Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Rivers and Life

I don’t know what to write or how to bring what is in my mind to the surface. That’s how my grief has been going for the past couple of weeks. I don’t even know where to start. I guess this is some protective built-in aspect of my brain. I want to be able to clearly convey how this week has been affecting me and I’m hoping that by turning on the computer and freestyle writing, something of use will emerge.

This past weekend, I visited a subset of the Vermonters (Bec, Rick, Bridget, AJ, Breanna), a group of friends Chris met at St. Michael’s College in Vermont during his undergrad days. He liked taking time to visit them periodically. They were his college buddies and he cherished the time they spent together, drinking, getting high, watching the Sox, listening to music, laughing and playing cards. Chris preferred going to visit them by himself. This was something he considered to be his own and once he convinced me that he still loved me, even though he wanted Vermont all to himself, it worked out quite well for both of us. We each got our time away from each other, which made us so happy to see each other when we were together.

I hadn’t been to see them since Chris died. I just couldn’t go. My grief was too great and I was clinging to my reluctance the way cats cling to screen doors. For a year and a half, I couldn't face it. Then suddenly, I could, so I did.

We had fun. Our weekend comprised dinner, brunch, drinks, lunch, canoeing and cards. Canoeing was my favorite part. Bridget told me a story about Chris which I hadn’t heard before. Once, when they all went canoeing together, she and Chris were paddling in the same boat. “Burrage’s” (as she calls him) paddling was causing the canoe to spin around in circles and once the two of them gained control and straightened out the boat, Chris turned to her and said, “We will never speak of this to anyone.” That was my Chris. I felt as though I had been there and witnessed the entire scene. It made me smile and it made me feel as though he was there with all of us. And then it made me sad.

Bridget equated the river to life, saying that we were sitting in boats being carried down the river, passing things by. If we stood in the water, it would continue rushing right past us, just like life...or something to that effect. I’m sure I haven’t captured most of what she intended to convey, but I found it to be quite profound.

We walked on the boardwalk one of the days. Me, Bec, AJ, Rick, Bridget, Finn and Emmett. AJ had worn the Red Sox baseball shirt I gave him after Chris died. It was a gray Curt Schilling shirt with blue sleeves and I bought it for Chris as a celebratory gift when he had finished his chemo treatments. I thought he deserved to celebrate. We were both so happy that he was finished and we looked forward to continuing our life together. He loved the shirt. It was weird because I found that it was very tempting and easy to squint my eyes and imagine that Chris was walking the boardwalk with me.

During lunch, I had gotten up to use the ladies room and when I returned to my table, I sat down next to an empty chair and thought, “Oh. Chris must have gone to.....” before I caught myself. In some bizarre way, I thought for a few seconds that he was there with us and that he had just gone to the mens room.

Both evenings I spent at Bec’s were nice. I kept a picture of chris on my night stand and I fell asleep gripping the guitarist’s hand strengthener I had bought him for his birthday when we lived in Los Angeles. I had forgotten all about it. It was in one of the boxes I brought with me to give to his friends and when I saw it, I needed to take it back. Chris always loved what I bought him for his birthday. Buying gifts for him created a contest in which I competed against myself to find what he wanted most for as little money as possible. That’s what made him happy. He always loved the gift but he loved finding out that I spent seven dollars on the guitar hand strengthener or three dollars on the Gilligan-style Red Sox hat. That’s what really made him happy.

Both nights, I cried myself to sleep, troubled by flashes of Chris being there, flashes of his illness, flashes of the realization that he is dead, all followed by desperate denial and tears. Nobody knew. I just took the time to grieve in the privacy of the guest room, wondering if Chris had ever slept in the bed I was sleeping in this past weekend. In Bec’s jeep on the way back from canoeing, I was also choking back tears. I just feel so lonely for him sometimes and it just didn’t seem fair that he wasn’t there with us. It didn’t feel fair that I was there, at all, because if Chris was alive, I wouldn’t have been. He would have wanted to go there alone. All of it seemed so unfair. All of it is so unfair.

Today I had a very nice day with Bonnie. We walked around downtown Amherst, had lunch at Judy’s and shopped a little bit. The day was beautiful and I felt warmth between us. I was happy to be with her.

This was my first solo trip in my life. I made the schedule, I drove to Vermont by myself and then to Keene and to Hadley and now I’m back in Boston for a day before I take off to Portland, Maine. I have never done anything like this. I feel free and self sufficient.

