No matter how hard I try, I just can't let these '22nds' pass without notice. I see the date and immediately do the count. September to February = 5 months + one year = 17 months. How is that even possible? I still feel like a 'recent' widow, but I probably don't qualify to use that term any longer. Who decides those things? The same folks who say 'young' widows can't be 50 or older? Gee thanks. I do so hate labels.
At times it feels like 9/22/10 was only yesterday. I can be transported back to exact moments and conversations in the blink of an eye ... and then other times it feels like forever since I held his hand in mine. I know I will survive this. I know I will find my way. I will do this for him, and my faith will carry me through. But make no mistake - this is not easy. There is no master widow calendar that calculates when our grieving is finished. And our minds work against us constantly. Guilt on those days when we hear ourselves laughing and then someone says the wrong thing (good to see you have moved on ... what? no i have not!). Regrets for things we wished we had said or done when they were alive. The loneliness ... the quiet ... missing him.
Sue, a dear online caregiver/widow friend, wrote today: "Help me God to fight as hard for myself as I did for him." Her words really made me think. There wasn't a thing I wouldn't have done for Vern - there wasn't a thing I didn't do for him - during those long 4+ years fighting cancer. I got up each day thinking positive thoughts and took whatever the day threw at us. I always put on the happy face for Vern .. always. No matter what news we were given, I found a positive way to spin it for him. I talked him back from the edge. It made a real difference in his attitude; his medical team even noted it. And I believe it gave us those extra years the docs weren't expecting. So why can't I accept that it's ok to fight hard for myself? I deserve it. He would want me to not just survive ... but to thrive. So I will make that effort. I will be aware of the beauty all around me. I will carve out time to do special things I enjoy. I will try to resurrect those creative juices I once had. I'm ready to fight hard for myself.
I did take a really big step forward last weekend by emptying the storage shed we have been paying for - and having a dumpster delivered to my house to toss what I could. It was not easy and I did not finish this task ... yet. Lots of memories in there. A lot of things to toss, too. And even more boxes I haven't sorted through yet that are now in my garage. So while I feel very happy that the shed is empty, my house is even more of a disaster zone right now. I caught a bug over the weekend and wasn't able to get everything done, but I can keep the dumpster over this next weekend to finish things up. I know it will feel good to finally reclaim our home from all of this 'stuff'. I'm ready to fight hard for myself.
As difficult as that "empty the shed" day was emotionally, it ended on a wonderful note. A myeloma caregiver/widow friend I met online back in 2006 was in town for a conference and we shared a wonderful evening together. There is a very special bond created through sharing these difficult life experiences. I've had the privilege of meeting several of my online widow friends in person - either here in Vegas when they were visiting or at Camp Widow. I cannot imagine how much more difficult this grieving was in the days before the internet.
And speaking of Camp Widow ... I finally booked my flight to Myrtle Beach in April where I will meet even more of my special Widowed Village friends. I plan to push myself to be more outgoing at this year's camp - to not be afraid to approach others if I find myself alone. I'm ready to fight hard for myself.