My Purpose

I have grown into believing that in every situation there is a lesson…and all that happens to us has a purpose.  Actually, if I think back…maybe I am just wired like that. I do distinctively recall a lot of eye rolling from my best friend through high school on when I would sputter “everything happens for a reason” whenever something adverse happened to her.  It drove her crazy!  Maybe it’s that those of us believing in this theory are just eternal optimists that are spinning each situation into having a silver lining to make ourselves feel better…but either way, it works for me that bad things don’t just happen for no reason at all.  I get to learn and evolve as I go.

Well, when someone you love dies it makes you question this theory.  Especially when it is someone who hasn’t lived a full life yet.  Someone who has children…and small ones at that.  Someone who was loved by all and fought as hard as he could and that made no difference.  He went through a hell of a year fighting and being sick for no difference in outcome than if he didn’t fight at all and just gave up.  He is gone.  It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  He had plans, WE had plans.

This isn’t an “Everything happens for a reason” situation here.  If that was said to me a month ago…you’d get far more than an eye roll!!  However, I am beginning to look at things a bit differently as time marches on and I get further into the healing process.

I am beginning to believe that we all weren’t meant to be on this earth for 90 or 100 years.  I believe we all have a purpose…some have many purposes. Babies right through to those living 100+ years. When we are taken…our purpose(s) were served.  I’m sure Matt, over his 38 years and especially in his last year, inspired, motivated, healed, loved and impacted many.  I can’t say that there was a reason for him dying, but I can certainly say there was a reason for him living.

So many said to me over the year I was with Matt that I was an angel sent to him and then even more so just after he passed.  It made me uncomfortable because I wasn’t with him to be a saint, out of pity or for whatever reason some people thought (it was nastily said to me by a certain someone after he passed that I liked the “show” of being with Matt!!  I say prayers for that person!!).  I actually fell in love with him and he helped me more than I could have ever imagined in my own grieving process at the time.  Odd that I am left in albeit another time of grief by the one who helped me heal!

I, now that I am moving through my stages of grief and through starting a new relationship, am actually embracing being told that I was his angel.  That was MY purpose for him.  It wasn’t a cruel twist of the universe…as I first felt when he died…to give me love, healing and hope and then snatch it away like a greedy crook.  I look back and know how many times alone we spent cracking each other up.  Rides to the hospital flew by and I swear people thought we were nuts at the laughing and goofing off in the waiting rooms when everyone there was in the midst of a dire situation.  I brought him smiles, laughter and love.  And he brought me the same.  He was my angel, too.  My tears of grief that would arrive in those alone times (especially in the car!) lessened and finally disappeared because of him. The pain in my chest that I held for so long that I didn’t even realize was there…was replaced by feelings of love from and for him.  The grief never goes away, but Matt helped me live happily with it there.  A purpose he had was to help heal me and show me I was able to love again.

It’s nearing five months since he’s been gone.  I am lucky enough, and unlucky enough, to have met someone new to care for so soon.  Grief and a new partner has it’s own set of challenges for both parties.  But I see when starting a relationship without a sickness…which is all I have really known in the past decade…I was missing out on so much…even though I didn’t realize it then.   I didn’t feel like it was lacking anything…it was perfect for what it was at the time.  We were fulfilling a purpose for each other.  Just as this new man in my life is in a role of helping me heal, he is serving a purpose.  I am not sure if this is his only purpose with me and we will part ways tomorrow or next month or next year…or never…or how I am helping him, but he is making me smile and drying my tears (like literally drying them…hence the “unlucky enough” said previously).

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I am now taking comfort in all the roles people past and present have played in my life.  I am embracing all the lessons, love and healing and trying to let that take precedence over what’s been lost and gone wrong.  Eye roll all you want.

