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 Big 3-Oh my God, Where the F**K Did My Life Go?

February 2011

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.  ~ ~ Douglas MacArthur

Zach,

Well the day you always teased me about has come and gone.  Yesterday I turned 30.  Where the hell did that come from?  Age is just a number and I really haven’t had the same freak-out most women do when they turn 30, but still!  What a strange thing to say.  What a strange thing to be out of your twenties.  What a strange thing to have no idea where my life has gone….. especially not the last few years.

You always loved it because I was two years older.  You didn’t care about my age, we never noticed an age difference, but every so often you really enjoyed rubbing it in that you would have two extra years before you hit this big 30 marker.  Why is it so significant to all of us?  I guess because it used to mean that you needed to have a career, a husband, 2.5 kids, and a house with a white picket fence by this point otherwise you may as well throw in the damn towel and give in to being an old maid.  It used to mean all that, but I really don’t think it does anymore.

So why is this birthday so hard for me?  If I don’t care about the socially implied meaning behind the birthday then why did I have such an impossibly hard time at dinner with friends on Saturday where it was agonizingly difficult to keep a smile on my face?  Why did I spend yesterday, my actual birthday, laying in bed under the covers with the TV on for background noise while I laid there and sobbed?

Zach, I don’t think it is that I feel as though my life is ruined because I haven’t accomplished certain things by now.  Is it constantly aggravating that I am still in school at my age?  Of course it is, but I did that to myself by only choosing to go back to school now.  Is it exhausting to run around being a full-time student plus teaching plus lesson plans plus grading plus the very time consuming job that I have in my office when none of it adds up to being an actual career at the age I am?  Absolutely.  It is absolutely disheartening.  But I know in my heart it is a step towards any future job.  So then what is it about 30 that has crushed absolutely all sense of joy out of me?

It isn’t that I should have reached a certain point by now and done certain things.  Well it is, but it isn’t.  Zach, it is not that I haven’t been able to attain these things in my life that everyone else has been lucky enough to.  It is that it was all stolen from me.  The life I wanted, the life I had worked towards, the life we had together, the life we were planning for our future was all taken.  It isn’t that I have failed in achieving these things.  It is that I wasn’t deserving enough to keep it.

I didn’t get to keep you.  I didn’t get to keep that true love you gave me.  I didn’t get to keep the life we had together which was so amazing it was one for the history books.  So what is there from here?  There isn’t anything.

So call me over the hill, call me grandma, or call me old lady like I can hear you doing right now in your overly exaggerated Southern drawl.  Age is just a number, but all I feel is that I’ve already hit the high points and there isn’t much more to go from here.  I have such high doubts that anything can beat what I’ve already had so I will just be grateful for what i have had….. even if I lost it all.

Not many people can say that they have had the number of amazing jobs I’ve had (and there have been a lot) or the experiences I’ve had.  Not many people can talk about the different countries they have lived in, the travels they have done, or even been able to understand the love that we had.  I consider myself truly lucky for everything I have managed to do up until this point regardless of whatever curveballs life has thrown at me along the way.  I consider myself truly blessed for having known you, loved you, and for having been lucky enough to have had a life with you even if it wasn’t nearly enough.  Maybe I just hit all those high points earlier in life than most and now it is just time to ride it out.

Zach, I understand why they call it over the hill now.  There is no more uphill climb.  All I envision are the monotonous steps in front of me which I will continue to take.  You would want me to and I know I need to, but I don’ t know where it has all gone.  I don’t have any idea how time has passed so quickly to leave me where I am now.  So I’ll ask it again….. where the F**K has my life gone?

It has been but a blink of the eye.

The Natural Progression of Life

grief progression

Zach,

With new responsiblities at work, the end of an intensely hard semester at school, and now with the holidays requiring a brief return to Canada to be with my family, I have had not a spare moment to sit down and write.  But seeing this picture stuck with me so profoundly, I couldn’t resist taking a moment to share it.

I came across this picture the other day and I cannot even begin to describe how much it stuck with me.  The simplistic beauty of the progression through life: childhood innocence to tragic loneliness.  I have never claimed to be special or different or even the only one to ever experience loss.  But this picture shows the natural progression through life and that is how it should be.  That is what I was robbed of.  This is what has been taken from me.

