Living

I haven’t been very good at writing for several months. There’s plenty of reasons for this, work, kids, lots of adventures. But more than anything else I honestly haven’t had a good way of describing what has been happening in my life.

You see, I started this project to help me pause and listen to myself. To dive into how I’m feeling. Sharing these stories also forces me to stop and think about my life. About what’s happening to me and what I’m doing. It was never about suicide, not directly. It’s about what comes next. It’s about the life I’ve been forced to live after Christine left me alone. Those first months were so full of raw, painful emotion. Every minute was consumed with thoughts of what I could have done differently, of all the mistakes I made as a husband. My failures. Suicide is the antagonist, but I’m the protagonist in my story. I’m sometimes the hero and sometimes the villain, but it’s about me and the choices I’ve made.

I sound like a textbook narcissist. I don’t care.

I’ve written a few posts so far this year, but I haven’t really broken down what’s happened since I made the decision to live. That is a weird thing to say because unless I was planning to take my own life wouldn’t I have defaulted to life? But I’ve discovered that living is a choice. And living in this case is not the opposite of dying. It’s the opposite of existing. On January 1st I drew a line in the sand and told myself NO MORE. No more letting days pass around me while I did little more than moving forward, one breath at a time. No more escaping to my room and hiding from the world. I’m done with that idea of life.

As I wrote before, I died. Or rather, who I was died. That guy is gone. Poof. There’s a lot I miss about him. Dude really didn’t give a shit about anything. He was invincible. Or so he thought. He was also so twisted by insecurities. He hated himself. He wasn’t the best dad. He wasn’t the best husband. Not as good as he could have been. But damn he was good at putting on a good face and smiling his way through all the problems he was hiding.

That stuff was really hard to think through. I made mistakes I didn’t even know I was making. I was so lost in my little world I thought I understood that I never took the time to think about how my actions might be affecting others.

RIP that guy.

So it’s time to catch you up on what happened next. There is some good, some bad. There are things I’m proud of and things I’m sorry for. I’ve won some and lost some. There was a black mamba that jumped at me, and spiders, I almost lost my job, I learned what friendship really means, I’ve become a better dad than I’ve ever been. I’ve lived. And I’m not done.

So here’s what happened next.

The Things People Say

I’ve written before about the weird grief comments people have, whether it’s the optometrist telling me how bad she felt when Anthony Bourdain killed himself or the bizarre need strangers have to tell me about the death of their pets. And I get it, I really do. We all want to show empathy and as experiential beings we do that by sharing stories we believe gives us common ground. It’s stupid, but it’s why we do it and I usually laugh it off.

However, there is one particular group that I can’t handle.

Divorcees.

Not those people in general. Getting a divorce does not make you a bad person. Not even a little.

It’s a very specific sub-group of divorced people: the ones who want to compare their divorce to becoming widowed.

I understand that divorce can be very painful and it could lead to a deep emptiness, a longing, sadness, depression, guilt, self-loathing and a plethora of other hurtful feelings.

But I only understand this in an academic sense. I don’t know what going through a divorce is like because I’ve never been through one. Because I’ve never been through a divorce I have to trust the reports of those who have. I would never in a million years compare my wife dying to someone’s divorce.

Because they’re incomparable.

They can’t be compared because they are not the same thing.

Since this shitty chapter of my life begun I’ve heard from people that they’d prefer to have had their spouse dead than be divorced because it would have been easier.

I want to break that down for a second because here’s what these people are saying:

“I know you are grieving the death of your spouse, I know you’ve told me of the unimaginable pain it’s brought to your life, but I would have preferred your experience than divorce because it’s would have been so much more simple.”

Fuck you.

And this hasn’t only happened once. This is a regular occurrence. I’ve heard it from acquaintances, from near strangers, friends. Usually it’s in a dismissive way, sometimes with deep emotion.

I don’t care.

Look, own your pain. Please. If you want to talk to me about how painful your divorce was/is I’m hear to listen. Really. It was a terrible experience for you and I will absolutely be there in any way I can.

We can even talk about both experiences. We can both talk through our pain.

But I will not allow you to compare your divorce to my very very very different experience.

And why would you want to?

Living

With the new year I’ve decided to move this blog in a different direction.

2018 post-love was about surviving and existing. Just getting out of bed and finding my way through each day. I made mistakes, I hurt people, I failed at so much.

But I made it.

