A Letter to the Man who has my Husband’s Heart

Dear Heart Recipient, 

My name is Rochelle and you have my husband Jesse’s heart. 

Jesse and I started dating when I was 18. We were together for 13 years and reside in Florida. In those 13 years prior to his untimely death, we had four children. One of which I was pregnant with when he passed.

Jesse was known for being a good father, above anything else. He had three daughters and one son. His two older girls he treated like princesses. He spent an hour at night tucking them in and would play dolls with them whenever they wanted. With his son, he built STEM projects with him weekly. It is still my son’sfavorite thing to do, but it’s different now. He would have adored his last daughter, I know it. 

It has been difficult without him. It is hard to give that same attention to the children that he gave. It is even harder to see the pain in their faces and know I cannot do anything about it. 

I became a solo mother and widow at 30, this isn’t really how I planned my life. Writing this letter isn’t something I thought I would ever do, yet here I am. 

I figured it is important to tell you whose heart you have. Jesse was a property manager. He loved video games and writing. He loved movies and especially critiquing those films. He was an excellent cook. I suppose you could say he was a jack of all trades. When he did decide to do something, he made sure it was done perfectly. He was also well liked. Everyone loved him and he had no enemies. I know that is often said about people when they pass but it was true for him.

He didn’t have much as in money or material items, but he was always the first to give what he did have away. I remember one time when we were younger spending our last $10 at a Burger King for lunch, he picked up our order, only to instantly walk away from me and give his food to a homeless man outside. He did that all the time. Another time it was his sandals, right off ofhis feet. He really took the phrase “I will give the shirt off my back,” quite literally. 

First it was food, then sandals, then a whole heart. 

When I was asked in the hospital if we should donate his organs, I was reluctant. The truth is, I am on the sad side of this. Agreeing to donate his organs was surprisingly painful. It feels like betrayal. My immediate emotion was no, I had to protect Jesse, I couldn’t let someone do that to him. But within a second, I changed my mind. This wasn’t my choice- it was Jesse’s, and he had made it very clear to me to donate everything he could. So that’s what we did.

The timing was interesting, poetic almost. It was Christmas Eve for us when we walked him back to the operating room. His family was with him and we all cried as he was pulled away from us at 11:50 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Then we had to turn and walk away. I looked at my phone as I exited the hospital in disbelief… 12:00 a.m…. and I said Merry Christmas to you, in my head. 

Luckily, I have a close friend who’s father received a donated heart. She was able to tell me her side of it, as the donee. She told me how it changed her father’s life and that he got a second chance to live, which he does to the fullest. I see his photos and I can see the gratitude and joy for life in his family’s face. I am happy my friend’s father gets to spend more time with her and his grandchildren. 

I am happy for you, that you were able to continue living and do whatever it is that you enjoy to do. 

My hope is that you will respond to this letter. I would love to know who has my husband’s heart. I would love to know about you, but I also understand if you are unable to respond. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. 

Sincerely, Rochelle

Dear Jesse,

Today you have been dead for one entire year.

I am living this reality but I still don’t really believe it. My brain has tried to convince me I made you up and I magically jumped from being 18 to 31. Any evidence in between isn’t validated by the person who saw me every day.

You have missed out on so much and I often spend a lot of time grieving all of the things you can no longer do. Big and small. So I did my *favorite thing*, and made a list:

  1. You missed Chloe’s 11th birthday.
  2. You missed Wren’s birth.
  3. You missed Oraia’s 9th birthday.
  4. You missed Raiden’s 7th birthday.
  5. You missed The Office, I know we tried to watch it and didn’t get hooked. But I finally watched it and it’s hilarious. I think you would have loved it.
  6. You missed me shoving coffee grounds in your face on Saturdays and telling you to smell them.
  7. You missed seeing who came to my rescue when I lost you, I was surprised at who came.
  8. You missed seeing who abandoned us, I’m not sure if that’s so surprising.
  9. You missed the kids swimming with fish and stingrays. Discovery Cove is such a cool place.
  10. The hotel had a lot fun things to do too, like a giant chess set.
  11. You missed Raiden having a melt down at Sea World. We stayed for 20 minutes and left. It was crazy. Our child wasn’t happy at a theme park.
  12. You missed one of our children’s new medical diagnosis. It sucked to hear. I cried. It sucked dealing with your death and then shortly after being alone and hearing this problem alone.
  13. Meki got married. I went up to Georgia and was one of her bridesmaids. It was a nice night.
  14. Sarah got married too. It’s crazy I ended up having so much in common with her.
  15. You missed us getting a fence. Remember how bad we wanted one? It’s the one I wanted- not the one you wanted, sorry.
  16. You didn’t get to see my law school headshots. They came out really nice. I know you would have thought they were so cool.
  17. You missed Wren’s first word. It was dada.
  18. A bunch of Marvel movies came out, I think you would have liked some, you also would have critiqued them.
  19. You missed playing Dungeons and Dragons. Cool stuff came out. I wish I could get it for you.
  20. Kim and I set up your desk. You never got to use it. You would have loved it- all of your D&D books, figs, paints, lights, tools. Its so cool. But it just sits there. Empty.
  21. You didn’t get to tell us the end of our D&D campaign. We will never know what happened.
  22. The kids finally saw mountains.
  23. They also explored Savannah and ate at a pirate house.
  24. The kids went to an apple orchard in the Carolinas.
  25. Biden became president. You don’t care much for politics but you didn’t know the outcome.
  26. COVID died down, but then kinda came back.
  27. The kids also saw a waterfall.
  28. You missed dressing up for Halloween.
  29. You missed Thanksgiving, I did all the cooking.
  30. You missed New Years. We still got Chinese food but it was really quiet.
  31. You missed our annual Summer party.
  32. I wish I could tell you that I’m dating Scott. You would never believe it. He is really awesome.
  33. I actually broke my phone for once and had to get a new one. So not like me.
  34. Your co-worker is really awesome too. Hilarious actually.
  35. You cant use Fabuloso on the floors anymore, that was your favorite cleaner.
  36. You missed bacon.
  37. You missed all of those horrible foods you like. Like gas station chicken wings. Gross.
  38. You missed cooking. No more gourmet eggs or whipped coffees. Certainly no more beef Wellington, that one is too hard.
  39. You missed sleeping in bed with clean sheets.
  40. You missed us getting a bigger, more reliable car.
  41. You missed taking the car in to be fixed. That’s not fun, but it doesn’t matter. Life can be very vibrant and you aren’t here for any of it.
  42. You missed sitting in a theater.
  43. You missed seeing our older children take care of Wren. I was so hurt the other day realizing you never saw Raiden as a big brother.
  44. You missed all of Wren’s outfits. I dress her just like I said I would. I put the biggest bows on her head. It is ridiculous.
  45. You missed seeing Wren in ads. It never gets old.
  46. You missed Kim’s birthday. It was 3 days after you died. I don’t even think she remembered it.
  47. You missed your friends. They all miss you. So much. I got so many messages. You were important.
  48. Trevor Moore, from Whitest Kids You Know, died. Many deaths Im indifferent to honestly, but that one stung. Another piece of us, gone. That show was great.
  49. You missed taking down the Christmas decorations. I left them up almost an entire year.
  50. You missed doing Christmas cookies.
  51. You missed me writing publicly. I finally did it. I thought I’d write about world topics, religion, politics. You missed that I write about grief and addiction.
  52. You missed getting family photos done. They came out nice, but it was weird to do it alone.
  53. You missed running. Cardio sucks. But you can’t run. You can’t move. It’s just nothing.
  54. You missed joining a gym with me.
  55. You missed eating healthy.
  56. You missed eating.
  57. You missed Wren crawling.
  58. You missed Wren eating her first food.
  59. You missed Wren.
  60. You missed me thanking you for my Christmas gifts. I still haven’t opened the espresso machine but I hope I can soon.
  61. You missed me getting the floor tiled. That nasty carpet is gone. It looks so much better and is so much more functional with 4 kids and 4 cats. When the carpet was removed I cried when I realized last second that I’d never see the stain you left in it from your coffee.
  62. You missed your nephew being born. You would have been elated. He has so much hair.
  63. You missed Chloe going to middle school.
  64. You missed all this new music I found. Yes it’s a bunch of indie stuff.
  65. You missed watching anime with me. I think you would have liked Re:Zero, or Junitaisen.
  66. You missed me returning to my old self and not putting up with bullshit anymore. Honestly it’s one of the positives.
  67. You missed me failing a class. Yep I actually failed one finally.
  68. You don’t know my new friends, the widows. I have a lot of them. At first I thought I was some unique anomaly but now that I’ve surrounded myself with death its so normal to me. I’m normal.
  69. Did you know we were on the receiving end of a charity? Man that doesn’t feel great let me tell you. I’m glad we have them but I always wish I could be on the giving end.
  70. I wish you could see how important you were. I think it kills me that your inner voice convinced you that you were worthless. Why did it do that? I wish you could have seen your kids without you. They need you.
  71. You missed me getting everything you said I needed, that you couldn’t do. Just basic things. I’m sorry you were right and I hate that for you. I still don’t understand why you, and others like you, could not overcome your sickness.
  72. You missed Scott taking care of us. A decent amount of people think it’s disrespectful but I honestly can’t think of a better alternative. You would want that more than anything else.