I am angry because we never got the chance to grow old together.  This is what our life should have looked like.  I have been told it is OK to feel this way but it still feels wrong to feel this resentful and angry.  Zach, you and I should have had the opportunity to become withered, wrinkled, old, and needing a cane together.  We should have been able to experience a full life together, but now all I can do is watch as life passes me by.  A numb observer of my own life.

Right now one of my best friends is going through something I would never wish upon her and I can only try to send her as much love as possible because I know I can’t take the hurt away.  It hurts my heart because although our situations are different, I completely understand the anger she feels looking in on other people’s lives, happiness, and joy.  Its hard.  It is so damn hard.  The bitterness you unwillingly feel knowing you don’t have the same thing everyone else does is an unmerciful master which threatens to consume you.

So what is the answer?  What do you do when you resent what others have?  Do you hide away, distance yourself from friends because you don’t have what they do, avoid Facebook so you don’t become hostile seeing pictures of their happy lives?  I think that answer lies within each of us because each of us will feel better doing different things, but I know what has worked for me even if it is only a slight help.

I know I am not the only one to feel this way so I wanted to take a moment today to remind everyone of the same thing I am trying to teach myself.  It is OK to feel resentful that your life doesn’t look like everyone elses.  It is even OK if you find yourself withdrawing like I have because it lessens the anger you feel even if only remotely.  It is OK to be angry that you will never have everything you always dreamt of.  I know its OK.  I remind myself of that.  But how to fix it?  Your guess is as good as mine.

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.

The Consideration of Grief from an Sociological Viewpoint

“When you find that one person who connects you to the world you become someone different.  Someone better.  When that person is taken from you, what do you become then?” ~~ from an episode of Person of Interest

Zach,

The new semester has started at school and it is even worse than before.  I am in my second week and it is already miserable, already overwhelming, and already stressful.  Week two and I am already behind.  It feels different this time because at least in the Spring semester (January to April) I was repeating three out of four classes that I had started in the Fall semester before I withdrew after we lost you.  At least in the Spring, until midterms, I only had to resubmit the work I had already done.  Then the Summer semester wasn’t all that brutal because it was only one class in May and one June-July.  It was impossible to do without you but at least I made it through.  This is a totally different ballgame.  Now that I made the big decision in July to switch degrees, it drastically altered my Fall semester and what I was registered for.  Why I thought Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, and Geography all in one term is beyond me.  I am overwhelmed.  I am already behind.  It is too much to do without you.

This big long title comes down to a realization made this week sitting in my Sociology class.  It has made me look at grief from a different viewpoint, a Sociological viewpoint.  We all have statuses in our lives that we fill.  Our statuses in life are our position within a group, either ascribed/given at birth or achieved.  We play many statuses in our life; our ascribed status might be daughter, sister, aunt, or a specific class or race whereas an achieved status is something we work towards and accomplish ourselves such as student, doctor, wife.  Once we are in these statuses we each abide by the roles assigned to them, or the set of rules/expectations attached to each of those roles.  So my question is this, what happens when that is taken away from you?  What is left?

Zach, through our life and love together I became a person with even more statuses than before.  Together we became a family, partners, traveling companions, roommates, lovers, soul mates, and so much more.  Because of our love you inspired me to adopt even more statuses: student, teacher, an ex-pat/international living in another country.  So now what?  When you find that one person who connects you to the world, who brings about so much change, who inspires you to live a bigger and fuller life than before, what is left?  I no longer know what any of these statuses mean, what roles I should continue to play.  Nothing makes sense anymore and I feel totally lost.  What is left?

When you consider your life through a Sociological viewpoint, or from an academic viewpoint, and when you compare that to the reality of the whirlwind of grief the two thoughts don’t match up.  Sociologically I should still be in those roles and still be acting, living, functioning the same way.  But that just isn’t true.  It doesn’t work that way anymore.  No matter how I look at it, life is not the same.  And I don’t know what to do about it.  What status am I supposed to fulfill now?  The griever, the widow, the abandoned person, the sufferer?

All I am left with is a world that no longer makes sense and that hurts.  That leaves me feeling lost and confused.  Without you none of this makes sense and I wish you were here to show me the way.

