Anacoluthon

Last night I dreamed of Christine. I hadn’t seen her since very early on the morning of October 22nd.

I was the one who was going to die. We all knew it was coming. It was my choice. I wrote a letter to all of my loved ones and everyone was celebrating my departure as a natural and happy event. I told the kids goodbye, that I loved them. Then I told Christine good bye. She saw me off and smiled at me as I made my way to the Undiscovered Country.

Me: I love you!

Her: I love you!

I woke up and wept.

#FierceFamily

This trip has been good. It’s been great. It’s been terrible.

We went hard for three days at theme parks. Universal, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom have been conquered. It was a lot of smiles, exhaustion, fun and being together as a family. Of what’s left of our family.

No matter what we did it was impossible to escape The Missing. We really are totally incomplete.

The quote from the other day ‘Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything’ sums up the cloud over all of our time together. There’s this hole. And we are unwhole. I don’t care if that isn’t a word, it perfectly describes us.

We joked a lot. Trying to keep things light. We laughed at the people with their matching t-shirts. The Cult of Disney. They read ‘Best anniversary ever’ with a matching shirt ‘Most expensive anniversary ever’. There were ‘I’m with him’ ‘I’m with her’ with Mickey fingers pointing at the other person. ‘Bride’ ‘Groom’. So many variations.

The girls thought I should get a shirt with a finger pointing up reading ‘Alone’ and they could all get shirts reading ‘My dad is single’.

‘Widower’ was also floated.

I hate that word.

We didn’t talk about Christine much, a few comments here and there. I had some moments where I had to work hard to compose myself. E had a moment today.

We were about to get on Pandora and he panicked. He sat it out while we enjoyed the five minute ride. When I stepped off he was defeated. I thought it was because he hadn’t joined us.

E: I miss mom

Of course he did. She hated coasters. She always sat out the more intense rides because of motion sickness. The two of them would spend time together. Now he sat alone.

I let him sit alone.

Don’t get me wrong, I spent the weekend missing out on the fun stuff because I couldn’t leave him by himself, but this one ride, just five minutes, I let him sit alone. I was even a little mad at him because I didn’t get to do Space Mountain or Big Thunder Railroad (is that even what it’s called?). I deserved this. And then here was my little boy, all alone when he never was before.

I just did something I haven’t done much for the last several months. I looked at their feelings. When I look back at these posts the word used most is ‘I’. Here’s how I feel. Here’s what I am doing.

I haven’t spent much time thinking about them. Or anyone else really. It’s been My Loss.

That’s where the title of this post comes from. T has been wanting to start a family blog/youtube channel capturing us after Christine.

I’ve been giving her lip service, telling her we’ll do it. But I’ve allowed myself to be distracted, not giving them the attention they deserve while I sought solace elsewhere.

One of the questions I hate the very most is ‘how are your kids doing?’. I have no idea. Not the slightest clue. I’m too involved with myself.

I’m selfish.

I’ll explore this more soon. I just had to get it out there for now. Put a pin in it.

T wants to capture OUR journey. Wants to capture OUR recovery. She named us Fierce Family. We’re a team. We’re together. She is further ahead of me, she’s thinking of Us.

So we did it. We took out first vacation under the sky, under The Absence. We made it. We’re together. We will laugh and cry and love and hate together.

We’re a #FierceFamily

BRB

One of the side effects of solo-parenting is there is no one there to catch your mistakes, no safety net. Yesterday morning I had the wrong flight time in my head and we barely made our flight to Orlando.

This is our first family trip since Christine left us. We had originally planned a trip, all of us, to Jamaica for Christmas. As B said:

B: Now we’re THAT family

After we lost her, we decided to cancel that trip and go to the happiest place on earth, Harry Potter at Universal.

We’ll go to Disney too.

I had brought my laptop to continue writing but it’s all about things that have already happened and it will wait while I put all my attention toward my kids (and give me a little more time to figure out how to convey the rest of the story so far).

Have a great weekend, everyone.

– Ben, House Slytherin

Hiding

Throughout all of these bad choices I’d been procrastinating my way through some things only I could do, mostly bringing Christine home.

All of this is going to get somewhat graphic. It’s hard to write about. I’m sorry if it’s hard to read. I want you all to know some of the external things that led to my need to escape the emotional roller coaster I was riding. This isn’t an excuse, not at all, but it is a reason.

Any suicide in Norway must undergo an autopsy. During the first week, when I was struggling through putting shoes on, I knew my wife was halfway around the world preparing to be… to be autopsied.

Correction. My wife’s body. I know she’s gone. But it was still terrible to think of. Her, going through this all alone. It’s still terrible to think of.