Living in Our (Grief) Trigger-Happy World…

Triggers…the unexpected and probably one of the hardest parts of losing someone you love.   When you are all aboard on this grief train…it’s enough to derail you.  Being that this isn’t the first time I am getting my ticket punched and setting out on this journey…it doesn’t derail me quite as easily, as I know what to expect…however, it seems almost constant at this point.

What’s a grief trigger? A grief trigger is anything that brings up memories related to a loss. What are grief triggers for me?  It would appear that it’d probably be easier to explain what aren’t…but here we go.

Let’s start with the obvious and in-your-face ones.  A birthday.  Matt’s birthday is at the end of this month.  He never made it to 39.  That’ll be a tough day, well, a tougher day…although, learning from my own history, the days before will be the worst when anticipating that monumental day…and the actual day will be okay and filled mostly with good memories and smiles.  Milestones counting out from the death is another obvious one.  First it’s days…then it’s weeks (yesterday it was six weeks since Matt passed)…then it’s months…then you get to the “angelversay” as we call it in our household.  We just passed Mike’s 3rd Angelversary just days after Matt passed away.  September can officially “suck it”. I’m always anticipating those triggers.  You can brace yourself for them and you can plan for your derailment…which, unfortunately, makes it no easier, but at least you have a head’s up.

Then there’s the unexpected triggers you face throughout your days. And weeks. And months.  And years.  I am letting out a big sigh as I just typed that.  My life, since embarking on own my path with Matt, was completely intertwined with him.  We never got to live together (which was our plan as soon as he was “healthy”), but if he wasn’t physically with me…he was on my mind.  Or I was traveling to visit him.  Or I was cooking for him.  Or I was texting him.  Or researching for him.  That makes for going through the days and weeks after he’s gone with a lot of reminders that he is not here.  A lot of free time on my hands that was typically was monopolized by him.  So, even the empty space in my days is a grief trigger.  Having empty space is starting to become my norm, so my new routine is starting to get a little easier.

And then there’s the grab bag of other reminders…the person that walks in the restaurant that looks like him, the song on the radio, the posts and pictures of the Grassdrags Matt was really hoping to introduce me to, looking down at your little boy who’s looking up at you…and drastically resembling Daddy, washing the sweatshirt you stole from him, the random post in your news feed about them…and there’s so many other little and unexpected things, smells, sounds that occur…and regardless of how small or insignificant they seem…they can drop you to your knees, or make you feel like you want to, because the pain is so intense.  Then you pick yourself up and move on until the next one comes along.

Working with the public combined with being so open on social media and through my blog, I come into contact with people daily who knew of Matt’s illness and were up to speed on the final days.  I am friends with a large portion of my customers…some closer than others.  We all catch up with each others’ lives when they visit.  Right up until yesterday I am seeing people for the first time since Matt died who are giving their condolences…hard, but welcomed.  And even harder (for them, not me) are the ones who are out of the loop and ask how Matt’s treatments are going.  That always makes for an awkward conversation…I still haven’t found the right words for that one. More grief triggers.

This becomes the norm.  Life, a series of reminders…triggers.  Sometimes all day…sometimes not for a while.  But forever. I can tell you, years later, I can’t hear an ambulance without being zapped right back to the day Mike was rushed to the hospital only to be gone from us a few days later.  I now know, because of this, that I will never hear a helicopter without thinking of Matt being airlifted to Boston. Throughout your days, I assure you that there are a lot more ambulances and helicopters than you realize!!!

