The Darkness

Darkness.
Seeing no way out from a life heavy with a lack of light.
Sigh.
Begrudgingly starting every day.
Silent.
Every single day I regret being silent to those who have come to this blog to read my words and have found help or comfort through them.
Worse.
Wish I could laugh in the face of every person who has said it will get better one day because all I feel is the overwhelming sense of sinking deeper.
Lost.
Unsure of where I fit or belong.
Disconnected.
Not part of anything yet surrounded by all the things I should be.
Wordless.
No longer able to put into words how I feel.
Pathetic.
Hate myself for the inability to function.
Downhill.
Living proof that it is a myth to take it one day at a time and things will get better.
Drowning.
The thought of breathing it all in makes me choke on the misery.
Disappointed.
Not at all doing what I am supposed to be doing or living the life I should be living.
Letdown.
Unable to be there for the people who love me or be part of their lives like I once was.
Unfocused.
Getting what needs to be done every day is a daily battle barely won.
Failure.
My original goal of helping others through my words and experience with grief has failed since losing my ability to write.
Lonely.
My heart beats for you with miserably unattainable desire.
Guilty.
Constantly questioning why it was you, not me.
Jealous.
Everyone’s lives seem to be coming together in such a perfect loving way while I am trapped in this dismal cage.
Angry.
This is the life I have been given and I wish I could return to sender.
Frustrated.
The daily motions that must be gone through quickly grow tedious.
Mundane.
Nothing seems to bring joy or relief or brief moments of clarity.
Master of the mask.
Faking it has no longer become an option, just reality.
Unhappy.
Struggling to remember the last time I was happy and woke up excited for something to happen.
Incapable.
I am totally unable to forget and move on even though people tell me I should.
Lonely.
Life without you just does not make sense and all attempts to fill the void are inadequate.
Weak.
So tired of the fight and effort it requires to get through each day.
Defeated.
I feel like I need to acknowledge that my entire life of bad luck has won.
Bandaid solution.
Trying anything to cover the pain and make it go away.
Acceptance.
Realizing and accepting that regardless of trying to be a good person and giving so much to others isn’t enough to avoid fate when she comes knocking to take away everything you love.
Caught.
See absolutely no way out of all of this.

Grief.
The only existence I know.
Surrender.
Tired of fighting and ready to give in to the unrelenting darkness.

Darkness.

A Thought for Fellow Grievers: A Picture Says a 1000 Words

A-picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words

They says a picture is worth a thousand words and as an obsessive photographer I have always agreed with that.  I have also always been a big fan of quotes in that I am constantly saving ones I see or writing them down from the books I read or posting them on my fridge or sharing them with my best friend, Lauren.  Since I lost Zach, my fiancé, I have either come across or been sent various pictures with quotes about grieving that have so strongly resonated with me that I now have an extensive collection of them saved in my phone or in my email.

I would like to share them here with you today because maybe you also have found yourself trapped in a similar journey with grief and you feel like me in that it gives you a small degree of comfort to know that other people are thinking and feeling the same way as you.  Maybe you can also look at a picture of someone who has experienced loss, recognize the raw emotion, and know exactly what they are feeling in that moment.

That’s the worst part about grief: to feel like you have lost your mind, that no one could ever feel the way you do, and that what you’re feeling isn’t normal.  Our grief stories might be different, our loss can have a completely different face, but grief is grief and we experience it together.  So maybe you have already seen some of these pictures or heard these quotes or maybe you won’t even get anything out of me sharing them, but I am doing this today because I need the same reminder that grief is shared by all….. even through the pure kindness of faceless online supporters.

These pictures depict, describe, define, and demonstrate grief whether it be through words or just a picture.  I hope you draw the same thing from them as I have.

