I’ve gone through most of my life not really caring about what people think of me. I always held my ground in terms of my values and beliefs, and I always remained true to myself no matter what people said or did. I never wavered from who I was and there was never a moment where I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted out of life. Even at a very young age, I was very determined to be independent and free. Those two things were the only goals I had in my life. I never wanted to be encumbered or held down to anybody or by anything – that’s probably why I never really took an interest in boys or dating when I was younger. I was always focused on my studies and wanted to grow up and be independent as fast as I could. I used to live life by this motto in my teenage years and well into my 20’s. It’s one of my favorite quotes.
“Not all those who wander are lost”
For some reason when I saw this quote on a bumper sticker while driving on day, it really struck a chord and I felt like it was me in a nutshell. I never really had a clear path while I was growing up. I just knew I had to work hard and move forward, but I really didn’t know where forward was going towards. To me, it didn’t really matter where the destination was, as long as I was growing, progressing, and learning – these were the only things that matter to me. The destination wasn’t important, so I had a tendency to wander and go where ever life took me. Some people called it “spontaneous,” others called it “adventurous,” some even called it “risk-taking.” I never shied away from new things or experiences, and I was always open and down to try anything once. I also loved to travel and roam the world learning about new cultures and ways of life. For me, the world was large and grand, and I wanted to exploring every nook and cranny. By the time I met you in my mid-20’s, I had already traveled to over a dozen countries. Mind you, I was never reckless and everything was within reason, but if an opportunity presented itself and it felt right in my gut, I would seize the opportunity, even if it defied logic and reason. I was more afraid of not getting a second chance than the unknown and uncertainty of the opportunity. Carpe Diem – yes, I definitely also lived by this motto also. I never wanted to lose out on an opportunity just because I wasn’t ready or the timing wasn’t right or not what I had planned. I always believed that if I took care of today, tomorrow will take care of itself. It’s odd, I’m not a religious person, but I do believe there’s a master plan for each of us if we’re open to accepting and letting it lead us to where we are destined to go. I always had my passport within arm’s length and a black dress in my closet – ready for any adventure that may present itself at a moment’s notice. That was the type of person I was before I met you. I was fearless, spontaneous, unencumbered and a bit erratic. I liked to call it being a free-spirit. You always thought of it as being wild and untamed.
You also enjoyed your independence and freedom. You didn’t want to be tied down or encumbered either. Within the first few months we started dated, you told me, “No woman is ever going to get me to walk down the aisle!” This didn’t bother me much since I didn’t really believe in the institution of marriage either. You also didn’t care about what the world thought about you either. You always knew where you stood in terms of your values and beliefs and you held strong to them as well. These were the things we had in common that tied us together, whether we knew it or not. However, the difference between us lied in how we approached and interacted with the world. I wanted to always be moving while you were content with being stationary. You were content with living in your world and had no desire for change or living in any way that was drastically differently than the way you were living. You didn’t even have a passport when I met you. The first time you left the country was when I forced you to take an international trip with me. You abhorred changed while the only constant for me was change. You moved at the speed of snail whenever we had to make any type of big or major decisions in our life. You had to think every detail through, play out all the different scenarios, calculate everything, and then recalculate it three more times before you can even begin to take action, and even when you knew what you wanted or had to do, you were still very reluctant and cautious. Yes, it was very frustrating for someone like me, who moves at the speed of light.
But, over the years, our personality started to meet at a happy medium. I learned to move slower and you learned to move faster, and we always tried to meet the other where ever the other person was. It was never 50/50 since sometimes one person couldn’t give 50% so the other person had to give more in order to make it work, and that’s what we did. We always tried to meet each other where ever the other person was. Although we are both very selfish with our time and how we chose to spend it, we were always selfless when it came to being present for each other, our family, and friends. We always kept our word and commitments, and we both knew how to show up and support each other and the people closest to us. And, somehow, after 12 years of dating and 8 years of living together, two strong, independent people who didn’t believe in marriage, got married. To this day, I can’t believe we actually got married. When you brought up getting married, I thought it was a joke. I laughed and said, “But, we don’t believe in marriage?!” And you said, “I already think of you as my wife, so why not make it official?!” And, that’s how we got married. For two people who didn’t want to get married, I have to say, “We were pretty good at ‘playing house.’”
I remember sitting in my therapist’s chair for the first time after you passed and said, “Sean and I are super independent, and we didn’t really rely on each other much. We did our own thing, so I’ll be okay once I get over the grief part.” Boy, was I wrong! 😂🤣 I didn’t realize how intertwined and codependent we were until you passed. Even a simple decision such as “What’s for dinner?” was a joint decision. Without realizing it, we thought we were living and roaming in an open pasture with free reign to wander and go where ever we wanted, but in reality, we were living in an enclosed pasture and never noticed that there was fence enclosing us. Honestly, Babe, we were living in a bubble and we didn’t even realize it. Our world was actually fairly small and simple, and we were super happy and content with its mundane and boring existence. Whether we knew it or not, we were living the life that neither of us wanted, and surprisingly, we were happy and content doing it together. I guess it’s true, being married is like “hanging out with your BFF every day!”
To this day, the hardest part of being a widow is my identity crisis. After you passed, it was like I didn’t know who I was anymore and I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. There were days where I was so uncomfortable in my own skin that I just wanted to rip it off. I wished I could shed my skin and step out of it like a reptile. Everywhere I went, I felt uncomfortable and awkward, like a fish out of water. I didn’t feel like I fit in or belonged anywhere. Like I didn’t know where my place in the world was anymore. Even to this day, I’m still struggling with who I am without you. Each day as I progress on this widowhood journey, I’m constantly learning something new about me, you, and us. It’s odd to say this, but I feel like I’ve gotten to know you better and at a deeper after you passed. Maybe it’s because I have to interact with your family on my own now so I’m learning more about you through them. As my relationship with your family continues to grow and deepen, there’s so many new things I’ve learned about you.
I can honestly say, I know how you very well from the perspective of what you will do or how you will act in a situation, but I never really knew what you were thinking or feeling. You weren’t the type of person who shared your thoughts or feelings so I always had to guess. Over the years, I got really good at guessing what your thoughts and feelings were by your mood and actions. But honestly, I never really knew what you were thinking or felt. This was a source of contention between us at times since it was hard living with a person who didn’t express or share himself emotionally. But later I realized that if I was one of the closest persons to you, and you couldn’t express yourself emotionally to me, then it more likely that you didn’t know how and not because you didn’t want to. Somehow this revelation brought me to tears because I realized I finally understood something fundamental about you, but you’re not here to witness it. It’s a fundamental understanding about you that I learned too late. That I would never be able to adjust or change the way I reacted or interacted with you because of this new revelation. It made me realize even more, how death is so finite. Once that person dies, they are gone. It’s like they disappeared into the ether. No matter how much you miss the person, you can never see, talk, or touch that person again. Death is the most painful separation there is in life and grief is the ultimate price we have to pay for love.
