I'm nobody's clique!!
About a month after you passed, my therapist asked me to note what I like and dislike when I interacted with others--so I would know what my triggers were. When she asked me this question, I could barely breathe or leave the house so it was the least of my worry when I could barely remember if I brushed my teeth or took a shower that day. But now that my mind is clearer and I’ve had time to process, I’ve started to note what I liked and disliked when I interact with others (these are of course unique to me and not everybody who is grieving since everybody is different and need different things)
I liked it when people are just there and treat me like normal. They don’t care if I start crying when I talk about my dead husband or the pain and grief I feel that cuts so deep, I don’t even know what to do with it. I like it when people don’t try to make me feel better or pretend they know what to say or how to act. I like it when we can just sit, talk, and laugh about normal stuff and also about my dead husband--yes, my husband died but that doesn’t mean I can’t laugh or joke about him or other stuff. It’s okay to cry and laugh all in the same breath.
What I don’t like is when people feel like they have to walk on eggshells around me. I’m already broken and flat to the ground, it’s not like it can get any worse so let’s just be real and call it how it is, “This S*** hella sucks!! Your husband died. F*** the world. Cry! Scream! Be sad!” Actually, it can get worse when people try to be encouraging or when they say clique things like “you’re strong, you will get through this” or “time will heal” or “I wish I can take the pain away” or “I don’t know what to say” or “distraction is good.” If I hear another person say any of these things to me, I will probably punch them in the face.
I know I’m strong and I will get through this, but what if I don’t want to get through this right now. What if I just want to be sad, cry, grieve, feel the pain, and mourn the death of my husband who was abruptly taken from me. There’s nothing wrong with that, so no, I don’t need to be strong or get through this right now.
Time doesn’t heal anything; it just moves forward. You can’t just sit around and wait for time to pass and expect to be better in 3 or 6 months. You have to do a lot of work if you want to heal. So time doesn’t heal anything if you don’t work at it. In all honestly, I don’t think I will ever heal. How do you heal from the love of your life dying and leaving you at the ripe age of 49? We had an entire future ahead of us that will never ever be again. You don’t heal or ever get over that, you just figure out how to live in your new normal. You process, you reflect, you grieve, you wake up each morning, and you put one foot in front of the other. It’s like learning how to walk again--baby steps before you can run. Even breathing is hard; like walking, you just take one breath at time until it becomes automatic.
First and foremost, you can’t take the pain away unless you can bring my husband back to life, so unless you can do that; you can’t take the pain away so don’t waste your breath or my time with that stupid line.
Nobody knows what to say--so don’t say anything if you don’t know what to say and especially don’t say anything clique. Instead, just give me a hug, tell me you love me, curse the universe, cry with me, be sad with me, sit with me, hold my hand. Why do you need to say anything?? What can you possibly say that will make me feel better or this experience less SHITTY?
How is going to work and seeing family and friends a distraction? Isn’t that just what people normally do? It’s not unique to being a widow. I mean, I go to work because I need to pay the bills like everybody else. I see family and friends cause isn’t that what people do on the weekend? How are any of these things a ‘good distraction’? I’m not going to work and seeing family and friends to distract myself from the reality that my husband died. I don’t think there’s anything that can distract me from that reality unless Taye Diggs or Morris Chestnut is standing in front of me and asking me to marry them. Other than that, there’s nothing that can distract me or make me forget that my husband died and isn’t here with me anymore. This reality is something I carry with me everyday and every minute. I feel it with every breath I take. There isn’t a day or an hour or a minute that goes by where I don’t remember my husband isn’t here with me anymore. How can you forget the pain and emptiness that has taken permanent residence in your heart? So when I say, “Yes, I’m back at work and I have plans with family and friends,” the correct response is, “Great, you’re getting back on the saddle,” and not “distraction is good.” Am I supposed to just lay in bed, be sad, and cry my eyes out for the rest of my life?
Why do these clique comments bother me so much? Cause it’s patronizing and I’m not a clique. First, unless your husband / wife died and you know what I’m going through, you have nothing enlightening to say that can make me feel better or take away the pain. Even I wouldn’t have anything enlightening to say to anybody who has lost a spouse. I wouldn’t even be able to find the words to express the pain and grief that I know they are going through. Secondly, I’m not a clique--what I feel is real and unique to me; they can’t be summed up or generalized into some clique comment. I refuse to be a clique and don’t need anybody’s pitty. Nobody needs to look at me with those sad puppy dog eyes. I don’t need to be talked to in a voice that you use with a 5 years old and when I say, “I’m okay,” you don’t need to say “are you sure?” Would you rather hear, “No, I’ll never be fine again because my husband died, didn’t you get the memo?” And if you know my husband died, then say something instead of looking at me like I’m an elephant in the room. And, yes, I’m still wearing my wedding ring--there’s no need to stare or fixate on the wedding ring on my finger that my dead husband gave me as a symbol of his endless love for me.