I’m in no hurry to go through this process.  I know from experience that there’s no time limit on when you travel through all the stages of the journey. I will be glad when I am out of what seems like the zombie stage(my own non-technical term). I’ve never seen even a few minutes of the Walking Dead, but I can picture a zombie creature walking down the street, labored, and being hit with bullet after bullet…and they still keep going.  The trigger bullets keep coming, and I keep going.  I am the zombie taking the hits and going through the grocery store by the “Mitchell’s Fresh” sign without outwardly flinching. I am waiting on the customer that uncannily looks like Matt without batting an eye.  I will continue to pour drinks with a smile while a family member sits at my bar and fondly tells stories about Matt.  I will be cleaning the house with the kids when that song comes on…and I will just continue on.  But then I will get in the car alone and let it go.  I will feel it and by the time I’ve reached my destination I will be thanking my waterproof mascara and leftover napkins from Dunkin Donuts on the seat beside me…and move forward.  I will go to bed fine, then hit with a trigger, curl into a ball, get though my grief attack…and then pick up my phone and play my kids and other various opponents in my new favorite smartphone app.

So, what I have learned from mourning Mike and being with Matt, is that the triggers never go away.  Those triggers will be shot at you like bullets, like it or not.  The difference is that over time they don’t need to always be so painful.  They can bring a smile.  A good memory.  Sometimes sadness. Sometimes pain.  But not like it feels in the beginning.

For now, I will be thankful that even through the sadness and pain…and bullets… that I am able to find joy in my children’s smiles and laughter, that I am able to belly laugh whole-heartedly with friends and co-workers…and that I can just merely get out of bed…while it’s still in the a.m… I know that it won’t always feel the way it does today.

Zombie-like or not…I’m moving forward.

“Give Sorrow Words”

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” ~ Shakespeare

This insightful quote…and the encouragement of my kids…leaves me opening up a blank page and continue writing.  Keeping grief locked up keeps the pain locked up.  I’ll give my sorrow words…

Three years ago, I came to learn about real grief for the first time in my life.  I had lost numerous people…but when it is someone so close…someone you let into your heart…it’s far different.  This first experience was with my son’s father.  I guess it’s probably the same feeling as when you lose a best friend, parent, sibling, or even worse…God forbid a child.  I guess I was lucky making it 41 years escaping that pain.

So, this time around, losing Matt a week ago, it doesn’t hurt any less.  However, this time around I have some hope that I won’t always be stuck where I am.  That feeling where I just want it to be bed time so I can sleep (well, lie there and try and sleep), having that walking around in a fog type of feeling, just plain being non-functional.  Like not remembering how to even tie your shoes type of non-functional.

This time, I am able to see the milestones and know that I am headed in the right direction.  Today, for instance, I made my cup of coffee this morning and came to the computer rather than back to bed.  Baby steps.  I clicked on the website for the grocery store circular armed with paper and pen.   The goal was  to make a list and plan dinners judging on the sales and get myself out to the store…eventually. I clicked on the site.  I haven’t looked at it and the paper and pen sit in front of me untouched.  But it’s still baby steps.

Right now, I am going to put on my Pandora music stations and attempt to get some cleaning done.  Then get back to my grocery list.  I don’t know how far I will get, but getting the music on and out of this chair (and avoiding my bed) will be steps in the right direction.  Moving forward…

And Grief trickles in…

Grief trickles in. Yes, it does.

Unexpectedly, I have a night alone with Brayden. Jamie (my oldest) invited DJ (my next oldest) to his home for the night…and Mackenzie (my only daughter)was invited over a friend’s house for the evening. There go my sitters for my tentative plans…and here goes a night home, just me and my littlest.

Cool. We will do dinner and a movie. Done. Bedtime lasted about two hours longer than the norm…but he’s sound asleep…finally.

My goal, after Bray’s bedtime, was to put in a movie and pour a glass of wine. The chick flick I planned on was more of a “get your tissues ready and have a good cry” kinda flick.

Grief trickled in. I have been so worried and consumed with what is going on with Matt and his battle with cancer, I’ve allowed no time for worrying about anything else. It felt good to let it go. I actually forgot the grief was there. It’s there, it always is, bubbling at the surface and it unexpectedly started boiling over without warning.

When you lose someone you truly love, the grief is always there…I am learning it just comes out differently and at different times. I am happy I am with someone who is willing to stand by me with that bit of instability as a part of who I now am. Who shows no fear or jealousy of that past love.

