Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tailor Made

Today, as I sit down to write with tired eyes, I must admit that although I miss Megan as much now as before, it has shifted over these past few months from an intense grief at the thought of her death to more of a longing for her to be present to witness where life has taken me since that time.

I have just returned from an extended weekend in Kentucky with an amazing woman named Sarah, who also happens to be the same Sarah the writes here on Widow's Voice every Sunday.  We met at Camp Widow East in February, completely by chance and/or fate, depending on your beliefs.  Neither of us had any intention of finding someone new at that time, but here we are. Three months after meeting, Sarah and I are a couple.  Not a day has passed since February 5th that we have not talked, and this past weekend, we were finally able to close the 1400 miles of distance, and bring our lives into the same physical space for a few days.  It was wonderful.

 It's an odd thing, not only being a widower, but being with a widow.  Both Megan and Drew are eternally present in our lives and hearts, but now, after endless hours on the phone or Skype, I can almost feel Drew as a friend of mine.  It's as if I know him personally, and there are even moments where I mourn his loss.  There is no jealousy when Sarah speaks of him. In fact, I love that she gets that wide eyed, contented joy when describing an event or memory with him.  

Of course, there is always the thought that had Drew or Megan not died, neither of us would have met the other, but there is also the thought that had they not existed, it would have also prevented us from meeting.  The two of them made Sarah and I who we are.  I am thankful for Drew's love towards Sarah, and her love for him, because she would not be the same person without him.  I took Sarah to a restaurant on the Ohio river immediately after picking her up at the airport called "Drew's", simply because of the name.

Just as I feel a connection with Drew, I can feel the same connection between Sarah and Megan.  There is no competition between them.  They are not the same person, and although there is a multitude of similarities, there are just as many differences.  Megan would love her and her attitude (primarily because they both make fun of me).  That's how I knew that Sarah was not a "band-aid" or a "rebound".  I have not once looked at her and thought "well, Megan did it this way, and that means Sarah's way is wrong"

Although I am filled with happiness about Sarah, I am struggling to find a poignant, teachable moment.  I can't suggest that any widow or widower who is ready to date go out and find another widow, because not only are there good people outside of our "club" that could be just as compassionate and understanding, but there also remains the fact that I wasn't ready to date.  Fate happened.  She sat down at that table at Camp Widow, and we clicked.  I had no choice in the matter, and now we've fallen for each other.  

I guess that the smartest thing I did was keep my eyes, and my heart open.  Just as I knew that I wasn't ready to go looking for someone else, I also knew that I shouldn't prevent a good thing from happening.  

I hope that Sarah and I's relationship can give some hope to other widows and widowers, and inspire people to realize that although we may have lost the loves of our lives, that when they were lost, we were given a new life, and a chance to have a new love.  

Every other Tuesday, I write for Widow's Voice, the blog of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.  This post was originally published at that location.  Widow's Voice can be found at http://www.soaringspirits.org/blog


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The First Mother's Day

Two days ago, I experienced my first Mother's Day without Megan.  Had you asked me back in January how I would have handled it, I would have expressed sheer terror at the prospect.  At that time, just two months since losing her, all I could imagine was that I would be an emotional train wreck, and would probably have just called my mother and mother-in-law to wish them a happy day, and stayed holed up in my house.

That isn't what occurred, however.  Yesterday was "OK", for lack of a better term.

Our tradition for the past few years had been for Shelby and I to wake up early, go downstairs, make a mess of the kitchen preparing bacon, eggs, pancakes, and coffee, and bring it to Megan in bed, along with a card and a small gift.  Shelby would turn some cartoons on and we'd sit and talk, all three of us, until Megan was ready to get out of bed.  It was a simple acknowledgment of how special she was, and that we would do anything for her.  We would clean up the kitchen and get our day started, where we would be visiting our parents and probably going out to dinner in the evening.

I woke up Sunday at that same early time that I always do, fully aware that it was Mother's Day, and painfully acknowledging the fact that for the first time in eight years, Megan wasn't there to cook breakfast for.  The dogs, having woke me up, were fed and let outside, and I went back to bed.  The bacon stayed in the freezer, and the coffee pot sat there cold.

Sunday was, well, just Sunday.

After a few hours, I roused and went downstairs to find Shelby watching some cartoons, and the dogs, as per usual, passed out on the couch beside her.  I asked if she was hungry, she responded with a yes, and asked if we could cook.  This suggestion seemed completely foreign to me for some reason.  I think that I may have forgotten in that moment that cooking breakfast wasn't just for special occasions, and I casually suggested we just go to McDonald's.  Even Shelby was somewhat miffed at this, as it is very rare that we eat McDonald's period, let alone on a Sunday morning.