The First Big Decision

“If you have to take time to make a choice, take time.  Then make the choice.”
~~ Dr. Shad Helmstetter

Zach,

Well I think I have accomplished something.  A decision.  One decision among months of grieving, torture, sadness, and utter loneliness.  Seems like such an insignificant thing and to anyone reading this who hasn’t experienced this type of loss or tragedy just won’t get it.  Those who have been in my shoes will fully understand.  Decisions while in a partnership are much easier.  You have someone to discuss it at great lengths with, someone to help you fully understand the outcome of the decisions, someone to stand by your side and tell you it is the right decision.  I don’t have that now.  Decisions at this time are excruciating.  Life is so unbalanced, unfocused, and painful that anything to alter that seems unfeasible but I think I have done it.  I think I have but god I wish you were here to tell me it is the right thing, right move, right choice.  I am lost trying to figure out how to do it without you.

Everything I have read, all those “helpful” books that tell you how to cope while grieving, tell you not to make any major decisions before a year has passed.  But when somethings are put in front of you, you just have to act.  Eventually, even through the haze of grief, you realize it is your moment to act.  I have had that moment.  I think it is what you would want me to do.  I believe it is. Or at least I think I do.  There is only so much time you can spend weighing the pro’s and con’s, contemplating, debating, pondering, and waiting.  But you constantly second guess if it is the moment or the right time.  That’s where I am right now.  Stuck in an argument with myself if it is the right choice.  You would make it so easy for me, Zach.  You would tell me beyond a shadow of a doubt if this is the path I am supposed to take, the life altering decision I should make.  Without you I am lost.  Those already tough decisions become impassable vortexes that seem impossible to cross.  I’m not sure how to do it alone.  All I can do is think of what you would tell me, what you would want me to do, how you think I should respond.

The degree I had initially began working on once finally back in school after so many years was one we both agreed was the best choice.  The seemingly best option for what we wanted to do later on in life.  The beauty of the core curriculum all universities require of their students is that it really does give you time to think and for that I am utterly grateful.  You have the opportunity to delve into other topics, consider other fields, and truly contemplate what you actually want to do once you graduate.  Before all this happened, months before October 9th 2012 brutally changed my life, you and I had been discussing this choice.  But it was merely an idea, an alternative, and something we planned on deliberating over and discussing further.  It is such a different reality when your life partner is brutally stolen from you.  It is drastically different to think about these life-changing decisions alone.  Thinking about doing it alone, acting on it alone, following through on it alone.  There is nothing in the world that can truly prepare you for that.

Since all this has happened I have been considering this change even more in-depth than when we first began to discuss it.  The path I feel called to seems more applicable, more realistic, and more beneficial to myself and to those around me.  It is a lot to consider but approaching it slowly is the only way to do it.  It is impossible to think with a rational mind while grieving or to even know which way is up.  I guess that is why they tell you to make no major decisions within the first year.  And I understand why.  I meant to do that.  I have strictly not allowed myself to jump to any conclusions or make any life-changing decisions because I know my head is not in the right place.  But today a “make it or break it” moment happened and it prompted me to act.  I’m scared.  I’m scared it won’t ultimately be the right choice, won’t be what you want for me, won’t be something I can follow through on.

Today I began the paperwork with my university to change my declared major.  Wow.  Seems like such a stupidly insignificant thing to say.  But Zach, you know that’s just not true.  Changing my declared major changes my course load, the future of my undergraduate degree, the plan to begin my Master’s eventually, and ultimately alters my life course.  Its big.  I don’t care what anyone else may think about it.  Zach, you know me better than I know myself.  You would know I have not approached this lightly nor is it a tiny decision.  Its big.  This changes my education for the next two+ years and my plans for future schooling.  Its big.