Tomorrow, I have a session with Clay. I hope I can convey my thoughts to him more clearly than I have conveyed them here. It’s difficult sometimes when my brain doesn’t want to face the pain.

If I could have anything in the world, I would want my Creej, healthy and happy, back in my life and a second chance for the two of us to be together.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Accepting my Lack of Acceptance

Last night, I read an article entitled “The Five Stages of Grief” in which the author argues that grief doesn’t really begin until after the five stages of what he has more accurately named “The 5 Stages of Receiving Catastrophic News” have been experienced and resolved. The article can be found at

While I understand and agree with the author’s opinion and while his assertion makes perfect sense to me and his article has cleared up much of my confusion concerning my own progress through my “grief”, I am left wondering if I haven’t even begun to grieve yet.

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I know these stages are not supposed to occur in any predetermined order, but looking at the list I have realized that I have only experienced four of them. Acceptance is the last piece for me, and I haven’t yet accepted what has happened to Chris or me. I can’t accept it. I don’t mean that I can’t believe it happened or that I deny any of the horrors of this entire sordid episode. What I mean is that even the word “acceptance” steals the breath from my chest and labors my breathing.

If the truth is that I truly have not accepted what has happened, yet, and I believe that is the truth, as I can’t even say what has happened without denial charging back in to protect me, then according to this author, my real grief has not even begun, yet. This is concerning news for me. How much longer will I go on having periodic episodes of crushing depression and anxiety? And will another man be able to find enough patience and understanding in his own heart to know that I am trying to move forward, or will the rest of my life be spent fighting for my right to feel?

I have always subscribed to the philosophy that I have a god-given right to feel what I feel and that nobody has the right to tell me otherwise. I shared that philosophy with Chris and reflected it back on him and I know he appreciated my patience and ability to move alongside him through both the ease and difficulties which arose for him throughout our lives together. In effect, we cultivated an environment in which absolutely every emotion was experienced and allowed, no matter how good, bad or ugly.

I don’t know if I will ever find that again.

I guess what it all comes down to is that we’re all moving forward, wearing blinders, not able to see anything but the first few steps ahead, but that’s a whole other discussion on acceptance...or lack thereof.

Frustratedly, yet strangely upbeatedly,


Monday, May 22, 2006

Deep Breath...Okay, Now Relax.

Date guy e-mailed me today. He’s flying home tonight and asked me what I’m doing Memorial Day weekend.

When I saw his e-mail, I panicked for reasons unknown, shut down my computer and went to school, where I couldn’t concentrate at all. I like him, which really makes my panic annoying. So, on my way to the subway after class, I began to think it through and get in touch with the things about him that make me happy (his sense of humor, he’s cute, his musical ability) and get my mind off of the things that make me panic (that he’s not Chris, that I feel llike I’m cheating on Chris). I succeeded in calming myself and by the time I reached the station, I was happy that he e-mailed. I mean, he could have gone away and never spoken to me again. But he didn’t. He e-mailed me.

When I got to my truth, I realized that if I just relax, I can feel happiness and hopefulness.

My grief confuses me. I did get to my truth tonight, but it was a close call. What happened, esentially, is that I got mad at my grief. I’m tired of feeling it. I’m tired of crying. I want to stop. I focused on that desire tonight and I was able to answer his e-mail. I’m glad.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Productive Weekend

This weekend could have gone two ways. After work on Friday, true to the pattern I had fallen into, I became depressed and scared to go home to be alone. My mood dropped steadily from the moment the clock struck five and the closer I got to my apartment, the more forlorn I became. Once inside the safety (and loneliness) of my walls, I sat on the couch and felt the first of the tears begin to well up in my eyes. I sat for about a minute, coaxing them to come, waiting for the storm when suddenly I said out loud, “I’m going to do some homework.” And I did just that.

Since Chris’ death, I have put off my online certificate classes. Chris used to enjoy seeing my work and providing favorable commentary on my creativity each time I completed an assignment. I loved his input, and occasionally I would make changes in response to his suggestions, which made him feel creative as well. Once he died, I found designing for school to be too painful, too difficult, and so I have been enrolled in my last two classes for the past two years. These classes typically take about six weeks to complete. I have had discussions with the student center explaining what happened in my life and requested and received countless extensions on these courses, only to find myself doing nothing to push through them and earn my certificate in Web and Digital Design. That all changed this weekend.

Deciding to be productive, instead of destructive set me on a course of accomplishment which has followed me all weekend. I, myself, am amazed at all that I have done over the past three days.