I could keep dwelling on grief forever. I could stay in my hole, wallowing in the sickeningly bitter feeling of loss. Or I can look forward.

This doesn’t mean I’m forgetting Christine. I learned from that. I won’t ignore her ever again. I will still have horrible, terrible days filled with pain, loneliness and grief. I will cry, I will wail. I will have days of numbness.

I’m sure I’ll still write about those days as they come.

But I’m choosing to live.

I’m living for my kids, my friends, my family.

I’m living for me.

So what does that really mean?

Not entirely sure. I’m still not planning on rushing out to find a partner. I’m not trying to fill that hole with a replacement. I’m not ready. I’m also not going to go out and solve all of my problems. I’ll keep going to counseling, I’ll keep reflecting on who I am and who I should be.

But I have made a list of goals, resolutions for the new year.

I resolve to:

⁃ Forgive myself

⁃ Be more present in my children’s lives

⁃ Run a marathon

⁃ Climb a mountain

⁃ Cook at least 4 healthy dinners for my family each week

⁃ Go out of my way to be kind to at least one person every day

⁃ Visit a country for the first time

⁃ Commit an act of service every week and involve the kids when possible

⁃ Keep Christine present in my life by living each day striving to be the man she would want me to be

⁃ Raise/donate $10000 for suicide prevention

⁃ Meet new people and learn from them

⁃ Start a podcast

⁃ Love fiercely

⁃ Become a companion for a suicide widow(er)

⁃ Ask for help when I need it

⁃ Be mindful of how my words and actions can be perceived by others, regardless of my intent

And if I don’t finish everything on this list it’s OK because my final resolution for 2019 is the only non-negotiable.

In 2019 I will learn to give myself grace.

That last one is so important. I’ve had so many people tell me that ‘You need to give yourself grace’. It’s a trend, a theme. I tend to take the world on my shoulders and blame myself for every misstep. I don’t want to live like that anymore.

I don’t want to live under a blanket of stress and guilt.

I was married so young that I never took the opportunity to learn to know myself, relying on Christine to make me whole. Now I’m without her. I’ll never be whole again, but I can decide who I am without her and using guilt to drive my direction is not healthy. I’m going to learn to forgive myself, be gentle when I fail, choose to learn from mistakes to make myself a better man.

In my first post I wrote ‘welcome to the shit show’. At the time it was true. I was (am) a mess.

But 2019 is about life. My kids, mine, ours. How I impact others.

So welcome to my life. I’m glad you’re here.

– B

Guilt

This is going to be a hard one to read. It’s been almost impossible to write.

At 6:30am on January 1st 2018 my alarm went off. I had set it so I could get up and call the hospital to check on Christine’s status.

The days leading up to New Year’s Eve had been horrible. She had gotten mad at me about something and it escalated into a full blown attack.

She spent a night in the car, and then locked herself in the bedroom, not coming out except to go to the store.

I tried to reach out to her on several occasions but it was always the same response.

Her: You ruined everything.

I canceled our plans, telling our friends Christine was sick and we couldn’t celebrate with them. I tried to make the best of a bad situation, getting games out and playing with the kids. I invited her to join us.

Her: I’m going out

She came out of the bedroom around 10. She looked amazing. A sequin dress, hair done up, heels. She made her way through the house and out the front door.

My heart dropped. I didn’t know where she was going, but trying to find out wasn’t worth the screaming that would follow.

I let her go.

About an hour later the texts started.

She was alone. Her car had died. It was cold. She was just going to die in the car. It didn’t matter.

I begged her to tell me where she was but she refused. Just saying she was going to go to sleep and not wake up.

This went on for a while. Her saying she would die, me begging her to live. I promised her anything she wanted. I said I’d leave if that would make her come home safely. Her life was more important than my happiness.

She wanted to die. She just wanted me to find someone who made me happy.

Finally, in a panic, I called 911. I gave them a description of the car, told them what was happening.

I told her the police were looking for her. She became enraged again.

Then she walked through the front door. She had only been parked a couple streets over. She was furious at me for calling the police.

I tried to call them back and tell them she was OK but they said they would come by the house anyway to check on her. They refused to stay away.

I told her they were coming. She flew into a rage unlike any I’d ever seen. She grabbed a kitchen knife. I was still on the phone with the police, they heard me ask her to put the knife down.

She swung it at me. I got between her and the kids, got them into a back bedroom. She threw the knife at me. Missed.