There’s so much more than this. These are just things I came up with quickly.

Every facet that you are missing that goes unaccounted for. It’s overwhelming at times.

I still do not feel as though this is real. Maybe I will soon.

I don’t have much reflection after a year besides the fact that absolutely nothing matters, in reality. Nothing really matters. But it also matters a ton.

Very confusing to be stuck between two extremes.

But that’s where I live now, in between extremes. I am the happiest I have ever been. I am also the saddest I have ever been. I just carry on through my day like this.

Extremes.

So far today I made it to the gym. I’m writing this on the treadmill. Pretending to be normal.

But I actually feel like I’m wearing a bright neon shirt that says:

“HEY EVERYONE MY HUSBAND DIED TODAY LAST YEAR! YEP TODAYS THE DAY! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT EITHER!!”

But for some reason everyone is blind. So no one can see this shirt but me. But I swear im wearing it. At least that’s how it feels.

I think that’s how it feels.

Vodka Water Bottle.

Did you know there is no such thing as a high functioning alcoholic?

I really hate that term. It implies that somehow an alcoholic or drug addict is “functioning,” because they can keep a job, do well at a job, drive without getting a DUI, make their kids dinner. Those things.

When Jesse died it felt like I had been bludgeoned to near death. Like someone had cracked all my ribs and broken my knee caps. When I walked I would literally collapse. I wanted to vomit looking at the constant pain in my children’s faces.

In the hospital not many people were allowed in because of COVID bullshit. (Yes I said bullshit, its not even political, but when someone is dead some things just become more important in your head than a pandemic).

At some point “a visitor,” was present in the room with me.

As I sat there in disbelief over the situation, I spent much time reflecting on the things Jesse had said to me just a few days before he died:

“ I bought alcohol… it’s in the car… Shell I’m going to go drink it please throw it away from here.”

“I will see Wren. I will get sober. She will know me. I’m not going to let this win.”

“I’m scared to leave the house. When I go by the gas station I’m going to want the drink. I’m not safe out there.”

“I want to change, I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“I am so addicted. I am so addicted” (said while hysterically crying over his dinner).

He wanted to be different but he literally couldn’t. He didn’t understand it either.

So when I saw him laying there in the hospital bed, blood dripping out of his mouth because it hadn’t been drained in awhile, I thought: “You have some peace now. This isn’t what we wanted, but you are safe now.”

It didn’t bring me any comfort, but I thought “you are finally sober, Jesse.”

Until the visitor dipped *its* hand in *its* water bottle and rubbed it on his lips.

I was too upset to notice that the entire time I sat by Jesse’s side, this visitor was wasted. This visitor was wasted and another visitor, I shall call visitor number two “enabler,” continued to bring visitor water bottles. So many water bottles.

No harm in water… but when it happened it felt weird. Something wasn’t right. So I asked, like I normally do, “is that water?”

“Vodka.”

Visitor replied in a whisper.

My heart sank. Was everyone around Jesse this tone deaf? Could they not see how much he struggled? Could they not see how tired he was? The sadness in his face? The abnormality of bringing a vodka water bottle to a hospital?

Or the abnormality of putting the exact thing that he hated, cried about, forcefully in his mouth? Why? Why would you do that?

I wish it was grief related, but it wasn’t. This was a reoccurring theme long before Jesse died.

The visitor and the enabler don’t seem to comprehend the difference between social drinking and addiction. Social drinking as in maybe at dinner or out with friends you grab a drink, addiction being bringing a mother fucking water bottle of vodka with you to get through a normal day. Hiding it. Pretending to be sober when you wreak of that pungnent smell. It’s mind blowing. Mental illness is at large between the two of then yet nothing is done. It’s easier to pretend I made this all up.

I have come to realize that there is really no way for that dynamic to stop because there is no outlier. When one is surrounded by addicts and enablers, the behavior doesn’t look bad, it’s normal. The whistle blower is the one that looks weird. The one trying to ‘ruin the good time.’ Not the one who is drunk at 10am and trying to hide it. Jesse was a black sheep, and I was a neurotic outlier.

I suppose ill take that over dysfunctional crazy lying drunk.

Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that while friends of the visitor are definitely enablers, they were hand picked. Nearly all of the visitors friends have a common theme about them: low self esteem, like incredibly low. Desperate to have a friend, so they will do anything to maintain their very unhealthy relationship. Unsightly, for the most part. Extremely overweight. Low education. Illogical.

When the visitor was done giving Jesse vodka, I took the opportunity to *figuratively* wipe it from his lips. I took my ivory cardigan sleeve and pretended to wipe his eyes, then his lips so it wouldn’t be obvious.

Just thinking to myself. Am I really in ICU doing this right now? Yes. Yes I was.

And it didn’t stop.

At Jesse’s funeral, there was a handful of people as well as the visitor from the hospital completely trashed. So I stood by Jesse’s side for 4 hours straight. People kept telling me to sit down as they were worried, I didn’t not because I didn’t want the break but because I felt like a guard dog. He was finally sober.

So leave him the fuck alone.

And no surprise (even though I continued to be surprised) the drunken comments continued to follow after he died.

Comments such as:

1. I was nothing but Jesse’s little girlfriend.

2. That I was a lazy parent.

3. That my kids were out of control and Jesse would have never let it get like this if I died.

4. That Jesse wanted to leave me.

5. That I grieve publicly for attention.

6. That I am manipulating things.

7. and a recent comment that, and I quote: “I am sad that you seem to say that you are so much better now he’s dead.”

8. I am “spewing hate.”

I was never able to rebuttable. Because most of these things were never said to me. They were said to everyone else (except that last one). Then when I would see these people, they were either quiet or I was told how wonderful I was. It’s also quite possible that the visitor, enabler, or the lackeys of said visitor don’t even remember saying it because of intoxication. Also. They are all just liars.

I tried really hard for months (Really years) to keep the peace, but then I ultimately decided the visitor, enabler, and lackeys should never be around us again.

I like my children alive. I want a thriving life. I cannot do that with dead toxic weight around.

I don’t want my children in gossipy, negative situations. Even my own children had made comments that they were sick of it.

