Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Boston was full of beauty this evening.

The temperature was a mild fifty-five degrees and the rain, which had been falling for the better part of the day had finally stopped, leaving a glimmering sheen on the streets, reflecting images of holiday decorations ornamenting the buildings and lamp posts. People were out shopping, dining, walking and enjoying the spring-like, albeit sodden and unseasonable weather. I was one of those people.

I headed home from the Symphony area at roughly seven-thirty and made a snap decision to bypass Hynes Auditorium Station, the green line stop at which I had arrived, opting instead to walk the length of Boylston Street. I had planned to bang a left and a right at the Boston Common and jump on the train at Downtown Crossing riding a straight shot on the orange line all the way to Malden.

My plans were altered when I began to suspect that I was close to Back Bay Station. I stood on the corner at a red light straining to remember how to get there. A man appeared to my right and the two of us stood there, detained by the passing traffic. “Excuse me.” I said, realizing that I could simply ask somebody if I was anywhere near my station of choice. As it turned out, I was a mere two blocks away. His directions resulted in my execution of a quarter-turn and heading perpendicular to the direction in which I was facing.

I began to experience rapid thought fragments. “My direction just changed on a dime. Everything can change on a dime. Chris’ life changed on a dime. My life changed on a dime. I bumped into a man, asked directions and now I’m headed in an entirely different direction than the one in which I was heading just one minute ago.”

LIfe is liquid. There are no guarantees and no promises. There should be no expectations, only aspirations. For the rest of my life, I will have this knowledge, this wisdom.

Earlier in the evening, I had been talking with a friendly acquaintance whom I very much adore. We walked together for a time, he, I and his dog and I posed a question to him which I had been pondering for a couple of years. I remembered that during Chris’ illness, this man mentioned that he knew how it felt to take care of someone and carry them through hospice care. At the time, I assumed that he lost a lover and I had been wanting to ask him to tell me about it for the past couple of years. Tonight, I broke my silence and asked him. My friend clarified that his best friend had died from AIDS ten years ago, while under hospice care in my friend’s home.

He shared with me his experience during his grief period, which he spent mostly in movie theaters, escaping into the lives of others in an effort to escape the pain of his loss. He recalled to me one New Year’s Day in which he sat in a theater in Times Square viewing a showing of The Titanic. I can certainly understand escapism, although I, myself have and continue to escape by way of performing and exercising. Still, the desire to be rid of the pain is the same if our venues of choice differ. He told me that at the end of his grieving spell, he woke up one day and decided that it was time to start living again.

Many people have told me that eventually it will be time for me to start living again, but somehow those words have more impact, coming from a person who has experienced trauma so closely related to my own.

I asked him to share his views on the afterlife with me. He said he needs to believe in an afterlife because he can’t believe that this cruel, fucking world is all that there is, nor can he believe that he is never going to see his friend or his grandmother again. I took note of a slight difference in our beliefs. For me, an afterlife exists. I do not need to believe it. I do believe it. I just do. Even so, his belief in the afterlife filled me with comfort. His answer was everything I wanted and needed it to be. I agree that this world is a cruel, fucking place.

I then asked him if he has ever felt the presence of his deceased loved ones and he answered that he isn’t sure. He said sometimes he can feel really good and really happy but that might be just because he is thinking about his loved ones. I can understand that. I, myself, am not entirely certain whether I feel Chris’ presence of whether I feel peace and I’m simply attributing that to my Creejie. I don’t know whether I will ever know the answer to that question.

After we parted ways and I began my trek down Boylston Street, I realized that I was experiencing an unfamiliar emotion which I could not fully identify. I was walking so slowly. I haven’t walked that slowly or felt so carefree in a long, long time. The city of Boston fills me with memories and me and Chris. Together we must have covered every remote corner of the city. Everywhere I looked was another memory. Tonight, I was unaffected by those memories. I felt no sadness, only awareness that Chris and I had been there. I know what I wasn’t feeling. Guilt. I wasn’t feeling depressed or scared and I was not feeling anxiety. What was I feeling? I didn’t know, yet.

When I finally identified my emotion, I nearly tripped over myself. I was feeling peace. I haven’t felt peace since the day Chris’ doctor noticed a mass near his bladder. The feeling was all encompassing, like someone squeezed me and all of the air and all of the tension came rushing out from within me. I was breathing! I can’t remember the last time I could breathe easily and effortlessly.

No tension. No anxiety. No fear. Just peace and the sudden knowledge that my life is going to grow into something beautiful again.

Chris’ birthday has passed. Thanksgiving has passed. Christmas and New Years Eve and New Years Day are coming. A full year will have passed since my love’s demise.

No more firsts. Only seconds. I want seconds. Second chances. Second helpings. Seconds adding to minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades of love, happiness and fulfillment.

That’s not a whole lot to want.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Choices, Smart and Otherwise

The term “working out” is so completely appropriate for what it does to alleviate and, in many cases, obliterate my grief. When I am lifting weights and running, I am working out most of my troubles, these days. Working out prompts me to breathe properly, feeling my diaphragm rise and fall, which has an incredibly meditative effect throughout my mind and body. I began my Sunday morning at the gym today, whcih turned out to be a very smart, constructive choice, unlike the choice I made last night.