We returned home, greasy, bagged food in hand, and sat out on the deck to have breakfast.  I began to think about what Mother's Day would or should be in the future.  I don't want random Egg McMuffins at 10:00 AM to be our new tradition.  This was one of those times where it would just be nice to shoot a text to Megan and say "What do you think we should do?"

I felt incredibly "single" at that moment.  This started as neither a depressing nor contented feeling.  It was just present, acting as a catalyst to my thoughts.  I'm a single parent.  Within the four walls of our home, Mother's day has lost it's happy connotations.  Now, it only sharpens the focus on Megan's death.  It serves as a reminder that Shelby will never make breakfast in bed for her own mother, ever again.  At just 8 years old, Shelby is celebrating Mother's Day by sitting on a deck and eating fast food with her dad.  This is not what I had in mind.

This brought me to thinking about the woman I am now dating.  Shelby adores her.  She has no children of her own, but I know she is an incredible mother nonetheless, and she understands (and sympathizes with) how confusing this journey is for not only me, but also for Shelby.  I am indescribably lucky to have someone that I can at least bounce things off of, and not have it seen as "baggage".  Undeniably, the thought crossed my mind that she may be celebrating Mother's day with us in the future.

As I sat and let all of these thoughts manifest, Shelby began playing with the dogs and laughing.  It was one of her deep belly laughs, the one you hear when you know she doesn't have a care in the world.  It was then that I knew that it will be Shelby that dictates how we celebrate her mother.  If it means cooking breakfast, and eating it ourselves, then so be it.  If it means eating fast food, then we'll do that.  She is old enough now that she can make her own judgments, and I will support her in whatever she wants to do, just as I did Megan.  Mother's day will now be Shelby's day.

I may make suggestions to her, but ultimately, I still have my mother to celebrate.  Only Shelby truly understands what it's like to have lost hers.  Perhaps in this case, she should be my guide.

Every other Tuesday, I write for Widow's Voice, the blog of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.  This post was originally published at that location.  Widow's Voice can be found at http://www.soaringspirits.org/blog

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Their Own Chambers

I'm learning how to love a new person right now, and even though I love her deeply, she is not the person I spent 12 years of my life with.  There are different mannerisms, needs, and habits that I have to learn how to fit into.  This is not to say that it's a bad thing; just that it's a learning experience just like so much of life is.

I spent a lot of time recently, thinking about how different I am now than when I was 22.  I had all of the patience in the world then, because I felt I had my whole life ahead of me.  I'm now 34.  I have a stable, well-paying career.  I have an 8 year old daughter.  I'd been married, for almost a decade.  There are many times when I look at those facts, and think that my whole life has pretty much been fulfilled.

Marriage, or any relationship really, is not a rose garden or fairy tale.  I refuse to put Megan and I's relationship on a pedestal and not acknowledge that it took a lot of work sometimes.  We had "rough patches", just as any couple will do, and we worked it out and started over with fresh perspectives and goals.  We loved each other, and we were able to weather these storms.

There was a process to this.  Megan would pull back and become quiet. I would generally perceive an issue or stress of some sort, and do my best to analyze and resolve the dilemma, oftentimes having to pry it out of her.  Before she began the process of rejection, we had begun "dating" again as an agreed upon solution to a funk we had been in as a couple.   Things were going well.  We had talked everything over, and I was happy with the direction we were going.  While it certainly wasn't easy mentally, to have had the stress in the first place, it was nice to have a common goal and solution to work on.  Ultimately though, she died before we could hit an equilibrium where it wasn't just work, and it haunts me to have never fully resolved that phase.

So now, I am starting over with a completely new woman.  I knew Megan's process and mannerisms.  I knew how to "play her game" and work with her.  This is something I have to learn again though. I have to learn that when my new woman gets quiet or needs time to herself, that it's NOT because she is mad or has an issue with me or us.  That is the hardest thing for me to grasp right now, because it was Megan's "tell".  Something was ALWAYS wrong when she got quiet.  That's not the case with the new woman.  I love her deeply and truly, and I need to disassociate the love I had for Megan from the love I have for her.  This is not to say I should forget or love Megan less; that will never happen, but I need to see them as living in two different, albeit equally sized, chambers of my heart.

I guess what I'm taking away from all of this is that I need to sometimes reset my own perspectives.  While there may be similar mannerisms or behaviors, they can be, and likely are for very different reasons. The way I live my new life, while greatly influenced by Megan and the life I had with her, cannot be BASED solely on her.  It's not fair to myself, or my new love to compare what I had with what I have.

I am learning that I need to archive the chamber of my heart that Megan lives in.  I need to always use it as reference material, and sometimes take the lessons I learned with her and move them to the new chamber.  The key is to make sure that Megan is not the only author in the library moving forward.