Grief Adjacency.

This is a term we fun, life of the party, grief-stricken people use to describe those on the outside-who are in our circle, either trying to support us, ignore us, or give us well-meaning advice. They are grief-adjacent. Lucky them. I miss being grief-adjacent. I was on that side of it quite a few times. So ignorant to my friends or families pain.

Everyone is different but I would imagine most of us who have lost our spouse are on the same page with our grief and most of us do not appreciate some well meaning things. They are outdated and almost insulting as it shows little to no work or thought has been put into what was said. I assure you, if you Google it quickly, your phrase is a big no no. This list will be more akin to widows- but I am sure there are similarities throughout for other types of losses.

Here is a small list of things that are not helpful and better alternatives to help your grieving person:

1. “Stay strong.” “Time will heal.”

Strength has no place here. I hope if you are meaning “hey don’t kill yourself,” just be candid and say that rather than the strong thing. There is nothing strong about survival.

Imagine someone stranded in the wilderness. Their plane has crashed and they are the only survivor. They are shocked it happened. They are so cold, wet, tired, and nearly starving. They have severe physical injuries. Would it be appropriate to find them in the woods, tell them “hey you’re strong!” Then just walk away? No. They are merely surviving, the most basic of human instincts.

So don’t do it to your grieving person. Their plane of life has crashed also. They feel alone like they are the only one. They are likely not taking care of themselves like they used too. They have mental injuries so significant they would probably rather have physical ones. They also have physical ones, like panic attacks or even worse “broken heart syndrome” look it up.

If they end up finding their way out of the wilderness- they will likely have trauma or PTSD that last a life time. Hopefully with therapy or something of a like they can find a way to navigate themselves, but if they don’t you need to deal with it. Some people just don’t recover just like some people don’t live until there 80. Accept this shitty fact to reality. Listen to what your grieving person is saying and not try to spin it with some toxic positivity. Some things just are not positive. It says more about you when you fight it then it does your grieving person.

As for time, it is irrelevant here. My person left earth and they won’t be back next year. They won’t be back in five years. So how could you say “time will heal” or something of the like? If time heals me, then let time be the master. You do not speak for me or time- so just don’t say it. You are not the predictor of my future. You have no idea. Your person may not even be dead. I want time to heal me too but after speaking to a lot of younger widows, the consensus seems to be time doesn’t heal anything. It just becomes different at best. You just adapt in some weird way. I also know many grieving people years out that haven’t adapted at all. They are worse than they were the day it happened. It’s not that they didn’t try, it’s that the pain engulfed them. This has nothing to do with choice. We all have different brains. Our brains work differently. Some relationships are more intense- and I truly believe that impacts how badly they hurt.

Do I speak about him too much for you? Do you realize he was everywhere. Every second… and now he is no where.

2. “They are in heaven.” “Heaven/God needed him.” “I had a dream and they wanted me to tell you…” “things happen for a reason.”

Tread. Very. Lightly. Friend. Make sure our religious beliefs are the same or this will cause many problems. If your grieving person believes in the monotheistic God and you know them that way- then go right ahead. If you aren’t sure. Don’t say a word. It is NOT ABOUT YOU or where you think they are. It is likely what comforts you will not work for them.

Jesse and I had a friend, Brett, who passed a few years ago. It brought Jesse and I *a little* comfort to know Brett was *at peace* (he suffered with severe depression and his last few years on earth he had a rough time). We dare did not say this to his family, just each other. We were grief adjacent. Yes he was our friend, but we didn’t live with him, pay bills with him, sleep with him- and as vulgar as it sounds- we didn’t have sex with him, kiss him, have kids… you get the idea. Sometimes vulgarity is required to stress a point.

If you have another religion where you are a medium or something of the like- also tread lightly. We knew our person better than you did so you better be careful what you tell us. If you suggest they have come to you first or another family member they didn’t care too much for and not their grieving wife and children the bullshit radar is going to go off. If you are going to make an attempt make sure there is a more legitimate connection.

As for things happening for a reason, again, unless you are deeply in-tuned with our religious beliefs you have no standing to say this. You are a regular person, how could you know anything about why our loved one left? You don’t have authority to speak on it, you are a regular human, so stop.

3. “You can remarry.” “You are young.” “You have a lot of life left.” “Didn’t you enjoy things before you knew (insert dead person).”

These statements are akin to: If you have more than two children, pick the one you want to die, then just have another child. Would you feel better? Would that work? If you answered no then there you go. Our new spouse or whoever cannot replace our old one. They are different people. If you answered yes you either do not have children or you need to seek out a psychiatrist.

It is also likely we had a life before our spouse, that doesn’t mean anything to us when discussing our grief. We are in pain and likely depressed every second of our life. Anything that was “mine,” before meeting meshed into “ours,” at some point.

Example: Yoga was “my” thing. I went to it alone. I practiced it alone at the studio. I should still enjoy that right? Wrong.

I invited my spouse to yoga once and I remember how he was great at it (like he could do tons of variations of crow pose which require decent upper body strength and balance). I called my spouse after yoga and told him how it went. I would show him new moves when I got back home that I learned and he would be so impressed. If I wasn’t good at a move- he would help me get positioned into it. When I went, we had to make sure together he was off in time so he could watch our kids while I went. He paid for me to go to yoga. He listened to my new yoga music in the car when we drove. He made dumb jokes about some more provocative yoga poses I put myself in.

So was yoga just MY thing? No. It turned into our thing. Like every other single thing in my life. We enjoyed things TOGETHER.

Personally, for me, I am extremely depressed. Things that used to make me happy are not working (no shit). My energy is depleted. I had a full life outside of my spouse. I painted, obsessed over my career, decorated my house. These things I still enjoy somewhere- but it’s hard to be happy about them because they seem pointless. Why am I doing them? I am just going to die anyhow. My outlook on life is a bit tarnished and hopefully I am me again one day. But again, from what I have seen, a lot of widows feel the need to reinvent themselves and I also see that being a possibility for myself (which I don’t like).

4. “Let’s go here! That’s fun and will get you in a better mood!”

Nothing is going to put us in a better mood. It may at minimum be a distraction for a small second. Invite us to where ever it is and don’t add that you may have a cure for us. Because you don’t.

Just validate our feelings. Sadness, anger, darkness, whatever- it’s best to just go with it. We don’t like being on this emotional roller coaster either. If anyone wants off this horrible ride it’s your grief-stricken friend.

If we thought a fun place would help us, we would probably go. We won’t feel the same about normal places anymore like you will.

Example: I used to like going to Hobby Lobby and looking at home decor. I decided to go the other day because I remembered I felt happy there. My perspective has changed. It’s not the place, it’s my mind. No one can go in my brain and fix my mind.

Instead of seeing ideas for my patio, all I could see were their signs: “our love story is my favorite,” “so I can kiss you whenever I want,” “this is us,” “dance with me in the kitchen,” “home is where I am with you.”

I felt like I was being attacked in there and nothing had actually changed at their store- it was just me. The signs were so overwhelming. I went from someone who would be on the phone with their husband in Hobby Lobby, telling him “these signs are so cringe babe guess what this one says…” to being in there for five minutes and losing my shit. I started crying hysterically and had to rush out. My body felt like it was going to explode… Over a sign I used to roll my eyes at.

5. “Let me know if you need anything!”

Just text me. Even if I have ignored you the last three times. I am reading it. When you texted me I was in a certain emotion. Sometimes I respond. Sometimes I’ve handled a grieving child all day and I can’t move another finger. I see the message. It helps me not feel isolated.

When you put the ball in my court- it doesn’t help because it’s likely I am struggling to leave my bed, let alone dribble a ball and pass it back to you.

6. “How are you?” “Seems like you had a good time!”

There really isn’t something to replace a good old fashion how are you, but you can acknowledge that. My friends will often say “how are you doing- I know thats silly.” They say something to acknowledge they aren’t being insensitive until I don’t need it anymore.

As for the good time…My smile fooled you. Impressive maybe I will become an actress. I will never be okay or happy like I was. Maybe I won’t seem as wrecked some days and I cannot wait for those. It’s likely the minute I got in the car I cried my eyes out. Call me at 1am and see how I am then.

See. I’m being acknowledged, given options, and when I don’t respond it’s not taken personally. It isn’t rocket science.

7. “At least you have your kids.” “At least you have your parents.” “At least you have your pet.”

Yes, and I don’t have marital relations with any of them. I don’t have intimacy with any of them. Does that make you uncomfortable? It should because that’s how you sound to us. I don’t tell my 6 year old my adult problems. I also don’t want to share them with my dad. There is a reason for marriage. There is a reason in scripture it says one flesh. There is a reason for people being described as soul mates with a spouse but not their mother.

As open as I am and as my spouse was- there were things we did NOT tell people, even those close to us. We just told each other.

Ask yourself if you walked by someone with one leg, if you would say “hey at least you have another one.” No you wouldn’t and if you would there is something wrong with you. You have no business telling someone “at least,” anything when you didn’t suffer the loss.

8. “Put on your boot straps.” “Put on your big girl panties.” “Do it for the kids.” “Pull up your knickers.”

Will you be here every morning at 7am putting my panties on for me? Will you be strapping my shoes up for me right after? If you answered no. Then this is not helpful. I assure you we know “hey don’t let your kids die!” Is something that needs to be at the forefront of our mind. I assure you it is. No one wants to get their life back to normal more than a grieving widow. Our brains can’t be normal though because half of us is missing.

9. When you do help, make sure it’s how we want it done.

Respect how I or the children want things done. At first this sounds ungrateful, but remember it’s not about you its about us. Our brains are not working right anymore. Those gross leftovers in the fridge? To a person who isn’t grief-stricken..- yes toss them! That’s gross. To the grief-stricken? That could be the last piece of food our person took a bite of. It’s a shred of proof that they existed and we didn’t make it up. Unless you are our doctor, you don’t get to decide when we move it. We do. So don’t touch it. You will only figure these things out by asking and listening.

10. You can invite us to your engagement, wedding, baby shower, etc, but proceed with caution.

I can talk about this one pretty well! Because I had to tackle inviting my mother in law to my baby shower. Sounds fine. But this is the last piece of her son. A piece she will get to see but her son will not. I assure you if something can mess with someone it’s delivering your grandchild your own son will never meet/delivering your husbands child he will never see.

So my friend who set it up treaded as lightly as possible. Giving the option if it was too much it was okay. If a grieving widow can arrange this- surely a normal minded person can too.

If you are getting engaged and want to invite us, do so, but do it with a disclaimer. “Hey I am having this party, don’t feel obligated to go-but if you are able to feel free, love you.” If we don’t respond, don’t take it personally. Move forward. We are grieving and cannot handle much of anything- especially something like that. Anything that shows less than understanding makes you look like a narcissist.

11. Being cute with your spouse or telling your grieving friend/family members your plans with your spouse. Complaining about your spouse.