From me to you,

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The Lost Me

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“I’m not sure this is a world I belong in anymore. I’m not sure that I want to wake up.” ~~ Gayle Forman in If I Stay

 

Zach,

Lost doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel right now.  I somehow managed to finish the spring semester and even more insanely somehow managed to finish with straight A’s again.  Dean’s List for the third year running…. yay, right?  But there is no yay.  There was no joy.  There was just a weekend of relief then back at it again.  The summer semester is already one week underway and it is brutal.  The great thing about the summer semester is how wonderfully quickly you can get through a full class.  Who needs the typical five months to complete a university class when you can accomplish the same thing in a matter of mere weeks?  Of course that does mean work and teaching 8-5:30, class every night from 6-9 PM then home to read a full textbook chapter, take a quiz, do an assignment and somehow be up at it first thing in the morning again?  Hell.  Is it any wonder that I feel lost?  Probably not, but this is an ongoing thing since I lost you.

There is no concept of time anymore.  Wasn’t it just Christmas?  Or Spring Break?  Or last year?  The other day I told someone that I lost you last year.  It hasn’t been a year.  That’s just not true.  It is has been over a year and a half now so why would I say that?  I have not only lost myself, but I have lost my grip on everything.  What I haven’t lost is the ability to fool everyone into thinking I am coping better than before.  My mask has been pretty firmly in place for awhile now, but by now I just am the mask.

I go to work, I do the job and I am great at it.  I’ll pat myself on the back for that because I do good work and I love my job.  I teach my students, they learn, they enjoy class, and they love me as much as I love and am indebted to them.  I go to class, I succeed, I learn, and (without sounding like I am tooting my own horn since it is their words and not mine) the professors are impressed by my work.  And yet there is still nothing there.  It is empty.  It is vapid.  It is meaningless.  It is lost.

But am I actually lost?  Like the picture says, in order to be lost you have to know where it is you are supposed to be.  I definitely don’t know that.  I am supposed to be with you, living my life with you, and without that?  I just don’t know.

Zach, I started this blog and began writing in this space, not only to help process some of the thoughts in my head, but to share my story so others might know they are not alone, and to maybe help someone else one day.  Now I feel I am even failing at that because I cannot pull myself together, cannot overcome the constant exhaustion I feel to sit down and write.  I am so lost, what I used to be is so lost that I don’t even know where to find a smidgen of a piece of me.

But aren’t we all lost?  Isn’t that what grief does to us?  Spins us around, dumps us upside down, twists our realities, and makes everything tainted with a bitter disdain for our own lives?  I know I am not alone in this.  All of us found in excruciating vortex of grief have felt the same way at one point or another.  I don’t know how to find my way back, but I think this space is a good place to start.  This space was the only place I could be myself and express myself when my grief was the freshest.  So this is the space I am going to try and find that one small smidgen.

The Man and His Dog

zach and lusie

Dogs’ lives are too short.  Their only fault, really ~~ Agnes Sligh Turnbull

Zach,

I feel like I am writing this on your behalf.  Either that or just to tell you what is going on.  I can’t really decide which it is, but either way it is sad.

Weekends with your family are the only sense of comfort I typically feel during my weeks of insane scheduling.  I am truly blessed to have them and they are the most wonderful in-laws one could ever ask for.  Your family is my family and I love each of them as if they were my own…… but I digress and that is not what I set out to write tonight so I’ll start over.

Weekends with your family are the only sense of comfort I typically feel, but this weekend was inundated with a profound sense of sadness.  I walked in the door on Friday after a long day at work followed by a two hour drive to start catching up with your mom after three weeks of being unable to come home when I laid eyes on two green plastic bottles on the counter.  Noticing me notice them, your mom hesitantly informed me they were Lusie’s.

I should mention that this is a really strange sensation for me right now because I feel like I am having to break the news to you knowing how upset you will be.  Obviously strange because you are not here, but I hope that anyone reading this would understand how horribly you would take this news and how hesitantly I would approach this.  No matter what has happened and how death has tragically separated us, I still feel it is my place and my responsibility to tell you.