I'm a Widow
It’s been almost 13.5 months since I moved out of our Shay house and into a temporary rental unit in Point Richmond, one year since I closed on our Shay house, and almost nine months since I “temporarily” moved from the Bay Rea to So Cal to quarantine during the COVID-19 global pandemic. I tell people that I’ve been living in transition for the last year since I sold our house, but the more I think about it, I’ve been living in transition since you passed away 3.5 years ago.
In March of 2020, the world literally shut-down when the COVID-19 virus was rapidly spreading and killing millions around the world. In April, there was so much uncertainty, confusion, and hysteria as the world was forced to stay home and quarantine. First, it was just for two to four weeks, but as time wore on, the quarantine kept extending and I was afraid the economy was going to tank and home prices were going to dropped, so I decided to quickly list our house for sale in April. Mentally and financially, I always knew it did not make sense to hold on to our home, even if it was supposed to be our forever home, especially when I only occupied a quarter of the house. But, emotionally, it was very hard to even thinking of selling the house. It was our dream home, and we were supposed to grow old and spend the rest of our lives there. Although I knew the right thing to do was to sell the house, I had always sat on the fence about it. I couldn’t decide if it was something I wanted to hold on to or let go of. Neither options were ideal so I was indifferent, which didn’t help the situation. But, about a year and half after you passed, I did come to the realization and conclusion that the house held no sentimental meaning or value to anybody except you and me. So, even after I passed, the house would be sold at some point anyways since all my heirs live in So Cal, it was unlikely they would live in the house and how would it be split between them also? Another thought that came to mind was also, “What if I remarry? Did I just expect my new husband to move into the house we shared?” These questions kept swirling around in my head, and at times, they kept me up at night. There were really no answers to these questions that made keeping the house advantageous. Although I knew what the right answer to was to whether I should sell the house or not, I wasn’t in a rush and I was indifferent either way. However, with the uncertainty and bleak economic as the world was forced to shut-down and / or work from home, I was afraid home prices were going to take a big hit and I would have to sell the house at a loss or be forced to continue living in the indefinitely until home prices recovered. As you know, I like options and prefer to choose then be forced into anything. So, ultimately, I chose the option that afford me more options and freedom, whether I was ready for it or not. COVID-19 was the catalyst that forced me into a corner to finally make the decision I knew I had to make but was afraid and unready to make.
I always thought that after I sold our house, I would somehow magically feel less stuck, trapped, aimless, frustrated, and contentious. I mean, it was the largest “burden” from our life together that I had to deal with. Whether I was willing to admit it or not, I always knew in the back of my mind that the house played a large part in why I always felt so trapped and stuck. There was never a doubt in my mind that selling the house was not the “right” decision, but I was never able to wrap my head around the decision since I was so scared and afraid of venturing into the “great unknown.” I didn’t have a plan for “what’s next,” so living in the house always felt safe and comfortable even if it held me back and made me feel trapped and stuck. So, I continued to put off the decision even though I knew what the right decision was, and not being able to mobilize myself even though I knew what the right decision was drove me utterly insane and crazy and played a major reason for why I always felt so aimless, frustrated, and contentious. I’ve always the type of person who’s able to analyze and rationalize a situation quickly and take appropriate action in a timely manner. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for me to do the right thing that would result in a better situation for myself. I was never the type of person who held on to things and couldn’t let go, so I felt like I didn’t know myself anymore and there was always an internal struggle and battle raging on inside of me. Do I need to say it?! “I was completely a HOT MESS?!” So, you’d think that after I sold the house and the money was wired into my account, all my worries would have dissipated!! But that was definitely not the case. If anything, I grew more frustrated and impatient that I didn’t feel better. I did feel less trapped, but I still felt very stuck, frustrated, contentious, and aimless. There were many instances where I would sit at the rental unit and contemplate how nothing has changed except for my location. Not feeling better after selling the house was such a large source of contention and confusion for me. The confusion just made me more impatient and angrier at myself for not feeling better. I started to question whether I made the right decision to sell the house or not and it didn’t help that I was going in and out of depression from being so socially isolated during the quarantine. I was literally going through weeks without talking to or seeing anybody. There were only so many conversations I can have with myself and the animals. So, in mid-Oct, after seven months of quarantining by myself and when return to work kept pushing out, I eventually decided to temporarily relocate to So Cal and quarantine near my family. It seems odd that I would make a decision like that, right?! Yeah, I surprised myself as well with that decision. I never would have thought I would ever make a decision like that in my life but it made sense in my mind and it was just a temporary situation to help alleviate the social isolation I was feeling during the quarantine. I would move back when it was time to go back to work. I was working from home, so technically I could work from anywhere, and since I sold our house and was renting, I wasn’t attached to anything so I could literally live anywhere. So, that was the plan, I would temporarily relocate to So Cal and quarantine with my family.
It’s been nine months since I’ve been quarantining in So Cal and my life and routines have become unrecognizable. Whenever I think about it, it’s almost unfathomable that I’ve been living with my parents for nine months in So Cal. If you told me that I would be living like this after you passed or when the pandemic started, I think I would have laughed in your face at the absurdity of it all. At the end of the day, what finally occurred to me during those numerous conversations I was having with myself in my head at the rental unit while being socially isolated from the world was that I had to throw out the playbook I was operating from. Honestly, if I had to really look at my life after you passed, not much had changed except I was doing everything by myself and at some point, I was living at a different place. Everything was more or less the same even after I sold our house. Except for a global pandemic and social isolation, I was still ultimately living the same life but just in a different location and without you.
So, the biggest risk I took after selling the house was moving to So Cal to quarantine temporarily with my family. There are often times where I would look at how I’ve been living in “transition” for the last year, and I would feel sorry for myself when I realized that I would never be in this situation, even during a global pandemic, if you hadn’t passed away. It literally brings me to tears and an emotional break-down whenever I think about this. It also forces me to really accept the fact that you’re dead. You’re not coming home and I’m a widow. I’m a widow. I’m a widow. That’s who I am now – I’m a widow.
Braving the Wilderness
After you passed, I was so scared of everything. Going out into the world felt like navigating a strange and unfamiliar jungle without a map while a war was raging on at the same time. I didn’t know if I was going to make it back alive or not and whether I would step on a landmine or not when I left the house. I was completely unstable, mentally, emotionally, physically. I didn’t know what was going to trigger me and I was always afraid of having an uncontrollable emotional meltdown in public afraid, so leaving the house was quite an ordeal and challenge since it was like walking in field with hidden landmines all over the place. I wouldn’t know when I would step on a landmine and explode to smithereens, so I had anxiety and panic attacks at the thought of leaving the house. I had to mentally prepare myself for days before I could even leave the house. If anyone wanted to see me, they would usually visit at the house in the beginning, and if someone was able to cajole me to going out, I would tentatively accept and only confirm when it was almost time to leave since I wouldn’t know if I could mentally prepare myself to leave the house or not until I was actually able to leave. Eating at restaurants was the hardest and most challenging thing for me. Something about witnessing people share and enjoy a meal with their friends and family was very hard for me. I think going to restaurants was this stark realization that I would never be able to share in the simplest, most basic human activity with you anymore – eating dinner together. After you passed, I never ate at the dining table by myself ever again and only when there were guests that would warrant sitting at a dining table versus the bar area. I even gave away our dining table when I sold our house. I never wanted to see it again since it represented the heart and soul of our life together. It was where we shared all our meals, conversations, and laughter together. No matter how busy our lives were, it was important that we always eat dinner together since it was a time for us to bond and connect without distraction after a long day out in the world. After you died, I couldn’t even bear to look at the dining table. It held so many precious memories that were now too painful to remember. It was like it didn’t exist and I never used it unless I had to. Even guests who knew the seating arrangements when they used to come over for dinner wouldn’t sit in your chair after you passed. One time, even a friend was uncomfortable sitting in your chair and kept making sure multiple times before sitting in your chair – I mean there was nowhere else he could have sat unless he wanted to eat on the floor.