I completed one lesson in each of my two online classes, working a total of seven hours collectively and passed them in. I washed, dried and folded three loads of laundry. I sang at an open mike. I ran five miles and biked seven miles. I moved my furniture around, cleaned my apartment and organized all of my sheet music. I attended my nephew’s baseball game, wrote three blog entries and managed to socialize with friends.

All this because I was walking the fence between a depression-induced shutdown and the desire to complete everything on the list I have been keeping for months. I chose to be productive and it paid off.

This weekend, I escaped the extreme pressure under which I usually place myself and jumped, with both feet, into my life.

Despite the pain in my thighs, butt and knee, I feel fantastic this evening and I am quite looking forward to attending my evening slumber. I need to make a conscious effort to remember how I feel tonight. If I can jump into life each night and weekend instead of sinking back into death, I just might get through the pain of Chris' absense someday.

I wish I could be this powerful all of the time.


Still Tossing it Around in My Head

I just returned form the open mike. I am home alone and I am not crying. I can feel my brain wanting to cry -- my brain has a brain of its own -- but I am feeling strangely in control.

I wish I knew why I don’t want to let go of my grief. I can understand not being able to let go, but not wanting to let go is something else. My grief has become like a teddy bear to me. I hug it in bed, I sleep with it, hold onto it when I am upset -- and I think I have grown to love my grief the way an abused person loves her abuser. It doesn’t love me back. All it does is hurt me and hold me back and I keep going back for more because in some bizarre way, I love it, I need it and I just can not walk away.

If I stop grieving, that means I will be over the loss of my Chris. Until the end of my grief means something different than that to me, I am not going to be able to release my panicked bear-hug grip.

Chris’ cancer was evil. Grief is evil. I feel victimized by the latter. I feel as though I am in a giant room enveloped in darkness, groping around looking for a window or another escape, but I just keep coming up against the same wall, hoping to push through it. It never gives way.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Wine and Song

I suppose I should have written this sooner, but I just couldn’t pop myself out of the grief back draft I have been suffering since my date with that guy. He has e-mailed me from his trip a couple of times and to my surprise, his e-mails still make me happy.

Anyway, since that date, I have been coming home every single night and falling apart, crying, waking up in the middle of the night crying and waking up with a dehydration headache which I unsuccessfully chase away with a steaming hot cup of coffee.

At my session with Clay, I could not come up with anything that was bothering me even though I know I have been in an horrid state for weeks. I told him I could feel the heaviness and that I know I am depressed but everything that is bothering me is hiding behind my brain and I could not get to the heart of my feelings. I sat in his office feeling as though nothing was really wrong and eventually, my brain just became empty. I had nothing to work on. I knew it was there, but I could not bring any of my feelings close enough to the surface to mention.

When the hour was up and Clay ended the session, all of my grief began to reappear. I told Clay and he mentioned that he felt as though my grief and anxiety seemed to come from the knowledge that I was about to be alone. He was right. I went home and cried again. Then I began to think about what he said.

A year and half has passed and crying every day is not something I have been doing. The regression is understandable since I took a huge leap of faith in myself by going on a date. I began to ponder my recent grief episodes, wondering if my tears have been a method of “paying my respects” to Chris, trying to reassure him that even though I went out with another guy, I still love him and I always will. If I’m not upset, I feel as though I have forgotten him or never loved him or something to that affect. My tears have felt contrived, not heartfelt...well, that’s not entirely true. My tears begin in a contrived manner and bringing myself to the point of inconsolable heartbreak again, which is what I felt for a very long time, actually takes quite a bit of Stanislavskian effort. I don’t do it on purpose, but I do it. When I realized that, I told myself for the umpteenth time that I need to stop. I can not do this to myself for the rest of my life.

Am I still grief-stricken? Of course I am. Do I still sometimes fall apart and cry my eyes out? Yes I do, and usually my despondence is genuine. Valid. But I need to find a way to give myself permission to find happiness with another man someday. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not soon. Maybe not with this guy. But I most definitely need to find a way to make this happen.

At my nephew’s baseball game today, somebody hit the ball and it almost hit the pole behind the home plate. I thought, “Oh. It almost hit the Pesky pole. “ and felt myself turn to Chris for the approval he always gave me when I knew something about baseball. I almost shared the moment with my sister, but I knew she probably wouldn’t understand how I could go from one-hundred to zero in a matter of one second in time. I wanted to cry, but I stifled myself. I took a walk over to the playground to visit my little niece and on the way, I talked to Chris, telling him about the Pesky pole and about how I knew that because of him. I choked back my tears. Wrong place. Wrong time. Wrong everything.

