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.

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A Different Kind of Post ~~ “The Fault in Our Stars” Book Review

My best friend for the last 24 years and I are obsessive readers and writers.  We have been our entire lives.  Something we started doing together last year was to write book reviews together since it was the perfect combination of our favorite things to do.  Somewhat recently we read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green which flooded the market by storm and it is completely understandable why.  I have decided to include this review here because it is a tragically beautiful book about life, love, death, and grief – – all things typically discussed here.

john green

The Fault in Our Stars
http://thelobstercommentary.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/a-fault-in-our-stars-by-john-green/

Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy.  Outlasting death.  We all want to be remembered. I do too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease. I want to leave a mark.

I had a hard time reading this book and have oddly super procrastinated writing this review.  I sat down to write it this morning and shuddered at the fact that I had made my notes while reading Fault in Our Stars on March 18th.  This book was exceptionally written and I poured through the pages in no time at all.  I felt countless emotions while reading it: humor, sadness, anger, devastation.  John Green has depicted life and death and love so honestly that his words resonated with me and you felt like you were living through the characters.  You empathized with them, you laughed with them, and you mourned with them.

But I had a hard time reading this book because of my own grief I am currently living with following the tragically sudden death of my fiancé in October 2011.  Hazel, Augustus, Isaac, the parents… all were living and breathing life and death so realistically that it hit incredibly close to home.  Hazel’s story put into words the wretched nature of grief that so many of us live with and so many aspects of the story felt like they were my own story.

The pain was always there, pulling me inside of myself, demanding to be felt. It always felt like I was waking up from the pain when something in the world outside of me suddenly required my comment or attention.

At times I felt like John Green was writing my story, writing this directly to me, and describing my grief in a way only I could understand.  That is the powerfulness of his words.  But I guarantee there are thousands of other people who felt the same thing as they read it.  The beauty of this book is that you can take it personally, see yourself within the pages, and completely understand the depths of what Hazel’s story is.  So many times I thought….. this is me!

The waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliffs, leaving me floating face-up on the water, undrowned.

As Hazel describes her journey with her illness and her impressions on the futility of life, you find yourself drawn in and you almost cannot comprehend how this young girl is so wise.  Her illness, her brushes with death, and her losses have made her wise beyond her years in a way that only pain can.  Any one of us who has experienced tragic loss or lived with a disease, either personally or through a family member, understands how dramatically pain changes you.  John Green captures all of these emotions with ease and I think anyone who reads this would find it completely relatable to their lives.

What a slut time is. She screws everyone.

Even the concept of time was described in such a simple way and yet anyone who has experienced loss will understand it completely.  There is never enough time.  There are never enough tomorrow’s.  When you have lost someone you understand the obsessive desire for just one more tomorrow.  John Green captures this through his compelling words and you can’t help but be reminded how fleeting time is.  I think that was the best part of this book for me  — not how beautifully it was written, not how honest he describes the reality of life, not how intriguing the characters were, but how he tells life how it is in a no bullshit kind of way.  There is no sugar coating loss, death, suffering, and struggle.  Green is able to write this amazing story with complete honesty and makes no excuses for the reality of pain and one’s desperate need to cling onto time.

And then there is the love.  While the main focus of this book is about understanding death, tragedy, and genuine courage, there is love.  A sweet, romantic, teenage love story that can be seen as beautiful by a reader of any age.  This is no sappy childish love story.  This is one inundated with the harsh reality of their suffering and their unity over understanding the lurking sense of death.  This especially resonated with me and I understand Hazel’s anguish of loss and her unfailing love even after a harsh separation.

I want to close by saying that I fully recommend this book to absolutely everyone, but prepare yourself to be changed, to feel sorrow, and to come away from it with a new appreciation of time, life, and love.

I close with five final quotes that I cannot help but share.  I dedicate these beautiful words to my love, my sweet Zach whom I will forever love and will always wish for one more tomorrow.

I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things.

It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you

I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouln’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.

The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.

I missed the future. I felt robbed.

The Paused Life

photo (15)~~ Ian McEwan in “The Comfort of Strangers”

Zach,

Yes, I am still here.  I am still here thinking about you, missing you, and grieving for you.  For those of you who faithfully follow my writing and have graciously messaged asking if I am still writing, still out there, still functioning….. technically yes.  Back in May I attempted to promise myself that I was going to make some changes and make time for myself.  I told myself, and any of you reading this, that I would start by taking the time to sit down and write out the ten million thoughts that race through my mind daily.  It would appear I have failed again.

I came across this picture quote the other day and I can’t think of a better description for how I feel right now.  Sleepwalking from moment to moment, months have slipped by without even registering their existence, and nothing has made an impression on me in a really long time.  Grief has completely stolen my concept of time, which I know I have talked about before, but is it seriously August 19, 2013?  Where have the last almost two years gone?

I will convince myself that I am doing alright and paying attention to what is going on around me, but then one of my best friends says he moved into his new house a month ago.  I hadn’t even asked how that went or how it looked.  My best friend’s little girl turned four and I didn’t even remember that her birthday was upcoming.  Another best friend’s baby girl is eight months old now and I haven’t even remembered to ask if she is crawling yet.  Friends will call me out on not texting or calling, but while I feel like I just did yesterday it has actually been weeks.  Semesters of school have come and gone.  I feel like I just wrote something for this blog, but it has been months.  Nothing registers.  All evades me.

I don’t care so much about myself.  I have become so numb to my own life that I just go through the motions of the day.  I work, I go to class, I do homework, I cry myself to sleep.  Repeat.  I am probably failing myself in every sense of the meaning, but as long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other I am okay with failing myself.  I’ve given up on myself.  But failing my friends and my family is something I am not okay with.  How do I fix this?  How can I stop allowing the grief to control me and leave me so detached from life?  It is so selfish and I hate it about myself.  My friends deserve better.  My family deserves better.  But the person I used to be is gone and I don’t know how to do better at being there for other people.