It’s interesting because these comments are not unique to me. This is a very common theme for widows to experience, especially addiction widows. Regardless, I am offering a rebuttal to the claims above as I will never get the chance to do it privately; therefore it will be done publicly:

  1. (I was just a girlfriend) Jesse and I wanted to get married but were not super worried about it. I wrote a whole blog on this (See Marriage). But even if we didn’t get married, are girlfriends just nothing then? If you are a girlfriend and your boyfriend dies does that diminish your feelings or importance to him? Likely not. Not a very well thought out premise but I’d expect nothing less from them. This is called “ad hominem fallacy,” where you attack me personally instead of the matters at hand.

2. & 3. (Jesse wouldn’t let the kids be out of control) I am putting these together because they are pretty similar and equally hilarious.

Yes. Please tell me how the fentanyl-using, alcoholic, who had to pass out for hours at a time, lost multiple jobs, was in multiple car accidents (insert more chaos here)… would have somehow upon my death just got his act together after years of struggling and excelled at being a widower to three children.

The delusion is absolutely insane. Was Jesse a fun, loving father? Absolutely. Did he try his best? Absolutely. But to say that someone who spent half of his life in active addiction would have handled grieving better then a sober stable graduate student is absolutely insane.

Ironically my children have brought up this hypothetical also… except they all speculated that Dad would be more trashed than ever. That he would never be able to handle it. But what do they know? They only saw him every day *in the present* for 12 years.

Minus the fact that none of these people were ever widowed at 30 with 4 kids. But yes proceed to tell me about child grief.

4. (Jesse wanted to leave me)This statement isn’t true because something was left out. Like it is every-time its told. Jesse 100% said he wanted to leave me… AND THE KIDS. That’s right. The latter part is always left out. He said quite a few times he was poison to his family, that he wanted to get in the car and just drive- so we could have a normal life. Addiction wrecked us. He knew this. He loved us. It was more of an attempt to be a sacrificial lamb, but we wouldnt leave him behind.

5. (Me grieving for attention). This one was said by enabler- and I was waiting for it. A simple minded person would absolutely say that. Predictable.

But yes. I do this for attention. I absolutely do. I have to get everyones attention. I have to scream from the roof tops about addiction and grief because when I did it prior to Jesse’s death I was just a crazy person.

But let me tell you. I think the real reason I’m so angry is because these people are still alive. Still alive with no accountability. Still getting hammered. Still lying. Lying is a huge theme.

But Jesse isnt. Jesse tried to break free of how he was conditioned. He was accountable. It took much trial and error but he did try.

6. (That I manipulate things). I think what they really mean to say is that I think before I speak. None of my blogs have been done out of emotion. sure, I wrote them when I was emotional, but I check them and edit them when my head is clear. When I finally left the hospital and returned back to my home without him, my first thought was “FUCK! now I have to fucking explain all of this shit because you died. I can’t be quiet. How do I do it?” and I knew if I just said “hey everyone he’s a druggie!” no one would care. It would be his fault. I had to make sure people knew the Jesse I knew, so they could see what addiction does to people. Again, really talk to any addiction widow, I am not unique. All of their husbands have the same story as Jesse again and again.

7. (I’m better because Jesse died). No. I’m not dealing with an active addiction anymore. The man I am with now is the exact opposite to Jesse and yes I am thriving. I am allowed to thrive instead of be a care taker to a sick person. It doesn’t negate my grief. It doesn’t make me okay. When my now boyfriend read that comment he literally laughed and said sarcastically “yeah because you totally don’t cry everyday.” I just have an awesome support person now. He does things for me, things Jesse wished he could do and couldn’t because he was sick. Should I be miserable because I am with someone healthy? Should I go pick someone with an addiction again? I am healthier because addiction is gone, but I am still sad. I still grieve. I still am sad for my kids that their once beautiful father got so fucking sick.

8. (I’m hateful). Truth hurts mother fucker. I am only getting started. In what world do you live in that you think an abusive person should be protected? When you see a serial killer, and people comment “how could he!” is that also hateful? No. Some people are garbage. Me exposing garbage isn’t hateful, it’s a baptism. I am cleansing myself of poison I had to carry. I’m not going to stop, so you may want to shut your eyes

I have a lot to say and weak attempts to get me to stop will not work.

I didn’t start this game but I will finish it.

Fentanyl Widow.

“Okay, so, would you like to know what was in his system?”

“𝙲𝚊𝚗 𝙸 𝚐𝚞𝚎𝚜𝚜?”

“…sure”

“𝚄𝚖𝚖𝚖………𝚖𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚓𝚞𝚊𝚗𝚊?……..𝚊𝚕𝚌𝚘𝚑𝚘𝚕?….

𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝’𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚛𝚍 𝚘𝚗𝚎?”

“Fentanyl.”

I knew Jesse was going to die. When I say knew, I didn’t mean December 22, 2020 at 4:20 p.m. I meant I knew if he kept acting so reckless something bad would happen. I asked the doctor what the third drug was because I knew there had to be something else. He had been more off than normal the last month he was alive. He had been more sad. He had an even higher increase in his self-loathing. He cried almost every day.

By December many had washed their hands of him.

I was told a week before his death “make sure you know who his life insurance is through,” and left to deal with the addiction monster alone. What little help Jesse was given was gone and it was just he and I again.

Thanks.

But it’s alright. Because those people are drowning in guilt, while I have absolutely none. I rest easy. I know they don’t. I did everything I could.

Jesse was exhausting. It was exhausting. He was exhausted. I was exhausted. But I didn’t give up and neither did he.

He had relapsed just a few months prior and the benevolent Dr. Jekyll that I knew was gone, leaving me again with Mr. Hyde. The horrible Mr. Hyde.

My grief is so very very complicated for so many reasons.

I loved someone with an addiction, who was surrounded by addiction and an unhealthy environment much of his life. Who eventually tried to break free of that addiction. He didn’t get the success story we had hoped for.

I loved two different people in the same body.

I have so much evidence of him being absolutely wonderful, nearly perfect. A perfect father, a perfect husband, a loyal friend.

I also have so much evidence to the contrary. Evidence that makes me sad to see. Evidence that I try to understand was a sickness and not a choice.

I know it wasn’t his choice.

Yet some days I feel as though it was, like many people feel about addiction. How very confusing.

Well why didn’t you just say this in the first place? Why did it take you 11 months to say he was an addict? Why didn’t you share the bad things he did?

Simple.

Because people already know addiction is bad. They already know people with addictions can be downright horrible.

But what they don’t know is how amazing they can be. Or how very complicated all of it is. Much more complicated then choice. I didn’t want his death to be less because he was an addict.

We tend to do this for some reason, qualify deaths.

“Oh I’m so so sorry she passed… may I ask how?”

(Insert: Suicide, COVID with pre-existing condition, addiction, over-weight)

Any of those above reasons make those not dealing with the death feel better. They know they don’t have those problems so they feel safe from dying. But they aren’t.

I thought Jesse was unique for quite some time. He eventually was able to admit he had a problem. To seek help for that problem. Take medications. Verbalize how he felt. I was always proud of him for how far he came and the things he continued to overcome. If you spoke to him for a short amount of time he would tell you he struggled with drinking. It wasn’t a secret.

But he was so beaten down.

He had began to bring up things from the past, that I never knew. It was almost as though his suppression of trauma started to spill out, despite his best efforts to keep it away. Suppression doesn’t seem to work long term. But what do I know?

Jesse just wanted to make everyone happy, even if it made him hurt. On the occasion when he did speak up, he was ignored. He would usually let it go, at least at face value.

He spent most of the year in 2020 sober and on medications. He was doing pretty well. But by September 2020 he began to fall off the wagon.

Despite a great start to his year, my anxiety was through the roof. I knew it could be any second and relapse would be right there rearing his ugly head.

I wonder if when he told people “I am a recovering drug addict and alcoholic,” if they were more educated, maybe they would not have given him fentanyl. Or alcohol. Or looked him in his face and said “you’re not an alcoholic.” “You’re not bipolar.”

But what do doctors and Jesse himself know?