Again this is up to the individual but I know most of the widows I know scowl at this. If you are busy and we don’t ask what your doing don’t volunteer “ugh I haven’t seen my husband in 3 days! We are going on a date tonight.” Literally the most insensitive thing you could say. Don’t complain about your husband to us, you have other people you can discuss his issues with. We don’t want to hear about his dirty shorts on the ground. We would kill someone to see them there again.

12. Comparing the loss of (insert whoever) to your grieving widow friend. Comparing the widows loss to that of a divorce. Saying you know how you would respond if it happened to you.

While there is no standardized order. It HAS been said the worst lost is 1. Losing a child 2. Losing your spouse 3. Losing a parent/sibling. This is pretty agreed upon by society but definitely doesn’t account for other factors. Such as age or intensity of the relationship.

As for comparing it to divorce or a break up, unless you are trying to say we are dealing with both (the death and them not being here) do not say it is like it or it’s “easier.” I assure you I’ve broken up with someone and while it was hard, it didn’t ruin my life.

If you divorce on decent terms, like your spouse isn’t a total POS- this is no way like death. You likely have 50/50 over the kids. You likely have some sort of income or a chance to make income. At worst, you may have to see them with another person and that will hurt. There always remains the possibility that you two could find your way back to each other, even if that sounds grim and unlikely. You have a chance. There is hope for something. Death destroys even the tiniest unlikely glimmer- something humans desperately need.

If you never got back together with your ex-spouse; alternatively you could “be free,” to do as you please. You two agreed, however reluctantly, to not be together. When your spouse dies- you didn’t agree to that. You agreed “through sickness and health.” You agreed to continue to work on problems. The phrase “until death do us part,” is in there sure- but does anyone look at that and honestly think “ahh yes death at 32.” No. Or some widows that think they have eternity and were married for 7 months. Thats not what we take that for.

If you divorce on horrible terms, like your spouse is a total POS-this is still no way like death. Maybe you have full custody of the kids. Maybe your spouse moved to another state and said screw all of you. I assure you this isn’t like him dying because you still have choices. Your son, who is confused why daddy left, COULD call him. He would likely be ignored, but he has a phone number. He has something tangible. When your child is an adult they could choose to angrily knock on their father’s door demanding to know why they were ignored. There is a door to knock on. They may get no answer but that person is alive.

They have the possibility of hearing how shitty their dad is through others. That sounds stupid right? At least they can shake their head at it. They can check their dad’s Facebook and see he has a new girlfriend. Something. Anything.

With death, there is absolutely nothing. No good. No bad. Just nothing.

13. “It’s been 6 months.” “It’s been 3 years.” “It’s been 20 years.”

Wow yes and they STILL ARE DEAD AND NOT HERE. If anything, the longer time goes on the more things we can add to our shit list of “all the things they missed.”

My husband missed out on the birth of his last daughter. Which means every single thing about her he will never know. He will miss it all. It will sting every second. He missed 4 of his kids getting married- or he missed 4 of them saying marriage is stupid. Or maybe 2 get married and 2 dont. It doesn’t matter because every decision is missed. He has no idea who his kids became or if he had grandchildren. Absolutely nothing. So as time goes on, it just means more is missed. That is it.

14. Inspirational messages that are for mediocre problems not those grieving.

There ARE inspiring messages for widows but these are often confused with feel good quotes that are more directly correlated for staying with a diet or working towards a career. These messages are not the same.

15. Silver-lining bullshit. “At least they are not suffering.” “Look at all the good they did-they accomplished their goal early.” “You wouldn’t have (insert whatever) without them.” “At least you know love.”

All of that may be true, but I want both. I want my person to be alive and not suffering. I want to enjoy the good WITH them not alone. I want to have our things TOGETHER not by myself. I do know what it’s like to be loved! Where did I sell my soul to Satan for it and have to return it at age 30!? I didn’t!

16. He can see you.” “He’s here.”

Maybe this is true. Maybe he sees me. Or maybe this is kind of odd if we think about it.

If I am with someone new, if we kiss, is he seeing all of that? Does he hover over me and watch me make 3 meals a day for 4 kids all alone? He’s just sitting there at night watching me cry for 2 hours and not doing anything?

That’s not Jesse. Jesse wouldn’t dare.

That sounds like its own form of torture- If Jesse had to “watch us,” he would be in more pain than what the kids and I were experiencing. So this seems strange.

If he is watching us, again, its really not your place to make such an observation. It kind of diminishes my pain. Because ultimately he is not physically here.

I am sure there are more things I could add to this list but for now this is what I have come up.

When I sound like a broken record, when I still look sad, see how I see the world and show me empathy. It’s the least you could do.

Easter.

For 10 years we have done the same thing, but today will be different, like all days are now.

I will probably clean afterwards. That’s all I really do now. I will wait to go to my mom’s then your moms for lunch and dinner. Even though we are all your family, I am the only one that shows up alone and leaves alone. Sits alone. Thinks alone. I am spoken to, but it is not the same.

I will fill plastic eggs at night with candy, but you won’t be watching the door to make sure no one sneaks in. I will wake up at 7 and instead of distracting the kids while you put the eggs in the yard, I will have to do both.

I will watch the kids open up their Easter basket alone. Only two pieces of candy right Jess?

I want you to split the work of getting the kids plates with me. I want you to sit next to me at dinner. I want you and I to walk away from everyone and be by ourselves at some point. I want you to hug me or at least smile at me. I am tired of locking my eyes into my phone at every event because I am so hollow.

I will then drive 4 children back to our home alone. Walk in alone. Get them ready for bed alone.

When the kids are asleep, I will take my zoloft and go to bed, alone. I will stare at the ceiling alone and think of you alone until I am too tired and finally fall asleep.

I hate that we are both alone and there is a barrier between us. A permanent one that I cannot find. One where you are in complete isolation alone and I am surrounded by people alone.

I am glad the kids have each other, so they are not as alone.

Dark Places.

I write here when I am in my darkest thoughts.

I am so very alone. So are you. We both are now just in different ways. You are in darkness. I am not sure if you feel pain? If you see me? If you know whats happening? If you see us, I know you are torn to pieces.

Im going to say no. You wouldn’t allow anything to get in between us. So why now? So it must be darkness. Not sure what form. I am sorry it might be darkness- I know that scared you.

We were both agnostic. We both thought this was unfortunate. How lovely it would be to be comforted by Heaven. I wish. I’ve tried. I mean I got my degree in religion and attend a Catholic graduate school.

It doesn’t make sense logically and therefore I cannot get behind it. Yet, nothing makes sense also. What is sense? I know absolutely nothing.

I spend my day wandering through emotions. And rapidly at that.

At some point I am suicidal. I feel empty all day, but at some point it gets very intense. Too intense. Usually it’s at night.

The suicide hotline doesn’t help people like me. I am not saying it doesn’t help someone, just that someone isn’t me. The feeling is still there rotting in my core. Guess what? I do not care who reads this because I know many people feel this rot. Maybe not now they don’t, I surely didn’t before this. Now I do. I felt intensely sad before. I’ve even had bouts of depression here and there. But this? No.

How do I explain wanting to kill yourself? Hmm. So I suppose prior to this I would get upset about something and I would feel sad. Maybe it would be something pretty bad and I’d cry pretty hard. Maybe my day would be ruined. I knew it would pass though. It had to at some point and it always did.

This though, this is like you cannot walk. Instead of feeling sad someone has come to you and inserted a knife slowly into your chest. You are now trapped. There is physical tightness and pain. It’s pushing into you very hard. You just want release. Your brain is panicking not knowing how to release the figurative knife. Maybe you move some, the pain is still stabbing you. So you start crying, normally that works a bit. But here it doesn’t. It sticks around. So then you are begging your brain to please stop it. Your brain is clueless, no matter how many “coping mechanisms” you have been given.

So it says “end it.” It’s the only thing it knows. Truly knows. You may have exterior support but that’s not stopping the issue inside of your self that no one can get to. That uncomfortable itch cannot be healed by words or support. It just is.

I want to discuss this issue actively- not in past tense. When suicidal thoughts are discussed it seems to be in two limited ways. One being, “I used to have them,” or two being that the person actually went through with it. Neither of these are as helpful as saying it when a person actually feels it. People do not do this though, because of the consequences. So there is this weird line of we ask people to be open, but not too open. Fuck that. We do this with everything and I can’t stand it.

I don’t know if this is how other people felt, it’s just how I felt. The thoughts feel as though I haven’t eaten in three days and my brain is begging me to eat. Instead here it’s begging me to stop the pain and it’s suggesting it knows the way to do that. I tell it it’s wrong. Only because of the kids. How could you do that to the kids two times I say to it. I can’t. So suffering is the only option, not ending it.

My therapist has suggested the suicidal thoughts are another attempt at coping. Since this has happened my brain has thrown out to me so many weird “strategies.” This one is my brain saying “well, plan Z we could always end it.” It just wants to keep me safe and pain free. However 10/10 would not recommend the brain it’s not doing a great job with recommendations.

My therapist is aware of all these issues and says on the outside I am *killing* (icky word now) it. On the inside I am dying. All the great things I do for the kids: run them to sports, re-do their rooms, have every fun activity available at our home they could imagine… Surely I must be getting better… right? Everything is looking good. Objectively at least.

I have been depressed before. I even took medication for it. When we had an ectopic pregnancy in 2017 I became very very emotional. I almost died and I lost a baby I really wanted. I couldn’t go places without crying. If I heard a newborn cry I would get upset. My doctor suggested some medication, I don’t even remember which one. I was on it for a very short time. It made me a robot. I remember getting off it because I wanted to cry. I wanted to be able to have emotions. I remember feeling like I wasn’t a human without the hurt so I got off of them. It took me awhile, but I did come to terms with it. It makes me sad still but it was a different pain. It was more tolerable. That sounds bad. But I didn’t rot there I just hurt.

Here, I do not want to feel. Period. Emotions are not worth it. I have been keeping myself completely sober for the most part. I do take xanax and zoloft now. But I’m still hurting. I don’t plan to not hurt at all- just a little less would be nice.

I have thought about Jesse every waking moment since I got that nasty call. Every second. No breaks. No happiness.

I should be so happy right now. I have 4 beautiful children, I am almost done with school, I have wonderful friends, family support, I have a beautiful home. But no. I rot. I am so lost. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I have received nearly everything I ever asked for. I have beautiful babies. I had such a good spouse & father to my kids. Why give it to me just to take it away?

I’ve never “lived for my kids only,” before, but I am now. I love them more than I loved Jesse and this was the same for him. Them first then us, then whoever else. This is the only lucky thing or I would be done. I know this would be the same for him. We did talk about this. But if anything happened to them- it’s a free game. How can you live when your family is destroyed? Items mean nothing.

If you read this and your first thought is something like: “try tea before bed.” Ugh. Please just don’t. This isn’t me having a bad day. I so wish it was. I loved tea. Those were the days.