Last night, I left the open mike and proceeded to drive down Mass Ave. in Cambridge at 45 miles per hour. I was angry, to say the least. The restaurant closed early, without warning, and I didn’t have enough time to wind down and get ready to think about returning to my empty, darkened home and my empty bed. I panicked and drove away much too fast, an act of which I am ashamed. How adolescent it was for me to act out my anger in such a destructive way. I could have hurt someone. I could have hurt myself. I will not be doing that again.

On the way home, I detoured and drove down the street I lived on with Chris. I parked across the street from our old apartment and fell apart, looking at the lights in the windows. There used to be lights in those windows for me. There used to be light in that apartment for me. I wanted so badly to be able to fall over onto my front seat and fall asleep there, pining for my sweet Chris, screaming inside for him to come home to me. I was a woman on the edge of insanity last night. One light breeze would have blown me right off that edge. Luckily, my windows were closed.

I had accumulated too much anger and panic just being away from home for four days. In effect, I had too much down time which means too much time to think. Thinking does not serve me well, these days.

However, I am happy to report that because I spent my day exercising, having coffee with a good friend, singing and cooking, I have turned the effects of this past holiday weekend around in quite a productive way. I have been in a wonderful mood since this morning, which was my standard mood five weeks ago before I began anticipating the holiday weekend and Chris’ birthday.

There is just one more month of firsts for me to get through. Of course, once this year is over, I will still be dealing with my issues, my guilt, my sadness, my trauma and a host of additional problems in the aftermath of my husband’s sickness and death. I’ll be okay, though. In many ways, I feel as though January 1st 2006 will be graduation day for me. I know the day is going to be horrid and I plan to spend it in the company of anyone who will have me, which is anyone I ask. My support system continues to be strong. I’m very lucky for that.

Tonight, though, I am uplifted, light, airy and hopeful. I will rest easy this evening. I need to rest easy.



Saturday, November 26, 2005

Coffee is Coffee

I just got finished walking Sammy, my mother’s toy poodle. There is something to be said about the way a dog can help me through some of my grief. I have been away from home for three days and that is three days more than I can stand being away from home.

Last night, I went to bed at 9:30 and cried for hours. I cried all of the tears I have suppressed for the past couple of days. Sammy handled me like a pro, though, lapping the tears off of my eyes, curling up in that space that gets created when you spoon alone. Of course, his minscule, toy-poodly self fit in the curve of my neck.

Last night, the pain of Chris’ absense was too much for me to bear. I pictured myself on the bed with my wrists slit, stepping in front of the bus, getting cancer, murdered, etc... None of it mattered, though, because once I pictured my family and friends grieving, I realized, as I always do, that I’m in this lifetime for the long haul.

What hurts the most is that Chris can’t answer me. He can’t talk to me. We can’t converse about what happened to him and why. I know that sounds ridiculous. I don’t seriously believe that can happen, but it’s what makes me cry the most. I miss conversing with him.

I also have some guilt. I think I may be about to meet and have a cup of coffee with Internet Guy, the man I have been e-mailing with for the past seven months. I had never mentioned Chris to him or that I had been married before. Before I left for the weekend, I e-mailed him about Chris’ death, explaining that it’s the reason I have canceled every time we talked about meeting. I wanted him to know that I do want to meet him, but that I’m in the midst of a very difficult time. He sent me the lovliest of replies in which he reassured me that I need not feel pressured in the least and that he completely understands. He seems like a really nice guy.

This past weekend was extremely difficult. I tried to keep my composure when all I really wanted to do was wail. I so want to be ready to have wonderful, joyful days and nights, as scary as that feels for me. I am in the midst of a boxing match and guilt is in the other corner, standing six feet three and weighting 265 pounds. Ding!

A couple of my friends/family have suggested that I try a different, less addictive anti-depressant. I could, I suppose. I want to wait until after the holidays, though, because if I’m only falling apart because of them, that means I can go this on my own by renting comedies and singing. I suspect that I can.

Is it time for a man? Is it not? I don’t know. What I keep forgetting is that coffee is coffee. It isn’t marriage.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


I don’t want to get out of bed. I tried to. I actually got up and walked into the kitchen but Bonnie’s not awake yet and I need her. I’m staying right where I am until I hear her.

Today hasn’t even started yet and I want it to be over. I want to be home. I wish I could be home. Not yet though. I have today to get through, in the company of my loved ones and then I have tomorrow and Saturday to get through in the company of more loved ones. It’s better that way. Nothing is really making these two days feel better, but spending them alone probably would not have been the best idea.

I’m tired already and I haven’t even done anything. I’m going back to sleep.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Chrisless Birthday

I’m laying in the bed in the guest room, scared, wondering if I’ll always feel this way. When will I get to feel normal again? Ever?

Chris’ birthday went well. Bonnie, Robert, Edna, Renee, Beth, Emily, Hannah and me sent out for pizza and when we were finished eating, Bonnie brought out a birthday cake she made for Chris. We were going to try to write, “Happy Birthday Chris” on it with cake decorating frosting but the tubes of frosting were impossible to sqeeze so instead, we decided to etch “Happy Birthday Chris” onto the cake with a stick. Chris would have laughed about that and would probably have said, “How nice for me.”