I have a right to cry, but what if whatever new guy comes into my life doesn’t think that I do. What if he gets mad or hurt or worse than that, what if he yells at me? I hate being yelled at. I can’t take it. Chris yelled at me once. Just once, and it wasn’t out of anger. I scared him with my stupid centipede phobia. He hated when I freaked out and I freaked out pretty often, but he usually came to my rescue whenever a bug threatened my life. Just one time, I caught him off guard and he stomped on the bug and yelled, “There! It’s dead! Are you happy?” I was. His anger was well worth my peace of mind.

The bottom line is I don’t want somebody else. I don’t want to teach somebody else not to yell at me or treat me badly and how my mind works and how to understand and respect me and love me anyway, despite my shortcomings .

I just want him back.

But I am going to move forward if it kills me. Hopefully it will kill me and I’ll get to be with Chris afterall. That’s just not how my life goes, though. I just know I’m here for the long haul because I have to “learn” stuff.

Wow. It feels really good to have gotten to the heart of that. I’m off to an open mike to celebrate with wine and song.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What it Means

I have never been one to be affected one way or another by the weather but I am so glad the sun is out again. Ten days of constant downpour activated my grief and regressed it back to the early months. Yesterday, the moment the sun came back, I felt enormously better.

They guy I went on my date with has gone away for a month and said he would e-mail me from his trip. True to his word, we have e-mailed back and forth a bit. The other night, seeing three appearances of his e-mail address in my inbox sent me into a fit of tears. The familiarty of his screen name reminded me of way back when Chris’ screen name became a familiar and welcome part of each morning. I became panicked and closed down my laptop. I can’t save his e-mails, yet. I’m too scared. Placing them into their own folder would be like admitting that he’s the new guy and I’m not prepared to do that yet. Still, he makes me happy. The prospect of seeing him on a regular basis horrifies me, though. I’m all wrapped up in what it means about what Chris meant to me. I am brought to the point of suffocation by that thought. I can’t breathe and I feel like crying. Still...he makes me laugh. I guess I’ll be doing the Jekyl and Hyde thing for a while.

At least the sun came back.

Anyway...I’m late for work.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Shopping for Peace

Today I bought two pairs of the same exact sneakers and a new dress. Yesterday, I bought a bunch of new clothes to wear to work. It’s not that I don’t need the new clothes for work. I was asked to dress not quite so funky and in order to tone things down a bit, I really do need new clothes.

The sneakers however, were the start of the depression that has systematically attempted to attack me all weekend...actually more than all weekend. It began with my date. I had a really nice time and was left feeling scared, stressed out and basically freaked out.

I have been watching Good Will Hunting for the past hour. Robin Williams’ character talks a lot about his wife who died from cancer two years ago and he describes it with such accuracy that I have been crying, trying to hold myself together since I turned it on. I’m depressed, not in the sense that I’m just sitting around crying day in and day out. Depression isn’t really like that. I just feel a heaviness which I have been suppressing for a couple of days, I guess, maybe for a week. I’m not sure, anymore. What I’m sure about is that I have a closet full of new clothes and two new pairs of the same exact sneakers, my favorite sneakers, because I medicated myself with a shopping spree this weekend. Nice, huh? Sometimes Ativan just doesn’t cut it. Actually, neither do clothes. Crying seems to help more than both of those things.

This little snippet of Good Will Hunting has been more helpful to me than anything else has been this weekend. I wish I could watch the entire movie, but my sweet, beautiful little niece just called and invited me over to collect my birthday presents. I just can’t say no to her. She made me laugh and she filled my heart. She and my nephew are the only two people on this earth who can do that now. Chris was the other one. It’s nice to know that love is still there, so strong that it both fills and breaks my heart simultaneously. That’s love. I shared it with Chris and I share it with my niece and nephew, my children.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Date: 1.5 A.C. (After Chris)

Our date went really well. We met at a cute, little Italian restaurant and dined together for three hours. We share a love for Broadway shows and music. We were both completely honest with each other, he telling me that he has been divorced two times and me telling him I lost my husband a year and a half ago.

He seemed worried about that timeframe and with good reason. Right before we went our separate ways, I told him I don’t know how this would go for me. I confessed that I am still actively grieving, even though I don’t walk around crying day in and day out. He told me he has no expectations and then hugged me good-bye and kissed me on the cheek. He’s very nice.