It’s trauma like I’ve never known nor wanted to know. I want to go back to my stupid bubble so very badly. This is why I wish Jesse was a horrible father and I wish he didn’t care about me so much- because I actually know I could handle the kids and life much better. I just can’t do it as well grieving him and I can’t do it with my grief and the kids grief and my confusing feelings about Wren and postpartum depression. It’s entirely too much. So I am going to take some medication.

*Luckily* I think I am understanding what brings on the dark thoughts. There isn’t a set schedule but I tend to have them more at night or after Raiden becomes hysterical or when I am coming home to an empty house. It’s those kinds of moments where they may creep in. They last about 20 minutes so I know somewhere they will stop- but as I said- in the moment my brain is trying to convince me this will be eternity.

I will continue to live like this. I really don’t have a choice. I am not strong. I just am. It makes people uncomfortable if I mention I hate my life or I want to kill myself- but I assure you this is young widow 101. I have met more widows than I ever wanted to know and they definitely express this to me. They just can’t express it to anyone else because God forbid people are allowed to be miserable.

Today I spoke to Jesse’s aunt. I told her my life sucks. She laughed and said “yes, your life fucking sucks.” It is what it is. Pretending it’s not shit wont make me better. I just have to hope eventually something gives- but sometimes the ladies who have been long term young widows make this seem bleak.

Until then I guess I will just have a shred of hope I am not in a mental prison forever.

Birthday.

Today is my birthday. I am 31 now. You are still 32.

It is also 3 months since you passed.

You knew me as strong headed 30 year old woman about to graduate law school with three kids and pregnant.

You don’t know me as this Rochelle, who is 31. In the deepest parts of sadness I have ever known. Not pregnant. Single mom to 4. Hoping to graduate still. Writing away and trying to figure out what the hell happened.

That hurts.

When October comes. You will still be 32. Nothing about you will ever change, but I will change every day.

Next year my birthday will come. I will be 32.

We were about a year and a half apart in age.

Today we are now a year and 3 months apart. Every day I get closer and closer to your age until I will eventually pass you. Your kids may even pass you.

I wonder how I will reflect on this if I live to be 50. You will still be 32. You will look 32. I will have wrinkles. I will sag. You never will. I may know what its like to complain of old age. Yet you wont.

I might get an “over the hill,” birthday card one day. Something you will never have. Maybe my friends will laugh when I get my AARP card one day- but I won’t laugh. It will just hurt.

When I hear people complain about their age now I shudder. I wish you could complain. I am not mad at them, I just wish they knew. I wish you could have been old.

I have no desire to celebrate my birthday. Like most other things, it only brings me disgust now. How disgusting I live on another year but you are frozen in time. I am here in March on my birthday but you still think Christmas is 3 days away.

I long every day to make sense of this chaos and nothing. I never get anywhere. I spend every second thinking of you and wondering. I make no progress figuring out where you are or why. It’s just a death sentence I did not deserve, nor did you.

Like everything else, my birthdays used to be great. Not because we had a lot of money or something, we didn’t. But Jesse made sure it didn’t feel any different.

We couldn’t afford a sitter, spa day, and resort with all the works. This always bothered Jesse so much. But it was okay, it was not our time for that yet. I was fine with it.

I did not need those things though. Jesse was such a good cook and brought me breakfast in bed. He always gave me a massage, not just for my birthday. All the time. His gifts were not costly jewels that cost thousands… they were gifts from his heart.

I do not know anyone else that would put in the labor to a gift of mine like he would. If he did buy me something that was not handmade- it was the best version of that item. He spent so much time reading reviews and comparing things to make sure I had the best blender or coffee pot there was, if that happened to be my gift.

I just miss his effort. It was unmatched. If we didn’t have money for mail ordered flowers or chocolate covered fruit that wasn’t going to stop him. He would grab the things he needed and make it himself or go on a search in the fields for the perfect flowers.

It is easy to swipe a card. It is hard to replicate these items without money because they take time. Something most people do not want to give. Jesse was a time giver. I had these things whether we had money for them or we did not.

I am sitting in my bed and it’s completely silent, besides the fan. I haven’t heard “you are going to have the best birthday tomorrow! I couldn’t get you everything I wanted to but I know you’re going to love it.” He said the same thing every year. I don’t think he would have ever been completely satisfied with whatever it was he was going to give me.

Today was pretty awful. My friends came and brought me lunch. I received tons of messages. But I hurt all day. I cried all day. I am mad I get a birthday and he doesn’t. I am mad my house was silent. I am mad we wont be going to a dinner this weekend or he won’t be cooking me one tonight.

Birthdays when your loved one is gone is just a nasty slap in the face. Salt in a wound. Life giving you an extra kick when it’s already beat the shit out of you.

Virgin Widow.

This is my term I use to describe this other indescribable shit aspect of young widowhood.

Art of being alone from Qianqian Ye. I spared you the alternative of inappropriate text and photos from my once life so enjoy this art. https://forthmagazine.com/visual-art/2018/03/art-for-awkward-lonely-people-an-interview-with-qianqian-ye/

Generally among the widows when their spouse dies they usually follow one of two paths:

1. “Wid-ho” (not making this up):

This route includes screwing everything and everyone. It could be months after or even days. The desire to feel something, anything, is so strong one can get even “reckless.”

Going from having love and comfort to *snap* all gone is extremely difficult. A decent amount of widows respond this way.

This is normal. It doesn’t fill the void but it’s something to do. Literally.

Or

2. Virgin Widow (yes this usually means before consummating a marriage but I also use it because starting over after years and years also feels like being a virgin):

This route is where the widow completely recluses. This may be why you see a widow single for 25 years. I say virgin widow because they are clearly not a virgin, yet when you have been with the same person for years- it kind of feels that way. Also, you didn’t divorce or break up. So it intensifies the awkwardness. Its like your first time all over again. Yay?

Unfortunately I am pretty sure I am in category 2. I say unfortunately because I am 30 and I used to like having sex. Actually I still do. Actually I think about it constantly.

But the person I want it with is dead. So what a mind fuck right?

So I am sitting here for 3 months simultaneously crying and having whatever other emotion I have but also reflecting on my sex life constantly. I miss being wanted by my person and in the way he wanted me. To quote he would say:

See look at me saving you from having to see more than you bargained for.

I’m going to spend more time talking about section 2- just because thats the one I relate to. But I am telling you section 1 is just as common.

My spouse was great and this is probably why I was pregnant 6 times in 13 years. He was able to make me feel loved and lusted after at the same time. I think most men are only capable of one, if any.

He made me feel like we were in some stupid cringe movie about a girl’s first time while simultaneously making me feel like it was also a porno.

I am solidly aware, because of prior experience and conversations with girlfriends- that if a man is any good you keep that. Because many of them think they are and have no idea. They don’t actually listen or sometimes even care. They are in it for them. Short term this may work, but long term I promise it’s nicer to have a happy wife.

When my friends would talk about their husbands not being too great- I could not relate. Ever. I was always satisfied.

So yes. I often think who is going to actually love me. Worship me even. Without being lame and cringey. *sigh*

It’s interesting I went to category 2. I say this because I’ve never been shy. Jesse and I were pretty open- minus being swingers- I could talk to him about other men that were attractive and vice versa. I had the “freedom” to wear little clothing and go out and he would say “you are so hot.” That is it. I had the freedom to dance around a fire nearly naked and in front of people and he would just tell me I was beautiful.

There wasn’t jealousy.

In the beginning there was. Because I associated jealousy with love (thanks past abusive relationships!) but Jesse showed me that was wrong. He said he wasn’t jealous and if he did get jealous he wouldn’t tell me. My freedom to make choices was more important to him than him being uncomfortable at my clothing choices.

Anyways. Now that I’ve outed myself as category 2 let me explain why it’s garbage.

If a man even looks at me the wrong way I lose my shit. I used to come home and tell Jesse and feel good to some degree like “haha I still got it.”

Now I say: “how dare you stare at me?!” And then the guy is like “sorry lady you just had something in your teeth.”

Jesse died. We never broke up. I cannot tell him anything. I cannot get his input.

This, to me, feels like the ultimate form of cheating. I will never ever be able to tell him what happened. The person I told everything to, will have no idea how my date went. That doesn’t even sound right.

A date? Why would I date I’m in a relationship… Except I’m not… Except I am, it didn’t end… Except it did because he passed… Except it didn’t because he doesn’t know?

Like I said widowhood is garbage in a million ways. Trying to figure this out is horrible.

Okay so yes he’s never coming back (except what if he does!?) what if I am like in that movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks and Jesse is stuck on an island somewhere and I remarry. Then boom one day 5 years later he makes it back to the house only to find me and my new husband sitting down to dinner?

He’s not going to. But I fully expect he will.

So let’s say I really get over the fact he’s not coming back. I get over my absolute disgust with men and I try to date. This person will probably not even have a chance because I will scrutinize everything he does. I already know I’m going to do this.

Even if he seems great, has a great job, hes nice…I will be looking for key qualities of Jesse’s like how passionate he was or how he just thought I was the most amazing being on the planet. I doubt that will be replicated.

Also this new man has to let me talk about Jesse whenever I want. I won’t compromise, I will only include. I will not take down Jesse’s photos- I would only add photos of my “new life.” This is also common among the widows and their “chapter 2,” (another term I can’t stand, it means your husband or wife you have after your late husband/wife. It just doesn’t sound good to me).

Would it take some getting used to? Sure. It takes a very special person to be with a widow (ironically I know Jesse would have excelled at being a chapter 2) but what needs to be realized is there is no competition, because the competition is a dead person.

I have already had a few men reach out to me and I was extremely sensitive about our conversation when I normally would not have been. I ended up not returning messages and nothing objectively bad was even said.

I know theres no deadline here. No ones rushing to put me on the market. The issue is that I am thinking about my life now- of course I am- and this was a big part of it. So now what? It’s weird.

I want something I can never have again. I don’t know what to do with that. It cannot be replicated. If I thought it could I would try, because thats what I do. I try to fix things quickly. But I know this time its not going to work.

So then I think “yikes. You may just be a virgin widow.” If Jesse could see how prudish I was right now I don’t think he would believe it. So many things have changed in such a short period of time and it sucks. I am worried that part of my life is over because it is so painful. How am I supposed to kiss someone who is not my children’s father? Like I said, if we agreed to it I would have some understanding that it just didn’t work out. We did not agree to that though, we agreed to be together forever and retire. To see grandchildren and weddings.

My perspective is unlikely to change also. Maybe I will be able to date one day but I will still have these thoughts present. They cannot be undone. I am not an ostrich in the sand, I will torture myself looking at reality.

Sometimes there is a tendency to think husbands can be replaced and parents/children cannot be. This is because we choose our husband, but not kids and parents. This is because we can get a “chapter 2,” but a new baby will not replace another child.