Part of the issue was that Jesse was SURROUNDED by addiction. To him, that was normal. The last thing an addict wants to do is have their friend or family stop using, because then they might have to acknowledge they also have a problem. The ratio of people who were addicts around him was too high. Removal was hard because they infiltrated every aspect of his life- work and home. It was in his face constantly.

One morning before work he told me this. It was 5:30 a.m. he woke me up crying. He told me he was scared to leave. He said he was only safe “here” (at the house) but once he went outside he wasn’t. I told him to stay home. Don’t drive to work. Don’t go to anyones house. His oldest daughter also told him this. But he felt like he had to. So he did.

We couldn’t keep him locked in the house. We wanted to, but it wasn’t realistic. He had to leave, at least he felt that way, and he was scared. He was like a moth approaching a light. Except the light was a neon liquor sign. He said it did something to his brain when he saw it, any will power he had shut off. He would literally black out, even before using the substance.

I don’t know precisely what happened that day he died, but I know enough.

The young man Jesse was with knew he was and addict and had relapsed. He saw Jesse passed out a few times. He knew, like many did in Jesse’s circle, that he had relapsed and was struggling.

By December, Jesse had gotten so bad that he was publicly crying at his job about his addiction. Literally begging for help. His job was very supportive of him. They even called me and we spoke about it. They were willing to help. They kept him employed and wanted to see him succeed. They were willing to do whatever he needed done.

I doubt Jesse’s hand was forced that day. I doubt Jesse was having one of his emotional episodes when he got in the car with the last person to see him alive, “BR.”

If anything, Jesse could have been in a chipper mood, the fake one he put on for many people, and taken the drug willingly, eager to feel a high, with a smile on his face.

I will never know the details because I wasn’t there.

The people that were there are liars, so I will never know. But I do know they are still alive. Very alive. Like eating out with their family alive or celebrating birthdays alive. Didn’t show up to Jesse’s funeral alive. Checking my Facebook alive. That type.

Not caring or owning that maybe dealing fentanyl wasn’t the best career choice.

Jesse *chose* to do the drug. The person giving it to him was sadly not his friend, but just a pathetic piece of trash preying on someone who was weak. I’m glad that $60 was worth it.

Perhaps if he didn’t know that Jesse was an addict I could be more sympathetic.

However, he was still dealing fentanyl. Addict or not, he lacked an education to know how deadly it was. If he was educated and he chose to deal something so potent, he knows he is scum. He will likely continue to deal. His life will go on, like nothing happened.

There is no karma. He could actually live a decent life… however decent a life could be dealing fentanyl I suppose, but for him he likely doesn’t have high expectations of his life anyhow.

See? My grief is complicated. So many layers of anger and sadness for so many things.

Which has led me to the thought that I should write a book.

I have too much to say in one setting for a blog and I really want people to see what I saw.

I’ve been journaling since I was 8. A real Harriet the Spy if you will. So I think I’m going to take my entries regarding addiction (there’s a ton) put them together, and that be my book.

In addition to journal entrys, I also would write Jesse letters when he relapsed. I did this because he was impossible to speak to drunk. So I would write a letter and hand it to him in the morning when he was sober. We would discuss the events of the night before and almost always, I heard some version of:

“I am sorry. I am poison to you, the kids, everyone. I know I will fix this. I will figure it out. I will be there for Wren. I have this new medication. I will beat this thing again.”

So. I have to write something.

It wasn’t safe for Jesse.

It’s not safe for addicts.

Therefore its not safe for any addicts family.

I wrote these letters to Jesse off and on for 13 years. Whenever he would relapse the letters would begin again.

Here’s the last one, sent an hour before he died:

To The Widow Who is Sick of Being Judged.

I see you.

Hundreds of you, all saying the same thing:

“I am afraid of…”

What are you afraid of?

Finding your husband dead? Getting that phone call that he is gone? Seeing him as ashes or cold to the touch? Realizing that the entire life you planned with him is completely gone?

As a widow, I have been judged for so many different things that it becomes mind numbing at some point. How so many non-widows could even think they know better than I do.

So I am here to simply say:

Do what you are afraid of.

Nothing is worse than what you already went through.

Your husband died 5 months ago and you want to date his best friend? Do it.

You want to take your wedding ring off but it hasn’t even been a year? Do it.

You want to post about being happy? Do it.

You don’t want to move any of his belongings? Don’t do it!

You never want another man to touch you? Don’t do it!

If anyone knows the cliche saying “life is too short” it is the young widow.

Do what you want or do nothing at all, but do not let the people who have never experienced the pain of your body being ripped in half tell you how to proceed as a whole.

Any non-widow who “knows how they would feel,” has no idea.

They only *think* they know how they would feel. They don’t know the twist and turns of grief. They don’t know what it is like to have someone by your side every day, then in a snap have no one. Like it was never there.

So when you do find a glimpse of happiness somewhere, take it.

You deserve it. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still grieving, it means you actually know how quickly life can change and want to savor this small moment before pain hits again.

You have already suffered enough. You deserve anything that brings you some happiness.

Winning At Grief.

I’ve read most of these. This was one of those days where I didn’t want to live anymore so I just bought every book I could think of.

When people think of a personality disorder I think they think of a moody woman that isn’t stable. That’s what I thought anyway.

That’s only a small portion of them though. A personality disorder is really just an observation that the person isn’t “meeting societal norms.”

They are different, literally. Sometimes this amounts to good qualities, sometimes bad.

So I have one of those. It’s called obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and it is NOT the same as OCD. OCD is generally something that is created later in life, I’ve had mine since I was born. In fact, a lot of people in my family do whether they want to get help for it or not. Also people with OCD recognize their behavior is off whereas people with OCPD generally do not. I didn’t, until I met Jesse. Jesse helped me a lot with this. I am glad he helped me work through it.

I was pretty upset when I was told by my doctor I had that. Who the fuck wants a personality disorder!?! But Jesse simply said it was more of a superpower than anything else.

So here’s what it is (via iocdf.org)

  1. Rigid adherence to rules and regulations.
  2. An overwhelming need for order.
  3. Unwillingness to yield or give responsibilities to others.
  4. A sense of righteousness about the way things “should be done.”

There’s a lot more to it than this, but this is a basic outline to what it is. Listening to the rules doesn’t sound too bad, but it is when you obsess over them and create your own. It’s bad when thats all you think about. Or you work a 20 hour day to meet the requirements of how things should be done and refuse help.

So for me, my sense of righteousness is an obsession with morality and honesty, hence my blogs on killing myself and sleeping with Jesse’s friend… and now my medical diagnoses. To me righteousness means being as candid as possible because that is how people progress. Think about it, anything that has ever changed was because of someone speaking up, not being silent. Because of someone telling the truth even when no one wanted to hear it or agreed. Doing the objectively right thing is something I always obsess over also. Popular and right are not the same. I have learned though that sometimes an objective right is hard to spot.

I do not like, but have had to, let others help me. I prefer to do tasks my way. Catch me on a bad day and I might be upset about how someone folded a towel. Do it perfectly or don’t do it. I don’t delegate many tasks out because I do not trust that it will be done correctly. I only delegate tasks if the person has “proven” to me that they don’t cut corners. So far this leaves my daughter Chloe and my friend Stephanie. Not a long list of trust going on.

Things must be in order. Chaos is horrible. I prefer things to be consistent and pretty much predictable. I want to stick to a schedule. That schedule is usually intense also. When I only had one child, part of our morning routine was to learn words in Mandarin and Spanish. So ridiculous. Who has time for that. Not me.

For the most part, I also like to follow rules. I love rules. This is probably why I love law. There is a caveat to this though, rules do not trump morality for me. At my Catholic law school we are told over and over a law that is not just is no law at all. This is a simplified version of what Thomas Aquinas said and I fully agree. Laws must be just. If they are not just, they should not be laws. So morality trumps listening to every rule, unless it is a just rule.