One of the biggest reasons going out into the world was scary and debilitating was having to be present and witness the world go on as usual, as if nothing happened. There were times where I would just stand still and stare out into the world perplexed and confused. I’m not sure what they don’t understand?! How can they go about their daily routines as if nothing happened? There were moments where I just want to scream and shout at everybody, “STOP!! Don’t you know what happened?! My husband died!! My world just stopped and ended. Why isn’t your world stopping and ending like mine?! My world turned upside down and nothing will ever be the same again!! Why are you guys just going about your daily life and routine like nothing happened?” I always had to remind myself, your world may have stopped, but not theirs. You can’t be mad or upset if they don’t care or feel the same pain and anguish you do. They can never understand you or what you’re going through, so you have to cut them some slack!!
Being part of a world where you don’t exist was already strange and odd, so going out into the world and feeling like nothing happened was like a big slap in the face, especially when my world stopped and turned upside down. I could barely breathe or take a step anywhere, so how could the world just go on as usual like nothing happened?! It felt like you disappeared and nobody noticed or cared. Nothing happened or changed. Nothing stopped and nobody took notice. How could nobody not notice something so seismic?! How could the entire world keep going on as if nothing happened when my entire world fell apart?! How could nobody care?! How could the world be so cruel and unsympathetic?! It felt like the universe was mocking me every time I stepped out into the world and said, “You’re insignificant and you don’t matter. Your pain and grief are insignificant and they don’t matter. Nobody cares, so you shouldn’t either. You just have to move on with your life as if nothing happened!!” It was a tough pill to swallow, and it felt very cruel and harsh, if you ask me!
About two years after you passed, I even had a dream where I was looking for you. I was so desperately and stopping everybody I passed by if they saw you. I even went to the police station and left no stone unturned. But everybody thought I was crazy since nobody believed you existed. Everybody kept telling me that you don’t exist, and I made you up and wouldn’t help me find you. I kept arguing with them and said you do exist. You’re just lost and I need to find you. I was so desperate and pleading with people to help me but nobody stopped or helped, and I woke up in a panic and it put me in a weird mood for days. It was a strange and odd feeling I couldn’t place and shake. #widowhoodstruggles (Whoa?! Throwback!! I haven’t used that reference in a while, right?! 😂🤣)
Although it was very scary and excruciatingly hard, I kept forcing and pushing myself to move forward and go out into the world. I wanted the world to stop and take notice of what I was going through, but it didn’t. It kept going on and moving as usual, and I didn’t want to be left behind either, so I was determined to reintegrate myself into world even though I was completely uncomfortable and socially awkward where ever I went. I was a fish out of water, floundering on the dry floor, unable to breathe, or help myself, but I refused to be left behind, even if the world was cruel and harsh, I still wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be “normal” like everybody else. I wanted to be “okay” like everybody else. I wanted to be “happy” like everybody else. I wanted the pain and anguish to stop. I wanted my world to be put back together and keep moving on like nothing happened. I was desperately searching for a super glue that didn’t exist. The harder and longer I searched for it, the more desperate I became and the more elusive it became as well. It always felt like I was getting closer but never close enough to grab on to it. I grew more and more frustrated. I felt trapped and lost at the same time. I felt stuck and drifting at the same time. It felt like I was lost in a forest; wandering day and night trying to find my way out but going nowhere and making no progress since everything looked the same, and I didn’t have any breadcrumbs to leave a trail to help me either.
Honestly, I don’t know if I’m still lost in the forest or not. There were many times where I think I’ve finally found my way out but only to realize the trail dead ends and I’m still stuck in the forest. I guess my only options are to keep walking until I find my way out or give up and just set-up camp in the wilderness and hope and pray someone who isn’t lost happen to find and rescue me.
Whether I knew it or not (or should I say, whether I was willing to admit it or not), I was going through a very traumatic experience after you died. There were many times where my therapist had to remind me, “You’re a victim.” My mind refused to believe I was a victim, so it was very hard to grasp or even process the words, “You’re a victim.” But, as I look back now, I realize that I was a victim, or should I say, I’m a victim of this traumatic experience. Each day after you passed so unexpectedly and tragically, I’ve been struggling to survive. I have to constantly remind myself I’m a survivor!! Even if there are days where I still struggle, I realize that I’m still surviving and making the best and most of the life I have. I know this is the only way you would want and wish for me to live without you.
Shortly after you passed, I felt like I was drowning and drifting endlessly in the tempestuous ocean of grief without an anchor to hold me down, so I was always floundering and wasn’t able to find my bearings. If I wasn’t drowning or drifting endlessly in the tempestuous ocean of grief, I was stuck in a very deep and dark ditch with no way out or trapped in quicksand that was quickly pulling me in and swallowing me alive. Everyday felt surreal, futile, and desolate. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, and I suffered from PTSD for a long time after you passed. My mind kept replaying over and over again in a continuous loop different parts of the day you died and the aftermath. Most mornings, I woke up gasping for air and in a state of panic and confusion. I was stuck in a cloud so thick that I couldn’t even discern what was real or what was a dream. As I was going through the daily monotonous routine of life, I felt like I was trapped in an alternate universe of a really bad sci-fi movie. Looking at all of our things and personal belongings, there was nothing amiss, everything looked the same, as if nothing happened and you were just on a very far and extended business trip and forgot to pack your bags. Although everything and everybody around me was the same and familiar, they also felt eerily strange and unfamiliar. When I look at the mirror, the person staring back at me looked just like me but she wasn’t me. She was a stranger – someone who looked just like me, but wasn’t me. I always wondered when I would wake up from this nightmare and return to the universe where everything was right. You don’t know how long, hard, and often I willed for that day to come or how much my heart aches now when I realize it will never come. I didn’t think I could exist in a world where you didn’t exist. Even breathing was hard after you died, and I was scared of everything. The thought of leaving the house gave me extreme anxiety. My world became so small and everybody felt like a stranger to me, even though I’ve known them for a long time. I was paralyzed, stuck in time, unable and fearful of taking even one step without you. Each morning I woke up, I always thought that dying was better than the immense pain and grief I was feeling and experiencing. If I couldn’t die, then I wanted the world to feel the pain and grief I was feeling. Every day, I wanted to scream and shout at the top of my lungs and punch and throw things. I also wanted the world to stop like how my world stopped. If the world couldn’t stop, I wished it would all burn down to ashes. Yes, these were all the things I wished and hoped for after you passed, but none of them came true. I didn’t die. I didn’t scream or shout at the top of lungs. I didn’t punch or throw things. The world didn’t stop or burn down. Everything was the same. Nothing changed. The world and everything and everybody in it, kept moving as usual, as if nothing happened while my world crashed and burned and my life was turned upside. I was standing still, paralyzed, scared, and trapped in this alternate universe that neither make sense nor felt real or right even though everything and everybody was exactly the same. I spent countless hours plotting my great escape from this horrendous alternate universe I was trapped in while pondering, “How could everything around me be exactly the same when nothing will ever be the same again?!”