Screw the institution!!
Hey Babe -
I’ve been thinking about how we’ve been practicing saying “I love you” to each other everytime we parted and before we went to bed just in case something ever happened to us. This was important to me because the night my great grandmother had a stroke, I had gotten into a little tift with her and the last thing I said to her were words of spite. She had a stroke and went into the hospital that same night. She was paralyzed on one side and wasn’t able to speak or see anymore. She passed away a week later and I never had the opportunity to apologize. This was something I had to live with--it changed how I viewed life and how I chose to live my life. I was in my early 20’s when this happened and I knew I never ever wanted anything like that to happen to me again, so I always told you that we needed to tell each other we love each other when we parted and before going to bed just in case anything happened to the other person, so the last thing we heard the other say was “I love you.” But it occurred to me that we completely failed at this when it mattered the most. When you were on your knees trying to breathe, I kept telling you to stop breathing so hard and to not talk so you wouldn’t expense too much energy (something the 911 dispatcher told me to tell you). I sat next to you crying while we were waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Even when they brought the gurney, before you got on, you grabbed my shoulder and we both just stared at each other--speechless. I was in tears; frightened and scared while you were on your knees fighting to breathe, and you looked worried and scared. This would have been the perfect time to say, "I love you Babe." But, neither of us said anything, even when they were wheeling you into the ambulance. I just watched you get into the ambulance and I didn't even shout, "I love you Babe!" You would think that with all the practicing, we would just automatically say, “I love you” as they wheeled you into the ambulance (I mean wasn’t this what we were practicing for all these years?). Nope! Instead, we both just stared at each other blankly--speechless. I don't even think it crossed our minds to say, "I love you." I don’t think we said much to each other during the whole ordeal. I guess when it comes down to it, no amount of practicing could ever prepare us for that moment. I wasn’t expecting my husband to die that day, nor could I ever imagine that you could just wake up and die for no apparent reason. Now, all I have as a memory of our last conversation is you fussing at me about Jesse misbehaving. You told me to get him inline or else you will start taking harsh measures and I wouldn't like it.
After you passed, all I could think about was all the times I said these things to you,
“Stop eating all that those sweets, they’re bad for you!”
“Don’t drink soda, it’s bad for you!”
“Stop eating junk food, they’re bad for you!”
“Did you max out your 401k?”
Now, when I look back, I realize you should have eaten whatever you wanted and it didn’t matter if you maxed out your 401k or not since you wouldn’t need it anyways.
The irony is that you were perfectly healthy, you always liked to rub it in about how healthy you were compared to me. You always liked to say, "My doctor says that my cholesterol level is the same as a 20 year old." You also liked to tell me that you were going to outlive me because you were healthier and also because I failed PE (BTW, I didn’t fail PE, it was just my lowest grade! I never failed at any class in my life.) We used to sit and argue about who would live longer. I always said I would because I’m younger than you and you said you would because you were healthier than me. Now I realize, it doesn’t matter if you were healthier or if I was younger, at the end of the day, nobody really knows when it’s our time or not. We just have to live like today is our last day. I used to always think that I’m approaching my mid-life, but now I know that’s not guaranteed. I also keep thinking about how your mid-life was at 24.75 years old--it’s just hard to fathom when it’s put into that perspective. What if I’ve already passed my mid-life and I don’t even know it. Would it changed the way I lived my life if I knew I didn’t have much time left? Would you have done anything differently if you knew you were going to die at 49.5? I’ve thought about this a lot, and the more and more I think about it--I don’t think you would have changed anything. I’ve also thought about whether I would have done anything differently if I were to die tomorrow and the answer is no. We always lived our lives to the fullest with no regrets. We never let societal construct or norms drive our decisions or the way we chose to live our lives. We also did what we wanted in our own terms and in our own way. There was never a day that passed where we didn’t count our blessings--we knew we were lucky to live the life we had. We always said, “If we die tomorrow, we’d have no regrets.” (Except maybe finished our estate planning last year like we were supposed to so I don’t have to deal with probate--but then again, I always joke that you died exactly the way you lived--no advance notice, no detailed plan, and you left me to figure the details on my own. So, I think if we finished our estate planning, you wouldn’t have gone out in S style!! So, maybe it happened for a reason, but you had already told me what you wanted for the important stuff--pull the plug, cremation, and no funeral. I guess everything else I have to figure out on my own!)