She lunged for it and took it to our bedroom.

When the police arrived they kicked down the door to our room and found her there, bleeding from the wrists. Superficial cuts. Not too deep, but deep enough to bleed a lot.

The kids were in the other room, crying. I went to them and we sat together while the EMTs treated her. They took her to a local hospital for observation.

I took the kids to the store. We bought ice cream and stuffed animals and rented a movie. We all slept together in the family room.

When I called the hospital the next morning they said I could get there at 8am but they weren’t sure when she’d be released.

I cleaned the bedroom, threw away the bloody sheets. I wanted her to have a relaxing place to stay when she got home.

The hospital was nearly empty that morning. They wouldn’t let me see her at first. I had to talk to a social worker. Then the social worker talked to her.

Finally they let me into the room. I didn’t know what to expect. She was lying in bed, her wrists bandaged. She looked at me.

Me: Hi

Her: Hi. I’m sorry.

Me: Me too. For everything.

We sat together and talked. Not about anything important. She told me about how she had been screaming at the nurses. I laughed because it’s just so much like her.

Her: Why are you being nice to me?

Me: Because I love you. I love you so fucking much.

That was one year ago today. One year from the day I saved her. I am often told by people ‘what happened isn’t your fault’ ‘you couldn’t have saved her’.

But that night I did. I did everything right.

I called the police. I loved her when she was better. I told her I’d never leave her.

I could have saved her again. But I didn’t. I didn’t think she would actually do it. I didn’t think she’d really leave us.

And worst of all I was so mad at her for trying to manipulate me with her threats.

And now I’m alone. I’m without her. Because I didn’t take her seriously and pick up the fucking phone.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get out from under this guilt.

I miss you babe. I’m so fucking sorry.

Peace and Hope

I entered this holiday season with a spirit of defiance and anger. And it’s not been easy. At first, seeing all the happy messages and Santa pictures and Christmas cards infuriated me. I hated everyone for having something I could not.

But slowly over the course of the last several weeks my heart has softened. I reflected upon my loss, but also my response, or rather how Christine would want me to respond. It was my job to be the calm and thoughtful person in our relationship and that hasn’t changed. I also thought about the man I want to be in her absence and decided it isn’t someone who responds to love and joy with anger and spite.

I awoke this morning with a feeling of… not contentment, but peace. I also feel the budding growth of hope. It’s in its infancy, just pushing against the surface, trying to break free and blossom, but it’s there.

That’s weird to think about. Hope and peace. This month has been so incredibly turbulent and difficult. I’ve struggled at work, the kids have been more sensitive than usual. Add the extra work involved in the holidays, shopping, getting to events, all while the absence of her is brought into hyper focus.

So it’s been hard. I’ve dreaded the Big Day since Thanksgiving. How was I going to make it through this while carrying my kids through it? Anxiety has been through the roof. I’ve been more forgetful than ever before. And then I got here. I got to the Christmas Eve.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house;

Not a single present was wrapped. Fuck.

I hate wrapping presents and I’ve been putting it off. I knew time was up, there wasn’t any more wiggle room. Then something great happened. A friend of mine texted me and asked if I wanted to keep her company while she wrapped her gifts. I said yes as long as I could bring mine over and do the same. We hung out, played with her dog, shared stories and got the presents wrapped.

And then she gave me a stocking.

I was so touched. It meant so much to have a friend I’ve only recently met think of me and go out of their way like that.

It’s funny how incredibly powerful a small kindness can be. I want to be more purposeful about that in my life. Just letting people know they matter, that they’re important.

I went home, tucked the presents under the tree, got the stockings filled and sat on the couch. It was shortly after 3:00 AM at that point and I should have gone to bed but I couldn’t rest my mind.

She wasn’t going to be here. No matter what we did, no matter how the day went, we would be constantly reminded Christine wasn’t there.

I talked to her, told her how I felt, how much I missed her and how much I wish I could feel some closeness to her. I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I woke up on my couch at six after dreaming about Christine. She was upset with me, she was dismissive of my feelings. I had wronged her somehow and she didn’t want anything to do with me.

Sleep found me again, but I was sure this was a sign of how the day would go. And then I woke to my kids coming down the stairs… and there was that peace and that hope.

We tore through our stockings and then followed our tradition of taking turns opening each present one at a time, youngest to oldest. Then the kids cleaned while I started breakfast.