It is also an obsession with perfectionism and control. Two things I have clearly failed at.

Keeping Jesse alive? Fail.

Keeping Jesse sober? Also fail, but win, but fail, but also win, win, win, win, fail. Oh that’s right, *reminder to self* I do NOT have control over that.

I have applied my principles of morality/perfectionism/etc. to everything in life and it’s very clear if you look at things I’ve done.

Such as:

  • Commute to and from my home to my undergrad college (University of Florida) which was an 8 hour round trip twice a week with a small child and pregnant. I did this for 2 years to earn my bachelors.
  • After all 4 C-sections (From age 19-31) I have been back on the move, either to work, school, or soccer practice within 4 days of surgery.
  • Going to law school with 3 little kids and a husband in an active nasty addiction. Spend countless hours running a house, taking 18 credit hours, and figuring out how to get Jesse sober (more to come on this). All of this and I would still occasionally make the highest score on exams out of all 97ish students.
  • Continuing law school 2 weeks after Jesse died, giving birth in the middle of the semester to a fatherless child, and only failing one class.

You get the idea. Sometimes people say to me “Wow that is so impressive, how do you do it?” and I just want to reply “Thanks! It’s personality disorder.” But I also don’t want to scare them so I remain quiet.

My personality doesn’t allow for rest, to me that is imperfect. That’s another reason I am in therapy because being a workaholic doesn’t help anyone (but it also doesn’t kill anyone so stop blaming me for Jesse’s death lol). This standard I only apply to myself, not others. I am actually understanding of others to a fault. This is why I was able to love and live with a bipolar addict for 13 years. He had so much good in there.

Jesse and therapy helped make me a little more balanced, but also it’s inherent. Which means no matter how hard I try those things in my personality just kind of stick even though I try to water them down.

So what does this have to do with grief?

Everything.

Grief has “rules” to get better. These rules give some sort of control over grieving. Sounds good to me.

So I looked up the rules to recovery. The things I needed to do if I had any chance of not rotting away to nothing, and literally did as many as I possibly could. Even if it met it hurt (note: they all hurt). Because for months I woke up every morning questioning why I am still here. I wanted to just stay in bed and not leave it. Not go take care of the kids. Alone. Again. And again. And again for eternity.

Every one had their normal life but mine was fucked. No one saw Jesse enough besides us to hurt 24/7. They could pretend. We couldn’t.

I should have caught on early that I was trying to “win at grief,’ but of course I didn’t. I almost didn’t even publish my website because I knew I’d have spelling errors. I literally just had to say “Fuck it. That’s stupid Rochelle. Just publish it.” You aren’t a perfect person get over yourself.

I am about to do another list, which is a major red flag of OCPD, see the trend here? I am obsessed with list.

How do you objectively “win at grief”? Well first I had to read everything I could get my hands on from self help books to Japanese poetry on death, every article I could find, speak to every widow I could talk to and here’s my list my OCPD came up with:

  1. You need support: This doesn’t mean for a day, it means for months with a reassurance of forever. Support is being able to say “Damn this hurts” and people tell you “yes it does I am sorry.” Not diminish or try to make the pain prettier. It also means that the griever needs to also be able to recognize that support looks different from everyone. One of my attorney friends supported me by helping me fill out my BAR application, but she probably wouldn’t have done so hot watching all of my kids and a newborn. My mom isn’t even a widow yet, so she had no advice, but she could help with Wren really well. People can help, it just needs to be in a way that makes sense to them too.
  2. Get a good therapist: This one is hard. I luckily had already found mine. But consistent therapy helps figure out what is going on, what has happened, and what may happen. Having a plan and knowing what you are doing is normal is extremely important. My therapist and I are currently discussing how everything could crash at any given moment and what would lead up to it.
  3. Read everything: All of my severed relationships only surprised others, they did NOT surprise me. Any grief book essentially tells you how predicatable all of it is. So with that information you should work to be aware and prevent. If no one wants to meet you half way then cut ties.
  4. Make yourself do things: I hated this one. My therapist told me I had to do this. I barely would even shower, but he wanted me to go get my nails done? Ugh. No. Luckily I had an awesome friend that didn’t really ask my opinion she just booked a massage for me. I had to go and it helped.
  5. Protect your energy: Advice from the same friend. If it’s depleting your mental health get rid of it. There’s no more time to waste. If you feel uncomfortable, sad, angry do your best to pinpoint the cause and eliminate it. Cleanse yourself of bad habits and damaging people.
  6. Talk/Write: I see so many widows say “oh my God, so this is weird but…. Is that normal??” I’ve never seen a “no thats not normal” answer. Its kind of like when you see a funny video and you thought you were the only one who did that but it turns out everyone did. So speak up. While we are all unique we are also incredibly the same. Don’t be afraid. Just say it.
  7. Let yourself feel things: Be angry. Be sad. Positive vibes only aren’t real and they suck. Sometimes you have to have other emotions. Just don’t take them out on others.
  8. Organize your life: All those silly things we hear over and over again like exercise and eat right? Do them. Make a schedule. Plan out family game nights and stick to them (however much of your family isn’t dead, invite them over).
  9. Improve everything around you: I’ve always liked doing yard work but now I find “projects” to do outside. Mulch an area, garden, clean the garage out. Inside my house is the same. I do not have a brand new house so there is always something to work on. Improve people around you by helping them if you are able to.
  10. Do things you wouldn’t do: I pretty much said fuck it and just came up with more “chores” for myself. One of these was publishing a blog. Another one was making Wren a TikTok and IG account where I focus on her life, travels, outfits. It’s like another hobby and distraction for myself. Also, I figured since I couldn’t give her a dad I may as well give her somewhat of a privileged life. I am trying to so that with all the kids, within reason.
  11. Do what you want: Widows are judged no matter what they do. So just go do it. If it makes you happy screw everyone else. You already went through the worst thing.

By giving all these “tips” I am in no way trying to be a grief coach. I’m simply writing out what has helped me thus far. This is the list that my compulsive personality came up with and if I do all these things I might be perfect at grief. (Obviously not true, my mind just thinks I have control over everything).

Grief isn’t linear. So while I am doing better as I write this I could also relapse and be right back at square one. Grief just blows. But since I’ve been doing a little better I figured I’d take the opportunity to talk about my OCPD and how it impacts my grieving.

I don’t have any doubts about what I am doing. These numbers don’t lie. It’s also nice to hear my therapist say: “you actually sound happy.”

Oh.

And I figured I’d mention the OCPD because if I have to start getting into the reality of addiction, unhealthy family dynamics, abuse, suppression of traumas and all other things that aren’t too great, I should probably explain my problems first.

Which I don’t mind doing.

Law School Begins. Again.

Throwback pic to 1L year where I learned law school is about coloring.
Now I’m a ✨4L✨ 😍
#highlighterlove

When Jesse died during the end of December 2020 I was taking a two hour credit course during the “break,” about legal writing.

That day I turned in my assignment with anxiety over it and planned to tell Jesse about it later that night. I didn’t get a chance to though.

I told my school the next day what happened and literally could not have cared less about that class. I have always obsessively worried about my grades, classes, etc, but I obviously didn’t care.

Spring semester was close. It started around the first week of January and my options were take the semester off and grieve or return to school.

I chose to go back even though Jesse had only been gone for two weeks. I did this because I needed to be overwhelmed. It sounds crazy but the busier I was the more options I had to distract myself.

To graduate law school I needed to pass:

  • The legal writing class (yes, I totally forgot the real name #widowfog).
  • Family Law
  • Labor Law practicum
  • Advanced Legal Analysis: ALA (a bar prep class)
  • Right to life (a class about pulling the cord. PERFECT for what I just went through)
  • The MPRE (multistate professional responsibility exam)

That was a lot to do while grieving and delivering a baby. I cried every night and took 29 baths a day. I tried to get to class. Some days I didn’t because I had 1 hour of sleep and a newborn. But my goal was to pass ONE of those 6 classes/exams. I thought if I can just make SOME progress I will be okay with that and be kind to myself. My mom helped me the most with a few close friends and my sil/bil.

