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Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I'm a planner. Always organized with events on the calendar well in advance. At least I used to be. I'm not so good at it anymore. I always carry a calendar/planner in my purse. Today I took the 2010 planner out. I've stumbled across it several times since Andie died but always throw it back in. It's one of those little things I haven't wanted to face so I just let it languish at the bottom of my purse for almost a year now- right next to the 2011 planner.

Today I took it out and thumbed through it. So strange to see remnants of a normal life documented. Doctor and hair appointments neatly penciled in. Vacations and and days off of work. I was going through some health issues at the time and my doctors were playing around with my medications. Taking me on and off to see if my symptoms would subside. There are notes in this calendar about when to stop the medicine or start it again; comments about if my symptoms were getting worse or better so I would know what to tell the doctors when I went back in for a check up.

I see the days where I circled the date four days in a row in a repetitive pattern and am reminded of how regimented the schedule can be when you are married to a cop. Andie's schedule was always rotating making it very difficult to plan things in advance. He worked 5 days on, 4 days off, another 5 on, another 4 off, then 6 days on followed by 4 days off. Then the whole cycle repeated again. I would go through the calendar months in advance and mark his rotation of days off so that when I was planning things I didn't have to sit and count the days over and over. I remember how irritated I would get when I would get off by a day and mess the whole pattern up, then I'd have to start from the beginning again to figure out where I went wrong. Grief is a lot like that...playing things over and over in your mind, going back to the beginning again to try and figure out where it all went wrong. Wondering where was the one moment that shifted everything in your universe? Only there's no erasure marks and do-overs with grief.

I look at the week he died. There is nothing there except the notation of when I started my menstrual cycle. We were on vacation when he died and I find it strange that I did not have the vacation written down. It's just a blank week on the calender, as though nothing happened. As if it were just a boring, uneventful week in our lives. I keep looking and see that I had worked out his days off rotation until the beginning of August. Obviously planning for him to be around. Never imagining that I could stop caring what days he had off of work on June 18, 2010. The week after he died is completely blank too. Then the activity picks up again and there are meetings with lawyers, HR reps, insurance people, the funeral photographer, and a host of other things penciled in. Dying is busy work for those left behind. The barrage of paperwork and decisions seems endless. Almost a year later and I'm still dealing with estate paperwork and final decisions on his headstone.

This planner is like a time capsule.
A glimpse into the mundane rhythm of life we had.
A written document that proves I had a normal existence once.
I consider throwing it away but instead decide to put in a drawer with the rest of the memorabilia that I have kept.
But for the life of me I can't think of a rational reason why...
It is just a calendar after all.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Contingency plan...

This morning I went to a meeting with the committee planning the 5k in honor of Andie. It feels good to be doing something to honor and celebrate his life. I am pleased that I have chosen this as a way to mark the one year anniversary of his death, and I hope that it can be a peaceful day for those who loved him to come together in friendship and have a good time.

After that I had to go to another meeting. A meeting that will essentially memorialize him and permanently mark the end of his life. I went to the cemetery office today to finalize the plans for his grave stone. I picked out the design very early after he died. I was still in a complete haze of disorientation then, so I ask her to show me what I picked because I honestly don't remember...I was pleased to find that even in the the shock of grief I still had good taste. Though expensive taste I am reminded, when I have to pay the several thousand dollar balance in full. I opt to not change anything.

The next step is determining what I want it to say. Which font do I like? What color do I want the background? Which color granite do I want? Do I want any special emblem or symbols? I choose to keep the design simple, masculine, and classic. Something he would approve of.

Then we get to the part about my name. I originally ordered a stone large enough to put my name on should I decide to be buried with him. But I don't want my name on it right now in the event that I move, or get remarried, or just plain decide I don't want to be buried but rather cremated. There are so many contingencies to consider. More than once she says that it doesn't happen often that these contingencies have to be considered...she is a little befuddled at how to handle such a young widow. "Oh yes, I didn't think about that..." she says when I throw another hypothetical situation at her.

The plaque with my name must be ordered now- it is not an option to do it later. Though she is quick to reassure me that the plaque can be moved to a different stone should I be buried elsewhere or with someone else. I would just have to buy a new piece of granite to put it on. I am not happy about my name being on a grave stone at this age, but I acquiesce and agree to this.