Thanks, Matt, for getting me through when it “trickles” in. Now, off to find a happier chick flick…

It’s that time again…

It’s September 9th, 2014.  Two years ago on September 9th it was the last time I had a conversation with Mike. It was a Sunday morning and I had just pulled into the driveway after going to church.  The kids all got out of the car, except Brayden…he stayed in his car seat until I let him escape after my phone call.  The conversation went pretty much the same as they all did at that point.

Him: “Wendy, I want to come home”, “Why are you doing this to us”, “The kids want me there”, “I love you”.

Me: “No”, “YOU did this”, “Course they want you here, they love you”, “I love you, too”….”Get sober and you can come home…like a year sober”.

Sometimes it ended there.  That Sunday it got a little heated, not yelling and screaming heated, but I was angry.  He wasn’t visiting.  He wasn’t paying any support.

My last words?  “If I wasn’t around, Brayden would just die in his crib, you are doing nothing to care for or support your son”. (Yes, pretty extreme, I know.)

His response? “I love you, Wendy”.

He hung up.

That was it.

I went about my day.  Went to the grocery store just before dinner time.  Upon leaving the grocery store…at the lights in front of what is now Domino’s…my phone rang.  It was Alyssa.  I answered and had to tell her to slow down because I couldn’t understand her.  “Daddy’s at the hospital, he wasn’t breathing when they got there” she was finally able to get out enough for me to comprehend.  She was referring to the ambulance and paramedics. That’s all I really recall of the conversation.  I am sure I comforted her and said I’d be right there.

That sentence “Daddy’s at the hospital, he wasn’t breathing when they got there” was a chant that I heard over and over and over.  All the way home.  While I was home getting care for the kids.  All the way to the hospital.

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The rest of September 9th, 2012 was spent at the ICU…as well as the 10th…and we said goodbye on the 11th.

This is the second time I am recognizing this anniversary of the 9th, our last conversation.  A hard pill to swallow when they are words like that.

It’s not easy, but it’s definitely easier.  I am so thankful that I am in a much better place in my healing.  I thank the person responsible for that on a regular basis.

We miss him and it hurts to know he can’t experience everything I get to about the kids growing and see all that they are doing.  It’s hard know they won’t experience his goofiness or sense of humor anymore.  We will just keep doing what we are doing and that’s continue to re-tell his funny stories and antics, keeping his spirit alive. That always brings smiles and laughter.  Peace, Mike.

 

I couldn’t agree with this more…

I read this article with tears streaming down my face.  The comments that followed made me ill.  People were disagreeing with the author…belittling addiction and that it is someone’s free will to stop drinking/drugging.  Clearly these folks have never been touched by the disease of addiction.  I have.  I have seen a man deteriorate before my eyes.  Anyone who knew him saw the way he looked at his children and the way he spoke of them.  Given the chance not to live in his hell and be here right now to watch them grow…I have no doubt that is 100% what he’d do.  Right on Corrigan.

Corrigan Vaughan

PhD student and pop culture blogger for ElectricFeast.com

A Note About Philip Seymour Hoffman: Addiction Is Not Selfish

Posted: 04/02/2014 09:30
Philip Seymour Hoffman
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hilip Seymour Hoffman’s death is the worst. Seriously. In much the same way that Chris Kelly’s was. Or Cory Monteith’s. And if you’re now looking at me like I’m crazy for even using Hoffman and Monteith in the same article, hear me out: It’s not because they were equal talents. Your opinion on that probably depends on whether you’re 15 or 35. This is not about losing one of the greatest talents of our time. Their deaths are horrific because they died alone, victims of an incredibly lonely disease. And what’s worse, they didn’t have to be alone. Loving significant others, loving children, admiration from everyone around them- if they could, I’m sure they would have chosen those things.