After living in this alternate universe for the last three and half years, I was reminded last week that somehow, without realizing it or even believing it could ever happen, this alternate universe has become somewhat “normal” and commonplace to me now. I’ve learned to adapt and adjust to this new universe – even if it’s not where I want to be and it always feels like a terrible consolation prize – I’ve somehow found the strength, courage, and resilience to breathe again, take a step forward, and slowly reintegrate myself into this unfamiliar yet very familiar universe. There are days where I can’t even believe I’ve made it this far without you. There are even moments where I can’t distinguish whether our life together was real or not. Somehow, during these moments, our life feels like a complete fantasy, a figment of my imagination, a made-up story I conjured in my mind. There are even moments, when I see a photo of you and it feels like I’m looking at a stranger, someone I’m meeting for the first time. You look so unfamiliar and out of reach. Then, there are days, even years later, where I’m transported back to the first few days and weeks after you died and all the anguish and painful emotions come flooding back and wipes me out like a tsunami, and my heart aches to a point of no return and my yearning for you becomes so unbearable, debilitating, and paralyzing. On days like this, I can’t help but feel like there’s still so much left undone and unfinished between us. There are still so many more words, feelings, emotions, moments, and memories to be shared between us. I have all these unfinished feelings and emotions with no place to go, so over time, they collect and well up in my heart and sorrowfully overflows and culminates into an unbearable heartache and yearning.
I don’t know if alternate universes actually exists or not, but if they do, I hope there’s an alternate universe out there somewhere where you and I exist as husband and wife, and we have the opportunity to continue writing our story where we grow old and live to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary together.
Happy Birthday Babe! I love you so much!!
So much has happened in the last year and half since I stopped writing that I don’t even know where to start sometimes. Sometimes, I just want to start where we left off but then there are other times where I wonder if all that craziness really needs to be shared at all!! 😂🤣 Most of the time, I’m tired and exhausted of the reruns of my life over the last 3+ years that constantly replays in a continuous loop in my head, but it’s not something I can escape either. Trust me, I’ve tried so many times, and I’ve failed miserably each time. I just hope and pray that at some point the reruns stop, but I’ve also come to learn that I shouldn’t have any expectations on this journey either since it only ends in heartache and pain.
I guess I was going through a period of emotional reclusiveness and avoidance. It was over a year and a half and I didn’t understand how I could be still such a HOT mess?! I didn’t understand why I was still feeling so much pain, grief, and angst still. I thought I was supposed to get magically better after a year, but it never happened. (I know, there I go again, always trying to benchmark myself to some magical grief timeline even when I know that doesn’t exist…I guess I can’t help myself!!). There were so many days where the pain still felt so raw and unbearable that feel nothing would be better than what I was I feeling and going through. I just wanted to be “normal” again – whatever that meant post-Sean, I didn’t care. I just desperately wanted it and I wanted it now!! Even though it seemed like I had my shit together and adjusting well to my “new life circumstances,” there was nothing fine about me internally and I was a complete HOT MESS on the inside. I felt a lot of angst and frustration. I felt like I was stuck, trapped, and lost, but at the same time, I also felt like I was drifting endlessly in the dark with no direction. How can one person feel stuck in one place but drifting endlessly at the same time?! I have no clue, but that was me all the time. But it was not something I wanted the world to know. So, I worked really hard to main the façade that I was okay. I went to work, hung out with friends, and ensured I was nothing but a productive member of society even if I always felt empty, dead, and devoid of any emotions and feelings on the inside. My life felt like it had no meaning or purpose anymore; like it didn’t matter whether I was dead or alive. Lots of widow groups recommend volunteering and community service to help fill the void. So, I tried to filled the void with a lot of different things. One of which was leading the women’s group and launching an education program at work that hosted students from under resourced communities around the Bay Area for on-site field trips to our campuses to learn more about careers in tech. I threw myself into these altruistic endeavors in the hopes that I would awaken my heart and soul again and didn’t feel so devoid of meaning and purpose, but honestly, nothing really helped. I just was felt so empty and a deep sense of void all the time. I was just a shell of a person that had no other choice or option but to keep living and breathing even if I felt like dying would be better than the hell I was in. I didn’t know what I was living for or why I was still living. Even when I had brief moments of joy and accomplishments in my life, they were fleeting and always bittersweet since they constantly reminded of how alone I was since I had anyone to share these moments with anymore. They felt more like slaps in the face reminding me of my new harsh reality.
Also, during this time, I started to make more conscious decisions to transition “our life” to “my life.” On the online widow’s support group, a lot of the widows talked about how they redecorated their bedroom and did things with their wedding rings. When I read these things initially, I didn’t understand why they were necessary. But what I’ve come to realize on this journey is that you can’t see or hear anything until you are ready to see and hear them. When I read about widows re-decorating their bedrooms and making new jewelry out of their wedding rings, I never even gave it a second thought nor did I ever find it important or necessary. However, as I’ve continued on my widowhood journey (one which I had previously expected to have already end at this point), I remembered these stories and thought to myself, maybe if I got a new bedroom set, I would feel less angst, frustrated, empty, stuck, and trapped. So, in November of 2019, I bought new bedroom furniture. I remember showing it to a friend from college and she said, “Wow, it’s so different from your old set. This feels more like you the person I knew in college.” It was definitely not something you would have picked or even agreed to, trust me I know because I’ve tried so many times to buy furniture like this before and you always said no. In the 6-8 weeks I waited for the furniture to be delivered, I went through a lot of anguish and distress as to what to do with our old bedroom furniture. I wasn’t ready to “let go” of the bedroom set yet, so I figure I would set-up another guest bedroom in your man-room even though there was already two guest bedrooms, a third one wouldn’t hurt, right?!. So, that was the plan.