Zach, Lusie is sick.  Your beloved little basset hound that you picked out so many years ago to surprise your mom and sister is not doing well.  Your parents noticed two weeks ago that she was breathing heavy and not eating much.  They only told me this weekend because they know how brutal my last couple weeks have been and they were waiting for me to be able to come home, but now that I know…. I am just so sad.  The vet showed your mom the x-rays and Lusie’s lungs are full of cancer which they say is common for basset hounds, but it doesn’t make our sadness any less.

I sit here contemplating how I would actually break the news to you if you were here.  I already feel such a sense of loss with knowing she is so sick, but I know you would be that much more upset.  A man and his dog.  It is a relationship that cannot truly be defined.  A dog is a man’s best friend; what more is there to say?

Lusie is like your doggie child, the same as Dakota (my husky who lives in Canada with my mom) is mine.  This is the pooch who howled in excitement anytime you came home and would do so louder than for any other family member.  This is the pup you trained, hunted with, rode with, explored with.  Man’s best friend.

This is the dog who grieved with us after we lost you.  They say dogs can grieve themselves to death if their master dies suddenly and we were so afraid this would happen to Lusie.  The first day or so that I was in Eastman, she kept sniffing me in way that made us all realize she was associating my scent with you and that she was confused why you weren’t there.  Literally any time the door would open and someone would walk in, she would limp over to the door (she had been hit by a car the week before and was quite injured at the time) and once realizing it wasn’t you, she would come over and sniff me again.  She wouldn’t eat, she didn’t sleep much, she constantly paced searching for you, and she kept coming to me to either just lay with me or to roll around on my lap asking to be pet like only you could.

I found it really strange how Lusie responded to me after we lost you.  She is such a beautiful little pup and such a sweet girl, but after you were gone she really started coming to me more and looking for some loving.  Is that because I was willing to give it or because she associated me with you?  I’m not sure, but I have adopted Lusie as my own just the same as I have adopted your whole family.

Zach, I’m so sad to tell you that she is sick.  I know you would be heartbroken.  I know you wouldn’t take the news well.  You might not be here with us anymore, but I’m still sad to tell you about her.  I am just so sad about her.  The vet has given her some medicine to make her more comfortable and we hope she won’t be hurting/struggling as much, but it doesn’t look good and I’m not sure how long she has before she is up there roaming with you….. if that is how it works.

I love you, Zach, and even if you aren’t here it still breaks my heart to tell you something that would cause you pain and sadness.  Like my opening quote says, dogs are amazing and become a part of the family, but their lives are too short.

Poor Lusie has had a hard year and five months with getting hit by the car, loosing you, and now this.  Poor little girl has been so strong, but maybe it is time for her to be with you.  Maybe she has missed you long enough.

But we aren’t ready to say goodbye yet 😦

 

A Lusie and Krista snuggle moment.

me and lusie

The Times When You Actually Have Too Much to Say

how grief works

 

There is no grief like the grief that does not speak ~~ Henry Wordsworth

 

Zach,

I feel like this is my life right now.  Clearly my life is no longer on a straight progressive line through life, but instead it has become a clusterf**k of a disastrous rollercoaster ride.  Spinning, swirling, confusing, overwhelming, excruciating.  I have said it so many times before, but between work, teaching, and my own university classes I barely have time to think.  Every single day, from 8 AM until 2-3 AM, I alternate between working in the office, attending class, teaching, studying, doing homework, making lesson plans, grading, etc. that I barely have time to even sleep.  Since January I have not felt like I can catch a break.  And I am so tired.

The worst part about it is that I have so much I want to say.  Things I need to say, to get off my chest, to get out of my mind.  I have so much I want to say to you, to write about, to process.  I just don’t have time.  I need to make more time because there is so much more I feel like I need to do.  My every intention behind starting this blog was to one day help somebody in some way with their own grief.  To show them that they are not alone.  So many people have shared their very personal experiences with grief with me and they tell me that my words have helped, but I know there is more I could probably do.  I have ideas, I have the words…. I just don’t have the time.