I told him I would like to see him again and if he wanted to see me, too, I would like to get together again when he returns from his one-month vacation. He said he would e-mail me from the road, but I’m not really expecting him to an that’s okay. He may even decide that a year and a half really is too risky for him to get involved with me. Time will tell.

Since the date, I have awakened each morning at 3:00 AM crying tears of resignation. I still cannot face the truth entirely. It’s okay. Maybe I will, one day.

Going out with another man for dinner was not as bad as I thought it would be. I had fun. I felt beautiful. I felt as though Chris approved and was proud of me for taking the step. The aftermath is rough, though. I have been crying inconsolably for days and the end is nowhere in sight.

I am so thankful for the job that I have. Being there and having the responsibility I have and the freedom and the trust of my director and coworkers is really providing a balance in my life which is quite helpful. My sanity lies at work these days.

I’m nervous about this man’s return from vacation. I don’t know how I will feel then. It will probably be very good for me to go out with him again, if he wants to see me. I already placed my cards out on the table. I have no secrets.

I really couldn't have asked for a better first date after Chris. My faith in men, which has always been shaky, at best, remains in tact. I did it. It's behind me.

All in all, I’m very proud of myself for taking this step. Although scary and sad, I believe it is quite necessary.


Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Is he a gift, Creej?

One year, four months and nine days ago, my sweet Chris Burrage left this earth. This evening, one year, four months and nine days later, I am going on my first date with another man. He is an “other” man.

In some ways, I feel as though I am committing adultery tonight, being unfaithful to my husband and unfaithful to myself, since my husband is still the only man I love.

Still, there is another side to the story.

I like this new man, so far. He found me on, but I have met him a couple of times before at various musical theater auditions in the area. He is a musical theater director and, as it turns out, I have auditioned for him in the past. This minor fact softens the blow a bit and makes me feel as though I am going to dinner with an old friend. He is very funny and seemingly jovial, quite silly and creative, a Sagittarian, just like Chris, which only means that if things work out, his indecision and constant wander lust will drive me right back into the throes of madness, just like Chris.

Events have occurred over the past year, four months and nine days that have affirmed my belief that our deceased loved ones have the ability and the inclination to guide and to steer us in seemingly fortuitous directions after their departure from this world. I believe that Chris is watching over me, helping me achieve peace and eventual happiness in my life after the crushing defeat I have experienced in the past couple of years since his diagnosis. I believe he still cares very deeply for me and I feel my life becoming easier than ever before.

I don’t know where this man came from, but my plan from the start was to NOT reply to anyone online. I was only there to look and get used to the idea of possibly going on a date. Then suddenly, a man who does what I do for a living loves what I love outside of work and shares my strange sense of humor and love for Broadway enters my scene. How did that happen? Did Chris do it? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I am interested in the fact that the thought enters my mind on a daily basis.

How else did I find the perfect apartment without even trying, find the perfect job, apply, interview and nab it without even trying and find a man who has peaked my curiosity enough to coax me into replying online when that was never in my plan?

I don’t need to believe these things to make myself feel better. I am quite adept at achieving happiness on my own. I have always been capable of survival without the aid of others (The exception, of course, is Chris’ death, and I remain ever-thankful to my friends for carrying me through it.)

Chris wants me to be happy. He is happy, now, and I believe that he is with me, holding my hand, comforting me, patiently urging me onward toward the remainder of my life, which I have not yet begun. He knows. He knows how sad the scheduling of tonight’s date has made me, but he also knows the potential happiness it could bring.

Or maybe it’s just me who knows that.

I want to believe Chris is helping me, but I feel invalidated when others minimize my beliefs into a coping mechanism. I may be confused about whether Chris is helping me or whether I am helping myself, but I am certainly not a person who needs to fool herself in order to move on.

I am happy for tonight for two reasons:

1) It will be nice to sit with a man who can make me laugh again.
2) It will, eventually, be over and I can go home.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

A New Bathroom

I awakened out of a sound sleep Thursday morning at 3:00 AM and fell into the throes of an inconsolable spell of intense sorrow in which I remained for an hour and a half. I left my bed and walked around my apartment sobbing and hyperventilating, replaying scenes from the past two years of my life. I am still feeling trauma stemming from watching my husband’s health deteriorate, along with his faith, hope and ability to live a quality life. I thought about him in the hospital, wearing a Johnny, always so brave and unafraid, reassuring me that he was fine over and over again, smiling and just accepting each new procedure he had to endure.