I did manage to squeeze some frosting in the shape of a love heart out. I said to Bonnie, “You know what Chris would have called me for this.” She replied, “A little faggot?” and I elaborated, “A little love-faggot.”

Right about then, I felt a surge of sadness coming over me and decided to swallow an Ativan to head off my grief at the pass. I went to the guest room to get my pill and began to cry. I corralled my feelings and went back into the kitchen.

We sang Happy Birthday, cut and ate the cake and then I asked if it would be too much to go around the table asking everyone to say something they are thankful to Chris for. It was a very nice way to remember him and love him.

Our 7 year old niece,Hannah, had been worried about the party all week because she thought Bonnie and I would cry. We explained to her that when we cry about Chris, it’s because we love him so much so it’s okay.

Finally, we toasted to Chris and clicked our glasses together.

All in all, the day went as planned. It was hard. It was sad. It was scary.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Scared of Tomorrow

I had originally subtitled this entry (Chris’ Birthday) but deleted it because I couldn’t stand to look at it.

I’m scared of tomorrow. In a lot of ways, the passing of his birthday is making the brute reality of my situation hit home. I would never not hug Chris on his birthday. I would never not say “Happy Birthday” to him. Those two facts alone force me to accept that he is no longer here. His life ended almost a year ago. Today, for a moment, I wondered what conversations we might have had that would have lead up to my decision about what his gift should have been. I already know that we would have dined out and toasted to another year, to how he beat cancer and to a whole host of other blessings.

I can feel terror slowly seeping into my pores and beginning to course through my blood vessels. I can physically feel the terror coating my under skin.

I am going to hold onto the hope that when tomorrow passes, so will the fear and that awful feeling that something horrible has happened will begin to diminish.

When will something horrible cease to “have” happened and become something that “had” happened?

Cautiously, yet bravely...and with half the breath I normally have,

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sofa Psychosis or A Good Mood

As I walked to the train station this evening after work, I noticed the absense of something and that something was grief. When I realized how calm, serene and content I was, I breathed in the feeling and just allowed myself to cuddle with the peace and be completely thankful for the proof that I am still able to feel this way. I had forgotten I had such capacity. I instantly called Bonnie to share my hopefully infectious good mood with her. When happiness strikes, I try to share it with the wonderful, patient people in my life who listen to me cry again and again and never seem to lose patience with me.

I’m not sure what has changed that has caused me to feel such a release. I have spent some of tonight trying to analyze the change in the winds. What I have come up with is this:

I have been kicking, fighting and screaming in aniticipation of Chris’ birthday and Thanksgiving for the past four or five weeks. These fast approaching holidays had been instilling pure terror within me and as a result, I have spent each night doubled over, a prisoner of my grief, feeling as though there was no escape and I was going to feel this badly for the rest of my life.

But with the coming of each object of my fear, comes the going of that same object. Somehow, with Chris’ birthday just two days away, I feel better because after Wednesday, the fear and anticipation will be behind me. I will have survived the worst “first” of all, my sweeheart’s birthday.

Oh, the things we would have done, the smiles, the mountains of devotion, walking around together, me forcing him to kiss me in the Public Garden as part of my romantic memory campaign. Creej would always tease me by holding me, kissing me and saying, with both hands raised in the air in a sarcastic gesture, “Here. Here’s a PRECIOUS romantic memory.” I didn’t care. A romantic memory is a romantic memory, with or without the sarcasm. I took it.

Everything Bonnie and I have read about anniversaries and firsts suggests that the anticipation is far worse than the actual event. Once the event comes, it goes.

What I am learning throughout my journey of grief is that the pain really does subside, if in spurts and sporadic moments. The thing about grief is that I can feel wonderful one moment and think that it’s smooth sailing from here on in, but that just isn’t the way grief works. I have followed up the most fantastic surges of euphoria with the blackest rock-bottom, death-wishing tornadoes of utter despair. Grief has no order.

I will admit I am paranoid that this peaceful feeling is going to end. Actually, paranoia may be too strong a word or too negative a word. I know the feeling is going to end just as sure as I know I will be happy again some day.

I certainly took advantage of my feelings tonight. I came straight home, long enough to change and head out to the gym to lift weights and nurture my sudden strength. Yep, me and a bunch of muscle-bound beefcakes hittin’ the iron, doing our best to ignore and grunt at each other. I wonder if I disgust them the way they disgust me. Maybe they feel that I don’t belong there. I digress.

I’m still feeling wonderful, yet keeping my eye on the Ativan just in case. I really don’t like to rely on the drug. I use my artificial “okay” once in a while when I feel like banging my head with the force of a sledge hammer, on my kitchen island. When I can vividly hear the sound of my head connecting with and cracking on it’s two-inch thick butcher block surface, I pretty much know it’s time for “social worker in a bottle”.

So here I sit on my beautiful cushy L-shaped sectional couch, given to me by my friends, on which I am still not able to relax. I was given the sofa after Chris died and somehow I am still not over the guilt that he had to endure week after week of chemo side effects on an old, hard, mishapen futon couch while I, if I choose (which I don’t...well, can’t) lounge about in the lap of luxury on a sofa fit for a queen.