And for a writer?  Not having time to do what we love, to do what is our biggest outlet, to do what helps us process so much?  Having so much to say but no time to get it written down? Zach, having no time to write is excruciating for a writer.  All of these words are just piling up in my head and I want to sit down and dedicate a whole day to writing.  But I can’t.

I don’t know if you are actually watching over all of us or if you can see how we are struggling.  But more than ever I need you to show me that I am doing the right thing, that I am on the right path.  Because right now I feel so lost that none of it seems worthwhile and I don’t know why I’m still doing it.  Especially school.  School is hard, I can never get caught up.  I am just so tired.  There are not enough hours in the day.  I don’t know if you are watching, but I need something to show me that this total lack of time is worth it.

The Concept of “Saudade”

saudade

Zach,

Last week when Lauren sent me a picture with this word, I was a little confused. Where had this random word come from? But she had come across it and felt it was something I needed to know. At the very least she knew it was something I could relate to. And man, do I ever.

Saudade. An untranslatable concept from Portueguese to English. There are vague interpretations of it but, as far as I can see online, it isn’t an exact translation. The word nerd in me even talked to my Brazilian co-worker to see what she thought about this word and everything she said affirmed how I feel.

Saudade. “A deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.” If that doesn’t apply to grieving people everywhere, I don’t know what does. Longing for something that will never return. What an excruciating concept.

Zach, this word is my life. I live it, breathe it, endure it, survive it. The concept of saudade permeates my every being. It inundates my every moment and has poisoned all aspects of the life I used to have. I long for you, I long for our life together, I long for a time where things just made sense. Your absence has filled me with such a ridiculous sense of longing that there is almost nothing else left in my day.

Saudade. The undeniable truth that you are constantly wishing for something you can never have again. The reality that everything has been stolen from you. The ugly truth that you will never be the same. Ever. It won’t return, can’t return. I love you so truly and deeply that this concept of saudade is my new existence.

Saudade. Zach, I will forever long for you and forever feel your absence.

The Blur of Life

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“I start to feel like I can’t maintain the facade any longer, that I may just start to show through. And I wish I knew what was wrong. Maybe something about how stupid my whole life is. I don’t know. Why does the rest of the world put up with the hypocrisy, the need to put a happy face on sorrow, the need to keep on keeping on?… I don’t know the answer, I know only that I can’t. I don’t want any more vicissitudes, I don’t want any more of this try, try again stuff. I just want out. I’ve had it. I am so tired. I am twenty and I am already exhausted.”
~~ Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

Zach,

I honestly cannot tell you where the last two months has gone.  December was a flash and January has already been a blur.  When I see how little I have been able to sit and write, how few posts there have been, and think about how much has piled up in my mind without being able to write it down it shocks me.  It is growing to be too much to handle so here I am.  Do I have 50 other things I should be doing right now?  Yes.  But writing is the only semi-sense of solace that I have in my life right now so I am setting aside time to do something for me.

I miss you so much, Zach.  My heart seems to grow heavier every single day.  My soul hurts, my mind is shattered, and my heart is just broken.  Life may have me running right now, but there still isn’t one single moment that I don’t miss you.

First the flash of December.  December brought the end of a hectic semester, writing finals, preparing my house to be empty for a month, and wrapping up everything at the office that comes with the end of a term for my own students.  All this before flying to Canada for three weeks with my family.  Your sister came with me for one of the weeks and I am so glad your parents and I were able to do this for her.  She has never been anywhere except Florida and you and I had always promised her that when she turned 19 we would take her to Canada.  I finally was able to follow through on that promise.

Jamie Michael and I had a great time together and it was amazing to be able to share your Canadian life with her.  It is so easy to forget that we had dual lives, an American one and a Canadian one, so I am just so pleased I was able to share this with her.  It meant so much to me to be able to show her how many lives you affected back in Canada, for her to see how many people miss you and love you, and for her to know how large of an impact you had on everyone.  It made for a hectic vacation back home, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I wish you could see how cold we were, especially your sister who has never left south Georgia. I hope you could see us, big sis and lil sis, having a great time and that you are proud of us looking out for each other.  I can never fill your shoes nor would I ever dream to try, but I’m doing my best to look out for her just like you would.