This is wrong. Jesse cannot be replaced for me. I can go have sex with someone else sure- but I cannot replicate the person who helped me give life to 4 children of ours. That is a bond that cannot be replaced. Our DNA mixed. This is the person I agreed to mix my DNA with. Sometimes I think this may be the worst pain, because I was able to choose it. Not just have to deal with it because it’s “family.” We chose each other. Grief isn’t a contest but I feel as though since we can have a “new husband,” it sometimes diminishes how we feel.

Jesse and I agreed this was our last baby and my one remaining tube would be “tied.” Bittersweet but it was fine. We do have 4 children and I am 30, he was 32. It was just this part of life is over. The OBs took my decision and were fine with it. Just sign the form.

Until the other day, I got the “well, since everything that happened- are you sure?”

I replied with “are you asking me if I want a 5th c-section at 37 as my children’s only surviving parent?” I got a quick no. Of course I did.

But again, I cannot even fathom a date let alone carrying a child that is NOT Jesse’s. What a mind fuck. So no. I’m done and so is Jesse.

I’d like my little stressful loving life back. The one where some days are bad and others are great, not this one where its horrible all the time. Not this role in a tragic film I didn’t sign up for. I’m not a movie character, but that’s all I feel like anymore. I got the lead role in a shitty D film.

So yes- I did just admit I haven’t had sex in 3 months (sorry family and Catholic law school). I am also admitting I don’t see anything happening any time soon and yes this bothers me.

I debated talking about this part and then just decided to, like I do with everything because what’s the worst that can happen? Most of it did already minus something happening to my children.

This needs to be spoken about though because I know a lot of widows feel strange about it. I also know my worldview prior to widowhood was “If Jesse died I would be crushed!” I couldn’t fathom this conundrum nor did I think I would handle it this way or feel these complex things such as being in sex limbo.

Widowhood sucks.

We are laughing here because those heels were ridiculously high. Like 4 inches. They hurt. I wore them for 3 minutes.

I will miss everything about you forever Jess.

How Do I Raise You, Wren?

Thank you Jessica McKelvie. I wouldn’t have had it in me to do these without you.

Dear Wren,

I am so sorry for what I am about to tell you, but your father died before you were born. I don’t know what I am doing so I am apologizing ahead of time.

You will never have a photo of him like the ones your sisters have above. I will not understand your pain but I will try very hard. I do know you will hurt so badly sometimes and I am so sorry for that. You are already so unique and you have not even been born yet. Your dad always said he loved you and he held you from the outside, but I know you did not actually experience this. I did.

He was there. He existed. I promise. That is you.

You will eventually come to know many girls who their father is not present in their life, you will relate on a surface level, but not a core level. Your dad wanted to be there for you. When we found out you were a girl, he was so very happy. He was so happy to have another girl.

I will keep you safe. I will feed you. I will make sure you have every material thing I can give you. I will make sure you have a schedule and you do well in school. I will make sure you play and join a fun activity.

However, when you are born, I don’t know if I will wrap you as tightly as he could. I will not be as warm as he was. I will love you and adore you, but not like he would.

When you are a bit older, I wont be able to throw you up in the air to the ceiling like he would. I won’t be as fun or creative as he was. I won’t put a pumpkin on my head when we are done carving it to make you laugh. I won’t be as easy-going as he was. I won’t allow you to sneak unhealthy snacks like he would.

It’s not that I will not try. It’s that the yang, to my yin is lost. If this was reversed, your dad would be scrambling to make your schedule. He would be scrambling to keep up on everything in the house and practical things would fall through the cracks. He wouldn’t wash your bedsheets once a month, if ever. That sounds extremely silly, but we both had our own duty or chore that was ours for years.

You will be able to learn how he was through your family, but it will never replace actually knowing him. Your dad never wanted you to know how cruel the world can be, but sadly you will know it the minute you take your first breath. He won’t be there to follow you around as the nurses wipe you off. He won’t touch your little feet and think you are so sweet when you suck your thumb. He won’t sleep on the uncomfortable couch in the hospital room exhausted, waiting for you to cry so he can wake up and hand you to me. He won’t be there to capture his favorite shot- the exact moment the doctor pulls you out, where you aren’t yet clean. We always made sure the second your siblings were born he took the shot. I hope whoever stays with me during surgery will get it for you.

He will not record a horrendous video of me in labor and be telling me to say “happy birthday Wren!” Or take photos of me during contractions. This always drove me nuts when he did this. But I honestly probably would have done the same. When I am driving to the hospital (odd to type, I never drove he did) he won’t slap my knee like we are just best buds on an adventure and say “are you ready babe!?” While I would stare at him blankly and shake my head telling him “no I am not. I am about to have major surgery you fool.”

He won’t be there to encourage me to get out of the hospital bed. After a c-section, you are able to lay in the bed for about a day but after that the nurses tell you that you must walk to begin healing. I hate this part because the first time I get up the burn from surgery feels like hot oil being thrown on my stomach. It is one of the worst physical pains. Your dad was the only one who could ever get me to do things I did not want to do. He was very gentle but firm. He would help me stand up even if it took an hour. The nurses will have me push you around the hallways to walk, and he will not be next to me or waiting for us in the room when we get back.

He will not be there after to wash my hair when I can finally shower or run out and get me whatever I want the minute I want it.

I know how he would act down to a T… but it will never replace him actually being here. It will never replace you never being to actually see him, no matter what you are told by well meaning people.

I hope you see him through your siblings. Chloe is very intelligent, just like him, and she will try to take short cuts in school. Oraia is very impulsive, just like him, and it makes her so funny. Raiden is caring, just like him, and he will make you feel so special.

I hope you see him through your aunt. She has fun, just like him, she will suck the helium out of your birthday balloons first and then speak to you in a squeaky voice- I will just throw them away. If you two play a game or dolls, you will think you are the only person who exist during it, just like he would make you feel. I hope you see him through your grandma, if she makes something for you she will be diligent and thorough, like a birthday cake or a painting, just like your dad would have been. I hope you see him through your grandpa, he is understanding and empathetic, just like him.

I know this won’t come close, but I don’t know what else to do for you. As your mom I will admit all of these things to you and validate all of your feelings, just like your dad would have done.

But none of us are your dad and I am so sorry.

I tried to get as many pictures of “you and him” as I could. It’s total shit. I am so so so sorry this is your reality. I am so sorry that you lost your father and whatever other chaos comes from it. That you will not know how things were before.

There are so many things I want to tell him about you already. He has been gone for about two months and I cannot tell him you are about four pounds. I cannot tell him your due date is scheduled to be March 18. I cannot show him how cute your clothes are or that I bought you the biggest bows. I cannot tell him I am so scared to go into the operating room without him. I panic even putting on the gown. I hope on that day I can calm down.

Of all the scenarios I have ever thought of in my head- I never thought of this one. I never thought of a little girl without her dad like this. I could not have changed anything anyhow, but I live in a nightmare. When you come out you will already be part of a nightmare that you will not comprehend for awhile.

Do I teach you to say Dada by pointing at his picture? Will that confuse you? Do I play videos of him and then take a video of you so his voice is near you? I don’t know and this causes me so much pain.

I will see and know the first time you coo. The first time you hold your head by yourself. The first time you clap. Roll over. Say a word. Have a tooth. Sit up. Fall from sitting up.

I will know how you sound. How you will look. I will know what funny words you mispronounce. Your dad and I would have used whatever those words may be back to you all the time. But now it will just be me.

In a weird way, your siblings are more involved with you now. Prior to this, Chloe and Raiden were apprehensive of you. They told me they were worried you would get all the attention. I told them they are correct for a little while, you will get most of the attention because you cannot move or feed yourself. This helped them understand.

This has changed. They have to go back to school and they were most worried about you. They said they needed to be here for you. They needed to help raise you when you got here. They sounded worried. It makes me proud of them that they are concerned with you and they all have plans to take care of you in their own way, but also very sad because they once just acted like kids and were just jealous of you.

Prior to any of this happening, your dad was worried about me. This is a high risk pregnancy. The doctors say I will likely be fine, but there is still a concern. Your dad was worried that something would happen to me during it. I was worried too.

But now I am worried for different reasons. I still worry about that, but I am more worried that if something happens to me- what will happen to you and your siblings? You will have no parents. I wish I could say “ah how unlikely.” But after this, these are very real possibilities in my head. Who do I trust you with? This one scares me the most. Where would you go? Who would honor our values best and not their own? I don’t know.

I am worried something will happen to you. Your dad and I lost two babies before, so naturally this is a worry. I wish I could say “ah, how unlikely.” But after this, it is again a very real possibility in my head. No amount of prayers or medical technology saved your dad. Any glimmer of faith I had in overcoming difficult events has vanished. Any chance at miracles does not exist anymore to me.

So with all of this and with every shred I also left out. I am not sure how to raise you. I will take it minute by minute. I will ask myself before I do something how would daddy have done this? But I am not your dad and I am so very sorry.

I love you. Love Mom.

Valentine’s Day.

Let me first start off by saying my entire life this holiday has met close to nothing for me.

It’s a day to embrace love, but there is and was so much love in my house this holiday did not stick out to us. Also I dislike “hallmarky” holidays. I’m just not a mushy person and men get left out a lot on this holiday and I don’t like it. Jess always laughed at this.

On the back of this note are the actual words from the card. He tore it out and flipped it over and wrote the above. The original text just babbles on about greatest love and blah blah. Although Jesse did actually read the cards and would pick one based on how close they were to how he really felt- he also did this for me occasionally because he knew I wasn’t sappy.

Jesse would still grab things for the kids and I- and I didn’t complain- who doesn’t want chocolate covered strawberries? But the fact was that he would bring me a dessert like that at random through out the year anyhow. He would buy me something special here and there anyhow. Special breakfast and special coffee? I got those on the weekends, the only reason it wasn’t served to me in bed was because I told him that was ridiculous.

Our dynamic was very interesting and I miss it a lot. The way I showed love to him and to our children was in a practical way: making them healthy lunches, ensuring they went to the doctors, working on a career so we wouldn’t struggle, buying a home so we would have equity and not be tossing money away, making sure everything was clean, organized and in it’s place so there was less stress. Jesse showed love by making some extra fancy dinner or breakfast- one that would destroy how clean the kitchen was but taste so amazing. An example of this is his scrambled eggs. I guarantee you never had them like this and you won’t want it the other way once you have them like this, but here’s how you cook them:

That’s what the eggs actually look like. They are bomb. Sometimes he would use a glass bowl over boiling water to make sure the eggs were creamy.

Jesse showed love by making sure we had fun doing things. By fun I mean the kids had fun and I had a heart attack. He did all of the things that I did not think were a good idea because someone could get hurt.

Jesse loved by listening to what I had to say, not on a surface level, really trying to grasp the depth of pain I felt and look for a solution or understand my interest in it’s entirety. He loved by taking care of our home with such care and diligence. He never half-assed anything. Anything he was going to build or repair he spent hours making sure he did it the best way and the right way.