I remember sitting in a breakfast restaurant in Brighton Center together one Sunday morning. We ordered breakfast and while we were sipping our coffee and waiting for our eggs and toast, I began to feel choked up. A surge of panic began to rise from within my gut and take hold of my throat, squeezing the breath out of me. I began to cry. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I was terrified and I said to Chris, “I don’t want you to die.”

“I’m not gonna died, Shneed.” he said, annoyed with my display of panic, probably frightened by it, and we ate breakfast. I felt awful for showing him my pain. He had so much pain of his own to deal with. But sometimes I needed him, even though it was he who needed help and support. Sometimes I just needed him to be there for me, to tell me it was okay and that he wasn’t going to die. I wish he didn’t die. I can still feel what our partnership felt like. It was so easy with Chris. He was so easy to be with, even when he was difficult to be with.

Today, I went out and bought a new bathroom set. I bought a shower curtain, rugs, toilet seat cover, towels, soap dispenser, tissue box and a new trash barrel. When I was in Target picking it all out, I became horrified of the money I was about to spend. I told Meira that I felt sick and wanted to put everything back. She asked me why and I replied, “Chris would be so mad at me for spending this. I don’t even really need a new bathroom set.”

I then remembered that I just got paid $160 for the show I just did and remembered that Chris would have said I should use that money to buy whatever I want. “Just blow it Shneed.” he would say. “It’s free money.” I felt better and continued putting pieces together for my new bathroom scheme. When I got to the registers, I realized my entire body was trembling. I felt so afraid. It’s awful to know that I can do whatever the fuck I feel like doing and buying and saying and that the reason is because the man I shared my life with and worked together at being a couple with is not here to stop me, anymore. I hate it. I would put every single item in my apartment back on the shelf if Chris was alive to still be with me, now. I’d never need another stupid material item ever again.

It was time to change my shower curtain and the rest of my bathroom set. the towels I bought when Chris was still alive, and the rugs as well. The rugs hold a nightmarish memory for me and it was time to remove them and replace everything with new stuff and new hope.

The shower curtain I took down tonight is the one I bought while I was still living in my old apartment that I shared with Chris. I was in a total grief-fog, shopping at Kohl’s with Carol. I bought that shower curtain that day, eight months before I moved out, as a promise to myself that I would be in a new apartment once my lease ran out. Our apartment had a shower door and didn’t use a curtain. I remember I couldn’t buy clothes because I didn’t know who I was anymore or what I liked to wear and because I had nobody to wear anything for anymore. I used to put on a fashion show for Chris everytime I went shopping. He always knew what to say about each article of clothing that I subjected him to and he was such a sport at being my spectator. Once in a while I would reward him by trying on my new three inch heels...just my new three inch heels and parade out into the living room to show him and to basically thank him for being such a good sport. Boy, we had fun together.

I have a date Tuesday evening with a man who e-mailed me on He has a very funny sense of humor. He makes me laugh. He’s a musical theater director and so far, I like him, which makes me very sad. Part of me never wants to like anybody again. I feel like I’m throwing in the towel, giving up on my husband, admitting that he’s not coming home to me and so, very reluctantly taking a step forward. I don’t want any of it. I just want Chris back. I accidentally said his name out loud the other night, “Christopher Burrage” and that simple act, hearing his name out loud, made me feel euphoric. It was like he still existed on this plane. I miss him and I’m so sad that he’s gone.

I bought a new shirt for my date. I want to look pretty. How am I going to sit across from someone that isn’t Chris? Wherever he is, I hope he’s helping me and not hating me. I feel tremendous guilt, but it’s time for me to do this. I want companionship again and I want to love again -- even though I still just want to love Chris again. I don’t want somebody else.

If I never needed Clay before, I sure need him now.

This past weekend, I went to Hadley, MA to visit Chris’ father, Howard. He looks like he has been through it. When he saw me, he instantly apologized for not calling me and explained that he was going to but then he was scared and then he was going to but then he didn’t know what to say, etc...I asked him to please not feel badly about that. I didn’t call him either. I was scared, too. We talked a lot about Chris. Howard’s heart is so broken. He is living in a nursing home now suffering from congestive heart failure and emphysema. He thinks he’s going to get to go home eventually, but that isn’t likely to happen. I feel so badly for him. He had such a horrible time throughout his life with bipolar disorder and depression and then he lost his son. He’s so sad. Beth said that Howard has never talked about Chris since his death. The other day, he and I talked exclusively about Chris and in great depth. He told me that it’s always with him and sometimes it’s so heavy, right in his chest. I told him that I feel the same way. He then said to me, “I don’t know how you do it. I honestly don’t know how you do it.” I said to him, “You wanna know how I do it? Your son was a beautiful, wonderful, patient, encouraging person who loved me very much. That’s how I do it. He gave that to me. He gave me strength, courage and love that I carry inside of me. Chris is inside of me. .That’s how I do it, Howard.” When I said that, Howard’s face lit up into a beautiful smile. He looked so happy. I told him how much Chris was like him. They both have the same sense of humor and the same sort of demeanor. Chris even had Howard’s legs. I told him that and then I said, “Nice gams, Howard.” He laughed out loud.