After the procedure was done I had to release her body to a funeral home for preparation to return to the states. The police helped me find one that would work with someone in the US. Then a couple weeks of back and forth as we worked out details.

Did I want her cremated? This was so hard for me. We had talked about cremation but I couldn’t remember for sure what she wanted. Also, if she was cremated in Norway I would never get to see her face again. This killed me. I would never see her again.

I finally decided to go with cremation but I asked them to send me a picture first. Just to see her one last time.

Them: We will do that, but I warn you, it isn’t like the US.

I received the email and opened the attachment. There she was. Kind of. She was wearing a white dress and her hair was spread out on a pillow. It looked thin and unkempt. Her mouth was slack and I could see her teeth through her lips.

It was terrible. This was the final proof Christine was gone, that she wouldn’t jump out from around a corner at any moment and shout ‘Surprise!’. She looked so lifeless. So totally opposite of the girl I knew. That passionate, beautiful, girl I loved so deeply and missed so much. I will never share that picture with another person. It isn’t her.

At the same time I had to take care of a lot of things that required a certificate of death, something I couldn’t get. I had to work with the American embassy in Norway to get a Certificate of Death Abroad. They were very nice.

Them: First, let me just tell you on behalf of the United States of America we’re sorry for your loss.

Thanks?

Then they told me it would take 8 weeks to get the certificates that were holding up closure on so many things. There’s still a lot of these things I haven’t taken care of.

I needed to figure out transportation for her remains and her belongings. They still had her phone and iPad and of course her wedding ring.

I wanted those pictures, those potential pictures from her phone. I had no idea what was on it, but I hoped it was something. You see, after she left me I spent hours obsessively looking at our pictures. Something I quickly discovered… I had no video of her. Or at least very little. I didn’t have many voice recordings. I’d deleted almost all of my voicemails. Why in the hell did I do that?

There were a couple recordings left that had somehow avoided the purge. One was her yelling at me, mid fight. Another was this:

Christine: Hey honey, I just wanted to say hi and that I love you and miss you and I hope you had a good flight annnnd hope I get to talk to you at some point. You can call me no matter how late it is just to say hi. Alright. Hope to talk to you later. Love you, bye.

I listened to this message obsessively, over and over and over again. It was one of the few places I could hear her voice and the only place I could hear her say she loved me.

So I hope this helps you understand where I was during all this. Not just facing grief, sadness, loneliness but also the horror (in my mind) of the manner of my wife’s death and being forced to face it every moment as I worked to bring her home.

This is when I really began hiding myself from Christine. Putting her in box to be taken out only when I needed something from her. Dehumanizing her, turning her memory into happy pictures and loving voicemails. Making her what I needed her to be.

It’s when I convinced myself it was OK to talk to other women. It would be fine, I was ready. Besides, Christine left me. Left me with a gaping wound and I needed someone to fill it.

This is where the first girl came in. As mentioned in the previous post we had been texting each other on a regular basis.

She messaged me at one point asking to facetime with me.

Her: OK, I just had to make sure you were real, not some weirdo that doesn’t look like their pictures.

She hung up. She was pretty. It was cute and funny.

We talked for a few more days. Now we were calling each other every night.

I hate talking to people on the phone as a rule, but during those few minutes each day I had someone. I could just talk. I mean, sure, she only wanted to talk about herself and the clothes she bought, but someone was talking to me.

She said she wanted to come up to Seattle and visit. We made some plans.

We spent a weekend together. I took her to a restaurant that was supposed to be awesome. She was wearing a small, tight red dress and tall heels and looked good. Really good.

Quick sidebar: I’m just a little bit pretentious. I like to dissect meals and talk about the food, both good and bad and everything I’d do to improve it. I also like to enjoy wine and be a bit of a D bag and swish it in my glass and pretend I know anything at all about what I’m drinking.

This girl didn’t do that at all. She was just… unrefined.

I know I sound like an asshole. Unrefined is OK. I’m not a super classy guy by any means and Christine was probably the most off color person I’ll ever meet, but we watched tons of Food Network and learned to cook together. We had so much fun diving into the ups and downs of every meal. It was a thing. This girl wasn’t Christine (#shocking).

This girl? No. She just wanted to talk about buying stuff. Her closet was so full she couldn’t fit anything else into it. She owned $800 shoes she had never worn outside. She liked to vacuum in her mink coat and wear those shoes around.

At the end of our weekend together she told me she liked me. I told her I liked her. We agreed to spend more time together but it would have to be weeks in the future. I was busy with kids and trips and couldn’t drop all that stuff and take weekends away. She was disappointed but said she understood.