You used to say to me, “I didn’t have a problem with turning 40, but I’m having a hard time with turning 50.” I keep hearing you say this in my head and all I can think about is that you won’t even get a chance to turn 50. You will never make it to your next milestone birthday and tell me how it feels to be 5-0!. We were just talking about what you wanted to do for your 50th birthday the week before. I also think about how we talked about throwing a party for our 5th year wedding anniversary--that will never happen either. We will also never make it to our 3rd wedding anniversary. Oh, and the estate planning lawyer confirmed today that in the eyes of the law, I’m single and could get married tomorrow if I wanted to. (I should see if Taye Diggs or Morris Chestnut is available to marry me tomorrow!) Now, I know what box to check legally, but I still don’t agree with it on a philosophical level. I said that’s fine, but in my heart and mind, I’m still married, and I don’t care with the law thinks. Don’t you think it’s ironic--before we got married, we didn’t believe in the institution of marriage and we said we didn’t need a piece of paper to tell us that we wanted to be together forever. Now, I’m saying I don’t need a piece of paper (your death certificate) to tell me that I’m not married anymore. I guess some things never change! We didn’t believe in the institution of marriage and now I don’t believe in the institution of death! I’ve decided that whenever there’s a box I need to check, I would make my own widow box and check that if there wasn’t one! I refuse to check a box that says you never existed.
I'm a woman of the millennium!!!
Hey Babe -
Do you remember how you used to open doors and pull out chairs for me when we first started dating? You would also help to put on my jacket when I’m struggling to get my arm though the other sleeve. The first few times you did it, I was thinking to myself, “okay, sure.” But after I awhile, it bothered me, so I told you that I could open my own door and pull out my own chair. I was a woman of the millennium for god’s sake, I didn’t need a man for anything! But you still didn’t stop (that was just the kind of man you were), so I would walk faster to get to the door before you so I could open it myself, and there were a few times where I would literally knock over the waiter just so I could get to my chair before you (that was just the kind of woman I am). I refused to accept your chivalrous ways, which made you even more determined to be chivalrous. There were times where you would tell strangers who looked at me opening my own door as you walked next to me, “She opens her own door because she won’t let me open the door for her.” It was like you had to explain ‘my girlfriend is a woman of the millennium and I’m not a jerk who can’t open the door for a lady!’ Overtime, we found a middle ground, and I got used to having my door opened and chair pulled out for me (when it was convenient and not so obviously out of your way).
I was such a woman of the millennium that I also made you stop wearing your “ying and yang” pendant. I told you that I didn’t like what the “ying and yang” symbolism represented. You said, “Why not? It’s supposed to be a symbolism of the perfect complement / relationship.” I said, “Yes, but the male is represented as the white, positive, and strong force whereas the female was represented as the black, negative, and weak force.” I even sent you a plethora of literature and information on the “true” meaning of the “ying and yang” symbolism that wasn’t made known to the masses, but you still refused to stop wearing it. You said it was your favorite pendant and you like what it symbolizes and that I was over-exaggerating the meaning. It even got to a point where I said it’s fine you wear it but not around me. It was definitely a point of contention in our relationship for sometime. Every time you wore the pendant, I would give you a hard time and more or less called you a ‘sexist pig’ for wearing it. You eventually stopped wearing it (at least around me). I don’t know if you stopped wearing the pendant because you finally realized it was a sexist symbolism or if you just got tired of hearing my mouth. If I had to guess, it was probably the latter. 😜😝😛
I guess I was lucky to find a man that still believes in chivalry, even if I didn’t appreciate it most of the time. You know that I don’t believe in fairytales, but you were definitely my prince charming. The thought of you always made my heart skip a beat and brought the biggest smile to my face, even after all the years we’ve been together. I always light up when I talk about you. I can distinctly remember a few conversations where people called me out on it.
There was this time when I was carpooling back from the fruit company with a coworker. I can’t remember what we were talking about specifically, but the conversation lead to our significant others. I remember talking about you and she asked how long we’ve been together. (I can’t remember the exact year but it was probably around year 8 or 9 - let’s just assume 9 years) I said, “9 years.” She said, “What?! You guys have been together that long?” I said, “Yeah! Why?” She said, “The way you talk about him, I thought you guys just started dating and had just fallen in love!” I asked, “What do you mean?” She said, “You lit up and was smiling the whole time you were talking about him.” I said, “Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?” Cause this is usually how I am when I talk about you (unless it’s one of those times when you made me mad! haha)
Just last year, I was having lunch with a coworker, and I was having a bad day at work and was in a terrible mood. I was being short, curt, and abrasive when I was talking to him. Then somehow the conversation changed to you and in the middle of me talking about you, he interrupted me and said, “I can tell you really love him (you).” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Just a second ago, you were about to eat my head off, and then you start talking about S and all of the sudden, your entire mood shifts and you are smiling and happy.” I said, “Really? I didn’t even notice.” He said I was lucky to always have someone by my side to take on the world with.