But I feel like it is the right thing to do.  While reviewing my courseload for the Fall semester, which will begin in August and which I registered for back in April, I realized that one course in particular was completely unappealing to me and would require five textbooks.  Yes, it would translate over to the other degree I had considered as a free elective so it was not an issue of lost credit hours or pointless spending of money when an international student already pays exorbitant amounts.  But when there are so many other courses I could take that would be so much more enjoyable and would cost less money in books alone, I feel like the choice was staring me right in the face.  Shifting focus to a new degree meant small changes in my Fall classes but once I researched it, it didn’t seem as terribly impossible as I imagined.  So here was the choice.  Switch degrees now, much earlier than I had originally planned on making my final decision, or spend the Fall semester taking a ludicrous class that would be of no benefit to me.  Grief does make decisions impossible but once in a while you are able to grasp on to a moment of utter clarity and I think you have to run with it.  And that’s what I did.  The time for weighing my options, contemplating the outcome, and not allowing myself to make any huge decisions momentarily passed.  I think it was right.  I hope it was.

Zach, I fear I sound whiny while writing this but you know me.  You know how long I had wanted to switch degrees.  But you also know I was not totally sure what I wanted to switch to.  Through all this a path has presented itself to me and it is one I have spent countless hours pondering over, researching, and seriously considering.  So here I am.  I have made a decision.  The paperwork is filled out, I’ve gotten the necessary signatures from department heads, and it is ready to be submitted to the university.  All that is left is reaching that 100% certainty and submitting it for final approval.

I am terrified and I never imagined having to do this alone.

The Sixth Month

“I drag myself out of bed each morning and find there’s no relief in waking” ~~ Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

Zach,

This is some writing that is long overdue (hence the backdating of the entry) but this miserable existence of a life has had me so busy I have had no time for anything other than school and work.  Everyday I’ve wanted to sit down and write, to tell you what a struggle life is, how much the six month anniversary hurt, to get some of my thoughts out into words.  But the reality of it is that these aren’t feelings that are going to go away.  There is no pressing urgency to get the words typed out because there is no risk of them losing their significance.  But here I am sitting, Zach, with fingers poised and ready to say all the things I have been waiting to say.  Now I don’t know where to begin.

April 9th.  Six months.  Half a year.

It blows my mind.

It is indescribable that this much time has passed and how unfair it all still is.  This is a repetitive thing to say but I just don’t believe it has been this long.  I still expect you to come walking in the door, sweaty, dirty, and exhausted from fishing all day.  I still expect my phone to ring saying you’re on your way home from work.  I still walk into the house at the end of the day expecting to see you in your chair watching the Braves or some FSU football.

People keep asking me how, or if, anything has changed in regards to my grief.  At first it truly irritated me because I felt like they were putting an expiration on grieving, like six months is more than enough to get yourself functioning better.  I found it confusing why they would think anything would be getting better or easier in such a short period of time.  But I have forced myself to come to the acceptance that they just want to know how I’m doing and by forcing myself to realize this I have realized something else.  I guess I can recognize that some things have become fractionally easier over time.  Because my endgoal of writing is to maybe one day help someone else on this torturous journey of grief where you feel like you have lost your mind and are the only one feeling this way I am going to try to put into words what those changes have been.  But Zach, unfortunately with change comes the pro’s and con’s.

Pro: Eating has fractionally become better as a slight appetite has returned and food no longer tastes like dust making me nauseous.  Con:  this slight appetite only makes an appearance late at night after a full day of work and school.  People seem to be so overjoyed to hear that I bought a few groceries, that I at least eat dinner.  But Zach, the reality of it is that I hate cooking for just me.  I want to make meals for us, not just for me.  There is no joy in preparing a meal, no flavor in the food.  Actually I’m fairly sure I should buy stocks in Campbells soup company since that seems to be my go-to meal.

Pro: Sleeping has become less of a struggle after six months of laying awake all night long or only sleeping about 45 minutes a night.  Con: sleep is still infrequent, non-restful, and tortured.  I still lay awake until the wee hours of the morning crying myself to sleep in our bed aching with loneliness for you.  I still have terrible dreams that wake me up in the middle of the night crying wishing I felt your presence with me.  Because I don’t want to get stuck in the habit of needing to take the sleeping pills the doctor gave me back in October I choose to stare at the ceiling willing sleep to come.  My only hope of getting 4-5 hours of sleep is a result of going to the gym for two hours after being on campus from 8am-7pm at work/school and thoroughly exhausting myself so I can maybe fall asleep at some point.

