This is the hardest piece I have ever written. My resume contains several obituaries, eulogies, and expressions of my own grief, struggles, and pain.
I’ve been a writer since I became literate. My bedroom has always been littered with notes and doodles on shreds of paper or mail, and piles of journals and notepads. I had a by-line in my state’s newspaper before I hit double digits. A simple letter to Santa that showed the world just how much I observed, and how much of that observation turned to feeling.
Eventually the crayons and colored pencils littered in my backpacks and drawers evolved to pricy German pens, yet throughout my life writing has remained my truest and most sincere form of expression.
The last time I made that statement, “This is the hardest piece I have ever written” was while writing my Husband’s eulogy just ten months after I wrote my vows to him. It was true then, and it is true now. Howard’s eulogy was about him. It was love and pain. It was what happened. This is more complicated; this is me. This is what I’m going to do with what happened.
The Cliff’s Notes Version
Howard and I met in highschool, more on all that later, but for now all you need to know is that we were always friends. We were within a tight circle of over achievers and over thinkers. The kind of kids who would obtain a fake ID to vote. We knew each other well, we were lab partners, and that means more when you’re doing cadaver labs at 16.
We reconnected in our early 20’s, and it just clicked. We both knew it, and we both just let it happen from the very first date.
I was finding my way in the sales world, real estate was sticking, and I was loving it. Howard was working at the biggest animal shelter in the state. He helped perform low income spay and neuters on a mobile surgery unit and was educating our community about animals.
We were young and figuring out life, but we were in love and that filtered the way we saw the world.
Within 6 months I was living with Howard, and he was joining my family on sentimental vacations. He fit right in. We just fit.
On the 3rd anniversary of our first date Howard proposed at Red Rocks. I had his commitment long before that moment. I was happy to get the ring and make it official, but I was perfectly content. We had an engagement party that summer and announced we had made no plans but planned to wed at some point.
Two years later, on the 5th anniversary of our first date, we married.
They say weddings and funerals bring out the worst in families and I fully agree. Our wedding was beautiful, we were surrounded by love; and it was really hard, with lasting effects.
Howard and I kind of bunkered down from the world a bit. We honeymooned in Mexico a month after our wedding and did our best to focus our energy within our relationship. We were evaluating what we wanted out of life and attempting to set the appropriate boundaries in order to get it.
Throughout all of this I was drinking. More and more. Any addict will tell you the addiction carries weight that falls onto absolutely every aspect of your life. Looking back sober, I believe drinking was my way to cope with some serious mental health issues. I was lost and when I reached out into the abyss, I clung to the first vodka bottle I found comfort in and just didn’t let go.
I fell hard, but I knew it wasn’t a bottom. As I did what others who struggled before me promised me would help, I felt a sense of impending doom. Somehow, even then I knew my efforts wouldn’t be enough.
Howard and I greeted 2018 with hope and optimism. He was turning 30, I wasn’t drinking, and everything else, as he often said, “Doesnt Fuckin’ Matter.”
I went big for Howard’s 30th in January. Our first year of marriage was intense, because of me. He stuck by me through it all because he was incredible in that way. He deserved so much more than a day, but I could make it a hell of a day.
It was a good day. There was drama as there always is and that rattled me more than usual because I was so newly sober. I was a mess trying my very best not to be.
A few days after Howard’s birthday I nearly died myself in a car accident. I got lucky. Luckier than anyone ever should be. I had help that night that I still do not understand.
At the time, this was my bottom. I was truly defeated as I accepted that what I was doing simply was not working for me anymore, and I let go.
I let go of the control that I so obviously did not have but was clinging to so desperately nonetheless. I was open; I wanted to grow. I was vulnerable.
Then Howard died.
My hope, at the time, died with him.
The next year and a half was a free fall. I was alive, but I was not living. I had no desire to.
Absolutely everything hurt. I ruined relationships because I couldn’t allow myself to feel the gratitude and love others had for me, and because I couldn’t let go of the disappointment when they didn’t fill the void I felt tearing through my soul.
Eventually I had a moment of clarity as some call it. I hated who I was becoming. I was disgusted with myself and for the first time, I hoped Howard could not still see me.
I began to pick up the pieces that had fallen around me and put them together. I will be doing this for the rest of my life.
I experienced trauma the night Howard died. I had not begun to deal with the mental effects of my accident and the two compounded. The trauma from his death also made me aware of past trauma I had not yet addressed.
I had nothing to cling to. My situation was unique, and I couldn’t find how I fit in the world anymore. I could not find a space, so I created my own.
I found my own way to sing the blues, loudly and bluntly with lots of “fucks” to get your attention.
I documented everything. The facts, the feelings, the pain, the triggers, the overall struggle and now the comeback. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but I wanted to share it. In the hopes that someone else can find something to cling to in their darkest moments.
My writing has always been a gift I’m aware of; my grief, however, is one I’m still learning to utilize. My purpose, I believe I will find as I continue to write my being into words.
Over the next year I plan to tell this same story-really tell it. I plan to talk about things that are so often avoided in the hopes it sparks necessary conversation and perhaps even a difference in the experience of a person struggling.
In order to do this I have to be incredibly vulnerable. I am sharing the deepest and darkest parts of myself. It took me time to get here. Grief is complicated and mine certainly is. I accept that it is not logical, it changes, and I will never fully understand it.
Please consider that perspective as I share with you, and remember, I’m singing the blues.
I had no choice in becoming a widow- however, it gave me the power and tenacity to become a warrior.