Looking back now, I realize how lucky I was to have you by my side. You always loved and supported me (even on the days when I didn’t deserve it). You always loved me for who I was and for who I wasn’t. You always accepted me as I was and never tried to change me (except for the time when you told me that it would be a lot easier if I just let you dress me. I don’t understand, what’s wrong with sweats and flip flops for all occasions?).
I love you Babe. Thanks for loving me for everything that I am and for everything that I’m not and for giving me the fairytale I didn't believe in.
Grief is banging on the door...
Hey Babe -
I missed you a lot this weekend. This was the first weekend I stayed home by myself with no babysitter. I finally felt ready to be home alone. I will admit, I was a little nervous, but I knew I needed some “alone” time to let out the emotions that have been controlled, contained, suppressed, and compartmentalized since I started re-integrating myself to the world. I knew with people around, it just wouldn’t get released like I needed it to. It felt good to just let it all out--to let the emotion come and be felt whenever it came and not have to push it back. I was definitely sadder than normal since there was nobody to distract me or occupy my time or attention, but it’s okay--this is the new normal I have to get use to. I refused to turn anything on in the house that I wouldn’t normally have on to just distract me, so the house felt eerily quiet--almost uncomfortable. Luckily, I had lunch plans with your mom and Aunt JJ on Sat and friends visited most of the day on Sunday, so it wasn’t like I was alone the entire time and didn’t do anything all weekend.
Since I’ve started re-integrating myself to the world, I could tell that my pain and sadness were under wraps (I guess it’s part of being such a great compartmentalizer). My psyche is a pro at turning my emotions on and off so I can function and be productive in the world (it’s not even something I can control or tell what to do; it's just on autopilot). But, I know that grief has been banging on the door trying to get in and the limited periods I’ve let it in the last 3 weeks wasn’t enough. As you know, grief is a very demanding and high-maintenance visitor, the more you try to control, contain, or suppress it, the more it pushes until the levee breaks and the effects become catastrophic and all consuming. So, I didn’t want the levee to break--instead, I welcomed it with open arms. I know I wouldn’t win the battle if I tried to fight it.
Who's Jerry Rice?
Do you remember how we first met? You were in San Diego for a work trip with DU. DU and my grad school friend, RT, were old college roommates, and RT wanted us to meet. He told me that you look like Jerry Rice (I guess that was supposed to be the selling feature to seal the deal). Instead, I said, “Who's Jerry Rice?” He was flabbergasted I didn’t know who Jerry Rice was. He told me who he was, but that didn’t tell me anything. So, I looked him up on the internet, but the image search only showed him in full football gear with his helmet on. So, I couldn’t tell what he looked like. So, I called the only person I knew that watched football, VE (at the time, she’s VL now). She told me, “Sorry to break the news to you, but Jerry Rice is NOT hot.” So, I told RT I wasn’t interested in meeting you since I heard Jerry Rice wasn’t hot. But on the day we were supposed to meet up (Veteran’s Day 2003), RT lied and said you and DU had other plans and would not be there, but he still wanted us to hang out since we hadn’t seen each other in awhile. So I said, “Okay!” But when we got to the Onyx Room, you and DU were already there getting drinks at the bar. I was annoyed with RT since he lied to me, but when he introduced us, I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t know what VE was talking about, but this guy is HOT!” (In all honestly Babe, you DON’T look like Jerry Rice at all. Even if people thought you were him when we were out and about. I remember we were at Bay Street one time and someone said to you, “Hi Jerry!” You said hi back and then they looked at me like, “Who is that girl in sweats and flip flops with Jerry Rice?!”) We ended up sitting next to each other, and we talked and laughed out loud the entire night--which probably annoyed the other people around us since they were trying to listen to the live jazz band performing, but we didn’t care. I kept saying I had to go home early since I had an 8am class the next day and the professor didn’t like it when students showed up late. She told us that if we were going to be late, don’t even bother coming to class. We ended up staying out to the wee hours and I woke up late for class the next morning. When I got into my car to leave, I looked at the clock and knew I was going to be 15 minutes late, so I didn’t even bother because I knew the professor was going to make a big deal about it. I just ended up going back to bed.