Pro: driving has become less anxiety filled and I no longer have panic attacks while driving from one place to another.  Con: I am still an insanely nervous driver and hate being behind the wheel.  I’m still anxious the entire time and non-trusting of all other vehicles on the road.  I still get incredibly skittish at the smallest thing.  I know it doesn’t make sense.  I wasn’t in the wreck.  But I have always found it incredibly brave of people to be in a terrible wreck then get up and continue driving.  I have always said if I ever (knock on wood) were in a bad car accident I would probably never drive again.  With what happened to you and Rob I have truly struggled getting behind the wheel and wanting to be out on the road.  But I have no choice.  I no longer have you to split the driving with.  If I want to go somewhere, I’m stuck.  But it has forced me to get back in the car even if it took months of panic attacks and having to pull over to sob/freak out.

Pro: I am out of the house more and have so much going on to keep me busy during the day.  Con: I spend all day rushing around and alternating between the three roles I play daily (student, office employee, teacher) that by day’s end I am emotionally and physically wore out.  I have now become spread so thin between these three very different roles that I am overwhelmed and feeling the stress of it.  Would I trade it to go back to sitting around?  No.  But nonetheless while it does keep me busy, it is totally draining.  And while it does keep me busy during the day I still fall apart every single night as soon as I get home and my nights become focused on missing you.

Pro: I am somewhat accustomed to living in the house alone.  Con:  I AM SOMEWHAT ACCUSTOMED TO LIVING IN THE HOUSE ALONE.  Yes, I know those are the exact same things.  Zach, I hate the fact that I am getting used to being alone.  I don’t want to get used to that.  I want you to be in our house with me.  I want to share the home we created with the man I love.  I don’t want to get used to waking up alone, going to sleep alone, eating alone, cleaning it alone, paying the bills alone, doing house maintenance alone.  I feel selfish but this isn’t what I signed up for.  Every single day I still pull in the driveway and have to gather my thoughts in order to have the strength to face it alone.  I still sob like a child every morning when I have to make coffee for one.  I still mentally make a “Zach To Do” list for the repairs I need done then remember I have no one.  I still tell people where “We” live when I give directions then want to curl in a ball and die.  I’m still afraid every night, I’m still lonely every second.  But I can’t deny the fact that I am somewhat getting used to living alone.

And then there is this last one which probably is the most significant one. 

Pro: I find I am able to muster a few smiles during the day, force a few smiles, and actively participate in conversation somewhat better without my eyes glazing over and losing focus.  Con: The “public me” has become so good at fooling other people to make it easier on them that I feel I am almost deceiving myself.  Every smile is followed by an instant pang of guilt, every laugh is followed by an aching soul.  It’s not real, Zach.  I had someone tell me the other night, “Krista, its good to see you smiling” and it hit me how good I have become at fooling other people into thinking the horrible pain is not still there.  Now when I do have those terrible days where I absolutely don’t have the strength to try and put my mask in place people don’t know what to do.  They are shocked.  Concerned something happened.  I want to scream at them, “No nothing happened.  Not today.  But my life is hell and I hate every single fucking moment of it just today I’m showing it to you”.  I think that is what makes it the worst of all.  That people now seem surprised when I show the pain I feel.  Do they really think this just goes away?  Am I supposed to not miss you with every single moment of every single day?

Zach, there have been some changes in the last six months.  I am not blind to that fact.  But I question how much is real and how much is forcing myself to do it just to make other people feel better?  I still feel in no way have I moved on or that I miss you less.  I still in no way feel like life makes sense or that any of this is OK.  Six months.  God how I wish I could rewind six months and just be with you.  Six months may have passed but it is still hell on earth and torture without you.

The Sharp Knife of a Short Life

“There’s a boy here in town, says he’ll love me forever
Who would have thought forever could be severed by
The sharp knife of a short life.
~~ The Band Perry

 Zach,

There are so many things that I will never understand about all of this.  I will never understand why this had to happen.  I will never understand why God let you be taken from me.  I will never understand why your life had to be cut so tragically short when you were such a good man.  I will never understand why, when there is so much bad in the world, it had to be you.  I will never be OK with the shortness of your life.  I will never believe we had enough time.