Niagara Falls 2012

jm and i

Then came the blur of January.  My return to Georgia, celebrating a belated Christmas with your family, back to work on the 3rd, getting my own classes and textbooks situated, getting the office ready for not only another term of students but for the addition of 70 new students, and preparing for teaching, lesson planning, and grading.  Zach, you would be horrified how many nights I have been the last one to leave the office at 7pm then headed home to do 5-6 hours of homework.  I’ve said it before that it is so hard to be back in school without you by my side, but I think this semester will be the hardest of all.  I already feel overwhelmed and behind.  I’m so lost without you and I am so tired.

Zach, my life lost focus when I lost you.  I feel like I am constantly in a haze searching for a way to just make it through another day.  Make it through another repetitive cycle of waking up, going to the office, going to class, going to teach, back to the office, going home, and doing homework.  Sleep, wake up, and repeat.  There is no focus.  Only repetition.  I am so grateful for everything that does keep me so busy and keeps me going, but it does nothing to lessen the pain I constantly feel.  It may somewhat distract me, but it is never enough.  Nothing will ever be enough.

This blurred life of mine is one I fear I will always live in.  Lost in a blur of grief, loneliness, sadness. Life goes on, but how blurred it truly is.

**I share this quote because of how true it is.  Not writing recently doesn’t mean I am not always thinking about writing.  It is my hope that I will have more time to write what I need to write sometime soon.  **

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The Pain A Smile Can Bring

Hiding behind a mask of what they want to see.  The mask portrays a strong smiling girl,the furthest thing from me.  Behind the mask this girl is far from strong, crumbling on the inside and trapped in a world gone wrong.  Her every thought tainted by the memories that remain.  Nothing can save her now or take away the pain.  Looking in the mirror crying because she hates whats’staring back.  All she sees is imperfections and an empty heart of black.  The words echoing in her mind broken beyond repair and wishing to break down, to fall, but to catch her: no ones there.  She feels as though theres no release so the pain, it lingers and understanding lies just beyond the desperation of her reaching fingers.  The mask she wears is slipping until she can hide no more.  This unbearable hell she calls her life dealt with behind closed doors.
~~ Author Unknown

Zach,

I came across this poem a few months ago and I wish I could give credit where credit is due, but unfortunately “author unknown” doesn’t give me much to work off of.  It has stuck with me.  I have read it repetitively since I found it.  I find myself in these words, I see my reality.  I couldn’t even bring myself to fix any grammatical or punctuation errors because I found myself so drawn to the words.  Yes, I know pointing out grammar and punctuation shows the ESL teacher that I am.  But all that aside, I couldn’t have written this any better.  The truth, the pain, the torture, and the reality behind these words rings true to me every second of every day.  I’m sure it does to anyone who finds themselves drowning under imaginable grief.

I never imagined that a smile could be so difficult.  A smile is the most natural thing for anyone to do.  The first smile a new baby gives its loving parents is a natural reaction, but is treated as a momentous occasion.  What we take away from someone’s smile is pure joy, true happiness, and a real expression of emotion.  I have come to realize we take it for granted.  We take someone’s smile at face value, no pun intended, because we are so content to see their smile that we don’t realize what lurks below the surface.  People don’t stop to question if it is real.  People don’t care.  As long as we give them what makes them more comfortable then all can go on.  But what is that smile masking?

Zach, since we lost you I can barely choke out a smile.  I won’t deny that it doesn’t happen.  It does.  I catch myself cracking a smile or laugh once in a while.  But what is so harshly different over the last year is that the very second the smile appears, I instantly feel a brutally harsh stab of pain, of guilt, of sadness wash over me.  The smile only ends up bringing more pain even if for the second it is a natural reaction.  I don’t know what it is.  Guilt?  An undeserving feeling?  An inability to appreciate joy?  I have no idea.  All I know is how I feel and the pain that floods over me any time I catch myself smiling.