We ended up seeing each other again a couple days later and you asked if I made it to my class on time. I said, “Nope, I ended up missing the class and it was your fault!” Which of course you denied any wrongdoing. That night, we ended up going dancing with the group, but afterwards, we ended up at a Chinese restaurant by ourselves (I guess you can call it our first date). When our food came, I wanted to try something on your plate, so I reached over with my fork to grab it, but in mid-reach you slapped my hand and asked, “What are you doing?” As the fork fell out of my hand, I said, “I wanted to try your food.” You said, “If you wanted to try it then you should have ordered it yourself, and you should ask before you start reaching into other people’s food.” I thought to myself, “Well, this guy is definitely NOT going to last.” (Eventually, you learned that this was normal behavior in the Yen household. We start eating each other’s food before we even start eating our own food. My sister had to train my parents that you didn’t like to share your food and to not reach into your plate of food, especially without asking first if they were going to do it!) Even after all these years, you rarely shared your food with me; I have to beg and plead if I wanted to try something on your plate.
After your week long business trip ended, I didn’t expect to see you again. But you asked for my phone number, so I gave it to you. Honestly, I didn’t expect you to call. I just thought you were being nice. That same weekend, I also left for a trip to Vegas with VE. When I got back from Vegas, I had a message from you on my answering machine (yes, this was before everybody had their own cell phone. I don’t even remember if I had a cell phone at this time). I was a little surprised to hear your message when I got back. You actually called the next day and said, “I know you’re in Vegas but I just wanted to say Hi.” You left me your phone number and told me to call you back if I wanted to. I was thinking to myself, “What happened to the 3-day rule?” Then it occurred to me that you were just putting the ball in my court and wanted to see what I would do. Well, as you know, I never stray away from a challenge. We were always very competitive with each other--maybe that’s what fueled our relationship all these years. Who knows!? But what I do know is that if I was taking bets and watched our relationship unfold from the beginning, I would not have betted that we get this far. Somehow we defied the odds and made it to ‘til death do us part (although I wished 'til death do us part would be a lot later tho!).
P.S. I know you are probably thinking, “SY, why you telling people our business!” Well Babe, Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” It’s time to tell our story (I know it’s only one-sided but in all honestly, only my side matters!)
How deep can grief go??
Today, I was at the Watermark Conference for Women (yeah, I know, another women empowerment conference in less than a year). Amal Clooney and Reese Witherspoon were the big keynote speakers. There was also this comedian named Maysoon Zayid, she has cerebral palsy, and she was freakin’ hilarious. You would have loved her. She had the whole audience up in roars (however the saying goes, you know I can never get these sayings right! haha). Hands down she was the best keynote speaker there. Well, Reese Witherspoon was pretty awesome also. She was very engaging, genuine, and relatable. One thing that Reese (yes, we’re on first name basis now like when I said to you last year, “Mark had his baby.” You said “Mark who?” I said, “Mark Zuckerberg!” Then you said, “You’re NOT on first name basis with Mark Zuckerberg!” and I said, “Yes, I am. He's my boss.” So, now that I’ve been in the same room as Reese Witherspoon, I can call her Reese! hahaha) said that resonated with me was, “When you ask yourself, ‘Who is going to help me?’ the answer is, ‘You help yourself.’” When she said that, it hit home with me. I know I have so many people to help and support me, but at the end of the day, only I can help myself. This is my journey and I have to walk this one alone. It’s one of those journey that no one can walk with you, even if they’ve gone through it since no two experience is ever the same. Grief is different for each person; the experience and process is very unique to each person and also differs based on your relationship to the person you lost. For instance, we both lost someone we love very much, but my experience of losing you is probably very different from the experience your mom is going through. No doubt we love and miss you just the same and the emptiness and gravity of the loss is felt by both. But she is your mother and in my mind, no parent should ever have to bury their child first; no matter the age of their child--whether the child is 5, 17, or 49. It just defies the natural order of things. I can’t even imagine or fathom the depth of her pain and grief. She has known you for your entire life and you are her flesh and blood. I’ve only know you for 14 years, about 30% of the time she has known you, and the pain and grief I feel is so deep that at times, I can barely breathe, so I can’t even imagine or fathom having to feel this pain and grief 70% more.
My sister and JO said, “Death is not hard on the person who dies--they’re dead. It’s hard on the people they leave behind.” This statement is so true. And that’s why when I saw this quote by Sangu Mandanna from “The Lost Girl”, I knew it was fitting for your memorial program:
“What is the power the dead have over the ones they leave behind? It’s strange and beautiful and frightening, this deathless love that human beings continue to feel for the ones they’ve lost.”