There is so much more to grief than just sadness. Clay willl take the bite out of my sofa-psychosis.

Okay. Now I am laughing out loud after having looked up the definition for psychosis on I will leave you with the results. Enjoy and don't forget to relate them to me, rolling around in a psychotic episode on my sofa!

psy·cho·sis - n. pl. psy·cho·ses

1) A severe mental disorder, with or without organic damage, characterized by derangement of personality and loss of contact with reality and causing deterioration of normal social functioning.

2) a serious mental disorder (as schizophrenia) characterized by defective or lost contact with reality often with hallucinations or delusions

3) any severe mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Visiting Spirit

During last night’s session with my therapist, Clay, I talked a lot about some of the things that have been making me angry and that had made me angry in the past. I divulged to him things about the aspects of my and Chris’ relationship that caused me to feel anger.

Obviously I am angry that Chris is no longer sharing this life with me, but last night I talked about how I sometimes feel as though he walked out and deserted me. I am mad at him for having cancer and for dying on me and taking his friendship, love and his very presence in my life away from me.

Yesterday, in the ladies room at work, I cried because I began to wonder if Chris would be alive today if he only went to the doctor while we were still living in Los Angeles. His tumor grew to the size it was over a prolonged period of time. Was he too scared to have it examined? Was he horrified that it might be cancer and that he would be 3,000 miles away from his home and family when he got the news? Did he just not want to deal with having to pack everything up and move back to the east coast if the news was bad? Did he hope it would just go away? I don’t now, nor will I ever know the answers to these questions, yet I chose to torture myself yesterday by stagnating on them.

I only know that I am sometimes angry that he did not go to the doctor sooner. I start to think things like, “It was his body and he should have taken care to make sure everything was okay. He might still be alive if had done that.”

What I keep forgetting is that we did talk about his stomach while we were in L.A. We both figured he had an ulcer, though, and so we didn’t give it much thought. Who ever actually believes that they have cancer? We didn’t know. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

I also wonder, sometimes, if Chris would be dead today if we never moved to L.A. Maybe the stress brought on by the move and by our sheer hatred for Hollywood was what caused his cancer. Is that even possible? Can stress be the catalyst for an abdominal tumor? The medical profession does not know the answer to that question.

Admitting anger toward a loved one who has passed away is very scary business which is chock full of acidic guilt toxic enough to burn the top layer of skin right off of my body. Before last night’s session, I had not yet felt comfortable expressing anger about the things I was unhappy about during my and Chris’ relationship. How could I? Firstly, how could I be angry at somebody who has cancer? Secondly, How could I be angry at somebody who is dead? Tonight, though, the anger began to come out and I didn’t try to suppress it. I yelled and cried about all of the stuff that made me angry when Chris was alive.

I believe that, in time, Chris and I would have worked these few little kinks out. There wasn’t anything we couldn’t talk through or hash out to the point of a peaceful agreement. When he got sick, everything changed.

How do you tell a cancer patient how mad you are about anything? My anger ceased to matter. I buried it. How could I not? I lived my life entirely to make sure that Chris was as happy as he could be under the circumstances. That’s what I chose for my life. My Creej deserved my very best and I was completely committed to giving my best to him.

In the middle of last night’s rampage, I stopped speaking and glanced over at the empty chair in the room. I was overcome with the sense that Chris was sitting there. I could feel his presence. I told Clay what I was feeling and he asked me if Chris’ presence in the room caused me to feel guilty, as though Chris was mad at me for talking badly about him. That wasn’t the case, though. I felt as though Chris was there to comfort me, just to be there with me and for me. I was filled with peace and the courage to continue talking about my anger toward him and toward my status as a widow, a situation I never invited into my life.

There are always times when I feel as though I am simply not strong enough to handle the immense depth of grief that threatens to drown me in it’s sadistic rip-tide. I very rarely feel that Chris is present in the room with me but when I do feel that he is there, I feel comfort and my strength is replenished.

I know in my heart that Chris came to be with me last night to comfort me and to let me know that everything was okay and that it was okay if I was angry with him or just angry, in general.

After my therapy session, my friend picked me up and we drove to another friend’s house where we hung out for a while. My two friends went out to run an errand while I took a short nap on the couch. As I lay there almost sleeping, a horrid memory about Chris’ illness entered my mind, causing my eyes to snap open. I glanced over at the couch across from me and, once again, I knew that Chris was there with me. I can’t explain how I knew. I just did. The horrid memory was gone. I still can’t remember what it was. I believe that Chris pulled it from my mind.

As I let my eyes rest on the area where I believed him to be a single thought automatically and effortlessly crossed my mind.

“He wants me to let go.”

It happened so automatically and suddenly and brought such relief and peace in it’s wake that my mood switched from one of fear and sadness to one of lightheartedness and relief.

I have read many books on widows and their experiences with the souls and spirits of their spouses. Many of them speak about having thoughts that they report as not really being their own. These widows describe a ticker-tape string of thought which passes through their consciousness, consoling them with words they would not ever use themselves. In each case, they were left feeling comfort and peace, as though they were still being supported by their deceased partners. I believe it can happen. I believe it has happened to me, especially in the early weeks of my grief.