But as time wore on, I thought to myself, do I really need a third guest bedroom?! Like how often will I have enough guests that would require the use of three bedrooms at one time?! Then, I thought about all your belongings that I’ve already “let go” of and how I felt afterwards. The very first thing I have away was your SUV. I remember you mentioning days before you died how you wanted to give your brother the SUV if you were to buy another car. So, giving your bother the SUV felt right since it was like I was fulfilling a wish you had. As an exercise, a few months after you passed, my therapist suggested I have your family and friends come and take whatever keepsake or mementos they that was yours. I decided everything was fair game, even if it was something I wanted to keep, I told myself, I was not going to say anything and just let them have it. When it was family members and friends, it felt good since I know they would love and cherish your items as much as I would. Then I allowed our cleaning lady and her family to take anything they wanted from your closet since it was going to be donated at some point anyways. That was a lot harder than I had expected. A few months later, I allowed your family to come again for round 2 and I did this a few more times. At one point, I finally told them it was last call since I was planning to clean out your closet soon. (Of course, “soon” was loosely used choice of word, since it probably took another six to eight months before I finally cleaned out your closet.). Overtime, even this became easier and almost anti-climactic. Then one random trash day when I was taking the trash cans out to the curb after work, I don’t know what came over me, but I just marched into our bathroom and grabbed all your toiletries and put them in trash bag and threw them out. They were always just sitting there on the bathroom countertop just staring at me – even at times, I felt like they were mocking me. Why are you keeping us still?! It’s not like you’re ever going to use aftershave or that razor?! I would just stare at them each morning I started my day and each night I ended my day. I guess I finally got fed up with all the staring and mocking. So, without even a thought, I just threw them out. Honestly, I think it was just a way for me to curse at you since I was upset that you died and left me to take care of all your house chores like lugging the trash can to the curb every week. There were a few times that night that I told myself to grab them all from the crash can before I regret it. I’m positive I cried myself to sleep that night since this was the first time I threw anything of yours away (I don’t even think I threw away your snacks and candy in the pantry yet at this point in time, even though they were perishable). 😂🤣 Around the 9- or 10-month mark, I made a conscious effort to stop wearing my wedding ring. I remember I was always staring and fixating on the empty ring finger for a very long time. I would go to touch or move it around my fingers out of habit and freak out a bit when I realized there was no ring on my finger. to only realize it wasn’t there anymore. Taking off my wedding ring was actually really hard, and it took a really long time to get used, but with everything else and in due time, an empty ring finger because the “new norm” and I stopped fixating and looking for a nonexistent ring. Well, we don’t need to revisit the closet again, right?! I think we all know it was kicking my ass for over a year and a half before I was able to beat it and reign supreme. Even though I had planned to clean out your closet so many times, I was never able to do it. But like the toiletries, I literally woke up one morning on the weekend, and I decided this was the day and just did it. I didn’t even think twice about it. I literally got out of bed, closed my eyes, turned off any emotions or feelings I had, and just threw all your things into boxes that were sitting in the bedroom for probably six months by this time. Although it took a few more months before I found the courage to donate your things, I did when the opportunity came whether I was ready or not. As I looked back on all your things I had to “let go” of, I realized one thing – whether I was ready or not, I did “let go” and I survived, even if it was hard – I survived and I’m still standing. So, in essence, I don’t need a third guest bedroom, and I ended up getting rid of the bedroom we had for over 10 years. And yes, of course, with my eyes closed and without a second thought.
So Cal, here you come!!
A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Bay Area for a visit. Originally, it was to visit friends and be back in the Bay since I missed it. But it also ended up being a trip to bring your cremains to SoCal!! Yes, I got you a final resting place where my grandmother’s buried. It’s actually walking distance from her burial plot, so I’m hoping you guys can party together. 😂🤣 (Fingers crossed everybody speaks the same language wherever you guys are, or at least there will be translators available to help you guys communicate).
When I first arrived in So Cal in mid-Oct, it was tomb-sweeping, so we went to visit my great grandparents and grandmother’s burial plot. When I was at my grandmother’s plot, there was a black granite wall of niches at the back of the area. Mind you, I’ve been to this area of the cemetery a few times since you passed and seen this wall many times before. But, for some reason, this time it occurred to me that maybe I should think about finding you a final resting place. After I got back from tomb-sweeping, I called a cemetery in the Bay Area to get more information, and I eventually made an appointment to view the facility after I booked my ticket to the Bay Area. Without much thought, at that time, it just made sense to find you a final resting place in the Bay Area. Fast forward to six months, and it’s tomb-sweeping again in early April. (I know, can you believe I've survived living with my parents for this long?! I'm just as surprised as you are!! 😂🤣) When we visited my grandmother’s burial plot and I saw the black granite wall of niches at the back of the area again, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I get a niche for S here?!” I know it didn’t make sense at all, but somehow it felt like the right thing to do. During the tomb-sweeping rituals, I texted your mom and asked her thoughts about having your final resting place in So Cal instead of the Bay Area. I didn’t ask your dad since he lives in So Cal, so I assumed he wouldn’t have any objections to it since it was a lot closer for him. When your mom gave her blessings, I still wanted to view the grounds at the cemetery in the Bay Area before making a final decision. However, a week or so later, I think in my heart, I already knew the decision I was going to make. Then one night I had a dream about you (which I haven’t had a dream about you in a very long time) and we were just chatting about something (not relating to your final resting place or anything like that) but in the dream, you said, “Yes, Babe, that sounds like a good idea!” And I responded with, “Really?! You think so?!” And you replied, “Yes!” Then I woke up. It felt like you were trying to tell me it was the right decision, so I purchased the niche a few weeks before my Bay Area trip. So, it just made sense to bring you to So Cal in my carry-on luggage on the return trip. 😂🤣
Below is an excerpt from the letter I wrote to your family about my decision-making process of why I decided on So Cal as your final resting place:
Prior to S’s passing, we had a brief discussion regarding his final wishes, but one thing he never expressed was what to do with his ashes. I've thought about this a lot over the years since he passed, but I never really knew what to do with his ashes. Maybe I wasn't really ready to let him go or accept that he is truly no longer here, but it was always the biggest unknown and "strife" in my life at times. But, after much contemplation and blessing from his mother, I finally decided to purchase a niche at my family's cemetery.
It was a hard decision between keeping him in the Bay Area or relocating him to Southern California, but after much thought and contemplation, for me, it just made a lot of sense since the cemetery is where my family is or will be buried. My great grandparents and grandmother are already buried at this location and my grandfather and parents will be buried at this location as well. So, essentially, I realized that I will always be tied to his cemetery in one way or another -- so for me, I wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to visit without any inconvenience for me. (Yes, I'm only thinking of myself! haha). My family also visits the cemetery twice a year for tomb-sweeping, so I know, even if I don't get to visit him often, he will always have visitors at least twice a year dropping off his favorite snacks! :)
With COVID and the ability to literally work from anywhere, I really don't know where my life will take me and whether I relocate back to the Bay Area is very uncertain at this moment and who knows where my life will take me down the road either -- but one thing I do know for sure is that I will always be tied to this cemetery.
So, Babe, your new home is in sunny and hot Southern California with a view of the smog and pollution 😂🤣, downtown LA, and the mountains beyond downtown LA. It’s actually quite nice and serene there.
When I was making funeral arrangements the week you passed, the funeral director asked if I wanted to purchase a niche for you at their facility. My immediate response was “No!” In my mind, I was going to live with you forever and ever in our dream home. I had you prominently displayed in the back of our living room surrounded with our photos from throughout the years. Looking back at it now, it felt like a shrine I erected to honor and celebrate our life, relationship, and your memory. There were days where I would walk up to your urn, look at our photos, and just cry to my heart’s content. It was hard to contemplate and fathom your existence concluded inside that box. Over time, that area of the living room became invisible to me. It didn’t feel important anymore. I started to feel you were living inside of me, and I didn’t need the physical reminder that you passed away. I remember telling my therapist that I didn’t want to keep your urn anymore, but I didn’t know what to do with it either. I guess for the longest time, it was like a mental strife slowly simmering in the back burner. I had thought about asking your mother if she wanted to keep you, but I also knew she wasn’t in a place in her grief process to ask either, so I sat on it for a while.