We kept talking at night. Now she was making plans for the future. She would look for jobs in Seattle, move in with me, she wouldn’t date for more than a year without an engagement.

That came up a lot. She had never been married and really wanted that to change.

She pushed to come up again and see me. I relented, but it could only be for one day. I spent that time hearing about how my new house didn’t have enough room for her clothes and she would need the bonus room for additional storage.

There was a lot of communication between Christine and I during this time. Well, I talked to her a lot. I had come to the conclusion that this new woman was going to be a big part of my life because I needed someone and she was there. I was trying to convince my wife it was a good idea, which is ridiculous because Christine would have hated her.

We scheduled a third trip. Now she was talking wedding plans. Detailed wedding plans. Type of church, the service would be in Spanish, etc. I booked a trip to Hawaii for us a few months in the future. I was going all in.

In the days leading up to her next visit I realized something. I just didn’t really like spending time with her. I should be with my kids. Grieving with them. I didn’t have to marry anyone. Even if this is the last person to ever show interest in me (this is how I think) I didn’t have to be with them.

We still spent the day together and this only cemented my feelings. This person, while there was nothing wrong with her, was not for me. I needed to be with my children.

I told her this. I told her it wouldn’t work. She kept trying to contact me. Telling me she’d be in Seattle for the night or calling. She still reaches out to me today. I don’t respond anymore.

I felt somewhat renewed. I had purpose. I was going to be the best dad in the world and be there for my kids. This lasted a few days.

And then the loneliness set in again.

 

The Shittiest Fraternity

I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts together well enough to write the next chapter of this story so I thought I’d take a minute and talk about the people who have been there for me and brought me some amount of comfort.

First, there’s family. I feel bad sometimes. I don’t want to be around them often because they remind me so much of her. Or rather they remind me that’s it’s just me.

I also know they feel bad because there is absolutely nothing they can do to make me feel better. But they’re there, even when I don’t want them to be.

I also have friends. Seven of them. I mean, I have more than seven people I talk to regularly and consider friends, but I have close friends that are always there. I feel sorry for these guys because I just randomly ruin everyone’s good time.

One group of friends are spread all over the western US. Two in Seattle, one in LA and one in Phoenix. These four guys knew about the bad stuff going on before anyone else. Like, months before anyone else. I think the reason for this is that even though they knew Christine they didn’t see her often so I felt OK sharing her descent into mental illness and the impact it was having on our lives.

I talk with these guys everyday, all day via a group message that’s been going for years. They were there when Christine walked out and was sleeping in our car in the front yard, they were there when I was didn’t know what to do. They were there when I was at the airport panicking because I couldn’t find her anywhere and they were there when I left the police station and spent my first night alone.

I seriously shit all over them all the time. They’ll be swapping memes, talking about soccer, baseball, video games, Donald Trump, whatever and I just drop some heavy stuff on them. It’s like kicking the door down at a birthday party and announcing the punch they all just drank is actually piss.

But no matter what, they always stop whatever the hell they’re doing and let me verbally cry all over them. A couple nights ago I jumped in with this gem:

Me: I am sitting in my hotel room drinking crap wine straight from the bottle. I’m going to die alone.

And they’re there right away. Sure, they want to know if it was fortified wine, but they were there.

The other group are the poor bastards that have to see me in person. They weren’t aware of how bad things had gotten, mostly because Christine was also close friends with them and I thought I was protecting her by not telling them what was going on. Instead I just saw them less and less over the year or so before Christine took her own life as I tried to control the situation and be home for her.

This is the other group I informed while I was sitting in that terrible hotel room. They have also been there for me in everything afterwards. They’ve cried with me, stood and watched me cry and just been around. They’ve also watched me go through all the ups and downs since.

Then there are the other people. The ones you don’t know that come from nowhere with the most incredibly powerful words.

The other night a guy I know via social media but I’m not sure if I’ve ever met in person reached out to me to tell me the story of how he lost his girlfriend and his slow return back. He talked about how in his young widows group everyone was sad and it was agreed upon that anyone who lost someone had it bad. Anyone who lost someone to suicide had it worse and anyone that experienced the latter and had kids had it the very worst.

He ended his message with this:

‘It really is a club or fraternity. You’ll live, it’ll get better (after it gets worse for awhile).

Who knows why that resonated with me so much. I sure don’t know, but it did. It helped.

A former manager of mine posted a story about the suicide of Kate Spade. I don’t remember my response but he told me he had been thinking about me and my family that week. Again, why did that matter so much? It just did.

There are so many more people who have said or done something that truly touched me. Maybe I’ll cover that later.