My dad was my biggest fan. He was the biggest fan of all of his kids. I was probably the only one who realised it, and I understand why. But when he died, wasted away and a shell of his former self after a lethal fall, the only possessions he had were photos of us and letters we’d written him decades ago. He would have liked to have been at our sporting events and our graduations, but instead he was drinking himself to death in a second-floor apartment in my hometown, bipolar disorder only adding immediacy to the fatal inevitabilities of his alcoholism. Anyone who thinks dying from an overdose is selfish has a weird idea of what an addict wants out of life. There comes a point at which drinking, drug use, all that – they’re not fun anymore. Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t out partying. He was alone in his bathroom, compelled. Cory Monteith in his hotel room. Chris Kelly in his living room. All the money in the world, all the adoring fans in the world, and, to see the comments people make on their deaths, they were selfish assholes who chose drugs over the people who loved them.

I guarantee that every time Hoffman put that needle in his arm, he felt guilty. He felt conflicted. He craved that high that would take the pain away, but knew the pain he caused himself and those around him every time he took a hit.

We all have destructive habits. If we’re lucky, it’s watching too much TV when it’s inhibiting our productivity, or looking at porn when we think it’s a sin, or lying, cheating, overeating. If we’re lucky, our addictions won’t kill us. The majority of us can go through a partying phase and then grow up, settle down, and put down the sauce. But for an unfortunate group, the need to keep going becomes as pervasive as the need to eat or sleep. And we call them selfish, as if they would prefer to be a slave to the thing that’s ruining everything good in their lives.

When tragedies like these deaths happen to celebrities, they should be a wake-up call for the rest of us. If someone who has everything going for them can be so horribly enslaved to what they know could kill them, imagine what it’s like for the average addict. Addiction is bigger than class, race, religion, or any other factor that one might hope would reduce its captive hold. Succumbing to it isn’t selfish. It’s horribly sad and extremely difficult to prevent, even though it is, in theory, preventable. The way we talk about a celebrity who ODs says a lot about the way we think about people who are struggling around us. It’s time we tried to understand struggles we don’t endure ourselves. It’s called empathy, and we could all use a lot more of it.

This post originally appeared on Electric Feast.

***”F” IT!!!!***

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I have been craving to blog lately…it’s been a while…a long while…too long.  I have a few blog ideas dancing around in my mind, but none are complete and a few are mildly inappropriate.  One is definitely inappropriate.  So, while I complete my ideas before putting them to print…or cleaning them up before publishing, I thought I would post one of my favorite Facebook posts from last July.  It rewarded me with the most heartfelt and inspiring comments and personal messages.  Those words people wrote kept me pushing forward and healing.  I admit there have been many steps back in the last 6 months…but at the end of the day, I am a little further ahead than I was yesterday.  Here it goes:

From July 10th, 2013:

***”F” IT!!!!*** Okay, I’ll explain….Here we are. It’s the 10th of the month. Which is not monumental…except for the fact that the past nine months it’s a day I spend dreading that the NEXT day marks another month since we said goodbye to Michael…since we last saw him living. September 11th. The 11th is the monumental day….but the 10th is usually spent worrying about getting through the 11th. This month feels different for me, though. Why? “F” it. The F’s in my life. Faith. My faith in God has been there for me and the love of God for me NEVER fails…not only that, it gets stronger. Next, Friends and Family. I am in awe of the support and love I have felt from them (you) over this past year. My cheering sections and uplifting words of encouragement when I felt I was failing. Time devoted to me that I am so grateful for. Even the “likes” and “comments” can mean so much!! And next, Fitness. My “me” time and natural anti-depressant, anti-anxiety and just all over feel good about myself remedy. My body is feeling strong, which makes my mind and soul feel much stronger now. And finally, Future. I feel like this time healing has allowed me to realize that I not only have the past memories, the present pain…but a future full of unknown new memories…good ones…and I’m sure some bad… But I look forward to them. So,”F” IT!!!