Playing by heart... ❤️
Hey Babe -
Do you remember the text message you sent me about 9 years ago at the crack of dawn? This was when cell phones weren’t smart yet and all they could do was make calls and send text messages and the most advanced cell phone in the market was the blackberry. Since there was not a “do not disturb” function, the text woke me up and it read, “I’ve been thinking about this all night and I want to spend 24/7 with you.” I texted back, “and how do you propose you’re going to make that happen?” You responded with, “I think we should move in together!” I replied with, “I think we should talk about this later when I’m not half asleep.” You replied with, “What is there to talk about?” Then later that day, you brought all your stuff to my apartment and said you were moving in. I said, “but we didn’t talk about it yet.” You said, “What is there to talk about? I’ve already moved in.” And that's how we ended up living together in the tiny apartment by the lake with two cats. Honestly, I didn’t expect it to work out; I always thought we would kill each other and this time when we broke up, it was going to be for REALS. I would have never expected that we would move into our first house two years later with 3 cats and 2 dogs in tow.
And that’s usually how we made our big life decisions. We never really discussed anything seriously, we would just talk about stuff, make jokes and laugh about it, close our eyes, crossed our fingers, took a leap of faith, and hope it works out. Like how we decided to get married. We were lounging around watching TV when I got a text from somebody asking when we were going to get married. So, after reading that text, I said to you, “I’m so tired of people asking when we’re going to get married.” Then you said, “Why don’t we just get married so people will stop asking.” I said, “but we’re not the marrying type.” Then you said, “but we’re already married. We’ve been living together all these years, you’re already my wife.” I responded with, “You want to get married?” You said, “Yeah. Why not?” I said, “Let me think about it.” I couldn’t believe you wanted to get married. I thought maybe you were drunk or having a lapse in judgment--especially since neither of us believed in the institution of marriage and never discussed getting married before. We always said we didn’t need a piece of paper to keep us together or to tell us that we belonged to each other. We were happy with our current status and why fix something that wasn’t broke?! But a few weeks later, I asked you again if you still wanted to get married and you said, “Yeah! Why not?” So, we got married!
A few weeks before our wedding, I asked you, “Are you sure this (us getting married) is going to work out?” You said, “No, it’s all a leap of faith. No one really knows for sure it will really work out or not when they get married.” I laughed and said, “ain’t that the truth!” Even the week of our wedding, I asked you again, “Are you having cold feet?” You said, “No, are you?” I said, “No.” Honestly, I still can’t believe we got married. Like I said in our wedding vows, “who would have guessed that you and I would be standing here today exchanging vows.” For two people who didn’t believe in the institution of marriage, I thought we ‘played house’ pretty well. I don’t think we really understood how profound marriage could be until we got married. Marriage isn’t an institution or a piece of paper. It isn’t even about rings or changing one’s last name. It has nothing to do with any of these things. Instead, marriage is about the vows and commitment we make out loud to each other in front of our family and friends. I never really understood how powerful the act of commiting out loud that we want to be together forever could be. I don’t think it changed how we viewed our relationship (since we’ve always known how we feel about each other), but it changed how our family and friends viewed our relationship, which only helped to deepen our love and commitment to each other. I remember asking you awhile ago, “Did you ever think marriage could be this great?” You said, “Nope!”
We may not have been married for a long time, but I think what we’ve learned and shared in the two and half years of marriage and in all the years we’ve been together, some people spend a lifetime looking for. Thank you for being my dance partner through life. I love and miss you so much.
P.S. Thank you for finally admitting the truth! You always liked to tell everybody that I was annoying when you first met me but I always knew it was love at first sight (even if you didn’t admit it until you stood on stage and said it in your vows--“Ever since the first day I met you, even though I always tell people I thought you were annoying when I first met you, I saw this little short person with a huge smile and I was just taken in.”--Yup, I always knew, I got you at hello!)
Hope vs. Acceptance
I miss you so much--it hurts. It’s hard to believe you are not here with me anymore. It’s been about a month and a half and it still doesn’t feel any realer today than the first day it happened. It’s so hard to accept this is how our story ends. There’s this song called “Rewrite the Stars” from the Greatest Showman that I’ve been playing on repeat since I heard it. That’s all I want to do--'rewrite the stars' so that our ending changes to where we are together until we are both old and greying. Before we got married, I gave you a card for your birthday that has an elderly couple sitting on a bench that says, “I want to grow old with you.” You don’t know how desperately I want that. If I could give up everything for just one wish, that’s what I would wish for--to grow old with you (to have another 30 or more years of us “annoying each other” as we like to call it); to be able to hold your hand and walk through the rest of my life with you--to look up at your face and see your beautiful smile and those kind eyes looking down at me.
A part of me believes you are on a business trip and will be coming home soon while the other part of me knows you will never ever come home again and I will never ever see you again in this life. One part is hope while the other is acceptance. I feel like I’m at the crossroads between hope and acceptance and I have to choose which road to walk down. I want to hold on to the hope that you will come home soon so badly it hurts but I also know the only logical option available to me is acceptance. Although I’m not ready to give up on hope just yet, I also know I have to work towards acceptance.