I’m telling you all this because I feel like I’ve misrepresented the response from people. In my grief, I often don’t want to hear from others. I’m even mad at them because they can’t do anything to make me feel better. But they’re there.

Memories of a Happier Time – Halloween

It was the afternoon of Halloween, 2016. The day had been spent slowly traveling from Cork on our way to Castlemaine, stopping at anything that grabbed our interest. We descended from the highlands into a valley choked with the acrid smoke of peat fires, giving the hills an otherworldly purple glow. These fires have been burnt on October 31st for centuries, now as tradition but originally with a different intent.

The ancient origins of this holiday began in Ireland. Called Samhain at the time, it was the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. However, this day was also marked as the day the border between the other world and the human world were at their weakest, allowing free travel between realms for fairies, banshees, shape-shifters and the dead. Massive fires were built to ward off these spirits and attract departed family members from returning home.

I had spent the last several weeks telling Christine of the spooky goings-on of pagan Ireland, setting her up for a night of chills. Halloween was traditionally the only night of the year I could convince her to watch a scary movie with me. This year was different, this year we got to experience the land where so many of these tales were born.

We slowly ascended the long driveway (pictured) to the house we’d rented, about an hour before sunset. It was very rural, set apart from the nearest residence by hundreds of feet without a single commercial building in sight. The house was unlocked, the key on the kitchen counter. It only took a few minutes to freshen up and prepare for dinner and then it was back to a pub we had passed a couple kilometers back.

I had shepard’s pie and a pint of Tom Crean’s lager. Christine had a glass of pinot grigio and the first nacho disaster of our trip, a plate of chips and cheese microwaved to oblivion with a scoop of cold, canned salsa dropped on top. We laughed about this, promising each other we’d make ourselves a snack of cheese, crackers, and charcuterie when we got back to the house.

We had packed costumes. She was Black Widow and I was Iron Man. We returned to the house and changed but decided at the last minute to call the local bar to make sure they held the Halloween party promised by our host. They did, but it was the previous Saturday. We were all dressed up with no where to go. This was perfect. It had been a long day. Both of us were happy to pull a movie from the house’s collection and curl up on the couch together with the promised snacks and some brown bread, of course. She ate that with every meal while we were on our trip.

The movie ended. We were tired and decided to spend the rest of the night together in bed.

I lay there, holding Christine, slipping into sleep. And then

Tap

Tap Tap

Tap

Tap Tap Tap

The sounds were coming from the walls. They were coming from the windows.

Tap Tap

Tap

I got up and checked the locks. I tried to look out the windows.

Tap Tap Tap

Tap

It was so dark outside I couldn’t see anything so I lifted the window. Could it be the wind?

Nothing moved outside.

Tap

Tap Tap Tap

I shined a light around to see where the noise was coming from. Nothing.

Tap

Finally I crawled back into bed. I held her closer.

Me: Are you awake?

Christine: hmmmm?

Me: Where are these noises coming from?

And then I fell asleep.

The next morning I awoke to a beautiful day. The sun was shining through a few clouds. Cold, but perfect.

I made breakfast and coffee and brought them to her in bed.

Christine: Hey. You are such a jerk. I stayed up for hours listening to that noise last night. I hate you.

We kissed. We ate. We left the house and had the best day of our lives. It was our perfect day. She fell in love with Ireland. ‘My heart belongs in Dingle’ she would say anytime we thought about where we wanted to spend out last days together.

That night, same house, not a single sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time Passes, Time Stands Still

I need to get to the part where I start making bad choices. I will soon. But I feel like I need to fill in some pieces that happened before then. Shouldn’t take too long.

Things weren’t easy at home. We were all off. Way off. The kids and I stayed home from school and work. Each night I would put the little ones to bed and walk to the bar. I’d come home a couple hours later and lay in bed thinking and thinking and thinking until I’d enter some half sleep.

At the same time I could tell something was really bothering B. She kept blowing it off, saying everything is OK until one night she broke down.

B: Everyone is telling me ‘I’m so glad you could be here for your family, like I’m not here because I love Christine. Like it doesn’t count because she’s my stepmom’.

And she was so right. I hadn’t realized this was happening but it broke my heart to hear her say it. She hadn’t traveled from Montana to be here for us, she had traveled to grieve someone she loved very much. To top it all off, she was holding in some brutal guilt.

B: I looked up to her so much and I never told her.

These are the thoughts after an unexpected death that truly hurt the survivors, especially after suicide. Coulda, woulda shoulda. What if I had said this one thing? Would that have saved them? Was it my fault?

The house kept getting dirtier. The grass kept getting longer. Less envelopes arrived from distant family and friends.