When I decided to sell our house and didn’t know what my plans were yet for temporary housing, I asked your mom if you could temporarily stay with her until I found a permanent housing situation since I didn’t want to put you in storage or lug you around with me to who knows where. I already had my hand full with the four fur babies in tow. (Oh yes, how is our baby Jesse?! I know you probably have your hands full with him after he crossed the rainbow bridge two Christmases ago. He always loved to annoy and irk you. 😂🤣 Give him lots of belly rubs and snuggles for me and let him know I love and miss him to bits and pieces.)
Before deciding to find you a final resting place, I did give your mom the option of keeping you. But she felt the same way I did, which was you deserved a final resting place. I know some people choose to scatter their loved one’s ashes in a body of water, but scattering your ashes in a body of water somewhere didn’t seem like something you would want. You’re such a homebody, and you liked building deep roots and staying in one place, so finding a niche made the most sense to me. You’ve always wanted to move to So Cal at some point, so now you’re a permanent So Cal resident!!
After I made this decision, I left like this big weight lifted from me. I didn’t realize it was weighing on me that much until it was gone. It’s almost feels like I’m getting a sense of "closure" in some respect. Closure in what?! I don’t know, but I just feel like this big burden has finally lifted, and I can finally start focusing on creating and designing this mosaic I’ve been want to start. 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼 But you never know, nothing about widowhood ever surprises me. I could regret this decision in due time also!! 😂🤣
Let's Make a Mosaic!!!
You don’t even know how many days where I feel like I see the light at the end of the tunnel or I feel like I’ve scaled the highest mountain I can on this grief journey, but only to realize that the light at the end of the tunnel is actually illusive and further away than I thought and the peak of the highest mountain of grief is actually not the highest at all. In fact, I still have a very long way to go before I see the light at the end of the tunnel or reach the highest peak of grief.
Ever since you passed, I’m forced to constantly let go of all the things that are comfortable and familiar in my life. Even when I think there’s nothing left to give up or let go of, I’m being forced to constantly keep giving up more and more of myself and my life to the point where I don’t even know who’s staring back at me in the mirror and my life has become quite unfamiliar and “uncomfortable.” I’ve been reading David Kessler’s book on Finding Meaning, the Sixth Stage of Grief, and he discusses how acceptance, the fifth stage of grief, happens in stages and over time as well – that’s probably why it is said and believed that the 5 stages of grief aren’t linear and one can move back and forth between the stages many times. I think that because grief requires not only grieving the person that passed, but also many things in one’s life.
After I grieved your death and accepted that you were no longer coming back, it occurred to me that I was no longer a wife. So, I also had to grieve my identity as a wife. After I accepted that I was no longer a wife, I thought I was done grieving and I could finally pivot and focus on rolling up my sleeves and start the hard work of rebuilding and putting my life back together. Well, was I in for a surprise!! I read my last entry before I took the year and half hiatus and it was about wanting my life to begin. Now that I’m looking back at the last year and half, I don’t know what I was hoping for when I said I wanted my life to begin. Had it not started?! What was there to begin?! I guess if I had to guess, I would surmise that your death was a clear and definitive marking point that my life had stopped and I supposedly needed something to mark my beginning? Well, whatever marker or signal that I needed to feel like my life was to restart, it never came, and I never restarted or began my life again.
No matter how hard I tried to rebuild and put my life back together again, nothing ever felt right. If anything, it was quite frustrating and demoralizing most of the time. I’m a Type A problem solver, so there’s never been a situation where I can’t get “under control” or “handle.” I thought all I had to do was pick up the pieces and glue them back together; that even if there were cracks, it would still be okay and beautiful in its own way. Well, the cracks were actually gaping holes that never fully closed and it was always a hot mess. No matter how hard I tried to reposition and move the pieces around to see if they would fit back together again, they never did. It was a puzzle that was missing too many pieces so the image was obscured and ambiguous. Well, I’m sure you know – I don’t do well in obscure or ambiguous situations!! It makes me uneasy and uncomfortable. I tried to close my eyes and embrace the cracks, I mean the gaping holes, if I were to be exact, but of course, I grew very frustrated because it never ever felt right. I think I just wanted my life to go back to “normal,” but what was “normal?” That was the biggest problem – I didn’t know what “normal” meant for me anymore. I thought I just go back to living the old life I was living but without you – and hopefully without being in pain and constantly grieving. I know, I was so delusional, right?! 😂🤣
Over time, I grew more and more frustrated and angry that I wasn’t feeling “better.” Whatever “better” was supposed to be for a widow – I wanted to quickly and desperately attain it. So, when I wasn’t feeling “better” even though I was trying and working really hard to pick up the pieces and “rebuild” my life, I grew more and more frustrated. I felt stuck, trapped, imprisoned, and cornered. The frustration turned to anger. I was angry for not knowing how to help myself, for not knowing how to “fix” my situation, for not getting “better.” I was angry I was a widow. I was angry for being angry with myself. Anger turned to self-loathing and wallowing in self-pity. I hated my life. I hated how I didn’t know how to live without you. I hated you for leaving me. I hated feeling powerless and not in control of anything in my life – not even my emotions were controllable. I hated how I was always in a constant state of pain, agony, turmoil, and unrest. I hated everything about being a widow. The only thing I wanted to give up and let go of was being a widow – even that I couldn’t do for myself. Essentially, I was a hot, helpless, hopeless mess. So, maybe that’s why I insisted I wanted my life to begin again – I wanted to go back to the “Sun” before you died. I wanted to live the life we lived before you died. I wanted everything to go back to “normal” – to the way it was before you died. I wanted my old life back – but what I didn’t realize until now is that I can’t have it back – no matter how hard I will it or wish for it. I guess, without even realizing it, I had to also give up my old life with you and that is how I ended up in So Cal living with my parents.
Yes, the global pandemic was the reason that brought me back to So Cal and quarantining with my parents, but ultimately it was a blessing in disguise. After being in So Cal for a few months, it dawned on me that by selling our house (oh did I tell you?! I sold our house last summer – that’s another story in itself!!), moving to a rental in Point Richmond for a few more months, and then ultimately deciding to put all my stuff in storage and moving to So Cal with the fur babies in tow to wait out the quarantine with family was the most roundabout, indirect, and needlessly expensive way of letting go of our life?!
I thought the quarantine was just a “time out” for me to wait and kill time before the world “opens up” again, and I when the world "opened up" again, I could just go back to trying to “rebuild” and “restart” my life, but now I realized it was a blessing in disguise kind of break – a respite – that allowed me to really reflect, look within, and self-examine my life with a fine-tooth comb and decide whether picking up the pieces and “rebuilding” and “restarting” my life really made sense. Maybe instead of trying to embrace the cracks, what I should really be doing was take those broken pieces and build something completely different and new. Maybe I should create a mosaic with the broken pieces instead of trying to put the broken vase back together. I don’t know what the mosaic will look like or what it will be yet, but I’m not going to rush it. I’ll just let life run its course and go wherever it takes me because I truly believe that wherever I am is where I’m meant to be. I’ve decided to not will, control, manage, or fix my widowhood or grief – what I really should say is I will try not to!! 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼 I’ve also come to accept that grieving for a widow is never ending and relentless – it’s the price we pay for loving someone. Although I’ve stopped mourning your death, I will never stop grieving your death. Grief is a part of who I am now, and I need to learn to embrace it – whether I like it or not, it’s never leaving. It’s the unwanted guest that totally overstays its welcome. I’ve learned that I need to change my definitions for “better” and “normal.” Whatever my previous understanding was of “better” and “normal”, the meaning has changed for me and it will always be an ever evolving and work in progress definition.