I feel like letting go of the pain and sadness is like letting go of you. I’m not ready to let go of you or the pain and sadness yet. Holding on to the pain and sadness makes me feel like I’m holding on to you. But the world continues to move and I have to move with it; whether I want to or not. I’ve been struggling with how to move on without letting go of the pain and sadness. To get through the day, I’ve just completely shut myself off emotionally--to feel nothing (it’s a good thing I’m great at compartmentalizing). To make each day without you more bearable. To be able to say, “I’m doing good,” without breaking down when people ask, “How are you?” To be able to fight back the tears when I think of you while I’m at my desk or in a meeting.
But just know that I’m working to find the strength and courage to be the strong woman you married. To have the strength and courage I know I have to get through this so I can break-through the pain and sadness while still holding on to you and finding the acceptance I need to be able to celebrate your life and our beautiful love story. I know that is what you would want me to -- but for right now, I have to let grief do its thing and just move with whatever emotions (or lack thereof) that comes my way. I love you!
I’m just exhausted; exhausted from the pain, the roller coaster of emotions, the sadness, and the emptiness. All these things are just too exhausting and I just want them to stop, so I decided to get back into the swing things. I went back to work and slowly started to “re-integrate” myself into the world. But I’ve come to realize that “re-integrating” myself into the world is just as exhausting, if not more taxing than laying in bed and crying my eyes out, since doing “normal” things when nothing is “normal” just feels strange and bizarre; making me feel very blah (like I feel nothing, just devoid of any feelings or emotions); not even empty, just void and nothing. I can’t decide which is worse, being sad and in pain or devoid of all emotions and feelings. At least if I’m sad and crying, I’m feeling some sort of emotion. Blah is just that - BLAH!! I feel nothing; not even emptiness--just nothingness. I just want it all to stop; the pain, the sadness, the grief, the emptiness, the blah-ness--all of it. I wish I can just take it all and stuff it inside a box, throw it as far away from me as possible, and never have to deal with it ever again.
I still don’t even know which box I’m supposed to check on forms; am I “single” or am I “married”? Do they even have a box for “widow” (I don’t even know; I’ve never paid attention)? The day of your memorial service, our homeowners insurance called to let me know they are canceling our policy because our roof is flat! Of all days too, as I was getting ready (physically, emotionally, and mentally) to go to your memorial service. They would win the worse timing award of all time in my books. And, you would think “Is your roof flat?” would be in the top ten questions to ask if it’s a canceable offense. I mean, how hard is it to say, “Is your roof flat? We don’t provide coverage if it is.” So, after your service, I had to take care of that debacle and get a new quote. I ended up reaching out to our old insurance lady that did our old house since it was nothing I wanted to expense too much energy on. When she sent me the quote, it had your name on it. I had to tell her you passed away two weeks ago. So, she expressed her condolences and sent a revised quote without your name on it but she also changed my marital status to “single,” which bothered me. So, I called her again and said, “I’m technically married but my husband died. I don’t think that makes me single?!” She said she would talk to the insurance company and let them know the situation but it’s unlikely that they would let her change the marital status to “married” since I don’t have a name to list for my husband anymore. I said okay and we never discussed it again. Today, she sent me the finalized application to sign, and I noticed that it still said “single” under marital status so I called her again to ask about it. She said, “the insurance company considers you single since you’re not married anymore after your my husband dies.” (So, essentially, insurance companies don’t have a widow’s box that I can check and obviously has never lost a spouse that they would be that insensitive to not consider having a widow’s box since it’s not like I chose to be “single” again). I said, “Okay, I see where they are coming from but I don’t agree with that on a philosophical level.” She said she understands where I’m coming from and doesn’t disagree with me but there’s nothing she can do about the “single” status on the application. She said to consider it more like I’m a “single driver” of a multiple car policy (since I’m consolidating car insurance with the homeowners) even though it’s under marital status. Was that supposed to make me feel better? Think of myself as a “single driver” of multiple cars even though it’s under marital status and not that I’m “single” because my husband dropped dead on me spontaneously one morning for no reason. Well, I guess it wasn’t as bad as the ambulance technician who stopped me outside the hospital while I was having a mental breakdown to say, “I brought your husband to the hospital in the ambulance. I’m sorry for your loss. I hope you have a better day,” as she walks away with her lunch in her hand. “I hope you have a better day!?!” Wow, if I wasn’t having a mental breakdown and could process some sort of smartass comeback, I’m sure I would have given her a piece of my mind than just a blank death stare. I think about that ambulance technician from time to time and her comment, “I hope you have a better day!” As if my days could ever be better after the love of my life drops dead for no apparent reason you dumb B**** is all I can think about when I think of her. “Can you get some training on sympathy when your line of work is to deal with people on their worst day?!” Is that too much to ask for?