We sat in the living room almost all day, not talking about Christine. We’d try and make small talk. When B and K get together they are savage and the playful, sarcastic insults were everywhere but we all knew it was a show. You could feel it in everything we did. She was missing.

We started looking for a new house. I couldn’t stay where I was. I needed out so badly. I had to get away. She was around every corner and wouldn’t leave me alone.

We found a home. I put an offer in.

I dreamed about her. A lot of the time we were fighting. Once she wanted a divorce. I felt so empty, just completely used up.

I went out with friends, I sat around the house. I avoided my kids because I couldn’t handle being around them. I didn’t know what to do or say.

Two weeks passed since she left. The kids and I returned to school and work. Nothing was the same. Nothing was normal. It was all just sadness, emptiness and loneliness.

I was so incredibly alone.

Coming Home

The week following my return home is a blur. It’s funny how the first 24 hours are so clear in my mind but everything after that is just a jumble. There are some milestones throughout the last five months but otherwise it’s just one big mess of thoughts, emotions, small victories and big mistakes.

I sent an email off to my work letting them know what was going on. Then I announced Christine’s passing on social media. The response was intense. My family and friends mobilized on my behalf, putting together a meal signup, creating a gofundme to help with immediate expenses, taking care of all the details of the service. B was able to get some time off and stay with us for the month.

No, that’s too fast of an explanation. There’s some things I need to touch on before continuing. First, and it’s so weird that this stands out so clearly, if you offer to bring a grieving family dinner, please, for the love of everything holy, do not bring them pasta. For days on end we had pasta delivered to us. Lasagna the first two nights, then some other random pasta, then pasta with shrimp two nights in a row. I’m sure this comes across as ungrateful to some but after the first couple nights we either went out to dinner or tore the delivered dinner apart. I took the shrimp out and made a frittata, I pulled the noodles out of the lasagna and fried what was left… Which was delicious, FYI.

It was also interesting to see the response from people. It’s amazing how many try to empathize by telling you their sad story. ‘My grandpa died’ ‘My sister died’ ‘My cousin died’ ‘I know someone from high school that took their own life’. Every one of these statements came from a distant family member, an acquaintance, a co-worker. Someone I wasn’t close to. Each time it was preceded or followed by ‘I know it’s not the same as what you’re going through’. And they were right. It isn’t the same. It’s not even fucking close.

Next thing I heard from the same group of people, ie., people I don’t know, was ‘let me know what I can do to help’. Can you invent a time machine? Bring my wife back to life? No? Then you can’t do anything. You’re worthless. Go away.

I know. That sounds cruel, but after the 300th time hearing this from some random person that went to school with Christine, that knew me from a previous job, that neither of us had ever met I just wanted to scream in their stupid faces that they didn’t matter. I didn’t of course. I told them all the same thing ‘thank you, I appreciate it’ and left it at that.

Look, I know there aren’t words to describe how you feel when you interact with someone in my situation. I get it. Maybe there aren’t words because all you’re supposed to say is ‘I’m sorry’.

The other thing that stands out is how many people I discovered really did care. Some of the people who took time out of their day to attend the service, deliver a meal (even if it was pasta), share a memory of Christine, surprised me. We weren’t close, but there was something about my/their/her relationship that compelled them to deliver comfort in a real way. These were coworkers, friends of friends, people I’ve played soccer with. They never asked me a damn thing, just let me know in the most gentle way that Christine and I are loved.

At the same time my closest friends stepped back from me. This isn’t because they’re cruel people, but because they know me the very best. Despite what I’m trying to do with this blog, I’m a generally a very private person. I don’t like people doing things for me, I don’t like asking for help. I do like time to think. These people knew this. They checked on me, they brought dinners (lasagna!), they made sure I knew I could talk to them, but for the most part they left me alone and for that I am eternally grateful.

My larger family began to get details together. They spoke to Christine’s work on my behalf about how to get life insurance and collect her things and claim her 401k (I still haven’t done this). My mom made lists of things she needed input on from me while trying to get the service put together. It’s amazing how overwhelming answering a single question can be. I’d look at this list and close the app, putting it off until later.

The gofundme my aunt had started was growing rapidly. This was weird to me. I didn’t need the money, and yet it kept coming. I think more than anything else this was a way for people who didn’t know what to do to help in some way. It’s appreciated, it was uncomfortable. We used the money to buy tickets to Disney World.

I spent days with my kids, or tried to. Nothing held my interest for long. I would try and watch TV, play a video game, read. Restlessness would overcome me and I’d usually end up in my bedroom because I didn’t know where else to be. Except at night. I stayed out of my bedroom at night for a week, until B arrived. I spent most of my thoughts on all the things I could have done differently. I could have been more kind, I could have called the police, I could have stopped her from walking out of that fucking hotel room. I barely slept at all.