When my friends returned from their errand, they called me from the car to tell me to come down so we could leave. I got up from the couch and walked over to “Chris’ couch”, wrapped my arms around where I believed him to be and whispered, “Thank you, Creej. I love you.” I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want the feeling I had to end.

I did, though.

Wherever the thought came from, me or Chris, it helped me and continues to help me carry on. Obvious to me, is that Chris would want me to let go. The way in which I reach that conclusion does not matter as much as my resulting ability to cope with his absence a little bit easier.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Holiday Fear

My first wave of Thanksgiving grief came today.

I just got back from my weekly WeightWatchers meeting, here at work, and at the end of the meeting, our rep began the speech that I expect to hear more and more over the next week. She expressed her joy about the wonders of Thanksgiving and the happiness brought by the entire family being together, celebrating and eating holiday foods. I left the meeting with a growing panic in my gut. I felt like crying. I almost did.

In 2003, shortly after Chris was diagnosed with cancer, I remember hearing a woman in the bathroom at Filene’s (where I worked at the time) prattle on about how her sister bought the wrong sized turkey for the holiday and how angry she was. I remember feeling nothing. This woman’s complaints simply didn’t compute. My perspective had changed. I knew I usedto have feelings about stuff like that, but next to my husband’s rare cancer diagnosis, it meant n o t h i n g

I am scared of next week. Chris’ birthday is November 23, the day before the holiday. I will not be choosing a gift for my husband this year. I will not be dining with him and toasting to another year together, smiling at him from across the table, holding his hands, kissing them. Not this year. Not ever again. I wonder if he knew how much those toasts, comprised of total and complete honesty and conviction, meant to me. I don’t think I ever told him. It’s not like me to not have told him. Did I tell him? I guess it doesn’t really matter anymore.

Grief has been grief. It hurts. It’s dark and lonely. I yearn for him every single moment my brain isn’t otherwise occupied. My heart hurts. I feel cheated, shortchanged and a little stupid, as though the joke was on me. I expect he felt that way about having cancer, too. There’s sense in both of our situations of being left high and dry, like walking a tightrope without a net and having someone cut the rope.

Chris’ birthday is the scariest day of all to me. There’s a void in my heart that scares me half to death.

Thanksgiving and Christmas will be doable. Chris and I never really bought into the commercialism of the holidays. What I miss the most about me and Chris is how we agreed not to buy gifts for each other in favor of waking up, embracing, kissing and simply and honestly saying, “Happy Thanksgiving” and/or “Merry Christmas”. That special, quiet moment was the gift.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

I Can Explain or Not Always Drowning

Between the this morning’s comment left by my lovely friend, Pad, and the comment I posted in response, I might be able to hope that I can clearly convey what grief is like for me at this stage of the game. Chris has been deceased for a little over ten months and despite my postings here, which I write mostly at night, when I am much too tired to combat my growing sadness, I am actually doing very well moving forward.

One of my fears is that anyone who reads my journal will judge me and anyone who doesn’t really know me will think that I am a complete basket case who can do little more than sit on my couch and fall apart every moment of every day. I am not that woman. I am strong, resilient, determined and fun-loving. I just happen to get tired at night and feel suffocated by the solitude in which I find myself.

I have to admit, these dual states in which I find myself make me feel as though I am living a double life. I am both celebrating and grieving simultaneously living a pseudo Jekyl and Hyde existence.

My problem, as of late, is that I have three anniversaries coming up and they are seriously messing with my psyche.

Chris’ birthday is November 23. His birthdays were always special to me because I loved trying to find a perfect gift that would make his face light up. With Chris, it was a challenge. Neither of us liked to spend a lot of money on each other. Sometimes we did, but not usually. Usually, we went out, had a beer together (or wine) and toasted to how much we loved each other. That’s a much more special and personalized way to celebrate, I think. I’m glad that’s how we celebrated.

On Chris’ last couple of birthdays, I scored big when I bought him, first, a hand strengthener for guitarists so he could exercise his hand in order to more effectively play. The following year, I bought him a five-dollar shower radio. He had been talking about how he used to have one and how he loved listening to NPR in the morning while showering. His entire face lit up when he saw it and when I ever told him that it cost us only five dollars, he was so excited that he exclaimed, “Sweet, Shneed! Good job!”

Last year, I bought him a red cardigan sweater that was much too big for him. Chris liked his clothes to be much too big. When he opened it he looked at me and said, “Shneed. You always get me what I want. Thank you. That means a lot to me.” That reaction, to me, was worth every saved penny. It took some doing for me to get used to saving as much as possible instead of spending more to convey my love. My brother now owns and wears the red cardigan with thoughts of Chris in his mind.

Thanksgiving is going to be interesting this year. I am going to Hadley to be with my family on Chris’ side. We’re not going to do anything traditional. The holiday was Chris’ favorite and Bonnie is quite certain that she cannot be surrounded in holiday food or spirits this year. We both agree that just being together is what we want to do. At least we will all be patient with one another and completely non-judgmental. I have a feeling this Thanksgiving is going to be okay.