The worst part about the abrupt severing of someone’s life is being left with unimaginable amounts of questions.  It is more than just begging “Why?”; it is the constant repetitive questioning of “why him not me”, “why did this happen”, “what could have been done differently”, “where do I go from here”, and “what did I do to deserve this”.  I recently read this online and truly appreciated how accurately she worded it: “Our questioning becomes relentless. We desperately want answers. Now we do want to make sense of it all, but still we are cut off.  The invisible shield remains, we just can’t seem to breach the barrier and get there.  We are here. A place far from where we want to be.”  (http://esdeer.com/making-sense-of-grief-and-loss/).  It is so true.  This is not the place where I want to be.  Answers to all of these tormenting questions are not within arm’s reach, they aren’t even in eyeshot.  But this is where I am.  This is where I will be.  I will never know the answers to all my questions, at least not in this world.

Zach, it is so hard contemplating the life you should have had, hard to think all that you wanted to and would have accomplished.  I know I’ve already talked about the things we wanted out of our life together but you wanted to do so much with your life.  We were lucky because our goals overlapped and ran together so perfectly that neither of us felt we had to compromise anything.  What we both wanted out of life complemented the other’s.  But god, Zach, there was so much you wanted out of life.  You were about to start your master’s and were ready to take the next  step towards getting your doctorate, to becoming Dr. Jones.  You wanted to travel the world and write your dissertation overseas.  You wanted to be a professor one day at a great university so you could inspire people into loving history as much as you did.  You finally had a great job where you were implementing amazing life changes within your school and there was so much there you still wanted to do in order to really change the lives of those kids.  You wanted to write a book on how words are the most powerful weapon in the world; this is where the idea for this blog came from that words are power.  You wanted a family.  You wanted dogs.  You wanted to be a stay-at-home Dad because you didn’t feel the need to actually work as a professor until you were much older.  You had so many goals for your life and you deserved to accomplish each one.  You deserved more time.

Your life was too short.  There is nothing else that can be said about it.  There is not one person in the world who could disagree about that.  It was too short and it is not fair.  You impressed everyone you met, especially at job interviews, because you were this young guy with crazy curly hair but yet were so driven, focused, motivated, and inspired.  Anyone could see how much you wanted out of life and it was easy to believe that you would get all of it.  Passion for life, for others, for kids, for teaching oozed out of you and became infectious.  You inspired people to want to do better, do more.  You inspired me.

We’ll never know the true magnitude of your life or how much you would have truly changed in the world.  All I know is that of the hundred’s and hundred’s of people who came to the house, to visitation, or to your funeral every single person said that you had impacted their life in a tremendous way.  Every single person, Zach.  I don’t think you realized how much of an influence you were on everyone around you. 

 Maybe one day we will all feel like some answers to some of these questions have found their way to us and will help to make sense of this absolute tragedy, but until then we have to find a way to live with the unknown.

“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, as if they were locked rooms, or books written in a very foreign language.

Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
~~ Rainer Maria Rilke

The Vows We Make

The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected. ~Nicholas Sparks

Zach,

It was so unnerving to be sitting at that wedding today, looking up at the platform with your cousin and his new bride with the wedding party.  You were supposed to be up there, part of the bridal party.  It was almost impossible to sit and not have tears streaming down my face imagining you standing up there rocking the suit; you loved to dress up and look your best with no hesitation to boast on yourself for how good you looked.  I felt horrible during the ceremony because anytime Chase or Courtney looked out at the congregation or anyone from the bridal party caught my eye, they saw me choking back sobs.  I am happy for them and this life they are about to begin together, but it was torture sitting through another wedding when all I can imagine is ours.  So it was a double whammy of pain today; first of all sitting through a ceremony you were supposed to be part of and second of all to watch someone take that step into marriage that we will never get to take.

It made me think about the vows that we promise to each other.  A typical exchange of vows may include: “I, (Bride/Groom Name), take you (Groom/Bride Name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”  It seems cliché that we all vow the same thing to each other but really what else could you say?  When taking that step into marriage you should want to make these promises to each other and vow that it will be you and them now until forever.  I wish I could say those things to you.  I know we said them in our own way to each and I know we both felt that way, lived that way, loved that way.  But I hate I did not get the chance to stand up in front of our family and friends and pledge my life to you in the only way that announces to the world that this is for keeps.  It’s so unfair, it really is.