I also started unpacking her luggage. This was a slow process, but one of the first things I found was her room key. Room 212. That’s where it happened. That’s where she spent her last hours. Just one floor away. Until that moment I hadn’t known where she went next, not for sure. She was so close to me. Why didn’t I go to the front desk and ask? Why didn’t I call down to be connected? Why did I just sit in my room, angrily hoping she would get her shit together and come back? I burned the key card.

The other thing I got from a lot of people during this time was ‘What happened?’. Well, for anyone reading this that is curious, she took her own life. I don’t care if you want closure, I don’t care if you want details, I don’t care at all how you feel and what you think you need. All you need to know is she was so sad, felt so terrible that she thought the world would be better without her. This bright, shiny, beautiful woman couldn’t recognize her worth and left us all. Don’t ever ask a suicide survivor ‘What happened?’. They’ll tell you if they want you to know.

Furthermore, at the time I had no idea. I didn’t want to know. She was my wife and she was gone. That was already more than enough for me to handle.

Concurrent to this I was working with Norwegian authorities to try and find out what the hell was happening with her remains and belongings (they wouldn’t release her phone and they still had any jewelry she was wearing). I won’t say I was very dogged in my work. It was exhausting. It could wait another day. Everything could.

T’s birthday was on Wednesday. The entire family came together. It was a huge turnout. I warned everyone beforehand this should be about T, not about Christine. We shouldn’t cry, we should celebrate my little daughter. It went well. Shockingly well. And then we got in the car and I handed T the last present she had asked me for. It was a picture of her and her mom together. She began crying immediately. ‘I miss her’.

Like I’ve mentioned, B showed up on Thursday. I also went out with friends that night. The first half went pretty well. I talked a little about the trip, we ignored the elephant in the room. Then it just all came out. We cried, we struggled through the night, we won a surprising amount of money playing pulltabs and they gave it to me so I could do something with the kids. Some woman in the bar thought we were speaking poorly of her gender and confronted us. I told her what we were talking about and she offered to take me home with her. I declined.

I don’t know what happened Friday. No recollection at all. I’m pretty sure it was more of the same cycle of guilt and sadness. I think I might have walked down to the bar.

Saturday came and we had her service. There was a slideshow. Some songs. T read her mother’s day card. E said some things. I choked my way through some words. People said nice things to me afterwards and hugged me. It was nice, it was awful.

We went to my mom’s house, just some family and our very closest friends. We drank, I got drunk. My friends gave me a ride home and we stood in front of my house drinking while I told them the story of Christine and I’s last night.

I went inside my house, fell into my bed and told Christine how much I missed her. Then I fell asleep and dreamed of her.

Musical Interlude – Learn to Say Goodbye, Dusty Springfield

Yes, it’s early for another interlude, but I think it’s important after some of the messages of concern I’ve received that I catch everyone up on what’s happening today. Also, the song I mention in the title is 100% for the lyrics. The music is terrible.

Yesterday I arrived early into Dublin and walked off the plane. It was two years to the day that Christine and I took our very belated honeymoon in Ireland. We had spent two weeks circling the island. The best two weeks of my life.

The halls of the airport haven’t changed since Christine and I visited, and the stark recollection began to overwhelm me. As I stood in line at customs discomfort turned to anxiety and anxiety began to turn to panic. I had to get out of there. I needed to escape.

Something I haven’t shared with a lot of people is that I was diagnosed with PTSD following Christine’s passing. I thought it was a joke. PTSD is for people who were in a war, not for guys like me. Sure I got anxious when I saw a blue Subaru like the one Christine used to drive, but that was just because for a fleeting moment I would think it might be her heading home and then I’d experience a piece of loss. So if I knew a neighbor had a similar car I’d take another route to avoid that feeling.

I’ve been doing that a lot. Avoiding people, places and things that remind me of Christine. As long as I wasn’t reminded of her I could continue to move forward. As first it wasn’t bad. Just little things. I traded in her car, got rid of a lot of her clothes. But things kept reminding me of her and I kept trying hide from these reminders. I stopped wearing clothing that reminded me of her, hid things she had purchased for me, got new sheets, a new bed, a new house.

The more things I avoided the more things reminded me of her and the worse the anxiety got. When a commercial comes on TV asking me to visit Norway I panic. Shit, if someone says ‘Norway’ my stomach drops and the itchy, terrible feeling of being trapped in skin I want to escape starts to take over.