Did I tell you, my new COVID obsession is K-Dramas?! In a couple of the K-Dramas, there were a few lines that really resonated with me (actually there’s a lot of things that really resonate with me in K-Dramas, but that’s another story in itself 😂🤣).
First, they used a quote from Albert Einstein that says, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle,” and the male lead says that each day he spent with the female lead was a miracle. That’s how I feel about our life as well. Each day with you was a miracle. If I was given the option of not experiencing the pain and grief I’m going through right now by never meeting you, I would always chose meeting you.
Second, one of the character says something along these loosely translated lines, “Although my life is always falling apart, I’ll keep living it brilliantly!” This line encapsulates my widowhood journey in a nutshell. Even though I’m a HOT mess and I always feel like I’m falling apart at the seam, I’ll just keep living as brilliantly as I can!!
Never-Ending and Relentless
There are times where I wished we had a formal “breakup.” I want to be mad at you. I want to yell, scream, and throw things at you. I want to “hate you!" I want something to make it easier for me to “get over you.”
Do you know how often I fantasize about this?! In my mind, I play and replay the image of us fighting, screaming, and throwing things at each other over and over again in an indefinite loop. I want to be able to say, “What an A**hole, I can’t believe I wasted 14+ years of my life with this guy!!” Wouldn’t it be so much easier to look forward and move onwards if this was really the case??? I just want some “closure,” some sort of ending that I can understand and accept that makes sense to me. No story can end without a conclusion or ending. Apparently, a sudden and unexplainable death isn’t a conclusion or ending I can accept or even begin to fathom as the ending to our story.
There’s a song that Lady Gaga sang from A Star is Born called “I’ll Never Love Again,” where she opens the song with the below lyrics:
Wish I could, I could've said goodbye
I would've said what I wanted to
Maybe even cried for you
If I knew it would be the last time
I would've broke my heart in two
Tryna save a part of you
When I heard this song for the first time, I started to cry uncontrollably. It was like the song was written just for me. If only I knew that day was our last time together, I would have told you so many things. I would have told you how much I love you. How I don’t want you to leave. How I can’t imagine a world or a life without you. How I can’t live without you. How your absence would be so big and deep, an emptiness so vast that I still haven’t found the bottom yet. I keep falling and falling further into the abyss, and there's no end or bottom to this darkness and pain.
There are days where I still wake up and I can’t believe this is my life. There are days where I wish I can hear your voice. I want to feel your touch. I want to see your face. You don’t know how much my heart aches when I think about us and about how we never got to say goodbye. How can this really be our ending?! How can we really end like this?! Then the pain and heartache turn into anger because I hate you for leaving me. I hate you for doing this to me. I hate that you left and I’m stuck to deal with the aftermath all by myself. I want to scream and yell at you. I want to call you names and throw things at you. I want to hate you. I want to have a breakup ending that I can understand. I want to have a “closure” that I can accept. I want to know that I can get through this. I want to know that I have the strength and courage to keep living and being open to everything that life has to offer me – even if it’s without you.
Is this too much to ask for?! Can we finally breakup, now?! I want to hate you so much!! I want to move on. I want this pain to end. I want you back. I want my old life back.
Now - can you see how this can turn into a never-ending cycle?! Welcome to widowhood! 😂🤣 Pain turns into anger. Anger turns into yearning. Yearning turns into pain. It's never-ending and relentless. I guess the goal is to try and break this cycle. I still haven't figured out how to do this yet. There are days where I want to give up and surrender. Then, there are days where I think I'm a badass and I've kicked grief in the ass and squished it like a fly. But most days, I'm just beat up, broken, bloody, and worn out inside the ring. The punches never seem to stop, and I try to punch back and defend myself, but mostly, it's all about self-preservation when you're in the ring with grief. I usually just have my gloves up around my face and try to protect myself the best I can and survive for as long as I can. Even when I think I know what going to happen next, grief throws multiple jabs from left-field to constantly remind me who's the boss in this ring, and it's definitely NOT ME!! I've even tried to step out of the ring and wave the white flag multiple times, but grief constantly pulls me back in and tells me there's no surrender or giving up in this battle. It's a full fledge war and I either have to win victoriously or get beaten to a pulp and die!
Grief is a formidable and relentless opponent. The battle continues to rage on, and I don't know how many rounds are left - or should I say, I don't know how many more rounds I can last, but as long as I'm still standing, I'll keep my gloves up around my face and try to throw as many punches as I can.
When you first passed, I only wished for rewind or fast forward. I wanted to go back in time to our old life or speed up and get to the end of grief. Now I realized, what I should have really wished for was a snowball where time is frozen and captures a single moment that I want to live in forever, us sitting in the Shay living room, cuddling, laughing, and watching TV together, since neither rewind nor fast forward is possible.
Did you know that being a widow requires a lot of “active” work and self-reflection?! You really need to work at it – like a lot of hard work!! It’s like taking care of a garden!! You have to water it (but not just any amount of water – if you’re not careful, over- or underwatering will cause the plants to die), then you have to constantly pull out the weeds, fight off parasites from eating the plants, fertilize, and don’t forget all the pruning and landscaping you need to do to if you want the garden to grow and flourish into a beautiful and lush garden. Now, I remember why plants never survived under my care – even drought resistant plants like succulents and air plants die on my watch!!! 🤣😂
You were always the gardener in our relationship. You had the patience and temperament to do all the work necessary to keep the garden and yard alive. You actually like gardening and tending to our yard. You said it was your stress reliver and you enjoyed watching all your hard work come to fruition. Honestly, I always thought you were crazy sweating bullets outside in the heat mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, and laying down fertilizer. You always tried to get me to help you and I always refused (You know, I’m just not built for physical labor). But, on a few very rare occasions when I helped, you would usually make me stop after 15 minutes since I was always in your way, doing things wrong, or getting hurt since I refused to wear tennis shoes or gardening gloves (yes, I’m definitely a flip flop year-round and get her hands dirty kinda girl!!). You also had a really hard time letting go of dead plants. You always got mad at me when I threw away the dead plants. You’d pick the dead plant out of the trash can and say you’re going to revive it and bring it back to life – your motto was “There isn’t anything that Miracle Grow couldn’t revive.”