Anyways, now this holiday hurts. I spent so long not caring about it. Now, I care because it just reminds me of how much he loved all the time and that we wont be getting any of that ever again. He also won’t be getting it. It’s like a barricade has been set between he and the kids and I.

As much as I dislike cliche holidays, Jesse was the opposite to an extent and always had to get cards. He insisted each of us needed a separate card for each holiday. That means 4 valentines day cards, 4 Christmas cards, etc. I told him it wasn’t necessary we knew he loved us. Obviously now I am wishing I kept my mouth shut but at the same time he didn’t listen to me either most of the time so we have quite a few. I’m glad we have them now.

I am glad for writing. If we were silent to each other I wouldn’t be able to have *some* solace here and there. Since we wrote a lot and in various ways- I can almost always find something to answer an insecurity of mine. Valentine’s Day is a good example of this, because I can kind of replicate what he would have said to me so I don’t feel as weird.

Half of the time I find myself wishing he would have just signed the card “Love, Jesse.”-Like most men do. Instead he would jot down a small essay about how I was the best thing in the world. I find myself hating the effort he put in, when I once felt special by it. At some point during the day I am looking for ways to get mad at him. Anger feels better than sadness. But even if I think about our worst fight, it does nothing. I don’t have real anger, just sadness.

On the other hand, I want my old life back. Constantly. I’m stuck between all of these shades of gray instead of it just being black or white. I hate it. I hate that I cannot make fun of this stupid ass holiday anymore. I hate that everything is so different and there is no end in sight. There could only be an end if I stop loving him. Since I know that wont happen- I’m stuck. The feeling of being stuck is so horrible. No matter what has happened in my life at some point I would know “it can’t be like this forever.” But for this it is and I know it is. For someone to say it will be better one day tells me one of three things:

  1. You are not a widow. Period.
  2. You are a widow, but you are 87.
  3. You are a widow, but your relationship lacked passion and authentic love.

“Better,” is subjective. Anything that is “better,” perhaps years from now is really a form of coping. An attempt to cope. That scares the hell out of me, knowing that if I am “better” one day it won’t be very authentic in my core. How can we be better missing one of us? It’s literally impossible. I’m not sure why this is so hard for people to understand. Actually, I do know why. Sadness makes people uncomfortable. I hope I am not always like this. I hope it more than anyone hopes it for me. But some things cannot be fixed. I won’t lie to myself.

If I lost both of my legs, I would hope everyday to grow them back. It doesn’t matter how much I hope- at the end I still don’t have legs and I never will. Maybe I’d put on a brave face. I could get a wheel chair. People would help to push me from place to place but then use their own legs to walk away from me. Eventually maybe I would get a prosthetic, but nonetheless, I am still permanently disabled. Essentially that’s how I feel now. I can never walk again. My “brave” face is doing things for my kids. My wheel chair is distractions I make up for the kids and I to get us through another shit day. People help us, but then they go to their home where life is normal. Any other relationship I may ever have in the future is a prosthetic, its not my real legs. I suppose these things are better than nothing, but they do not replace being able to walk on your own.

I guess the take-away here is go big or go home. If you love really hard, it will suck, really hard one day. Yes, you will get to experience something that little 90’s Disney girl dreams are made of- but if its ever taken away you will hurt so bad you won’t want it.

Speaking of little 90’s Disney girl. My favorite movie was Aladdin. One day I found this old collector card of mine and I pinned it in Jesse’s closet. Aladdin is feeding Jasmine some bullshit here and she’s about to call him out on it. He kept it there for years. If Jess started with some bullshit about something to me I would call him out on it and vice-versa. Their relationship reminded me of ours sometimes. Aladdin loves her like no other but he’s also an idiot sometimes.
Jesse’s favorite Disney movie growing up was Hercules. He loved Hades. Later in my life I really loved the mythological story of Hades and Persephone, so it became a favorite of mine too.

The alternative is not knowing a real love. You wont have the intense pain, but you may not have the protection either. Even though Jesse isn’t here I can confidently say that I know I am beautiful. I am smart. I am a pure person (or rather a paladin as he would say). I am all these things because he convinced me of it eventually, even if it took a long time. He said it so much my self doubt slowly but surely chipped away. This part cannot be taken from me and this is a small example. He did leave me with some form of protection I do not think I would have had. However I cannot clearly say which is better. I am not sure the pain is worth certainties.

Sudden. Traumatic. Untimely. Death.

In addition to dealing with Jesse’s death and all of the normal grief it brings- we also have the added fact that we lost him traumatically. This slows down the “healing” progress ten fold.

(Note: “healing,” I don’t know what I am talking about when I say that. I am mimicking what doctors say. Healing doesn’t seem like a real thing to me.)

So. Not saying death is easier in other circumstances, but it is. It just is. It is just easier to accept that your 95 year old grandpa passed peacefully in his sleep surrounded by loved ones than it is to accept that your 5 year old lost their battle to cancer in tremendous pain the minute you decided to run out to the bathroom. One is “more natural,” and therefore *should* cause less trauma. The other one isn’t “natural” at all. One is violent and demonstrates that the world is absolute chaos.

Unfortunately for me, I am stuck with the unnatural one. I had to make sure Jesse was gone. This met reading the accident report and showing up to the scene, tracing the steps of the car, picking up the remaining pieces of destruction left behind. This met questioning the doctors. Seeing his CT scans and his x-rays. Showing up to the tow yard, seeing his car totaled. Going through his car. This met asking what witnesses saw. This met checking his head in the hospital, his chest, shoulders, arms, hip… I scanned everything.

This is part of the area of the crash. I have the real photos, but I chose this one instead. To others, this is just a tree and grass. To my family, this is the last place where Jesse was breathing. This is just a few miles from our home. The place where Jesse was headed. The place he would have been safe.

It met checking his eyes. His beautiful blue sometimes greenish blue eyes. When you are brain dead, your eyes don’t move. They are lifeless, empty black holes. This is something I have never seen and yes it is definitely scarring. Would it have been easier to keep them shut and not look? Yes, but then how would I know for sure? The less “what if’s” I left myself with seemed to be the best idea. Also, if it were me, I would hope that Jesse would make sure I was gone too before they took me. I know he would have checked me and looked at every painful thing too. That’s what sucks about loving someone as if they are literally half of you.

So I knew I was going to learn a lot of things I’d never unsee or not hear. I knew it was going to hurt and hurt forever. Even typing this hurts. But I had to so he wasn’t alone. I had to make sure if there was a chance he could make it maybe I would know about it- and that cannot be done if your head is in the sand. You have to look at all the facts, even if they are literally the shittiest facts I’ve ever seen.

When I got the call that day, at Target next to the tablecloth section, I was shocked but I figured he would be okay. Maybe he lost a foot. Maybe he had some really bad cuts. I thought that would be horrible but we can deal. We will figure it out. The problem came from the woman at the hospital NOT answering my “he is okay right?” question. She wasn’t able to tell me. Not a good sign. I basically began asking her in different ways, almost interrogating her, when she finally said “he is in VERY critical condition.”

I head to the hospital. The kids are tense. I feel sick. I’m not crying, I am in too much shock and also at this point still hold the worldview that anything can be overcome with enough effort. Our technology is great. Doctors perform miracles every day. Why would this be unique or different? At worst, I expected a 2 week coma- or maybe he’s even paralyzed waist down. I’m actually “okay” with these things because I knew if anyone could work through them it would be us. I’d push him up a mountain in a chair no problem. It would have sucked but we had gotten through some pretty difficult life events, this would just be another check on our list.

Getting to the hospital though, my memory gets blurry. I still see myself in the waiting room more anxious than I’ve ever been. I still hear some family members saying with confidence Jesse will pull through. I see my mom’s face knowing he wouldn’t but hoping she was wrong. Our immediate family and close friends are there, pacing and waiting anxiously- some already crying. When the woman came out, she hands me Jesse’s wallet and phone. I click his phone screen and there is my unopened text sitting on the locked screen “Hey dude, you good? The kids and I are worried.” It had not yet been read. Not a good feeling. The woman is still there and about to give me an update. I was expecting her to say “fractures, hematomas, lacerations…” I am looking for these key words. I do get these words from her eventually, but the word I get first is: AOD.

I tried typing the layman term for it and I can’t its too hard. I also tried typing the medical term, also too hard. So right now, you all are stuck with an abbreviation of the medical term and if you Google it 700 things will come up, so good luck trying to figure it out. I just can’t physically write it, which is saying a lot because I have a website dedicated to this shit.

Hearing this, at some point I know I am on the hospital floor. Super dramatic. I know I am extremely confused. My mind is telling me “Uh hey, people don’t recover from that you idiot.” but then I am also at odds with myself and replying “Um, yes they do? People can do whatever they want. People recover from crazy things all the time, stupid brain, what do you even know?” The doctors made it very clear they tried everything they could and they could not just fix this one. I start just repeating myself “okay I need to see him.” I don’t even care about diagnoses at this point, I am just feening to get next to him. They take me up to the 8th floor, but that’s blurry. That memory barely even exist.

I am sitting next to Jesse and asked to see “it.” Jesse had a decent amount of injuries, like he had broken his femur clean, things like that. All of those however, maybe would have left him with some problems but they would have been fixable. The AOD wasn’t. It’s a rare thing that happens and it’s caused by whiplash. At some point I am screaming at Jesse in my head “of course YOU of all people would have something like this!” (illogical I know). But now that image of the CT scan is permanently stuck in my brain. I don’t see it ever leaving. Normally, I’d describe it down to a T, but again, nope I can’t do it. At night, the reason I cannot sleep, (besides living in total hell) is because when I close my eyes I see that scan and I see the moment it happened. I see the jolt. I hope he didn’t feel it. I hope he didn’t know. A horror movie on repeat, if you will, with no resolution. It’s no way to see someone you love and adore. The kids do not know this part, simply because they haven’t asked. One day, I may have to explain it. As open and honest as we are- this is extremely challenging for me. How do you tell innocent children such a traumatic detail? I don’t know. I do know not telling them, when they ask, is wrong.

During all of this, I also have to tell the kids what is currently happening to their dad. Telling the kids their father is dead is…I don’t even know what that is. Prior to any counselor advice, I head down to the first floor and sit with them outside in the grass. It’s dark. I tell them some form of “this is not looking good,” because technically he had not “passed” yet, even though he had coded twice. They were upset but still struggling to get exactly what I met. I am not sure exactly what I met, because in my head I still thought “yeah there’s no way this is really happening.” My description of events will be somewhat accurate from beginning and end, but middle parts will be mixed up because days blended. I think I slept 20 minutes in three days and I ate one single Lay’s chip. One disgusting Lay’s chip in which I had to turn around and not face Jesse because how dare I eat something. He cannot eat. This may seem absolutely nuts and prior to this maybe I wouldn’t understand- but I understand this more than I’d like to ever know now.