Despite trying, my brain was blurred. The passion and intensity I had for the law was so dulled down. I didn’t care. Who cares about laws we made up? Nothing matters. Everything is now irrelevant and stupid.

But I kept at it because no matter how badly I didn’t care, I didn’t need to make it worse for the kids. The last thing they needed was a depressed jobless mom on top of all the bullshit they already encountered.

My school isn’t a huge university and I am so glad its not. It is very close knit and my classmates backed up their words when they said “we are here for you.”

In all of my classes I had a friend or two who broke down the law, helped me remember it, studied with me, even came over to hold the baby while I jotted notes down.

So I ended up passing all the classes but two. I failed ALA and I gave up on the writing class. The writing class I just couldn’t resume because Jesse died in the middle of an assignment and every time I started the assignment thats what I thought about.

I tried as best I could in ALA but I was so exhausted I would sleep in. At that point in time my son was also at his absolute worse. My life was just total chaos. I wish someone could have filmed it because words don’t do it justice. Plus family drama, but really that was the least of my worries.. it was more of an added “what the fuck.”

I couldn’t sleep because of my anxiety. But I was so tired. My son had angry outburst. My daughter intensely cried all the time and my other daughter rushed around trying to fix everyone, forgetting about herself. Toss in a newborn. Csection recovery. 5 animals. Soccer and dance practice. School during covid. Death related documents kept piling up. The house was disgusting. I just wanted to die.

So I failed. Two classes out of the 6 things I needed to pass. I call that a win though.

I need 90 credits to get my JD and I have 84.

My school let me walk with my class and I got to take pictures. Now I have to pass these two remaining classes. (grades are posted AFTER graduation but I knew I was going to fail at least 1 thing so it wasn’t a surprise).

Am I worried about failing again?

Absolutely. My fire is starting to come back a bit but its not like it was. I still have days where I am extremely down.

To me, there was no good reason to take time off. Will it be trying to get through holidays without Jesse? God yes. I’m terrified but it will *always* be trying.

In fact most widows say year 2 is worse because thats when you realize “Shit. This isn’t changing. He is really dead.”

So if I took my time, that would be two years of me delaying law school for my grief. I was afraid if I stopped I would never go back. There really will never be a perfect time to resume. Something will always suck.

So now I am in school again, trying to finish these last two classes and if I do, hopefully pass the bar exam. A part of me wants to wither away to nothing and just stare at the sky while I ignore all of my responsibilities but I have 4 kids that did nothing wrong and have dealt with more shit than some adults. They deserve the best me I can be despite this insane chaos.

Hopefully using them as my focus I can pass these two remaining classes and get my JD.

*Excuse any typos. I penned this from my phone as I waited in the car line for my 17 kids to get out of school. Did you know typos and mis-spellings don’t matter? Honestly. At the end of the day we are going to die. And soon. No one will remember if we used the correct “there” or not. So while it may be important to be perfect in my professional life, here I don’t care.

Christmas in July.

The 7 month mark for us is July.

I can’t believe I haven’t spoken to Jesse since before Christmas. I can’t believe he’s been somewhere else or no where else for more than half of a year. What has he been doing? Where is he?

I am still hurting but my feelings are in different places. I know I won’t ever get over it. It will only change. And it has. So I guess I will mark here those changes.

Our fridge with Christmas decor.

I’m trying really hard to take down my Christmas decor. I have made progress, but I can only chip away at things. To take everything down at once is much too overwhelming. When I move around or put back too many of Jesse’s things at once I always have a melt down.

This means if Jesse left out a pen, it is challenging for me to put it back where the pens go. I am erasing evidence of his existence.

So that leaves us stuck in Christmas.

Take the artwork off of the fridge. Take December’s dinner menu down. Take the garland from the top of the cabinets.

I was hoping by putting back up my non-holiday decor with the holiday decor I’d want to remove it. But nope. Just made more clutter.

Take the lights off of the front of the house.

People who drive by probably think we are lazy. “Those people still have their Christmas lights up and it’s July!”

But that’s one of the last things Jesse did. Sure the lights are starting to fall off but they are still hanging, for now.

I should probably take these down. Maybe next month.

It sounds strange but by taking photos and writing and I am able to take a bit more down. Putting it here is evidence of its existence. I am securing it’s memory.

Evidence that Jesse was here at one point and I didn’t just make him up. Because it certainly feels as though I made him up.

My best friend and I often speak about being frozen on the day he died. She is 30 and I am now 31, but when asked our ages we automatically say “29” in her case or “30” in my case. Our birthdays never happened.

Lately I have been having more secondary grief. I am grieving a lot for things that Jesse is missing out on. Things he should have done but was not able to.

I have a few select memories in my head that I have chosen to torture myself with frequently.

Here’s one of my favorites:

He’s been up all night. He never slept well. He gets up at 5am. Gets ready and leaves. He’s working by 6:30am, all day outside. He’s driving to work and wishing he could stay home. He has an hour drive. He has no idea he’s about to die that day.

Most days he is depressed now, really only the kids and I make him happy. He feels like he is failing. He feels like he cannot take a day off, we need the money. I text him around 11 in the afternoon. I tell him “next year will be good for us. I will graduate, it won’t be so stressful, just 6 more months.”

He’s about to die in 5 hours. He has no idea.

Around 3 in the afternoon he’s headed to the house. He’s North on U.S. 41. He has no idea in about an hour he will be headed South on U.S. 41, back to the hospital he just passed.

He’s driven some now. The AC is out in our old car. It’s really hot. He’s worked all day, he’s dirty, sweaty, and there’s no AC in his car. He is 5 minutes from the house, I wonder if he felt excited to get home at some point?

But in reality he’s about to die in 10 minutes. He has absolutely no idea.

I have the police report. I saw his x-rays. His head. The trajectory of his vehicle. The notes that it was a struggle for the paramedics to get him out.

He has no idea he’s about to snap his right femur clean. That his lungs will fill with blood. That his brain will swell. That his head will separate from the rest of his body. That his car will flip twice. That he will never see us again. Or anyone for that matter.

This grief is strange because I am longing for him to take a shower. To sit in the AC. To have his dinner. Brush his teeth. Something. Lay in bed and feel calm.

He doesn’t get to do anything. He can’t lay in bed after an exhausting day. He can’t play his game or listen to his favorite podcast. He died after working all day. Not rested. Sad. Sweaty. Exhausted. In his Google search history the last thing he looked up was “pain on left side.” I hate how he died. He was uncomfortable.

It really bothers me.

I am envious of those who die in the comfort of their bed. Yet I know so many widows… that I know that brings it’s own unique horrible issues too. There really isn’t a good outcome. I just think. A lot.

I think about this every day. I’m not sure why I engage in this self torture. It is likely my OCD. (That is what OCD is, torturous repetitive thoughts… NOT cleaning!)

The other thing that I am struggling with is anger. I’ve been pretty neutral (and by neutral I mean = namaste bitches) but I feel like I don’t want to do that anymore.

When I try to leave the house and it’s hot as shit outside, Wren is screaming, my back hurts, she has vomited everywhere, I forgot something… I find myself angry with Jesse.

It is super irrational. I know this. He didn’t want to die, but when I am at my wits end, my anger gets pointed to him as in:

“Thanks for fucking leaving me with 4 kids to raise alone! Like really alone! You’re an asshole for dying!!!!”

I had help here and there, but that daily grind? That’s all me. There is no dropping the kids off at Dads on Saturday. Its me. 24/7.