Christmas is coming shortly after that. I am not going to say much about it, yet. Just that Christmas Day is the day I rushed Chris to the hospital because he could no longer deal with the physical pain of his condition.

With all of these impending anniversaries, I feel as though breaking down and collapsing into a grief-heap every single night of my life is pretty tame compared to what could be happening. I’m just riding it out.

2003 was tough. 2004 was tougher. 2005 was horrendous. 2006 holds hope and a possible improvement, or at least a considerable mending of my heart and soul.

Until that happens, I will continue to get through the best I can, laugh as much as I can, enrich my life as much as I can and do what I can to enrich the lives of those around me.

Jekyl and Hydedly,

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Falling Apart

I’m falling apart, I’m falling apart. I know it’s his impending birthday. I can’t handle the pain tonight. I need him. I AM ALWAYS GOING TO NEED HIM. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this.

Nobody knows. Nobody knows anymore because they all think it’s a cake walk.

I keep having flashes of memories that burn a hole right through me. I remember our first date. I still remember the temperature. I still remember how he laughed when the door to the bank wouldn’t open. All the stuff. All the stupid, piddly stuff that everybody takes for granted! I never took my Chris for granted. I enjoyed him through and through; his presence, his serious side (Mr. Phelps), his voices, His humor, the way he got annoyed when my energy level was too high for him. All of it.

We worked so hard to become perfect for each other. It was work, and we chose to do it.

I WANT TIME TO STOP. I have wanted time to stop since the diagnosis. It’s really hard being happy all day and falling apart every night. This can’t be healthy.

I don’t want to forget about him. He was the great love of my life. I can’t understand how he can be gone.

Today at work, I glanced down at my desk calendar and found November 23. I just sat there for a few minutes caressing the date. I don’t want it to come. I want to back this fucking thing way up to before he got sick and before we moved to L.A. We were having fun then.

If he could see me now, he would feel very badly. I can’t help myself, anymore. My soul is in shreds.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Another Start

I’m scared again.

Bedtime is in eight minutes. Although I have made the decision to go to sleep each night by 10pm, I can feel opposition coming from within myself. Instinctively, my body and mind want to stay awake and exhaust me. I’m going to try to explain.

I know I feel that if I’m not crying, it means that I didn’t love him. It’s not true, but I feel the guilt that sort of thinking promotes. If I get lots of rest and eat right (I’m still tying to master the latter), I will feel better and then I’ll have to deal with what I think that means; that I don’t care anymore, that I don’t miss him, that I never loved him and all that headtrip stuff.

I don’t want to cry tonight. I’m tired of crying. How can I prove to myself that I love him if I stop cying? How can I prove it to him?

I feel sick,again. As bizarre as this sounds, I keep remembering, with a start, that he’s dead.


Sunday, November 6, 2005

Early Retirement

After almost three weeks of late night grief fits, the likes of which I have not yet coined a name that accurately captures their intensity, I have made a decision to retire to bed at a reasonable hour from now on. Staying up until I pass out on the couch and then getting up to go to sleep but keeping the television on for company has not really been working for me. In fact, this pattern of behavior has only been feeding the monster that holds me in it’s relentless grip.

When I think of grief as a monster, I can understand how easily I can fall victim to the symptoms and begin spiraling downward instead of ascending toward freedom. Grief feeds on bad habits. Grief loves when I don’t eat right and don’t exercise and stay up until I cannot walk a straight line into my bedroom. However, when I eat healthily, get plenty of rest and try to remain as clearheaded and organized as possible, given the circumstances, grief retreats, unable to overpower me.

I do feel destructive at times and deliberately do things that are not good for me. I have wonderful people in my life but sometimes I purposely fall away from them and try to go it alone. Sometimes I just feel like nobody can help me, but those are the times when I’m not really taking care of myself.

Tonight as I was preparing myself for work, I happened upon my automatic lamp timers I bought when Chris first died. I experienced rage, pulled them from the drawer they were in and slammed them into the trash with as much force as I could produce. I don’t even want to look at them. I feel like I will never, ever again come home to the lights on and a loving best friend and husband awaiting and then welcoming my return home. I miss the lights being on when I get home. It’s not the same when they come on automatically, because it isn’t really about the lights anyway.

I’m scared. I think I may be trying to rush things. One moment I want to meet the guy I have been writing to and the next, I am drowning in a sea of grief and guilt. That’s okay. I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that whoever is next is going to get hurt because he is going to be sitting front row center at my one-woman freak show. Although, had Chris not become sick with cancer, he would have survived it. He may not have understood it, but he loved me anyway. Maybe somebody else will, too. There’s a lot about me to love.

Well, I promised myself that I would begin retiring to my bed at 10:00 each night. I can already feel myself opposing my decision, but I’m going to at least try to honor it. I don’t see how I can begin to concentrate otherwise.

Good night.

Friday, November 4, 2005

Fallen...a little

I feel alone tonight. In fact, all that I feel tonight is Chris’ absence. Nothing is really helping. I tried singing and it was okay for a while, but then every lyric made me sad. I had a tentative plan to attend an open mike with a friend of mine, but neither of us felt like going.