It is a mask.  We all wear masks, but I have realized that when grieving masks become a vital necessity.  No one truly wants to see the pain we feel inside.  People want to see me at work functioning, contributing to small talk, laughing at their jokes, sympathetic to their stresses, able to participate in conversation.  My friends want me to be part of their lives, to laugh at our old jokes, to see the humor in life.  My family wants me to function better, enjoy my time with them, appreciate our moments together.  They want to see me smile.  I am sure it is partly because they want to see me doing better, but I also know it has a lot to do with making them feel more comfortable.  I know I’ve talked about this before, but it is something of focus for me lately and I can’t seem to shake it.

Zach, I guess this became more of a pressing issue when I spent over an hour on Skype on a video chat with my niece and nephew the other day.  These are the two people in the entire world that I love more than life itself.  After losing you, they are all I have left.  I always say they gave me my heart back when I needed it most, they taught me how to love again, and they were honestly the only people I truly loved until I met you.  These two beautiful little souls are my whole world and their little lives brought me to a point where I was ready to meet you, fall in love with you, and begin a life with you.  Kiana and Zachary are still my entire world, I am still a devoted aunt, and would gladly lay my life down for them.  But since we lost you, I can’t bring myself to muster the same amount of joy I once did.  The entire conversation was filled with their excited stories about their new teachers, upcoming birthdays, and silly things they’ve done recently.  They would tell me stories and my eyes would well up with tears, I would have to choke back sobs, and force myself to pull it together.  I smiled.  I laughed with them.  I loved their stories.  But every time I smiled, the pain instantly came back.  How am I supposed to go on, supposed to cope in real life, or supposed to crack a “real” smile if I can’t even do it with them?

I fear a true smile is forever lost to me.

This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy moments with my family, friends, co-workers.  I do.  To the best of my ability…. I do.  But it never quite seems real or if it does then the very next second it just hurts.  I wonder if that will ever come back.  Will it ever not hurt to smile?  Will it ever not hurt to experience a moment of joy without you?  Will everything always be dealt with behind closed doors?

Sent to me by my amazing friend Jordana this week who came across it and was thinking of me.  Felt it fitting to include today.

The Flood of Uncontrollable Tears

Zach,

I used to consider myself a strong, not overly emotional person who very infrequently cried.  Not anymore.  I dissolve into a sobbing, heaving, hyperventilating disaster so many times a day even I can’t stand myself.  Sometimes these uncontrollable tears come out of nowhere and spontaneously render me useless with  no warning.  But usually, I can feel it coming.  It starts to creep up on me slowly but surely.  I can feel the tears burning in the back of my eyes, can feel my chest growing tighter, and can feel the choking sobs begin to build up in the back of my throat.  I can feel the impending meltdown.  I know it is coming whether I like it or not, no matter what I do to try and stop it.  I know I am going to cry.  It is just a matter of when.

The worst thing about uncontrollable tears is where, when, and why they happen.  It isn’t the actual tears themselves, but it is the randomness to them.  Yesterday I cried in the car driving to your grandparents, I choked back tears in the grocery store on the deodorant aisle as I passed your preferred brand, I cried cooking dinner then only choked down one bite because I hate cooking for just one, and I dissolved into a sobbing mess on the floor when I opened a drawer to find the 400 cords and plugs that go to nothing but you just had to keep.  And that’s just yesterday.  Every day has its own surprise attacks.  Today I teared up and choked back sobs when a faculty member passed me in the hallway between our offices and asked if I’m the one whose husband works at the air force base.  Zach, I cry over the small things, the big things, the things I should be happy about, the things I should be sad about, the things you should be here for, the things I have to do alone, or the things I have no one to share with.  There is no real rhyme or reason to it; I just uncontrollably cry.