I do have this gem of a human being helping me now, but I’m awkward sometimes and hesitant to let him do more. What if he dies tomorrow? What if… what if…

I have no true anger towards Jesse, just heightened emotional states. I wait until these pass because I know he didn’t do anything wrong, it was just life sucking.

I do have anger towards “family” though. It is weird much of my support came from friends. Most of the judgement came from select family members. The special ones.

Jesse did me a favor when he was alive and taught me how to chill out. He taught me how to let it go. Or suppress it. Whatever.

But maybe I don’t want to do that anymore. Theres a fine line between letting it go and letting people treat you like shit. I’ve never been one to be quiet but out of some sort of weird respect for Jesse I learned to be quiet.

Sometimes.

And I’ve been the fan favorite since Jesse died. Not to people with any class though. It seems there is a common theme of mentally unstable people commenting about what I do or don’t do.

That anger is real. It’s not a heightened emotional state. Its more of a be careful because I see you and I will eventually verbally wreck you, watch your damn self state. Be careful I don’t post a blog and tag your asses state.

Do I actually care what people say about me? No. Because it’s either not true… or maybe it is true… but it’s that malicious intent. That desire to kick me when I am already down. That is what doesn’t sit right with me. The fake support to my face and then behind my back criticism.

Let’s hear it:

“She’s not even a widow. Lol.”

“She stressed Jesse out sooo much!”

“She did WHAT with the money! Omg!”

“Her new boyfriend? Yeah. She started seeing him only 5 months after Jesse died. They won’t last. She doesn’t really know him.”

Her relationship with Jesse wasn’t perfect, yet she is always acting like it is.”

“And evil takes a human form in Regina George. Don’t be fooled. She may seem like your typical selfish back stabbing slut-faced hoe bag, but in reality, she is so much more than that..”

*Okay so maybe that last one is a quote from the movie “Mean Girls.” It just felt appropriate but it is really totally irrelevant.*

Rarely is anything ever said to me. When it is, I gain respect for that person. Like I said, it’s not the thoughts, it’s the intent. It’s the fakeness. It repulses me and always has. Opinions are fine. Gossipy shit talking and weird displays of behavior are not.

I guess it is the human problem. The Freudian “id” if you will. That primitive nature to pin someone as a scape goat. The lack of a higher awareness to not do it. To make an attempt, a poor one, to hurt someone who is already hurting.. that is already so tired.

It is disturbing, yet…

common. Most widows deal with this at one point or another. The criticism.

For now, things have “changed,” as in I obsess over the unfairness of all of it and have allowed my anger to begin to come out. It’s not a stage. I am not in the anger stage.

The “stages of grief” model that nearly everyone knows is inaccurate. I could resolve my anger but it may pop up again in two years or two seconds.

Grief makes emotions go all over the place and frequently at that. I keep them in check but allow them to do as they need.

That Was Fast.

That Was Fast.

I have a boyfriend.

Weird right? That wasn’t in my game plan, but neither was Jesse getting internally decapitated.

Apparently, I don’t have as much control over my life as I used to think.

I didn’t intend on seeing anyone, but here I am. Especially after half a year.

Widows are given major shit, for two main reasons:

  1. That we somehow caused or contributed to our spouses death. I’m not making this up. It’s pretty common. (See “that bitch Carole Baskins”) and;
  2. That every one who isn’t a widow knows the appropriate date for us to begin dating again. Everyone is an expert except us, the ones actually dealing with it.

I believe that when someone dies those who don’t logically think out their emotions need to place their anger somewhere, so usually the wife is targeted. “She could have kept him home that day.” “She caused his stress.” “She could have… blah blah blah.” This is a common theme.

I have been accused of contributing to Jesse’s death, because that’s what predictable irrational people do.

But I’m not going to discuss prong 1 besides the small portion I just spoke about because anyone who thinks that is insane.

I didn’t think I’d ever be with anyone ever again. Not because I wanted to be a nun or a monk but because now I am this complex grief person and I felt like many people wouldn’t understand that. Also throw in a newborn and 3 more grieving kids. Also I never told Jesse bye. Yikes.

I started thinking of everything I would need from this next relationship. There were so many boxes to check that I literally laughed at myself and thought “yep this person isn’t out there,” but oh well. While I didn’t want to be alone forever, it’s not the worst thing thats ever happened to me so I shrugged my shoulders at it.

I’d have to find someone that was okay with a lot of things and this is kind of where my mind went:

  1. Letting me speak about Jesse as often or as little as I wanted.
  2. Wasn’t threatened by his photos in our house.
  3. Could understand the differences in my children’s grieving styles.
  4. Could handle 4 children.
  5. Understood I may want to publicly display my thoughts.
  6. Be stable.
  7. Not have any addiction issues.
  8. Not demean or belittle my feelings (i.e. likely someone that had lost someone too so they would “get it.”)
  9. Bonus points awarded if they knew Jesse.
  10. More points if they know the kids already.
  11. I am not a sports person. So i’d rather not date someone who wants to drag me to a basketball game every weekend.
  12. I am extremely blunt and don’t like passiveness.
  13. I need honesty. This one is one of my most important things.
  14. Was a clean person. I can’t be with someone who is messy.
  15. Treated me well.

Okay so maybe I needed a lot of things. I took all of Jesse’s positive qualities and then just added a ton more.

Those along with so many other things that I didn’t even mention here, you can see why the possibilities were so little. My most important boxes I wouldn’t negotiate. If the person didn’t have them I wasn’t going to deal with them. My minor boxes that I wanted checked, like: hey it would be cool if this person liked to dress up for Halloween with me, weren’t going to make it or break it, they were just extra. I was very amused with myself because the list was just so specific.

Widows do not want to “move on,” they want to “move forward,” as Nora McInery so famously put it. We want to take our person with us mentally. Not be forced to forget everything.

In the widow community, there are a decent amount of men that are jealous of the widow’s late husband. I did not want to deal with this but knew that there was a good chance I would. I didn’t see myself getting very lucky.

But I suppose I did.

Most of Jesse’s friends are married, but his one friend Scott isn’t. I’ve known Scott just as long as I’ve known Jesse. We all met at the same place 13 years ago. Jesse and Scott got along extremely well.

So well that we ended up knowing many people in his family. For Oraia’s first birthday Scott’s mom made her this amazing pumpkin cake that lit up and everything.

Oraia’s first birthday cake in 2013.

Jesse and one of Scott’s brothers ended up being friends too. From there I ended up being friends with his brother’s then girlfriend and am still close to her.

He is in the background of my children’s birthday party photos and I am in the background of his daughter Marina’s birthday party photos. The kids used to hunt for eggs together on Easter and swim at his house.

My family already knows him. His family already knows me. Just not in this capacity.

To me, this is really strange. My therapist says the reason its messing with me so badly is because I am a very well planned and organized person. I say something, I do it. I plan something, it goes through. I have an idea of what my life will be like.

Younger me said “find a husband, have as many kids as you can, own your house, be a lawyer, travel.”

That’s pretty much what I have done. So I have this false notion that I control things.

I don’t. Lol.

Jesse dying wasn’t in that 10 year plan. That really shocked me. Scott being my boyfriend wasn’t even…God that never crossed my mind. Ever. Nor did it cross his.

This video used to just be cute and now it means so much to me. It kind of symbolizes how things used to be for us. It’s a video that Scott took of Jesse using our front door to pull out Chloe’s tooth. Chloe thought it was so fun. Scott is asking his daughter if she wants to do it too and she’s telling him no way. Scott, like Jesse, is a wonderful father. They shared that in common.

But so much has changed and we are also different now than 13 years ago.

Scott understands and supports everything I do or don’t do. Jesse’s things are Jesses. They are left alone. He doesn’t want to alter them. He doesn’t care if his photos are up. He talks to the kids about Jesse. He talks to me about Jesse. He talks to me if I’m sad. He’s not threatened, he’s supportive. That makes me like him more and helps me “heal.” He is not a stranger to us.