Death is so absolute.
I’ve been thinking about how absolute death is. There’s no coming back. There’s no taking anything back. There’s no more of anything. The day you passed, all I could think about was all the things you would be missing and would not be able to see or do anymore. And even to this day, it pains me when I see something that I know you would want to see or do but knowing that you will never have the opportunity. I think about all the things you are missing out on and will miss out on. Like your girl Mindy Kaling, she’s in two different movies that are coming out this year. You love her and will never be able to watch her on the big screen. You won’t be able to see the Black Panther movie that just came out. You will never be able to see the amazing photos from your mom’s 70th birthday party the week before. You will never get to see the house completed. You will never get to plan and design that dream backyard you wanted. You won’t be able to hear the rumor that LeBron James wanted to join the Warriors (which would probably make you roll in your grave if you were buried). I also think about all the moments we will no longer get to share together like going to the movies, traveling to new destinations, bike riding, wine tasting, or just simply staying home and watching TV and eating dinner together. I will never get to hear your voice or laughter ever again. I will never get to see you or tell you how my day was or whatever new gossip I have to share. I can never tell you how much I love you or how desperately I so want to see you again and feel your embrace and kiss. But the one thing that gives me comfort is knowing that we would never question whether we loved each other or not. We always told each other, “I love you” every time we parted and always before going to bed (that was one of our golden rule just in case something ever happened to one of us--it was like we were planning for this day without knowing it). Even if we were fighting and hadn’t resolved our issue, I would say to you, “I’m still mad at you, but I love you” before I went to bed. I could always go to bed mad at you, but I could never fall asleep if I didn’t tell you “I love you.” (Yes, there were a few times I tried to see if I could do it, but I was never able to.) And, on days when I rushed out of the house and forgot to give you a kiss and say goodbye and I love you (even if you were sleeping when I left), I know I would get a call from you to scold me about it (and you didn’t care if there were other people in the car with me and you were on bluetooth, you’d still let me have it). There’s never a day that goes by since you passed that I would ever question whether you knew how much I loved you or how much you loved me. The only question that remains open is, “who loved the other person more?” Now, we will never know since this was a debate we’ve never been able to resolve. A few days before you passed, I remember telling you, “I feel that I love you more than you love me because I’m always the one who says ‘I love you’ first.” But you told me, “I like it when you say ‘I love you’ first.” This was the first time you ever said this to me in all the years we’ve been together and it made me cry. That’s why it’s so hard not to think the universe was preparing us for this. There were too many deep and philosophical conversations that happened between us the few months before you passed. I just thought, “Wow, my husband is finally getting ‘deep’ after all these years; married life must be suiting him.” It’s really hard to accept that this is how our story ends, but at the same time, it’s so hard not to look back and see all the signs that the universe was preparing us for this. You will never know how much I miss you babe. How much I just want to see you one more time. How much I just want to hold your hand and hear you say, “I love you too.”
There are days where I don’t even know how I find the strength to get out of bed and continue living; waking up and going about life as if nothing has happened or changed. The world continues to move on and I’m slowly starting to move with it, but there’s never a day that goes by that I don’t think about how strange and odd it feels. Some days, I feel like there’s nothing wrong at all. Other days, I can barely breathe. My therapist says it’s all normal. Grief makes us appear psychotic because we’re so sad and in great pain at times that we can barely move or breathe while other times we’re still able to function in the world, laugh, and smile as if nothing has happened. For me, I feel that grief comes and goes like the ebb and flow of the waves at the beach. Most of the time, I feel like I’m standing waist deep in the ocean and looking out into the horizon. I see how vast and serene the water is and I’m ready to swim out further (yes, I know I don’t know how to swim, it’s just an analogy babe). Just when I’m about to take a step and move forward, a large wave from my blindspot hits me out of nowhere, knocks me off my feet, and pulls me under water as I’m desperately trying to find my footing and catch my breath. I’m pulled under water fighting to breathe until I can find my footing to come up for air. This is what grief feels like for me. There are days that are harder than others and some that are better than others. Some days I move forward while other days I move backward that it just feels like I’m standing still where I started; barely able to move forward or backward. I know I can’t go backward (even though that is all I want to do where time freezes and we are together forever), but moving forward is scary as well. I’m scared that I can’t move on without you and I’m stuck in this surreal and bizarre world, but the thought that one day I can actually move on and live and breathe in a world where you don’t exist is also very scary and frightening. It’s like I can’t win either way.
A grieving widow who is trying to find meaning and purpose from her tragic event.