That part was hard. I made the same Irish food we had the year before and I needed help I didn’t have. It turned out OK. It’s hard to cook through tears.

So we had our food. The kids were playing with their new toys and I dressed for a run. Off I went. I made it a couple miles between breakdowns. I let off a few blocks from home to compose myself again.

You can do this. You can do this for the kids. Game face.

And I did. We took it easy, we spent time together. I felt that peace again.

I messaged people, telling them Merry Christmas. I messaged widows and family and friends old and new. Merry Christmas. Peace and hope.

We left the house around 2 for dinner at my parent’s. We arrived to find a giant pile of snow my uncle brought down from the pass so we could have a snowball fight. It was so much fun. The neighborhood kids joined in, and a few parents.

And then dinner. It was great.

We opened a few small gifts and talked about the past. My uncle cried when he picked up a Santa mug that had been owned by my great grandma. We laughed about getting hit by the grief train. I talked with my aunt and her new fiance. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried quietly. We had dessert. I got a ‘Merry Christmas’ text from someone I hadn’t talked to in a while. My family shared a drink, and then we went home.

More peace. More hope. Why??

I took a nap, E played video games. We all kind of did our thing. My friend texted me around 9 and asked if I wanted to watch Daddy’s Home. I said yes and went over to her house but we just played fetch with her dog instead. She gave me a stuffed unicorn to replace one of the ridiculous, oversized throw pillows for my new couch (the one I keep falling asleep on). I don’t know why I find this so important to point out but she is a friend. We hang out. It’s so nice. I don’t want to say ‘just a friend’ because that means a friend is less important than a spouse or girlfriend. It isn’t always that way. Sometimes we all just really need a friend.

And then home.

Now I’m trying to write about my day to work through these feelings. Peace and hope. Hope and peace. And I think I got it.

The day wasn’t easy. I thought about her a lot. I cried a lot. I’m thinking about her now. I don’t miss her any less today than I did yesterday. Probably more.

But here’s the thing. I made it through the day. I did it. I did it with the help of the people I know reaching out today telling me Merry Christmas. I did it with the help of my kids who were just amazing to be around. I did it with the help of my family. I did it with the help of my friends.

The peace and hope I feel is the realization that as hard as it is and as hard as it will continue to be… I can do this. WE can do this. And we’re going to.

Merry Christmas,

-B

 

Seven

Hey Babe,

It’s been seven months since I lost you. Since you left me and the kids alone. I can’t believe that. Seven months. It seems like yesterday and forever.

At first I counted in days and it didn’t seem like I’d make it to the next one. Then it was weeks. Every Saturday I would be on edge, another reminder of your absence. At some point I started counting in months. And here it is again. Another month gone by. I guess I’ll eventually be counting in years.

That’s fucking awful to think of. Years. Years without you. Years of feeling so empty some days I just want my heart to stop beating.

I read an article after GH Bush died. It talked about the increased likelihood of a person dying 6-8 months after their spouse due to cardiovascular issues. Turns out you really can die of a broken heart.

This last month has been particularly tough.

Ha. Like all the other ones weren’t.

But all this holiday shit all over the place is really really difficult. I still haven’t managed to drag the stocking out of storage and put them up. Should I even put one up this year? I don’t know why I would. That’s another first, an empty stocking.

Is there anything sadder than that? I mean, not the stocking itself, but what it signifies.

Everything is taking so much effort. I’m totally exhausted. Like, completely wiped out.

I’m sorry I’m complaining so much. This is just so hard. It’s so much harder than I imagined it could be. I’m trying to come up with positive thoughts and remember you fondly but it keeps coming back to me never seeing you again.

7 months.

I learned denial isn’t what I thought it was. I just assumed it meant I would think you’d walk back through the door any moment. That isn’t denial.

Denial is my heart and brain not connecting. I know I won’t get to see you again, but my heart is confused and doesn’t accept it. There’s this part of me that doesn’t understand you’re gone forever.

I honestly don’t know what to do. I’m so miserable. I want you back so badly.

I’m such a mess.

There isn’t much to say. I just wanted you to know you’re all I think about, day in and day out. I wish so much I had known how little time we’d have together, how important each moment was. I could have done so much better. I could have put aside life’s little struggles and just known it was OK because I was with you and been totally content. Happy.

I love you, babe. I miss you so much.

– B