So how does Dane Cook play into it?  Why did I include a funny video when talking about such a sad thing as crying?  Because he describes that sudden rush of tears perfectly.  Several years ago, when I was still living in Canada, my best friend Ashley and I went to go see Dane Cook perform which was an absolute dream of ours as we were somewhat obsessed with his hilarity.  I remember it being the greatest day; a celebration of everything “Dane”.  We got dressed up, we went for a fancy dinner, we ordered a pitcher of sangria, we saw Dane Cook live!  I remember us laughing hysterically pretty much the entire way through, but especially at this joke about crying.  I felt it fitting to include this joke today (click the link above if you haven’t watched this already…. I know its 9 minutes, but it is absolutely worth it!) because Dane says it perfectly.  I so very often feel the world tapping me on the shoulder and that sensation of “You’re gonna cry”.  I hate it.  It is uncontrollable and all-consuming.  It turns me into an utterly ridiculous person, but it happens, it is my reality, and it is uncontrollable.

Zach, it floods over me.  The grief, the sadness, the torture.  It is unbearable and becomes all-consuming.  I cannot begin to explain the amount of times I have disintegrated into a worthless teared up individual or that the tears have become the only indication that I am actually not an empty person devoid of all emotion.  People have no idea what to do with it.  I don’t have any idea what to do with it.  All I can do is wait for it to pass, try to excuse myself to a private place if I am not at home and able to freely and completely fall apart, and ride it out.  Zach, I feel like I’m talking about one of our weekends surfing in Costa Rica when I say “ride it out” or when I think of it as a merciless wave that crashes over me obliterating everything in its path.  But that is how it feels and when confronted with an uncontrollable relentless front….. all you can do is ride it out.

The question is when will the attacks of tears stop.

Zach, I know I am not the only one to experience this uncontrollable flux of tears, but I do question when it will end.  When will I be able to get through a work day without running to the bathroom in the hallway outside of our office to sob uncontrollably?  When will I be able to sit through an entire class without tearing up and having to hang my head in shame so other students won’t see?  When will I be able to get through a full period of teaching with a genuine smile, not a forced one that masks my tears?  When will I be able to hear the words “death”, “accident”, or even “love” or “husband” without wanting to succumb to the saddening torture that constantly threatens to take over me?  When will I be able to get through a full conversation with my niece and nephew without wanting to completely die inside when they mention you?

When will I be able to wake up any morning or fall asleep any night without sobbing into my pillows over the reality of being here without you?  When will every moment not be just as excruciating as the last?

Zach, they say tears are healing.  That without tears we cannot fully grieve or have a chance of healing.  But at what point do we stop excusing our tears and realize that the uncontrolled nature of them is actually controlling our lives?  At what point do we have to start to wonder if the tears are healing our pain or if they are only an expression of the utter torture felt inside? 

When do you have to accept that the tears are all you have?

My Third Guest Post ~~~ How to Acknowledge Their “Death-versary”

Back in April, I had the pleasure of speaking with the lady who coordinates online articles for the Hello Grief website and she was interested in what I could contribute to their online community.  This website is an extremely helpful resource for people who are grieving and provides much needed support and advice to its followers.  I was honored to be asked, but the time was just never right.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to share.  As I have hesitantly approached the year marker of Zach’s death, I found myself with something to say.  I tentatively approached Alisha again, because I was unsure if she would even remember me after so much time at passed, and she immediately loved the idea and provided the encourgement I needed to put into words what I wanted to say.  It was honor, not only to be published on their website, but because these truly important words were shared online on Zach’s actual day, October 9th.  It has meant the world to me and I thank Alisha for her motivation, encouragement, and for being a listening ear via email as I attempt to process my own grief.

 

How to Acknowledge Their “Death-versary”
http://www.hellogrief.org/how-to-acknowledge-their-death-versary/

Many people refer to the date of their loved one’s death as an anniversary.  I can’t bring myself to do it.  It actually makes me cringe every time I try to say it or explain what October 9thmeans to me.  The word “anniversary” has an intended association with joy, celebration, and happiness, so why would I want to acknowledge the loss of my beloved Zach with this word?