The kids then went to stay with their Aunt and Uncle. I stayed with Jesse. He passed at, I think it’s 10:41pm “officially.” That was a motherfucker to type out… The next morning the counselors there give me advice on the kids, you can’t lie. You can’t sugarcoat, if you do, it will screw them up more. Good thing I’ve never been much of a sugarcoated anyhow. So not only do I have to tell them but I am also going to have to use the “D” word for the first time (I know I say it freely now but the first few days I could not get that thing out).

Chloe and Oraia came up to see him. Also some of the worst images that are in my brain. They were pretty hysterical. Chloe immediately made it clear she didn’t want to see him like that, with the tubes and eyes closed, and began panicking that the image was in her brain. This sounds bad, but you are supposed to let them choose what they want “with guidance.” This is the part where she turns around from him and ask him “Daddy are you coming to my birthday party?” By this point I have had to have discussions with the kids that I jotted down nervously in my text app on my phone. I also send this to my sister in law, because she had Raiden and had to instruct him also, per what the grief counselors are advising. What chaos.

I never thought I would use my little iPhone text app for this. I am jotting these notes down with the nurse on speaker. I am most afraid of screwing the kids up even more, so I am hinging onto every word she says. Jesse you could have never guessed this.

Because of COVID, Jesse could not have a lot of visitors, which was unfortunate because he had many many friends. My phone did not stop going off for 3 days straight. I wasn’t annoyed by this, it offered “distraction.” While living at the hospital I pretty much just took him in. I spent a lot of time smelling him. Looking at the different colors in his beard. Birthmarks and scars on his arm. Dirt and callouses on his hands. I had seen and known all of these before, but I really took them in, because it was the last chance. I couldn’t speak to him. I couldn’t tell him anything. It was quiet in the room, besides the machine beeping. So all I could do is look at him silently. I still cannot believe I won’t ever see the scar of a lighter on his left arm, from when he was a much younger and made an attempt to “look cool.” Or the scar above his left hand where he tried to help Chloe super glue something, but then somehow it got on his skin and instead of being patient he ripped it off. These once seemingly insignificant things about him I sat and soaked in. It sucks. I wish I was still living in a time where I didn’t really have to ‘”soak in” a super glue scar.

For another day or so, I pretty much lived at the hospital. We were asked if Jesse wanted to donate his organs since he qualified. Apparently, even if it’s listed on your driver’s license, most people do not qualify. It’s actually not common. You have to go in a certain way, be of a certain health, etc. Jesse wanted to donate his organs, we did have this conversation, so I knew the answer. I didn’t want to though because donating organs met admitting he is gone. Not because I am selfish- it’s just part of trying to comprehend and accept what’s really about to happen. Someone is about to take Jesse’s heart from him. I laid on his chest and listen to it beat.

His Mom and I were tasked with having to write out a short speech on a small card about Jesse so when he was wheeled to the operating room the doctor’s could read it before they began…whatever they were doing (I hate thinking about it). We did this. It was hard because I could write essay after essay about Jess (I mean I’ve dedicated a whole website to him and I’ve told like 5% of him), and now I had to fit Jesse down on a 3×5 card? Not my speciality. I did it and tried to pick the most important, straight to the point things.

On Christmas Eve, the kids and I spent it in the hospital with Jesse as we waited for the planes to get there so they could transplant his organs. The planes were delayed, so we ended up getting the whole Christmas Eve with him (I say that like it was nice or something). Normally, Jesse and I would be getting the kids tucked into bed. They would pass out and I’d snap photos of their faces sleeping. Jesse and I would set an alarm and either he would be tasked with building something (like a trampoline or a playhouse), and I would do smaller gifts and stockings. I would always be super paranoid about the kids catching us.

Normally I’d never share a video like this. I am in weird PJs and my hair is messy. I know I am at least 25 here- that means Jesse must be about 27. This video at one time was just sweet. Now this video is it’s own form of trauma. It’s the cliche 90’s “happy birthday video,” you see in film right before something crazy happens. Except those types of things are no longer foreign to me. Those things are not just “oh in that movie that sad event occurs,” that sad even is literally my life story now.

Instead, the kids sat in the waiting room. I was on the 8th floor. Waiting. Around 11:40p.m (I remember this because it was such a wtf is happening moment to me, it’s literally 20 minutes until Christmas and I cannot for the fucking life of me believe I am really doing this- I still don’t), we get notified “it’s time.” The nurses ask if I wanted it recorded and I say of course because I’ve always been obsessive about photos and videos. Basically it’s like a hero walk. They wheel Jess from the top floor, the staff lines the hallways. I stayed on his side and our family and close friends were behind us. The staff allowed 10 people, which met a lot because of all the restrictions. Doing the walk is very surreal. You are literally walking your loved one to a place of coldness. Where any thing that was once alive about him will be gone. There will not be the sound of machines anymore. Just silence. He will be surrounded by strangers in a few minutes.

Then you leave him. Leaving is the hardest part. Yes. I was aware he died 3 days ago- but at least I could hold him. At least I could set his hand in my hair like he used to do. At least I could pretend. At least I was near him and maybe he knew that- maybe he had no idea. I had false control over the situation because his body was in front of me. I know it’s happening but I still think there is a chance. (If you think that is crazy, I am over a month out now and a part of me is still sitting here waiting for Ashton Kutcher to come out say he’s punk’d me. He’s not going to. I know.)

I do not remember a ton of what happened between that and his funeral. Christmas was that morning and my family set up the kids gifts. I did nothing. The kids got up. It was not the same. It was so weird. They wanted to be happy for their presents and were- but there was just this eeriness. It was made more complicated because we had all gotten Jesse presents and Jesse had gotten us presents. In true Jesse fashion, he did not wrap mine. Chloe had to go on a hunt for them (they were hidden in the garage) and wrap each one. She made this her priority. She still does things like this-as I have said earlier, control offers her some comfort.

After Christmas and Chloe’s 11th birthday had passed (it was about a week) we had his funeral. His funeral was scheduled the day after Chloe’s birthday, lucky girl right?

People who had experienced loss had one thing to tell me. They warned me of the coldness.

At the hospital, he was essentially being kept on a heater. If I held his hand for too long away from his body it would start to get a little chilly, but not the same coldness I was about to feel a few days later. At the funeral, I was afraid to touch him a little, like for a second. It was only a second because in my mind, again, I am thinking “Jesse is cold I need to be cold.” When I touched him it was strange. That initial touch is like an unhappy sick version of jumping into a cold pool. Instead of “getting used” to the water or having fun, you remain in a state of sickness, sadness and shock. Despite this, I continued to touch him and I kissed him too. I really didn’t think I would ever add “kissing a dead person,” to the list of things I’ve done but now I can say I have? The kids also touched him. They wanted to see him so we did an open casket. I wanted to see him too. The kids complained they had put way too much make-up on his face, and they were right- he did have too much, but he also needed it as there were too many scrapes and cuts. Chloe was uncomfortable with the smell. It smells cold. I don’t know how to explain what cold smells like.

Raiden left his dad rocks, plants, and acorns, which we placed on his chest. The kids and I also left him notes. Someone recommended that to me. The funeral lasted about 4 hours and I did not sit down or leave Jesse. Period. I stood almost the entire time and just greeted person after person. It was a revolving door for 4 hours. Again I didn’t mind, it was a false distraction. Most (don’t second guess, you read that word correctly) of the funeral was pleasant. As pleasant as a funeral for a 32 year old can be. Jesse and I have a lot of caring people around us.

After it was done it was time to leave. This was for real, the last time I would ever see him, cold or not. After that he would be ashes. I made sure I was the last person to say goodbye. It is literally the worst feeling and surprise, time doesn’t make that go away. Time does not make saying goodbye to someone who you spent your creating your adult life with better. It actually seems as time goes on it becomes worse. It just sets in more that this is now the remainder of your life.

This post doesn’t go over my daily trauma, you know like “oh hey should we have pork chops for dinner?” and then the kids yell “NO!” because we ate that with Jesse. Then I suggest chicken, steak, or beef and those are all a “NO!” too, because dad ate those too (we are making progress on this). This just covers the aspect of sudden traumatic death. The nasty kind. The kind where unless I pass out, I am not sleeping. How could I? If you think about it for longer than a few uncomfortable seconds- you would see this actually guarantees the kids and I are NOT crazy.

What is crazy is to PRETEND LIKE EVERYTHING IS NORMAL. Absolutely, freaking, nuts. If you advise someone who just went through trauma to resume to their former self, YOU are the one that is uncomfortable. YOU are the one having the issue. When someone dies it is normal to feel anger, sadness, stabbing, lack of breath, like you name it. It is normal to be numb. Every emotion is normal- except the one that someone tries to force. Except the one that someone expects out of you. The best you can do is be neutral, gentle or kind. This isn’t the same as meaning well and it coming off wrong, I am talking about just plain ignorance, that you haven’t spent more than a second thought on what you are about to articulate.

For that reason, I will protect my children and I at all cost. If I feel crossed…if my children feel crossed (i.e., like if you tell them to not talk about their father in front of you because YOU feel uncomfortable). You will be made aware. I cannot promise that I will make you kindly aware, you may get a “fuck. you.” from me because guess what? We lost the most important thing to us- we are not afraid to lose you as well. We know it won’t hurt as bad. The trauma we have gone through pales in comparison to any loss we would feel from losing something else, unless it was each other. We are the ones that deal with this every. single. second. We are the ones that are so painfully aware of his absence. We are the ones that have not heard the garage open to him coming home 39 times now or have eaten 117 meals without speaking to him, and it has only been a little over a month. Do not tell me or my kids, how to act after enduring not only the loss of Jesse, but traumatic loss, unexpected loss, untimely loss.

What’s it Like to Lose Your Spouse?

I didn’t think about this one a ton. I always assumed I would lose my parents first, as that is the natural order of things. I also contemplated losing a child, as that is very extreme and seemingly more likely (Did you know the leading cause of death in children under 5 in Florida is drowning? See what I mean?) If I was REALLY going to lose my spouse it would be when I was 65 or something. That’s what I thought anyhow.

Oh wow look at this. I think this is from a double date this year with my SIL and BIL. I am having her take a boomerang of us. I wish I knew how the rest of my year was about to go.

My best friend lost her mom to alzheimer’s when she was about 27. I researched as much as I could so I could try to help her- or at least not say the wrong thing. Prior to this, a close friend of ours lost her 20 year old daughter in a motorcycle crash. I again researched as much as I could so I could try to help her- or at least not say the wrong thing. Guess what. I still have no idea, and I just hope I remain in this state of ignorance as long as possible regarding those two things. They both have similar feelings of grief and questions about death as I do- but the pain is different and it’s hard to explain. So I will explain my side of what I know now. It’s nothing I could really fathom, unless of course I sat down and read a blog like this one. Maybe then. No… actually reading would give me a better understanding but I still wouldn’t know.