This all came to a head over the past two weeks. There was an event that finally forced me to look at myself and admit I wasn’t OK. I mean, I knew I wasn’t OK, but just like I hid from reminders of Christine I was also hiding from admitting I needed to do something different. That’s also a lie I suppose. It wasn’t one single event. It was a snowball of emotions and realizations. It was an avalanche, and I was being crushed.

I’m not going to go into what happened, not now. It doesn’t fit with the point of this post.

I’d love to say I immediately made changes but instead I began to cling to all things Christine. I’d obsessively check Facebook memories. I’d hold a pillow at night and hope I’d dream of her. And none of that helped. It made things worse. I was triggered by everything. Second floor hotel rooms, airplanes, Bellevue, text messages. There is a bar I frequent that was preparing to hold a charity event in Christine’s memory. The flyers with her picture on it raised panic in my chest.

I was closing in on a total meltdown.

Anyways, back to Ireland. I made it through customs but that feeling of panic, like I was holding onto sanity by my fingernails, didn’t subside. I got a cab and made my way to the hotel. The cab driver asked me about my family, and of course about my wife.

Me: She passed away earlier this year.

Cabbie: I’m so sorry. Was it sudden?

Me: Very.

Cabbie: What happened?

God I hate that question. No matter how many times I tell people, and no matter how often people tell me I’m ‘so brave’ to talk about it, it doesn’t get easier. A lot of the reason is people really don’t want to hear my answer. It’s like instant leprosy.

By some miracle the hotel had a room available at 9:00AM. Thank God. I fumbled with the key and crashed onto the bed. I lay there, trying to breath. What the hell was I doing? Why did I come to a place that is one massive reminder of her? Panic (I’m using that word a lot today) welled up inside me. I was alone again. I didn’t have anyone to talk to, no confidant to reach out to.

I know writing that last sentence will upset some people. I know I have friends I can call at anytime. I’m not discounting you guys. I love you all… you just aren’t what I need when this happens. I need ‘my person’. A person I can trust to bring comfort, but I don’t have one of those.

Somehow I drifted off to sleep.

When I awoke I felt… different. I felt better. I was also hungry. My first thought was that I wanted to order in and stay holed up in my room the entire day. Here I was, in the place I regularly tout as my favorite place in the world and I wanted to hide from it because I might feel.

I was really at a crossroads. I could continue to avoid the issue, the fact that Christine is gone, or I could go and try and experience this place again.

I put on my shoes and I started walking. I didn’t know where I was going at first, just walking in the general direction of downtown. The Dublin marathon was going and the streets were full. I went this way and that, through the winding streets, avoiding the closed routes. I looked to my right at one point and I saw the Guinness Storehouse. Here was a place we went, a place we had enjoyed together. Anxiety started to build. I was about to feel… and I just let it happen. I cried a bit, I felt sad, and then I walked inside.

I did the tour. Not a single thing has changed since I was there last and each turn was more of a reminder of our past together.

And then I realized something, something so obvious, but in that moment it hit me hard. Hard enough to make my vision swim and my head light. I wasn’t avoiding memories of Christine. I was avoiding admitting that she was gone.

You see, there isn’t anything scary about the second floor of a hotel. There isn’t anything scary about blue Subarus. My old house isn’t scary. The photos I’ve refused to put up around my house aren’t scary. What was scaring me was saying goodbye.

So I went to the top of the Guinness building and stood where we stood and looked out over this city we had loved to explore so much… and I said goodbye.

Geez that’s hard to write. It hurt yesterday and it hurts today thinking about it again.

I stood there like a total weirdo, with wet cheeks, drinking a pint of stout and said goodbye.

Then I made my way around the city. I walked streets we walked together and I said goodbye. I went past the apartment we had shared and said goodbye. Along the canal, a pub we enjoyed, through the grounds of Trinity College, and the Temple Bar, I said goodbye. I sought out everything I could fit into my day yesterday that we shared and said goodbye.

It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fun, but something about it was reassuring and beautiful. I miss her so fucking much it hurts, but I needed to start saying goodbye.

It was getting dark and cold so I started heading back toward the hotel. Like I said, the streets are windy and there is never a clear path to anything in this city. I turned a corner and stood staring at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

In the dark, the cathedral lit up in front of me, I stared at it and thought about the day we had, when Christine let me drag her to yet another old church. I thought about the laughter we shared, our tears, our kids, our life. I wept, and I said goodbye.

I don’t think this part of my life is done. I think I’ll be saying goodbye for a very long time, maybe the rest of my life. But it’s a start. It’s a start.

The Worst Day of My Life

So here it is. The day whose retelling I’ve been dreading. I’m sitting in the Delta Club at Seatac, trying to write this while not bringing attention to myself as tears run down my face. I probably should have waited to start this post until I was in a hotel. I’m not known for my decision making ability.