None of us ever imagined having to say good-bye so soon, so suddenly, so tragically to the ones we love, which leads me to believe that none of us are feeling particularly celebratory as the date draws near.  We all have that one day.  A day filled with dread and loaded with dismal realizations; our own person D-Day.  No, I can’t bring myself to call it an anniversary so “death-versary” it is.  Sounds a bit morbid, I know.  But how else can I honestly begin to approach this day?

October 9, 2012 marks the one year death-versary of my fiancé, Zach.  It is unimaginable that he has been gone that long.  I have alternated so many times over the last year between feeling like he was just here a minute ago and feeling like he has already been gone for four lifetimes that I think I have given myself whiplash.  Life has continued to go on while I feel frozen in place.  Days have come and gone, and yet I feel like nothing has changed.  Over the last year my friends have gotten married, had babies, gotten new jobs, found new boyfriends, and bought houses.  My crowning accomplishment is that I woke up every day and went to work or school.  I got out of bed.  Seriously? That is my accomplishment?  That is all I have achieved?  Is that really all I am capable of doing now, without Zach?  I guess I should see it as surviving, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my aspirations should be higher than just getting by.

Whether I like it or not, the first year has passed.  One whole year without the person who gave my life meaning and filled my heart with unimaginable amount of love.  So how am I supposed to acknowledge this day?  How are any of us, the unwilling members of “Club Grief,” supposed to recognize this day for what it stands for?  For most of us this day signifies one of the absolute worst days of our entire lives,  filled with loss and devastation, questions that can never truly be answered.  So how should this day be spent? I wish I had the answer, any answer, but I think every single one of us must slowly live our way into our own answers.

I truly believe that even among those grieving the loss of the same person, there will be differing opinions about how to approach this day.  Some members of the family may want to do something to commemorate the day while others adamantly refuse.  Throughout grief we are forced to constantly make decisions like: what to do with their belongings, how to celebrate the holidays, what traditions to continue on with.  These difficult decisions are ones that family and friends may agree with or firmly disagree with.  The death-versary is just another one of those decisions and one I am currently faced with.

As October 9th has slowly crept closer I have been questioning what his family and I should do.  My initial plan was to organize a fundraising event in his memory and donate the money to the school Zach had been working at.  He had recently switched from teaching to being the Parent/Teacher Liaison, a Social Worker of sorts, for a county with tremendous struggles and needs.  The resource center he created during his time there was renamed the “Zach Zone” after we lost him.  The teachers have continued his work and tried to fill the gaping void he left behind, but there are still many community needs such as food, clothing, and school supplies.  I thought organizing an event for this would be the perfect way to honor his memory, his life, and his work while giving something to the community he did so much for.

But as this day got closer and closer, my plan started to lose its appeal.  I didn’t think I had it in me to coordinate an event like this and his parents agreed it’s just too soon.  It’s something we would like to do in the future, but for right now it’s simply too daunting of a task.  Our grief is too fresh and too painful to take on something like that right now.  So now what?  I am back to the original question of how to acknowledge this day.

Should I ignore the day and just go to work and school like normal and hope it will be distracting?  Should I take the day off and spend it hiding under the covers?  Should I go spend the day with family and rely on each other for support?  Should I visit his grave?  Should we have some kind of organized service?  Should our family go visit the family of his best friend, who was killed in the same car accident?  Should this day be no different than any other day?

I think it comes down to this; whatever ends up being the final decision it will never be enough or give me any sense of comfort.  He is still gone and the excruciating pain will still be there.

So how will you acknowledge your loved ones death-versary?  How will you honor their memory?  Have found yourself ignoring the day in the past but feel ready to honor their life now?  The answer to the question of how to acknowledge this dreaded day only lies within each and every one of us, and it is my hope that we will all one day manage to feel some semblance of peace.