Since our chances of dying are 100%, maybe we should spend more time talking about it. It’s the only thing that’s really guaranteed in life and yet we all avoid it- we don’t want to talk about it because it’s not nice.

Prior to Jesse dying, if I thought about losing my spouse for a second, I’d think “Wow, that would devastate me. I would miss him so much. I couldn’t kiss him. The kids would be so sad, he’s such a great Dad. I’d cry every second!”

Wrong.

This isn’t a guidebook to losing your spouse- it’s my personal experience, but it comes in disgusting waives of disgusting emotions. Most of my widow girlfriends (ew, why is that a thing for me now), would likely agree it’s like this- but everyone is different. People who lost their spouse at more of a “correct” time, wont have as many voids as I do, but may have other things that I don’t. Just depends on the person and timing.

I do not cry every second, but I am in pain every second. There are milliseconds I feel “okay.” It is much more of an intense longing then simply wanting to kiss him or hug him. I literally crave him. Like I am in the desert on my third day without water. I am a thread that has been undone and am fraying to nothing. I want him to touch me. I want him to grab my side when he walks by. I want to hear my phone go off and know it’s him. I want to reply and feel good at his response. I want to discuss what we are eating for dinner for the 2000th day in a row. I want to get mad at him for something. I want to be annoyed that he mowed the grass and missed a spot. I want to tell him I am worried about something. I want to tell him what the kids did or didn’t do. I want to tell him what a friend or family member did that made me upset, made me laugh, made me happy. I want to put my cold feet on his back when he’s sleeping and watch him shriek and then laugh at him. I want to see his car pull in. I want him to tell me his fears. I want to tell him it’s okay and hug him.

Here’s the last time I put my cold feet on him. I had to take weird photos like this. I knew I was about to have fucking nothing after this. This photo always hurts.

For 13 years- we have spent time meshing together as one person. Even if we didn’t like all of the same things, it doesn’t matter. You would think I could hold on to music and shows I enjoyed prior to knowing Jesse, but I cannot because I wasn’t happy with my life until I met him. If anything, those songs and shows just remind me of being unfulfilled. It doesn’t matter whether its negative or positive, my timeline is intertwined with Jesse’s and now it’s demolished.

When you are with your spouse- you naturally just adopt ideas and thoughts with them, even if you don’t notice it. Maybe your spouse loves football and you hate it. It doesn’t matter though because now you know on Sundays you will be watching the game and eating wings or you know that because you hate football you will be out with your girlfriends for a few hours. You become intertwined with a schedule, even if you wouldn’t be doing that single. At some point, your spouse will want to speak to you about the game. Even if you hate football, you will listen. You will listen so much that you may eventually have a shred of interest in it. You will hear so much that you will eventually know when the ref. makes a bad call. If your spouse dies, even though you hate football, it will hurt to see it. It will also hurt to not see it.

In our earlier years, Jesse listened to Howard Stern. I have no interest in Howard Stern, but since Jesse liked him- I know so much about that man I may seem like a superfan. I watched his documentary and heard his show in the background of our life while we did yard work for years. I know all the characters and crazy things they did. But, I didn’t really care for him (at first) nor would I willingly just watch/listen to the show. This same thing happened for Jesse. Jesse listened to me for years babble on about religion- to the point where he should have held an honorary degree in it. The same is true for law school, he actually got to a point where he too could recite the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, just from being around me. Jesse didn’t give a shit about the FRCP, but we were so intertwined, that it just became that way.

Now I want to hear Howard Stern. It will make me smile for a second- but then I will feel disgusting. Jesse doesn’t get to listen to him anymore. How is that fair? So then I wont listen to him. I’ll turn it off. If Howard Stern is in the news, I’ll think about Jesse.

Losing your spouse-unless they do absolutely nothing-means losing half of everything you have. So many things have broken or needed attention in my house in less than a month. My computer broke, Raiden’s bike tire became flat, our electric outlets stopped working in the kitchen, maintenance to our well and AC hasn’t been done, my trash isn’t taken down. I can go on. I knew Jesse was “in charge” of these things, but now that he isn’t here the absence is so loud. I take my trash down now and it feels so weird. I have to ask for help, a lot. Asking for help sucks.

Losing your spouse means no dates to your favorite breakfast place. No sitting across from them and smiling at their face. No laughing at them when they spill their coffee all over the place. No panicking for napkins to wipe it up with. No embarrassment as people stare at you and you attempt to be normal. Nothing. It means when you see other couples doing this on Sunday morning you feel rage towards them and hate them- even though they have no idea who you even are. Then in the next second you are crying at them. So you look totally crazy and they are just trying to drink their coffee. It means you go to bed alone. You shower alone. You eat alone. But all with the expectation that someone should be there. The expectation that someone should be there forever.

I won’t get these anymore. He’s never going to tell me happy birthday ever again. I’ve been told “at least” I live in a digital age by someone. She is right though. She doesn’t have photos, videos, voices, hardly any writings. I try to be thankful for this stuff and I am- but I am selfish because unless he’s coming back, it’s not good enough.

Losing your spouse means you have created a second time line. There are two universes in which you reside. The one you are currently in and the one that is the “what if he was still alive?” timeline. In the one where they don’t exist. You make every decision alone. Every decision you make, friends and family no longer judge it as that’s just how you two parent- they question it. Because God forbid anyone is capable of making a good decision as a single person. Not that I like making decisions alone, I just don’t have a choice. I would always look to Jesse and ask what he thought. This could range from “oh we need to have the birds and bees talk with the kids” to ” should we make them eat more broccoli?” See. really important things and pretty minor things- neither can I ask his opinion on. There’s no talking, there’s just me doing my best and trying to figure out what Jesse would say. I think I am pretty good at guessing what he would say, but what if I forget? What if I am wrong? The permanency is unwavering. I cannot do a single thing without hearing his name or thinking of him- whether he would be involved or not.

Losing your spouse means your life becomes the ending of the movie The Sixth Sense. You know, the horrible scene where the wife cries herself to sleep on the couch watching their wedding video. That’s what I do. All the time now. When the video is playing, I feel kind of happy. The minute it’s over. I cry hysterically. I repeat this for hours, until I am so exhausted I pass out. I don’t sleep anymore, I pass out. It’s the only way I can go to sleep. If I try to sleep naturally- I see very horrible images when I close my eyes. Ones I will discuss later, because, you know, trauma is just so much fun with all of these layers.

Losing your spouse means whatever was in your imagination for your life will have to be completely reformatted. Did you picture going to Colorado together? Did you picture going to the movies on Friday night? Did you picture eating spaghetti for dinner and you waited for him to say “ugh again?” but there’s nothing. Did you talk about your retirement or what your kids would do when they are older? Did you talk about how cool it will be to be a grandparent? Did you talk about how you need to get out of debt or pay something off? It’s exhausting being slammed in the face with these things every two seconds.

Everyone else gets to go home and be “normal.” They may feel sad but they likely get to go home and hold their spouse for comfort. Whereas I have a pillow and a sobbing child. Not the same. No one is there to comfort you but you and maybe some stupid blog you post. People try and it’s awesome that they would be so selfless. They may give you a hug, but all you think is 1)This doesn’t smell like Jesse 2) This doesn’t feel like Jesse 3) They are hugging me because I lost Jesse, otherwise, it’s likely they would not be here because Jesse and I would be doing something.

This is why when people say “oh sorry I brought up so and so, I didn’t want to make you think about him.” I never stop thinking about him. If I am doing something to distract myself that’s new- I know I am doing it to distract myself because Jesse is not here. If I am doing something Jesse always came to, I think about all the times Jesse and I did that. See? Can’t escape it.

Your husband always has your back, even if you are dead wrong. It’s you and him vs. the world. The “world” could be an argument with a family member- on either side. Or maybe a friend acting out of line. Either way, you know you will have his support. You get to retreat to your safe spot, your home, together, and shake your head at what happened. Unfortunately, now I am alone. Jesse had the sword and I had the shield. I no longer have a sword and my shield is broken to pieces. Anything I have to battle or navigate I do so alone. I consult myself. I can say “Jesse would say…” but that really doesn’t matter, because he’s not saying it. He’s not standing up for me. My voice isn’t as loud, no matter how loudly I scream.

Losing your spouse means one day your nest will be empty. Sometimes other widows will say I am lucky because we had children together. They are right for that. I think it would be worse if we had none or lost all of them. However, it also means a day will come where my children leave and I am literally alone in the house. I will have no one to take care of or look after constantly. I will still call them and help them, but they will all move on with their own beautiful lives. What will I do?

I am 30. 30. Thirty. Am I supposed to never be with anyone ever again for 55 years? That doesn’t sound great. On the other hand, I don’t want to. When you lose your spouse to death and not divorce, this interesting shit element comes up of being unfaithful. I cannot discuss this with him and I wish we spent more time on this topic, so maybe I’d know? I only know that I specifically told him if I died, to find a good woman who loved our kids. I am pretty sure he told me if I found someone he would haunt the house (thanks Jess, very helpful). That doesn’t leave me with a lot. I don’t want to be with another person for a million reasons. Here are some:

  • It feels like I am cheating.
  • I would feel empty. Even if I remarry and the person is great, they are not my spouse. I would just have two now. Two spouses- I deserve a TLC show and may as well be a Mormon.
  • I would feel unfairness. Jesse doesn’t get to remarry. Jesse doesn’t get to do any of what I am doing. This feels like betrayal. If I am so intertwined with him, how do I explain living and moving forward- he doesn’t get to experience that. How is that fair? But then for me to suffer alone, I know he really wouldn’t want that. These feelings are at complete odds. I am pretty sure if he were alive he wouldn’t be please if I had another husband. He’s not alive, but our relationship still is.
  • I would feel gross. Whoever may be in my life will not be Jesse. That is 100% guaranteed. How do I plan to get over that sick feeling? I am not sure. Not only that, this person has to accept 4 children that are not his and a wife that is still in a relationship. There is no getting around this because I refuse to take his photos down and I will absolutely not be silent about him. Honestly, the only man I can think of that would be able to understand something like that… is Jesse.
  • I would feel confused. Being with someone else on Christmas or having them watch Jesse and I’s children open gifts? God that is weird to think about and I literally have to think about it now. I cannot avoid it. Someone else who is not Jesse staying in our house and making breakfast on Saturday? This doesn’t sound appealing. It sounds confusing and disgusting. I will have to accept this at some point or accept being a cat lady. There is no in between here. (Note: I already have 4 cats…so…)
Hearing I am beautiful from someone else will feel like nothing. Absolutely nothing. That’s just how it is now.

This aspect of losing a spouse is definitely one I couldn’t understand. As I said earlier, my idea of losing a spouse was “I’d cry all the time and miss him.” Now I am seeing all these different aspects of it, like how would I enter another relationship? I technically cannot. At least in my head right now that doesn’t seem plausible. It doesn’t seem like that would ever be plausible. I don’t feel like I need anyone. I am pretty self-sufficient. I am just bringing this up because I never really considered it and now it’s such a weird thing to think about.