I think and I hope that I helped him in some way. I want to help him more. I’m going to go back and visit him again and talk with him about Chris. I loved his son more than I can ever, ever express in words. I loved him more than I can ever express in any way.

I’m scared. This guy I’m going on a date with is so nice and funny and cute and talented, but he’s not my Creejie and I’m going to have a really tough time pushing past that. I feel as though Chris is being ripped out of my soul, like a giant great white shark has taken a bite out of my soul and ripped it off and swam away with it, leaving me screaming and trying to swim and stay afloat. At the present moment, if another man was in the water with me and I could grab hold of him to stay above water, I would opt to drown, rather than wrap my soul around anyone other than Chris.

Please don’t be mad at me, Creej. I need you. I love you.

Oh, this guy has no idea what he’s in for. I’m just going to have fun and know that I have no intention of falling love with him.

I have so many pictures of Chris. I’m not putting them away and I’m afraid that that’s going to be a problem for some men. I’m not putting Chris in a closet somewhere where I can’t look at him and see who he was and who we were together. I won’t do it.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006


After our day together, Robby and Carol went home. I went out to shop some more, not because I wanted to shop, but because I was feeling anxious and I was about to be alone despite the fact that I did not want to be. I still do not want to be.

I am having trouble relaxing. What I really feel like doing is screaming.

In T.J. Maxx, I felt anger take me over as I meandered from merchandise rack to shelf and back around again. I was going to get back at the universe by spending money. THAT would show it. Except that I luckily realized what I was doing and promptly left the store to go home.

Something is brewing. I’m not sure what. Something.

I keep thinking about hypnosis and what it would be like to be brought back in time, beginning at the day of Chris’ diagnosis and forward. There is so much junk inside of me that I’m scared to deal with and I can’t get to it. I think guilt keeps me from dealing wtih it but I don’t know why, Maybe my guilt is a product of the fact that I’m still here and he isn’t or that he felt pain and I didn’t or that he lost his quality of life and I didn’t.

Grief is difficult even though I am willing to get to the core of my pain and work through the trauma.

I am so mad that my love was cut short. I didn’t deserve this. I don’t want to be alone but I don’t want to be with anybody but Chris. I am totally stuck.

I remember falling into my chair when Chris’ surgeon told us she got all of the cancer out of him. I remember I cried tears as powerful as the ones I’m crying now except that they were tears of unbridled joy. Tonight’s tears are just tears of yearning. Painful yearning for the one man in my life I ever loved more than everything, ever.

Tonight I feel lilke there is no “over it” or “past it” or “around it”.

Tonight I feel as though I just going to get old and die alone and that’s all going to happen in double-time inside of a five-minute window and I’m going to turn around and wonder where my life went and why I never had the courage to move on.

Tonight I am mad at Chris for leaving me in a world that does not inlcude him. We’re separated indefinitely.

Birthday Gifts from Chris

Today is my 39th birthday, my second birthday sans Chris. I scrolled backwards and read last year’s birthday entry (5/1/05) and, truth be told, everything still rings true.

The ominous view out my window , although relieving and comforting, mirrors the window into my soul this morning. The difference, this year, is that I have more control over my emotions. The relief that the rain brings at the precise moment will be easy enough for me to pick up and place back into storage and I have no doubt that this birthday will be a very happy one. Of course, my hope is that as time passes, I can transform the objects that prompt me to remember Chris and what we shared together from rain into sunshine. I have already begun.

My friends, Robby and Carol, with some prodding from me, agreed to take today off weeks ago to spend my birthday with me. I knew today would be a challenge so I placed the two of them on “grief-watch”, labeled them my “birthday bitches” and planned a day of fun, just the three of us (and Chris). I try to arrange milestones in my life, these days, to make them more conducive to fostering joy rather than grief. Oh, the grief comes during my weakest moments and I doubt that will ever change, and I don’t think I want it to. How can I ever have a guilt-free existence if I don’t experience the grief my loss has gifted me and all it has to offer? There really is good that comes out of all difficulties in life. I live by that belief.