Scott unfortunately is well-versed in trauma too.

Scott’s nephew, Alex, drowned in a pool a few years ago. He was 2 and about the same age as Scott’s daughter at the time. Scott had to pull him out of the pool and give him CPR, but it was too late. It made me sick to my stomach when I heard what happened and it still does. No one should ever have to bury their baby. Scott says that it was the worst funeral he had ever been to.

Just a few years later his mother died of cancer when she was 52. She was an artist and a really strong woman. She raised 5 boys and I can barely handle my 1.

Then in 2019, his younger brother Caleb died in a motorcycle accident. He was 27 and his beautiful girlfriend was pregnant with his child he would never know. Although I feel like an anomaly, there are people out there like me and one of them is Scott’s sister-in-law.

Also throw into this a mentally unstable woman he used to have to deal with. She is still unwell unfortunately.

Needless to say, Scott gets me. I knew all of these things about him yet I never put the pieces together, that maybe we would work out? It never crossed my mind like that, but Scott checks every single box.

Jesse has only been gone for half a year so while it was a thought on my mind I was not actively looking for someone to be with. Half a year doesn’t sound like a long time.

But it is. I’ve had to process my sad emotions much quicker than any other family member because I lived with him.

While other family members love him, it’s possible they only would have seen him 10 times in the last 6 months. While as the children and I are on our 183 day where he doesn’t come home. Other family members maybe sent him a text message once a month, Jesse and I spoke all day for years.

It is only slammed in our faces. Everyone else gets to “ease into it.” I’ve had to tear off many band-aids since he was gone. And sending my first text to Scott was definitely a band-aid to rip. I literally closed my eyes and hit send.

Not to mention I fully immerse myself in my grief. I challenge myself with something every day. I talk about it all the time. Many people suppress these feelings but it delays any possible recovery. I don’t want to rot, so I do every textbook thing I am told to do, as good as I can.

By acknowledging Scott as my “Chapter 2” (cannot fucking stand this word its so cringe but the widow community loves it- its the person you are with after your husband dies and generally its more on the serious side), I am showing the world that:

YES JESSE REALLY IS DEAD WELCOME TO MY LIFE.

I do not get to hide. The kids do not get to hide. We don’t have a safe space. We have a fucked up space.

Rochelle being Scott’s girlfriend and no longer Jesse’s wife is hard to fucking write or see. It was a challenge for me to even change my relationship status. I literally went back and forth with it because Facebook doesn’t have a poly option. But Scott didn’t care and that’s what makes him so great. I can be myself.

I ultimately did it because Jesse is not coming back. Ever. There is no point in telling Scott “Hey society says I should wait 6 years to see you so just go do something while I appease these clueless people.” No.

It makes me sad in a way because in the widow community many widows DO date and they always talk about having to hide their person from the world. It is extremely upsetting that these people feel as though they cannot be themselves. I will not hide anything and I strongly encourage other widows to do the same.

Scott makes me as happy as I could be in my shitty situation, to try and take that from me because YOU are uncomfortable is wrong.

I know many of my friends will be supportive but I am kinda speaking on behalf of all widows when I say:

Fuck you to those who aren’t.

Simply put, it is so selfish to assume you are somehow the master of time of when a widow may appropriately date again. If a widow finds someone that gives her even a smidge of happiness, YOU NEED TO BE HAPPY FOR HER BECAUSE WE ALREADY DEALT WITH SO MUCH SHIT AND WE CANNOT CHANGE ANYTHING.

Widows are highly criticized when they do try to date and it’s kind of ridiculous. Do I think a widow should remarry the day after her husband dies? Well no, that screams co-dependency to me. But after a few months or whatever it may be.. we should be able to date if we can muster the courage to do so. I was so terrified and I am glad I just forced myself to do it, like I do all things.

Another aspect to this is how our relationship is unique. I already trust Scott. He already knows my “secrets” (again lose usage of that word because I pretty much tell everyone everything), he has seen me in an argument, he has heard Jesse complain about me. We get to skip all of that. It kind of makes me feel like we have been together longer than we actually have.

Jesse was my best friend and in some weird part of my brain I wish I could tell him all of these things. Just call him and say “dude you will not believe what happened.” But I can’t. Ever.

The last aspect to this that gets criticism is: is it weird that it is one of Jesse’s best friends?

Nope. A quick Google search you will actually see this is the most normal situation, which I find amazing.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Alright alright. You get it.

I’m not saying I am marrying him tomorrow, but I am saying for now he is really great for me and hopefully it’s for a long time.

He has a dark sense of humor which I also have. We make our trauma funny together.

He said to me he thinks he will die around 50, so I will be widowed twice. Then he assured me “but this time you can prepare.”

And we both laughed.

Being with Scott doesn’t erase anything I’ve said about Jesse. I feel exactly the same about Jesse as I did a few months ago, there is just nothing I can do. No amount of sadness will bring him back. At least with Scott I get to be happy sometimes instead of just miserable 24/7.

Fuck Father’s Day.

If your child has a nut allergy schools will at minimum make an attempt to shield your child from it. Even if it’s a poor attempt they ultimately wouldn’t want a physical liability on their hands.

Oh no. It’s a scary photo of reality. Quick. Divert your eyes. You mustn’t see others pain!

What about if your child has a dead father? Or maybe their father died when they were very young or before they were born? Or while I’m there, an absent father? Or maybe you aren’t too great of a mother and have filled your child’s head with lies about their dad?

What about those kids?

Are there warning signs posted for them? Does the class have to pay attention to this child’s specific needs? No. because these needs are “mental”…except they aren’t because there are physical responses to grieving too.

The physical response is different but nonetheless becomes physical. One child has a potential to suffer from anaphylaxis. This is terrifying, so we pay attention. A grieving child is different. They lash out in ways we don’t understand, like you know, by holding a knife to their throat or laying in the street begging to be ran over by a car or crying in their room for hours or not saying a word.

But fuck those kids, am I right?!

Make them sit among their peers and sketch out things they love about their father with a shitty Crayola marker. Make sure you talk about their father ALL day. Hype them up ALL WEEK for Father’s day crafts.

Make sure you ask them and talk about what they love about their dad and what they are doing for the summer with their dad. Do this in front of the class.

Really rub it in their face and do it every year, please. Do it so much they have to learn to numb themselves so it doesn’t hurt as bad and become emotionally detached adults.

Really give yourself a gold star when you realize they don’t have a dad and you suggest with a smile “oh well I’m sure there is someone you could make a card for? there’s an uncle…or grandpa even? SOMEONE has to have a penis that you know right!?!”

Pat them on the head and feel good about yourself as you walk away because your job is done. That child is cured. Why didn’t I think of the replacement penis idea!? Profound accomplishment.

Can you tell its not the same or should I become more vulgar?

And no, this is in no way similar to a grieving exercise during group counseling. (Because those kids share a common thread=dead parent. They aren’t surrounded by reminders of living parents.)

A father is a special person, no doubt. When my life wasn’t a shitty Netflix series, or a compelling HBO drama, or a Lifetime movie, we did Father’s day crafts too.

But this was always in the back of my head. I just didn’t say anything. I tried to be sensitive when I noticed it, but I was so clueless of the silent chaos.

Since I am well aware of the chaos that ensues behind those little faces when they return home, I must say:

Fuck father’s day. Really fuck this day. Maybe year 5 of grieving for us we will do something cute and “remember the good times” but for us, in year one. Fuck it.

Here’s a crazy idea. It’s wild but hear me out. Respect and honor your father, if you have one, every day. Be thankful if he dotes over you, protects you, or hell, even says hi to you.

At this point we would take anything. This post won’t eliminate father’s day from the world and I am so ignorant in my grief that I don’t have a better idea on how to go about that day for my kids. But I guess I’ll learn how to navigate that one too.

Learn all this shit I really don’t want to learn.