Today was really hard. Every day is really hard. I still think this isn’t real and I am making up some crazy story to everyone, all the time. I want to tell him so badly about everything that has happened. I want to reflect on all of these events with him. I want him to know how it screwed me up, his family up, my family up, our kids- in ways he would never be capable of thinking of. I want to tell him how quiet Christmas was without him, how we went to bed at 8 and it was silent, compared to last year where we were up for hours surrounded by friends, family, and fun games. I want to tell him how my doctor appointments have gone and that my contractions are getting more intense. I know he would be worried. I want us to watch our show at night with some ridiculous plate of charcuteries that we would eat even though we weren’t hungry we were just being extra. Losing your spouse means literally every tiny aspect of your life changes against your will and your spouses will and there is nothing you can do about it. Nothing.

The last time we held hands. Let me tell you, if you want to know how painful this might be. Try to write out those words for yourself. It’s hard to even write them, let alone know them.

Raising Broken Children.

I’ve always wondered about this and now I get the fabulous opportunity to try it out. Watching all of your children sob uncontrollably and you cannot do a single thing- not a single thing, you just have to wait. It’s pretty much like someone came up to my kids, stabbed them in the stomach, and there is no hospital to take them to. I watch them bleed out, helpless. A hug does not fix a wounded stomach. You always think there is a way to fix things, at least I always thought that. Now I know somethings just cannot be fixed, no matter how much work you put in.

I have filmed and my door bell has caught some footage of Raiden’s outburst. I debated sharing this and will likely not share videos, but it’s a daily struggle. Anyone who happens to be present during an outburst of his and knows him immediately will start crying too. It is painful to see him like this. Especially if you knew him before. I don’t want my kids and I to be the poster family for this, but it’s such a neglected topic I feel like it’s right for us to do. This became apparent when Jesse passed, as I was referred to AARP.org. Not a place for a 30 year old.

What’s it like to raise a child from a broken home? Not in terms of divorce- but death. Far worse, because there is no hope. Hope keeps people going. Even if the father or mother to the child is absolute garbage and just goes MIA, there is always a small chance of redemption, or maybe even a minute of happiness, maybe even an explanation: “Why were you not there for me?” With death, it is literally demolished. There is no redemption. It is permanent and unwavering. Answers to questions do not exist- only speculations.

Chloe is 11. She cried this morning because “I just want to hug Dad and I can’t.” Think about the person you love and adore the most, the person that when you feel down, they can pick up your spirits even if it’s just a little. Now picture they disappear, completely. Also imagine you are 11, a time where you are changing anyhow. It is difficult to raise children anyhow. It is difficult to be 11 anyhow. What Chloe is trying to deal with, is something adults struggle with. If your parent is still alive, how well would you fare if you got a call that they died? I can think of nothing crueler that she could go through, unless she lost me too.

She has taken the role of a sub-parent. She cleans the house, she co-manages her siblings. She helps to get them up and moving. She helps them with home work. Shouldn’t she be on Roblox or playing a fun game or gossiping with girlfriends? That would be nice, but her role has now changed. All family members are assigned roles, whether they are aware of it or not. One role can be being the black sheep, or the jokester, or the responsible one, or the problem solver. When someone dies, the family must re-assign the roles or the family crumbles. Our roles have been reluctantly re-assigned and this is obvious even in extended family (something as simple as taking out the garbage at a family dinner, this was “Jesses” job, now we all take turns doing it, and by “all” I mean absolutely not me. I just sit and stare). Anyways, Chloe went from older mature -sibling to sub-parent. Currently, I cannot reform this role for her, she is stuck here for a bit but I hope not for long. I do remind her it’s not her responsibility to do so much- but it is almost a coping mechanism for her to take control. Control in small things, like wiping a counter, means that the world isn’t chaos. Except it is. It’s false control. I do not tell her that though and it’s likely she already knows.

Chloe doesn’t cry a lot because there isn’t time for it. She cries kind of like how I do, at moments of sheer exhaustion or when we are finally alone at night. Otherwise, our bodies are on autopilot where it’s a false numb. When she does break down, it is so painful to see. She is avoidant of certain things because she knows they will make her upset. She didn’t want to go to school the other day because she was afraid they would say “parents.” Plural. She was afraid the word Dad would come up. Unfortunately, it does. Almost every day. One day they even had to read a story about how the Dad frog takes care of baby tadpoles, not the mom. Jesse took care of them in ways I am horrible at. It is literally like a sick joke. We are all cut open and bleeding out- and then someone pours salt in it. Most people are sensitive to her, but there are times there is just blatant ignorance.

Chloe asked me “Is there a way to forget about people?” after begging me to remove all the photos of Jesse in the house. I said no. She said why can I forget about a fake friend then? I told her a fake friend doesn’t love her. Essentially she is becoming the same as I am…how dare you that you loved us. You should not have. She just said she wants to not remember or to see him. She puts blame on herself that she had played some factor in his death because of completely unrelated reasons. This could be something like “it’s my fault he died because I didn’t let him use my marker that one day.” I told her it’s absolutely not true. I told her that any fight or anger she has towards us is void. We love her unconditionally and nothing she does can cause anything- we are never truly upset with her and we know she’s just a kid. I think this helps her, but it’s painful I have to explain to her she didn’t kill her dad.

Oraia is 8. Her role has also changed. She used to be our “wild card,” (see reference from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia- she is our Charlie Day. Specifically the episode where he takes the breaks out of the car). But now she is moving more into a “fixer,” role. She wants to fix everyone’s sadness. Mine, her grandmothers, etc. Anyone who is sad she wants to mend them. I tell her it is not her responsibility to fix me and I must do this myself. She insist that she can fix anything and that if anyone is going to fix me, it will be her. She is the most like Jesse, from how she was prior to this- to how she is now. Jesse was a bit of a wild card also, but would immediately switch to fixer when people were struggling. He would assume so much responsibility to help/fix people, even if it was detrimental to himself. I see Oraia doing this also. She is ignoring her own needs to help others. This was a beautiful quality of Jesse’s, but it’s only beautiful if it doesn’t cause self neglect, which it does. I ask her how she is doing and she will tell me she is fine, but then I catch her staring into space at 12:00am, a time when she is usually sleeping. I find her talking, yelling, crying in her sleep.

She will not take off his shirts and has routines. Her routines consist of things like waking up and smelling his laundry, looking at peaceful photos of the sunsetting, wearing his hat, etc. This is also very much like Jesse. What she wants from me are things I am not too great at giving her. She lost a tooth the other day and I told her to rinse her mouth out with water. She said “Dad would get me warm salt water.” So I went and retrieved that for her. Seems insignificant but it is constant. I am not an incompetent parent- but I do not make things “special.” I am very practical. If my kids ask for water at bed. They get a cup of water at bed or I tell them “hey you need to think about doing this before you lay down.” Jesse, on the other hand, would go get the water and tell them there are special ingredients in it (ice. lol) but this made it special. This is a constant problem now because I am not too creative, I do not go the extra mile. That sounds horrible- but going back to the roles thing, that was not my role. I handle practical things, Jesse handled fun things. Oraia notices this. I try and tell her I am so so sorry.

She is scared now. She used to be fearless. She spent the night at her friends to try and have some distraction. This ended with a brutal text to me at 4:00am. Normally if she was afraid at night, she would text her dad and he would respond instantly. He was a night owl. I am not. It’s hard to just become two people in a snap of a finger- after being yourself for 13 years. I am trying to step-up my parenting game, but I am literally being asked to step it up when I have been at my weakest point. Ever. If she sent Jesse a text that she was scared- he could calm her down in seconds and she would drift back to sleep. I am trying to comfort her, but she was “dad’s twin and best friend,” so you can imagine I am not doing too stellar at it.

It sucks I didn’t see this. I was finally able to enter my three hour depression coma when she text me. Luckily my best friend comforted her and brought her home. This isn’t normal behavior for her. When I see these messages it is reminiscent to me of Chloe’s text to Jesse the day he died that said “Are you still alive. Please answer me. Please.”

Raiden is 6. Today we started out with “Mommy, does the school know your husband’s dead?” after overhearing my professor say the word husband in my Family Law class. I told them yes they know.

Raiden is lashing out in anger. Raiden was a the sweetest little boy I knew prior to this. Some days he could still be a Sour Patch kid- but he would always listen and didn’t give me a ton of grief. He would get so excited over things he loved, like cute tiny animals. Two weeks before Christmas, Jesse and I asked him what he wanted as a gift and he said happily “I don’t need anything. I have every thing I need.” I am not sure what kid says that.

Now, the smallest thing can set him off. After this happened he started to act up and I went to handle it like I usually do (i.e. “Raiden go to time out and think about this”). Wrong. What normally would have been him reluctantly walking to the time out chair, had become a screaming session. This screaming turned into punching. Punching turned into throwing. Yelling at me: “you don’t love me! you are going to leave! you don’t care about me!” He even put a dent in our garage. He’s 6 and it’s not like he’s super strong. He tears apart furniture, rips things off walls, breaks toys.

I feel like I now know what it’s like to have a child with emotional stability problems. It is hard. You cannot control them and when they get like that you can’t spank/ yell/threaten it does NOTHING. It makes it worse. So pretty much I just have to monitor him until the outburst of anger turns into hysterical crying and falling to the floor. Then I can approach him and hug him. Whatever he was angry about wasn’t really what is was. He is really just sad and confused about his Dad. If these outburst do not calm down in the next two months- he will have to have a private therapist. I am hoping he is able to work through it naturally.

All of the children have some similar symptoms too. They are all extremely clingy. Raiden demands we do at least one STEM project a day (if you have ever done one, they aren’t always so simple-especially when your brain is fried). Chloe demands I watch shows with her, cuddle her, scroll Tik Tok. Oraia demands nothing. She has recently started asking to sleep next to me. All the kids fight each night to sleep right next to me. I want to sleep next to them too because I feel sad, but that’s a lot of people in one bed. They even ask me to take showers/baths with them. Raiden wants me to sit in the bathroom if he has to use the potty. These are not normal behaviors for them, at all. If I leave, they panic and confirm I will be coming back. Before I could go out the door and they would say “yeah love ya bye!” Now I see worry in their face. I see worry in how they speak or text me.

It isn’t chaos all day. Raiden seems normal in school sometimes. Chloe laughs at shows sometimes. Oraia is goofy sometimes. It is just different. Silent. It is no longer pure bliss, it is modified with stings of sadness and pain intertwined in a laugh. That pure innocence a child has is altered. I hate that. The counselors say that all of their behavior is normal. From Raiden’s angry outburst to Oraia’s silence. It’s normal for grief to place itself in these weird ways. Adults cannot handle this situation and neither can children. “Luckily” they are resilient. They should bounce back faster than I do and by bounce back I mean put on a face for society so they are seen as normal when none of us are anymore.