that seems to get heavier as we approach Christmas. As we approach the anniversary of Ben’s death.  As we approach a time where every first without Ben has passed.

I believe I mentioned that I recently joined a Grief Group.  I hate that name, by the way.  I find myself embarrassed to say “Just heading off to Grief Group now.”  In any case, I did join a Grief Group because that is what I’m doing right now.  I’m grieving.  And it takes a shit load of energy, believe me.  Grieving is not for the faint of heart, and I recommend trying to avoid it at all costs.  Make sure your loved ones wear their seat belts, look both ways before crossing the road, eat their vegetables, and ask them to try to not get old.

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Anyway, I joined the Grief Group and I quite like the ladies I have met, although I find myself wanting to throw my arms around them and say “I’m so sorry” about a dozen times a night.  None of them are whiners, but their stories are just so sad.  I suppose mine is sad too. (Fucking cancer.  Fucking bad hearts.)  We get handouts at the end of each night … and one of them was an article published in the Globe and Mail in 2014.  The article resonated with me, and I will share some of the author’s words here in this blog post.  But before I do, I would like to state for the record that we here in the west do grieving WRONG. In fact, we do it terribly.  I now understand why, back in the day, people wore all black for a year or wore black bands around their arms to signify their grief. We should revert back to those days.  (Perhaps just the arm bands rather then the all black clothing.  All black clothing in 2016 simply means Goth.  So that would be confusing.)

Do you know why people once wore black arm bands?  Because they were fucking grieving and the world needed to know it.  Wearing black arm bands probably prevented people from directing questions to the bereaved like “Hey chick!  How ya doin’?!”  Or comments like “Er Mah Gawd I cannot wait for Christmas!!!! Aren’t you so excited for the holidays?!”  Yes, I am aware that people mean well and that it is easy for them to forget that I probably don’t give a flying shit that Christmas is coming.  And I know that asking someone how they’re doing is just something we say out of habit as we pass by each other in the hall at work or in the grocery store.  But that is really my whole point about the arm bands.  If we lived in a society where everyone around us could easily see when someone is grieving, we could better avoid comments that accidently make the bereaved want to punch a screwdriver through their own head.

I currently live about 70% of my time in a very sad world.  Because I’m grieving.  And while I’m grieving, I’m also still trying to be a parent.  Not only am I trying to be a parent, I’m trying to be TWO parents.  Think about that shit for a moment.  I would prefer to spend my every moment watching video clips of Ben and I in better days.  Failing that, I like to pass the time by researching how to cure Collecting Duct Carcinoma on the off chance I can also figure out how to time travel. Then I will be prepared with a cure before we even receive the diagnosis.  Instead, I not only have to be the Mom but I also have to be the Dad.  And not just any Dad … one of the best Dads.  One of the most hands on Dads there could have ever been.  That is some hard shit to do, let me tell you.  And so I live 70% of my time in a sad world right now and that is quite alright, thankyouverymuch.  Don’t you think it would be a bit odd if I didn’t?  I’m moving through it though, but slowly.

Living in a sad world doesn’t mean I never again see the sun.  It doesn’t mean I assume I’ll never be happy again.  I will.  I know I will.  That’s kind of a given because that is who I am. I like to be happy.  I prefer to be happy.  But right now I’m grieving.  I can still go from happy to sad in .05 seconds and you won’t have a clue how or why it happened.  It could be a song, a smell, a word … it doesn’t matter.  It just happens.  Every single place I go on any given day, I have been there before with Ben.  So it is easy for moments to hit where I have to remind myself to breathe.

I happen to appreciate the fact that I am allowing myself to grieve properly.  I believe it will make it easier for me live however many years I have left in whatever form of happiness I am able to find.  I believe that if I let myself grieve as I need to that I will ultimately be a better mom.  A better daughter.  A better sister and a better friend.  Maybe one day a better partner to another man.  Who knows.  But I do know what I need to do right now, which is to just grieve without time limits being placed on me.  I’m working through some heavy shit.

Here’s a few of my favourite lines out of the article in The Globe and Mail.

“With spousal bereavement, things don’t get better, just different.  Everything feels wrong.  A rift exists between us, as I go on and he doesn’t.  Time comes between us.  When sutures refuse to hold, the wound opens unpredictably.  So it is for the widow or widower: The world assumes that time has done its proverbial work and “healed” us.  No.  We bleed still, our amputation aches.  The wound never heals because our partner is gone, forever.  Time heals nothing.”

“In the first fresh agonies of separation I howled like a distressed animal (which I was).  Sanity receded.  My centre gutted, mindless chores helped to ground me.  I struggled against the desire to call out for help, not wanting to trouble others, sensing even early on that few would understand the depths in which I floundered.”

And finally, after making reference to the Victorians’ shield of mourning dress, she said “Today, many deny death’s reality by doling out advice (“keep busy” or “take a trip”) with more enthusiasm than logic, as if all the bereaved need is a distraction.”

I like those last words.  “As if all the bereaved need is a distraction.”  That is a common theme amongst those who love me and want me to hurt less.  I get it.  I don’t want to watch those I love suffer either.  But it is for our own sake that we don’t want the people we love to hurt, because watching someone we love go through pain is unbearable. It hurts.  So if we can just convince them that they are happy, then we too can be happy again.  If only it were that simple.

I often think about how my parents must feel.  They loved Ben as much as anyone could love a son, and they lost him.  Oh, how that must hurt.  But in addition to the pain they feel from having Ben ripped from their lives, they also have to watch their daughter suffer without any clear end date to the suffering.  That has to hurt even more.

My husband died.  I have to check the box that says ‘widow’ on government forms.  I really resent that.  I probably always will.  Which means that five years from now, or ten years from now when I am forced to check off that box, I will be sad.  Again.  Do you know why? Because Ben is dead.  That’s why.  I think that’s a pretty acceptable reason.

I still want to talk to Ben every single day.  I want to tell him that Chris got promoted and has transferred from Ottawa to Green Timbers. I want to tell him that Dennis retired.  I want to tell him that Jeff will be coming back this summer.  The other day I wanted to tell him about the guy who came into my office perturbed about something that I thought was ridiculously insignificant.  I wanted to text Ben and tell him the story, and say “Can you believe that you are dead, and this guy wanted me to care about who should repair the cars?”  I want to tell him that I miss him, and I love him, and I want him to come home.

The kids and I finished the design for the marker for Ben’s grave.  For 12 years Ben and I regularly walked through the graveyard and I often wondered if one of us would actually end up there.  I guess now I know the answer to that question.  Ben’s picture will be placed where the white oval is in the drawing:

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