I’m watching a docudrama on television about a man, woman and their baby who have become stranded in a blizzard and are becoming covered in frostbite. Her husband left her and the baby and has been walking through feet of snow for six days without food or water to try to find help. Chris and I watched this one together once. I can’t even remember how long ago.

I’m not sure what to do to feel better. I’m kind of lost. I have been disjointed for days. I don’t really feel like myself. I'm extremely disorganized, unable to concentrate and self conscious. I don’t want to take Ativan. Sleep feels like the only solution but I don’t want to go. I think I want to cry. I think I need to.

I had a rough week. I feel like I want to tell people how I’m feeling but I’m embarrassed. Nobody is going to understand that I’m still messed up. I mean, I’m messed up, but I’m also okay. My friend, Brian, asked me how I am today and I replied, “Awesome, sad, excited, happy and distraught. Thanks for asking.” He’s awesome. He believed me and was okay with it and was okay with me being so truthful. That’s all it takes to be my friend. Acceptance and non judgement. That’s it.

I am so aware lately that I can’t have my Chris and so aware that the only way to feel better about that is to try to start a new relationship/friendship. All I have to do is say the word and my e-mail corresponder will meet me for coffee. I like him. I’m scared, though. And so, so guilty. He’s right there, but I can’t do it. I’m afraid of telling him what happened. We have been writing for six months and I never told him that I was married and that my husband died. He has no idea. See? People on e-mail really are deceitful. Everything you have heard is true.

Also, my anger is inching closer and closer to the surface. It’s messing with my head. I feel as though I’m back in the fog.

What I really want to do is punch, punch, punch until I’m exhausted. I’m so mad that all of this happened! I’m mad that Chris had to hurt and that I’m hurting and that he’s dead. I’m angry that some of my friends have no idea how bad I feel when I’m alone.

Right now, all if want is to sink into someone’s, anyone’s, arms and collapse and wail. I’m just tied from having hit a snag in my forward movement.

This feels like a cruel childhood game of keep away when bullies would take my hat off my head and throw it back and forth so I coulnd’t get it back. There always came a time where I would become exhausted and just want my hat back and eventually I would get it. But I’m not getting Chris back.

I guess I have taken a detour. My self esteem is down for the moment. I need a hug. I need my Mum. Chris 35th birthday is in just 19 days, the day before Thanksgiving. I’m spending it with his famly. We’re going to have a cake for him and from now on, on his birthdy, we’re going to celebrate by buying gifts for his 7 year old twin nieces. That way we can focus on celbrating his life and also help the girls to remember who he was.

Then I will leave there and go visit my Mum in Keene. I need her.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

I'm Out of My Mind (for a change)

Every so often, when I can push my grief aside, I take a good, long look around me and realize that I am not the only person in this lifetime to have experienced or to be experiencing grief.

My friend, Danna, from Los Angeles, is having difficulty dealing with her husband being on the front lines in Iraq. She wrote the following:

Hi Robin,

It's so lovely to hear from you! I'm sorry too for not writing. I've been thinking about you a lot as well, about how you are managing these days. I often feel like I am living an illusionary life--I exist without living.

Russ is doing fine. His unit has experienced many casualties over the past few weeks and it's been hitting him pretty hard. They lost a couple of men yesterday and two the day before. It's hard not to think about the families of these fallen men and worry about the mental health of those who had to witness the horrors.

Russ should be home end of January or early February. I have a lot of work to do on my portfolio and have some issues with motivation and energy. I have no motivation. How does one fix this?

I know you have lots of friends which is so great. That's the one thing I am sorely lacking. The few friends I do have live nowhere near me. Plus I don't make them very easily. So I find myself home on weekends and I feel like a loser. Yey me. Only three more months of this though.

I am so glad you wrote. Please let me know how you are doing and
what is going on with you. I still need to make a journey out there to the east coast. We are supposed to be in Rhode Island next July for a wedding but hopefully before then.

Love and friendship,

I replied to her...

I’m not doing too bad these days. I mean, as grief goes, I’m doing pretty well. I have entered a new phase, though, where I am ecstatic with my life, having lots of fun, singing with the orchestra and putting together a band of my own. I’m still doing theater, working out and laughing a whole lot. But when I get home at night, I still fall completely to pieces. I miss him more than I ever thought a person could miss someone. I can’t believe I “used to” be married. That’s a tough one. It was so short-lived. I have a wonderful social worker whom I adore. He’s very empathetic and kindhearted.

I do look forward to the remainder of my life. I know I have learned a ton from this experience and grown immensely from it.

I love deeper. I feel deeper. I enjoy everything on a much, much deeper level these days. I guess that’s the good that came out of the bad. The bad is, of course, that I feel my loss on a much deeper level, as well. I’ll take it, though. If the alternative is living on my couch and crying day in and day out for the rest of my life, then the choice is not a hard one to make.

I still can’t seem to lose the feeling of wounded bird. It’s like an ache, so deep inside my soul that I can’t imagine it ever releasing me. It’s okay, though. Things are getting better. They really are.

I feel for Russ, for all that he is witnessing these days. I can’t imagine what it’s like to hear a bang then have someone be dead right next to you. Horrifying. I feel for you, missing him, worrying yourself sick about him, also feeling like “Did I get married?”. I know it’s tough, Danna, and I know that nothing helps.