So this year, I realize and I’m beginning to accept that my gifts from Chris are
empathy, compassion, patience, love, emotional freedom, strength and those hugs I can feel every time I close my eyes and envision him behind me, supporting me and loving me, eternally, from the other side of the veil. I know he’s there and I know he’s helping me. I can feel his support.

The truth is that every day is my birthday. Every day I wake up and try to give birth to new hope, new faith, new love and I begin each day trying to envision my life taking on the shape I always dreamed it would.

After everything that has happened and everything I have done for my husband and with my husband and after his battle and my battle alongside his and after witnessing his battle wounds and experiencing my own, the real birthday gift here is freedom. Chris' freedom from illness and my hopefully ever-increasing freedom from the trauma and the nightmare-memories of his illness and of my loss.

Monday, May 1, 2006

A Burning Love for my Husband

Tonight was the second and last performance of the show that I have been preparing and rehearsing for since January. I feel good. It’s nice not to have to feel as though I should be practicing music every moment I’m home and find free time on my hands. The pressure is gone. So is the show, however, and the experience and the structured meetings with the other cast members that had provided a sense of familiarity and a sense of home for me for the past few months. The show was a tough one which took lots of work to bring to fruition. We did it, though. We pulled it off. I had my doubts -- I think we all did -- but in the end, on the second show, we really shined, despite the fact that show number one manifested itself as more of an amateur dress rehearsal than a polished finished product. All things considered, I miss it, already.

These past two evenings of song have held a sense of melancholy without Chris here to see what I have done -- how much I have grown as a performer. He would have liked this one -- and Chris liked very few shows in which I have performed. He was very critical (not of me, though -- NEVER of me -- I was always good in his eyes -- he really had the husband thing down -- what to say, what not to say). I know he would have liked this one a lot. He would have sat with Carol, Robby and Rodney and the four of them would have had the silly time that the three of them told me they had. Apparently, a laughing fit occurred sometime during the show, which spread from Robby to Carol to Rodney. I have yet to hear the details.

I wish he could have been there. In some ways, he was. I have never felt so completely relaxed on stage in my entire life. Backstage, each time I felt myself becoming overly excited and panicky, I closed my eyes, asked Chris to be with me and meditationally brought him into my world, embracing me from behind, telling me, “You can do this. It’s okay. You’re okay.” Each time I did that, I could breathe again and I suddenly knew from the deepest part of me that this is only theater. It’s fun. It’s light. It’s not supposed to be scary or to create negative feelings. I called upon Chris’ energy when I needed it and I believe that because I know what love I had and how wonderful it was to have that love, I was able to channel it, imagine it, receive it, bask in it and breathe again. I still love him so much.

During the past three months, our director freed me in so many ways, creatively. I have never been able to relax as much as I did this past weekend. I was very focused and able to do my best without imagining that others were judging me. I could do that because our director is extremely patient, a teacher by profession, older, wiser and I believe he knows that negativity breeds negativity. I saw him mostly as an archaeologist who found me, dug up my raw talent, brushed me off day after day after week after month until he found my natural sheen and ability to permeate my own brand of beauty from my very core. He fostered an atmosphere filled with joy, patience, teaching, coaxing and the perfect measured doses of pushing me slightly past my limits into realms to which I had no idea I could travel. I have passed my personal limits and now I want to keep going, keep pushing my limits, keep bettering myself, shaping myself, honing my talent. Yes, this group had quite a large impact on me. I’m hoping I will be asked back to perform in the next show.

After the show, the cast stayed and enjoyed drinks and song at the open mike our director was hosting. We drank, sang and ate. I ordered and scoffed down a plate of nachos, which were delivered to the table coveredin jalapeno peppers, one of Chris’ favorite foods. I decided that in honor of my husband, I would eat every last one, despite the fact that I have a history of finding white bread to be too spicy. Still, this wasn’t for me. It was for Chris and I downed each one, my mouth ablaze, each pepper signifying another burst of burning love for my husband. I couldn’t stop. I wanted the message to be loud and clear. I wanted it to scream “I love you!” up to the heavens as sure as my tongue was screaming at me to eat some sour cream.

I did it for him. I think he knows and I think he laughed at my smouldering tongue and chapped lips.

I miss him. I love him. I will always love him and I know he supports me still, wherever he is, even though his absense burns like a mouthful of jalapenos. His absense burns like my love for him.

It is time now, for me to cry. I have felt it coming on for about two hours. It’s time. I’m home. I’m safe. It’s time.