The next step is to determine exactly how we want our names printed on the plaques. I choose full names- first, middle, and last. When we get to my name I stump her again. But what if I do get remarried? This plaque will say "Simmons"...she offers the suggestion of using my maiden name. No, that won't do. We talk some more about the options for all the contingencies that could befall me in the course of my life. I am one who always has a back up plan. Who always plans out all available courses of action in order to make the most rational decision. But I eventually realize that this something that I will have to consider when the time comes as I cannot predict my future at this point. She asks for my date of birth. As she finishes writing, "July 23, 1980" she says to me, "You're too young." Yes, this I know.

If all goes well, I will have at least another 30 years ahead of me. Likely more. It is hard to fathom that I actually have more time ahead of me than behind me, and already I have essentially ended one chapter and am beginning a new one. Life as I knew it is over, and I am starting afresh. It is within the realm of possibility that I could be married to a new person longer than I have actually been alive up until this point. And yet, my name with my husband's surname will appear on a grave stone... waiting for me to die. It is mind boggling and surreal to consider.

My day will culminate in a visit from a guy I have been emailing and talking with for several weeks. He lives almost 300 miles away so we have only seen each other once before now. I am excited to see him again- to see if the connection we have established through conversation is as good in person. The last time I saw him went well, so I imagine this will too. We will spend the weekend going to dinner and concerts, meeting friends, maybe going to the lake, and getting to know each other better. I am happy about this development in my life. It brings me hope for my future. I know some will judge me and say I am moving on too soon. Or I am trying to distract myself from my grief, and there really is no way I could be ready. Some will judge him and wonder what in the world he could possibly see in a widow with young twins who lives 300 miles away. That's an awful lot of baggage for him to take on. But if I've learned anything in this process it is that there is no right or wrong way to do this. I can only proceed in ways that leave my heart and mind feeling content and at peace.

So while I started the day with a meeting to honor and celebrate the life of my husband, and followed it with a meeting to memorialize him forever, I will end the day with the opportunity to do something that helps me look towards the future. I have given up on always having a contingency plan. They never work out how I imagine them anyway. I am learning that the more I try to control my life, the more God shows me ways that I can't. He is the one who makes the plans.

So maybe, just maybe...
this new great guy who makes me happy,
is God's contingency plan...
for me.

Monday, May 23, 2011


"Were it possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and yet a little way beyond the outworks of our divining, perhaps we would endure our sadnesses with greater confidence than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent." – Maria Rainer Rilke

So I was watching Oprah the other day and they showed a clip from an old show when Dr. Phil used to be on as a guest. He was talking with a woman who was stuck in her grief, 10 years after losing her daughter. She had not been able to move on and let go of the pain and anger. He said something to her that struck a chord with me.

He asked her if her daughter would feel betrayed in some way by her mother moving on and leading a happy life. The lady of course replied that her daughter would not feel betrayed by her moving on, but rather would actually be mad at her mother for continuing to be miserable every day. Her daughter wouldn't want that kind of life for her.

Dr. Phil replied, "Maybe the betrayal is focusing on the day of her death and not on the event of her life."

This hit close to home for me. I find myself continuing to struggle with the idea of moving forward, finding joy, and living again rather than merely existing. Sometimes I feel like it is a betrayal to not still be debilitated with grief. But at the same time, I'm really tired of being emotionally drained, and want to have the same optimism about life that I used to carry with me before I became a widow.

Hearing Dr. Phil reframe it in this way made me realize that I can celebrate the life he had and the life we had together, without focusing on his death, which was really only one day in the grand scheme of his life. He is so much more than his death. He truly would not want me to be miserable every day. He would want me to feel fulfilled, and excited about life and my future. He would celebrate how far I've come, and he would encourage me to continue to carve out a new life for myself.

Many days I still feel caught between two worlds. The life I had, and the new life I must now create. Going through this process is like being stripped to the core and rebuilding from scratch. Relearning what you value, how you view things, and who you want to be.

As the quote above says, "...a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent."
A stillness, a sense of peace eventually comes and you realize that it is okay to be new again.
To start over.
The newness stands silent, waiting patiently, until you are ready to accept that it is there, then it welcomes you with open arms and allows you to become whatever it is that you want to be...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Finding our way...