Motivation is tough when depression rears its ugly head. I am on the verge of quitting taking my Paxil. Don’t ever take Paxil. I never would have believed that my BODY could get addicted to something. It is so tough to get off of it. The withdrawals have made it very tough. I’m almost off, though. I’m also very sparingly taking Lorezapam. I only take that when I have an episode so strong that I can’t function, like sometimes at night, I can’t pull myself together after a crying fit. Lorezapam is a wonder for that sort of thing. It’s nice to have around and I keep it in check because I know it’s a highly addictive drug.

Have you thought about an antidepressant?

Hang in there, Danna. God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.

I love you.

Love, Robin

I feel a little ashamed for being so self-absorbed in my grief. Although I am still consumed, I have been thrown into a new place by this exchange of e-mails.

There are other people in this world who are hurting. I am not the only one. I wish I could maintain this realization, but I'm afraid that I am still very much under the control of my sadness, particularly in the area of pseudo-post-traumatic-stress (PPTS). Hey, look at that. I coyned my own disorder. :)

Still, I have learned something today. I can help others. I can be there for others. I don't have to remain trapped in the black abyss all of the damn time.

Today, my heart is with Danna. Her pain is her pain, but it still feels very familiar to me. She has no idea whether her husband will live, die, or how he will have changed upon his return. That's all very scary stuff.

I hope my e-mail helps her. I wish I could give her a hug, hold her for a while and in some way, calm her.


Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Anger comes. Anger goes.

I didn’t want to light my Creejie candle tonight. Instead I wanted to kick the becandled hurricane lamp off the table with force that would send it crashing against the wall and smashing to pieces on the floor.

But breaking glass only results in broken glass.

My (his) candle is lit now.

The monster sleeps. So should I.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

A Flashback and Today

How can I be so many different things? I’m happy, distraught, angry, tired and hopeful.

At the moment, I’m just sad. I don’t want his birthday to come. I’m too scared. Creejie has been dead for ten months.

Ten months ago, I watched the coroners wheel his body in a body bag out of my apartment on a two-wheeler, down my front steps and load him into an SUV hearse and drive off with him. I still hate them.

Ten months ago, that stupid, fucking social worker forced me to make decisions I wasn’t ready to make, yet. While my husband was in the other room, living and breathing, I had to tell her whether I wanted to bury or cremate him. I wanted to run.

In the hospital during the days previous to his demise, I asked Chris if he wanted to be involved in the arrangements. He didn’t know what I meant. Looking straight into his eyes, I clarified, “The funeral.” and freaked him out. For the rest of my life I will never forget the look of shock and on his face and how he recoyled from the question. I felt evil and heartless. I feel like he hated me at that moment. I hated me, too.

I had to know what he wanted though. I had to make sure I was giving him what his wishes would have been. We hadn’t talked about it before that because we both thought he was going to get better and live. He wanted no part of it. I made the decisions on my own based on what I knew he would want. I knew him through and through. Creejie never liked being gawked at in life. I knew he would have hated to have his dead body layed out on a slab for everyone to gawk at. That just would have been the final loss of control in a fourteen month loss of control.

I had to sleep in the hospital. I just shut down and had to sleep. I went to the family lounge and curled up on a leather seat, wrapped in my green winter coat. I kept waking up in horror, gasping for air. I remember jumping up and running down the hospital corridor because I was horrified that he had died while I was asleep. Bonnie said he had asked for me and my heart broke because I wasn’t there. I shouldn’t have needed sleep. I should have stayed by his side. It was really hard, though. He was so doped up on morphine. He began to regress and seem very child-like. Creej ate popsicles and drank rootbeer that entire time and raved about how “great” they were. He used to think steak was great.

Creej was scared this time. The second diagnosis caused him to give up hope and just give in. Who wouldn’t have given in? Throughout his entire ordeal, he made it very clear that he wanted me working and that he wanted to go to all of his treatments by himself. He needed to in order to keep control over any part of his life at all. I had to give him that. He deserved to feel in control of anything of which he could still remain in control.

That second diagnosis took all of the wind out of his sails. He asked me to come to every treatment and he asked me to spend the night in the hospital by his side. I knew he was terrified and defeated and I wanted him to fight, but he just would not. I don’t know what I thought fighting was. Nothing would have changed if he fought. He was going to die from the start.

Today I took the day off and went to Newburyport with Robby and Carol, two of my oldest friends. We sat on the docks, sipping coffee and conversing, which for us is simply quick-witted, sardonic battling of the wits, survival of the fittest. How we laughed all day. We had lunch and then hiked a bit at Maudslay State Park, laughing the entire time until we were giddy and tired. Then we drove home and Carol and I went shopping. It was a perfect day.

But now I hate that I had a perfect day. I feel very guilty tonight. I feel as though I’m forgetting all about Chris. It isn’t true, though. I talked about him all day. We laughed about things he said and did and would have said and would have done. I’m so afraid of forgetting.

God, I loved today. Having fun is the most wonderful feeling ever. My hope is that someday, it won’t hurt at the end of the day.