I don’t remember much about the plane ride home from Norway. I know I had a short connection in Amsterdam but I have no recollection of changing flights. The only clear memories I have are trying to come up with a way to tell my kids. I repeated the hypothetical conversation over and over in my head.

Me: Kids, your mom loved you very much

Me: Guys, your mom has been sick for a long time

Me: Guess what? We’re alone! We’re all alone forever!

Me:

There was no good way to talk about it. My mom had discussed some ideas with a counselor friend of hers and suggested not to tell them upfront that she had taken her own life but wait for them to ask how it happened. OK?

My dad picked me up at the airport. In his usual awkward way he did what he could to comfort me but also told me things I didn’t want to hear. He told me he had told the kids he was going to pick me up from the airport and T had asked ‘Just Dad?’. He told me over and over again he couldn’t imagine how I felt.

People have told me that a lot. ‘I can’t imagine how you feel’. I mean, you can. You totally can. I felt sad, angry, so angry, so sad. I felt like it was all pretend. I felt totally alone.

That’s a theme. Loneliness. Losing one’s spouse is an absolutely crushing experience. Not just because you miss the person, but because you feel like a part of you was taken away. Something you relied on so much is just gone. You don’t have that person to plan the week with, to get annoyed at because they won’t stop that one little pet peeve. You don’t have that person to comfort you when you’re sick, to pick up the slack when you’re having a bad day. This is a hollow explanation. I wish I was better at expressing this feeling. More than anything else it’s absence of self despite still being present. I was part of Christine and she was a big part of me.

We arrived at my parents house. I told my dad to leave the luggage for now, I didn’t want him messing with it while I tried to talk to the kids. I had already told my parents I wanted them to leave me alone in the room with the kids so we could be together. I told her she could come in later.

Fuck. This is so painful. This is just so awfully painful to recount. This is how I took away my kid’s mom from them. It’s how they lost their innocence.

I knew that T had prepared a Mother’s Day gift for Christine. She had been texting me and telling me about a card she wrote and a picture she drew. T is a pleaser. She lives for the appreciation people show her for little acts of kindness and always goes out of her way to do thoughtful things for people. The first thing I saw when I walked into the room was the card, ‘Mom’ written across the front.

K saw me first. She smiled wide.

K: Oh hi!

I sat on the chair.

Me: Hey guys. I need to talk to you

E looked around the room wonderingly. He has a sixth sense about these things and could tell immediately something was up.

Me: Your mom has been sick for a very long time and last night it just became too much for her and she decided to take her own life.

K let out a surprised laugh. It sounded like a dog barking. It was involuntary and the result of shock. T and E looked confused then at once, almost as if they had been practicing for days their little faces broke in perfect synchronization. I crossed the room to them. I held them tight. I asked K to join us, she declined with a shake of her head,  tears streaming down her confused face.

My mom came rushing into the room. Why is it so hard for people to follow direction? I wanted a little bit more time with them. It’s hard to remember good intent when you’re struggling with grief.

Me: I want you to know that before she passed away she asked me to tell you that she loves you. She loves you all so much. She has been so so sick and so sad. I’m sorry you guys.

We cried a lot. They asked me questions I didn’t have answers for. I gave them all presents we had bought for them in Norway and told them why their mom had felt these presents would be the right presents for them. What she thought of them. There was a fur headband she had picked out for T because she wanted them to match. There was a hat for E to match the one she had bought me. A pair of socks for K that was just so wacky and totally her. There was more.

Some people came over. My mom’s former pastor. Good guy. We talked. Her current pastor came over as well. She’s nice. Then a guy was there that told me about his uncle dying and then wanted to talk about running 5 minute miles. He talked over the kids and ignored the issue at hand. I hated him for it. We left. T later told me she wanted me to beat him up.

That night we did the same thing we had the night Christine had made her first attempt on her life. The night the police kicked in the bedroom door and dragged her through the living room in handcuffs.

We went and got ice cream and soda and pizza and candy. We hit up redbox. I bought the kids stuffed animals. We slept together in the living room, something we continued to do for several days. Our bedrooms all seemed too lonely.

My kids are strong. They are so much stronger than me. They’ve been watching me slowly fall apart, especially the past couple weeks, as I realized I hadn’t let myself experience Christine’s loss. They haven’t been judging me when I disappear to my room, when I put together some garbage dinner, when I leave the house for a couple hours with no explanation. I know they hurt too. I don’t know how to hurt with them. I wish so much they never experienced this life and I feel so terrible when I’m around them.

This sucks.