Maybe that’s why I really suck at being a widow!! 🤣😂 There are days, where I just don’t want to put in the work. Honestly, I’m definitely sure I’m not the only widow in the world who thinks this way. I mean, who in their right mind would want to put in the hard work at being a GOOD widow?! Most widows just wished they weren’t widows, but if they had to be a widow, they would much prefer to be a BAD widow who acts out and throws a tantrum like 5-year-old at the store when they don’t get what they want!! Now that I’m thinking about it, being a widow is actually a lot harder and requires more work than being married. Why?! Because, when you’re married, you at least have someone else to pass the blame to when things aren’t going right in the relationship. When you’re a widow, there’s no one else to blame but yourself when things aren’t going right!! 🤣😂 (Yup, there’s really no upside to being a widow!!)
After you passed, I tried really hard to always focus on the silver lining and all the things I still had and was thankful for in my life. In retrospect, this was partly a survival mechanism for me. I didn’t think I would be able to dig myself out of the deep hole I would be in if I allowed myself to fully look at my life and focus on all the things I’ve lost after you passed. All the broken promises and unfulfilled plans. Everything I know to be true and real about me and my life. Your smile, your kind eyes, your beer belly 🤣😂, your boisterous laughter, your jokes and silly ways, your scent, and all the hugs and kisses I no longer get to see, touch, feel, smell, or hear. I literally woke up one day, and without any warning or explanation, you disappeared into thin air. I didn’t even get a chance to say good bye or even try to save you. At times, it feels like you never even existed, and I just made you up in my mind, like you were just a figment of my imagination.
So, in order to survive and self-preserve, I always kept my feelings and emotions in check and at bay. I was so scared that if I let myself go there – I would never be able to come out alive. I would be stuck in a very deep and dark hole with no way out. But, over the last few months, all I can do is look at everything that is missing, changed, or different in my life since you passed. But, when I look back and reflect on my life after you passed, it’s not like I’m looking at it from a first-person perspective. Instead, it’s more like I’m watching a very long 100-episode melodramatic K-drama (my new pandemic addiction😊). Most of the time, it doesn’t even feel like it’s my life that I’m watching. (And, because it’s 100 episodes, a lot of breaks are needed to stay engaged in the story line. 🤣). Instead, it often feels like I’m a bystander on the sidelines watching a stranger’s life unfold before my eyes, and I can’t help but stare and gawk at the roadkill that is the main character’s life. I can’t help but cry and feel sorry for her when I think about how sad, lonely, and painful her life has become. How she is constantly forced to keep giving up and letting go of everything that she loves, knows, and is familiar with about herself and her life. How there’s still a never-ending war that is constantly raging on inside of her. How, even after years, she can’t believe how far she’s come and all the things she’s, for lack of a better word, “accomplished,” yet how she still struggles at times like it was the first day her husband passed. That each day she lives, she is constantly forced to keep fighting to just survive another day, but all the world sees is her smile and a seemingly “well-adjusted” widow who somewhat seems to have her “shit together” despite her trauma, loss, and grief.
Gosh, who knew I was this good at “faking it until I make it!” 🤣😂
P.S. Don’t worry, I thought I was going through some sort of dissociative identity disorder also, but my therapist says this “dissociative” experience I’m going through right now is normal for someone who’s experienced a traumatic grief and loss like myself. We’re not quite ready to “own” and “accept” our traumatic experience yet, but we’re no longer afraid to look at its “realness” or feel the “rawness” of the emotions but from a very safe distance. I guess the “dissociative” part of the experience helps to ensure one doesn’t fall into a very deep and dark ditch when looking back at one’s traumatic experience since it feels like you’re watching someone else’s life and not your own. Who knew?! 🤷🏻♀️ 🤷🏻♀️ 🤷🏻♀️
In the Trenches...
It’s been a while since I last wrote to you – over a year and half almost! Recently, I’ve started wanting to write to you again. I guess watching To All the Boys Part 3 and the Japanese Love Letter on the same day has made me miss you a lot and want to write you again. The themes of both movies were love letters, grief, and starting a new chapter in one’s life. I guess those themes are very fitting for me alright!!
You’re probably wondering what I’ve been up to?! This last year and half have been quite eventful Babe. We’ve lived through a year of a global pandemic (YES, you heard it right?! A GLOBAL PANDEMIC), I barely survived Year 2 of widowhood (those widows weren’t joking when they said, “Year 2 is a lot harder than Year 1.”), and I’ve entered my third year of widowhood.
When I started writing this blog, the goal was to say good bye to you. I figure I would write until I was done saying good bye to you. I know I stopped in the Fall of 2019, but that wasn’t because I was done saying good bye to you – I stopped because I was just so frustrated with myself and my life. I felt like I wasn’t progressing or healing or getting “better.” I just felt so stuck and trapped living in “the middle room,” waiting for an elusive catalyst to push me over the threshold into a “new” life. But, to be honest, I never really stopped writing per se, I just didn’t publish any of it since they were incoherent scribbles and notes – ramblings of widow trying to make sense of her life; trying to mend the broken pieces of her life back together again. As my therapist says, “There are too many moving parts and uncertainty in your life right now. You’re retreating so you can try to figure things out and ‘re-build.’”
So, that’s what I’ve been doing over the last year and half, I’ve retreated into a trench while the war against grief was still raging on around me (or shall I say, above me, since I am in a trench after all 🤣😂). The bullets were still flying and the bombs were still exploding around me, but I didn’t have the strength or courage to fight a losing battle anymore. Grief has proven to be a formidable and immoveable enemy. I guess for self-preservation sake, my immediate “plan of attack” was to go on defensive mode as a way of surviving until I was ready to wave “the white flag.” I’m not quite ready to wave “the white flag” just yet, but I guess I’m ready to take a sneak peek above the trenches and decide if I should wave “the white flag” or jump out of the trenches like Wonder Woman and continue fighting – even if it’s against a formidable and immoveable enemy. I guess only time will tell.
Anyways, I’ve digressed a bit. Back to saying good bye and love letters…what I’ve realized as I’ve entered Year 3 of widowhood…Boy, was I naïve as I embarked on my widowhood journey! I actually thought there would come a day where I could really say good bye to you forever. Like somehow, we would have a clean break and I could go on my merry own way and just live happily ever after without you! See, that’s the problem with using movies and books as your frame of reference – you become delusional. 🤣😂 So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was very naïve and delusional when I called this blog “Good Bye Babe” because it really should have been called “Hey Babe” because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say good bye to you nor will I ever be able to let you go. You reside so deeply in my heart that you’ll be etched there forever. So, really these are love letters to you and not “Dear John” letters – even if that was the goal at the start of this journey. That’s probably why I felt so frustrated and trapped before. I didn’t feel like I was achieving or making any progress to my goal of saying good bye to you, so it felt like I was fighting a losing battle. But, really, all I needed was to shift and “reframe” my thinking and goal. What a little respite could do for the mind, body, and soul.
I know what you’re thinking Babe, “Seriously Sun…wasn't it so obvious from the start that the blog should have been called ‘Hey Babe’ and not “Good Bye Babe’?! At what point have you ever said ‘good bye babe’ even once in this blog?! All you ever said was ‘Hey Babe’!!” I’m only admitting this because you’re not here to gloat, but yes, you’re right!!
P.S. I love you, always and forever (yes, that's the title of the third book of To All the Boys series! 🤣😂 I couldn't resist!!!)
A grieving widow who is trying to find meaning and purpose from her tragic event.