Zach, when you and I moved into the house we switched to Direct TV and loved it.  We got NFL Sunday Ticket free for one year, we got all kinds of channels, and better yet we got a DVR.  Oh the joy of recording TV shows, pausing, fast forwarding commercials… oh the power! I’ve started to think of my life as being on pause.  October 9, 2011 someone hit a giant pause button on my life and the person I used to be came screeching to a halt.  To say I am in a rut would be an understatement because nothing has changed.  I feel just as lost as that day with the only difference being that I have become better at hiding it and getting done what needs to be.  The world has gone on around me and life whirls by faster than I can process.  Life has gone on without me and left me stranded in this misery of a life without you.

The paused life.  It is a life that can be seen from the outside and yet all action, forward momentum, and progress has been paused.  Looking at the screen we can see the TV show waiting to be turned on again, but nothing is happening to our favorite characters or with our beloved sports teams.  They are just there.  Frozen in place.  Doing nothing.  Lacking a complete inability to do anything else until someone presses pause again and releases them from their frozen state.

Zach, who has the power to hit pause again and restart my life?  Will it ever restart?  Or will I continue to live this paused life forever?

My Fourth Guest Post ~~~ No Drive is Too Short for a Seat Belt

I was recently contacted by Hello Grief, an amazing website with countless resources for grievers, and was honored to be asked to write another article for them.  They have received a grant from State Farm to work together on Auto Safety Awareness and the online editor thought of me to write the article for them.  As a writer, I am truly honored by this opportunity and am blessed to be able to share my message.  As a griever, it devastates me that I even have the knowledge to write this.  But I know Zach would be so proud and I pray that my message will reach someone who really needs to hear it.  Writing this was painful and much harder than I anticipated because I dreaded going back and thinking about a night I have tried to ignore.  But my precautionary tale, our families loss, and the pain of losing someone should speak volumes to anyone out there who is willing to take that chance.

No Drive is Too Short for a Seat Belt

http://www.hellogrief.org/no-drive-is-too-short-for-a-seat-belt/

Most of us have probably seen the car commercial where the father gives his toddler daughter some last minute tips before she drives off on her own for the first time.  “Check your mirrors, no highways, no texting while driving, be careful, call me but not while you’re driving,” he says.  Of course, only the father sees his baby girl as a toddler because she is, in fact, a teenager, but what parent doesn’t still see the toddler inside of their teenager?

The commercial resonated with me. We can tell our loved ones to be safe one million times, but in the end we have to let go, say goodbye and hope they never come face-to-face with danger on the roads.  But the road is a crazy place, full of people talking and texting on cell phones, checking Facebook, reaching for something in their backseat, eating while steering with a knee or two, putting on makeup, and driving too fast.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 34,080 motor vehicle fatalities in 2012.  I think we can all agree this unnecessary and preventable loss of life is way too high.  Dave Barry wrote, “The one thing that unites all human beings…is that deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.”  We trust ourselves and blatantly ignore our own bad driving habits, and can be quick to blame other drivers for unsafe circumstances.  As a society, we often believe we are invincible, the masters of our own destiny, and completely convinced that those terrible accidents we hear about could never possibly happen to us.

I am here to tell you that it can.

On October 9, 2011, I got that phone call.  The one we hope to never get, the one that causes your life to crumble.  That night was the worst night of my life, an unimaginable hell that I would not wish on my worst enemy.  My fiancé Zach’s best friend came to town to spend the night at our house and watch some football.  The three of us spent some time together, but I was suffering from a brutal migraine. Zach tucked me into bed and went with Rob to a friend’s house that was just two minutes down the road we lived on. After an hour, they left to return home. They never made it.

This is a story of two beautiful lives brought to a tragic end by no seat belts, rain, a dangerous curve  and speeding. Individually these factors might not add up to an accident, but combined they made for tragedy. And if it weren’t for a migraine, it was a tragedy that might also have claimed me.

I want to ask everyone to take the utmost care while out on the roads and driving the cars we trust so much, because overlooking even the smallest safety factors are often what leads to tragedy.  This accident has left me, both of our families, all of our friends, the entire community and education system shell-shocked, hurting, lost, and grieving.  This is an accident that could have been prevented… if only.

Sitting down to write these words was unfathomably hard for me, because I live with this grief every single day. I would give anything to undo that night, to get back my fiancé, to have never lost. But I write about his accident because I know it is what Zach would want me to do.  He would want me to share my story, to use my writing and my words to share with others the risks they take if they don’t respect the road and the vehicle they use to travel down it.

I write to caution you to take care with your safety each and every time you drive your own car.

So when you hear yourself think, “It’s only a mile down the road, I don’t need my seat belt,” or “The roads are slick, but my car can handle it,” or even “A car accident would never happen to me,” please understand that it can happen to you or someone you love. Cars are big, heavy, powerful machines, and someone who loves you is counting on you to take every measure of safety when you get behind the wheel of one. If you don’t, it could change your entire life, and the life of people you love, in a blink of an eye.

Let my cautionary tale speak volumes to you.  Wear your seat belt.  Slow down in bad weather.  Don’t trust your car to handle speed on slick roads. Know that no one is immune to an accident.  Act now and talk to your loved ones about safe driving.  Talk about seat belts and bad weather and speeding.  Talk about respecting the road.  And from the bottom of this broken heart of mine, I beg you to respect the life you have been given.  Cherish it with every action you make, every word you speak, and every moment you are blessed to live one more.

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,

a

b

c

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

e

f

g

h

i

j

k

l

m

n

o

The Lost Me

lost

“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