When thinking about the vows we make, I mostly get hung up on the “til death do us part” line.  Zach, I would have loved you forever and I will still love you forever but it breaks my heart to think that the wedding we dreamed of and planned for will never come to pass.  The double wedding, one in Canada and one in Georgia, would have been exhausting and expensive but we had our plans, ideas, dreams; now its all gone.  Maybe we did not get the chance to take that step together but in my mind you are my partner, my soul mate, and I could even say my common-law husband (as per Canada’s laws).  In my mind, I am already a Jones.  In my mind, we already vowed to each other to stick by each other in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, for richer and poorer until death do us part.  I just wish that death had not parted us so soon.  But I know you loved me eternally and I know that you loved me until the day that you died.  I just wish we had more time.

Zach,  I will close this today by sharing what your cousin wrote today because it was so special.  This was included in the program that was handed out at the ceremony.  I want you to know how much you were missed and I pray God let you look down on your family today.  “I hope you noticed the picture and candle in the foyer, placed in memory of my first cousin, Zach Jones.  There is no childhood memory that I have that does not include him.  He would be celebrating with us today; however, God called him Home this  past October.  He was to be a Groomsman.  Therefore, my Uncle John is wearing his tie.”

 

 

The New Year

There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go. ~Author Unknown

Zach,

While most are approaching the New Year and tonights festivities with joy, excitement, and anticipation I find myself feeling dread, anxiety, and fear. I am not prepared or ready to start a new year without you, Zach, nor do I have any desire to do so. I know it’s just another day, a silly holiday people blow out of proportion in an exaggerated way but yet this year the entire concept of commemorating the start to a brand new year makes me feel sick to my stomach.

What will 2012 bring? What will 2012 mean for me? My future seems so bleak, uncertain, lost. What cause for celebration is there? I pray 2012 couldn’t possibly be any worse than 2011 has turned out but what good can it possibly bring? I’m sitting here questioning how to possibly move on into a new year. I realize that is a dumbass question because tomorrow and the new year will come no matter how hard I may protest. But the question is how to handle this forced arrival of a new year.

I can’t imagine that tomorrow marks the first day of a brand new year that you will never experience. It will be a new year that I won’t share one experience with you. A new year I will be so alone A new year with no future, no plans, no wedding, no love. 365 days of 2012 that will be utterly Zach free; same as every year to follow so it is just the first of many. It breaks my heart. I know it’s just another day, tonight is just another night but yet it’s so much more. It marks the beginning of a life that has been imposed upon me, a life I have not chosen for myself.

Tonight I am not counting down the minutes to midnight with great anticipation as to the wonders 2012 will bring. No. Tonight I am desperately clinging to every last moment in a pathetic attempt to cling to the amazing year we had together. Tonight I am looking back on the New Year celebrations we had together and remembering them with a smile because although I’ve never truly cared for the holiday we always tried to do something.

There was one in Canada in downtown Toronto on your first visit to Canada where you were such a trooper in the freezing cold at a bar with music you hated. But my friends were the dj’s so you grinned and beared it then at midnight you told me how much you couldn’t wait to marry me and begin our life together. You said if you thought it was the right decision to get engaged before I moved to Georgia then you would have proposed then and there. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Then another New Years in Georgia where you were sick as a dog with the flu but stubbornly determined to take me, your “dime”, out on the town wearing the new stiletto boots you’d bought me for Christmas. You made it until midnight to give me a kiss, tell me how much you loved me and loved our life together then went to sleep/vomit in the backseat of the car while I said our goodbye’s and took you home at 12:25. We may have been tucked into bed by 12:40 but I was perfectly content being in our apartment curled up with you and ready to start a brand new year together.

Now here I am. Alone and contemplating the start to another year. I feel the polar opposite to last year because I am not happy, I am alone, I am not content, and I am not ready to begin a new year. And I am at a loss because I don’t know what to do. Zach, be with me as this new year is about to begin. I need your guidance, your comfort, your wisdom, and your love more than ever. You may already know how 2012 will pan out for me so just please let me feel your presence.

I love you now and forever.