"Out of every crisis comes the chance to be reborn, to reconceive ourselves as individuals, to choose the kind of change that will help us grow and fulfill ourselves more completely. "– Nena O’Neill

I attended a new church today with the girls. Just the three of us. Just our little family. Starting something new on our own- making a new way of life for ourselves. I am in a phase of rebirthing who I am and who our family will be without Andie in it. It’s a necessary part of the healing process for me to find my own way again…to choose the kind of change that will help me grow into who I want to be. Only when I find my own way, can I successfully lead the girls and be the strong parent they deserve.

Religion was always a minor point of contention with Andie and I. I being raised Methodist, and he being raised Church of Christ, we didn’t always see things the same way. Before we got married we talked about what religion we’d like to practice and how we’d like to raise our kids one day, but the reality of how we led our lives was far different from the hypothetical conversations we had. As is often the case with these kind of issues.

We said we would allow both religions to be a part of our lives as neither one of us wanted to completely give up who we were in that sense. We would alternate which church we attended, or just find a new one that we both felt comfortable in.

But the reality was that we always went to his church. Only when I really pushed did he agree to visit a Methodist church a time or two. It became something that I acquiesced on just to keep the peace. We didn’t go to church often mainly because he was usually working, but also because it wasn’t hugely important to him. And since I didn’t have a strong connection with his religion I didn’t push the issue. We went when we went. It wasn’t something either one of us felt convicted to do because we hadn’t established a strong bond with the church as a couple.

But through this process my yearning for a deeper spiritual understanding has increased.
I have been longing to reestablish that part of my life.
To rebuild myself, and to rebuild my relationship with God.
So I tried something new today in the hopes that I just might fulfill myself more completely.
In the hopes that maybe I can navigate my way out of this grief and lead us as a family into a new way of life we can call our own.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


11 months today. So close to a full year. What's the difference really, between now and one more month? No difference in the grand scheme of things. It has all gone by so fast. I think about a conversation I had with a friend when the girls were younger. We were talking about how you report your children's age in weeks for awhile, then in months. There is no clear transition as to when to switch over. Are they 24 weeks old, or 6 months? I feel the same about this...when do I stop counting the months and start counting years. At 13 months will I say my husband passed a year ago or will I continue to mark the months in time?

This morning as I am getting ready for work I think about what jewelry I want to wear. I have a little pile of jewelry that holds special meaning on my counter. I choose the necklace with my Push and 10-4 charms. I put my wedding ring on my right hand as many widows do. It's the first time I've put it back on in any capacity since I took it off a few weeks ago. The weight of it feels good. Like it's meant to be there. I put my pink gold anniversary bands that he bought me in honor of the twins on my left hand. I have lost so much weight that I must wear them on my middle finger now. Shoving them over the knuckle I broke in middle school that healed crooked. I feel like this is a metaphor for my life: shoving past things to make myself fit. To try to get back to normal.

I go to put on my socks and realize the ones I pull out are his. They are slightly too big for my slender feet but I wear them anyway. Last night I wore one of his "Sheriff" t-shirts to bed.
I guess subconsciously I'm trying to stay connected through tangible symbols, but feel more and more like I'm losing grip on it. The always tenuous and delicate connection to him feels like it is slowly fading.

I visit his grave before work. The tears flow easily this morning as I listen to some of the music from his funeral and several other songs that remind me of him. Like a teenager who self-mutilates just to feel something rather than feeling numb, I choose to listen to this music to get to that deep place of emotion I rarely allow myself to visit. It is cathartic to release the tears and I feel better.

As I drive to work I recall a conversation I had with my ob/gyn yesterday. It was the first time she has seen me since my follow up after the girls were born. I talked on the phone with her right after Andie died but hadn't seen her until now. She wants to know how I'm doing- how I'm really doing. She commends me on how well put together I seem. She comments that I have "strong faith" after I tell her I just do what I have to do to keep going on most days. She says I'm doing a great job to be raising the girls alone. All I can think is how great I've gotten at putting up a good facade most of the time. She asks to see pictures of the girls and is stunned by how much they look like him. "I can just see him sitting right there in that chair," she says pointing to where he sat during my exams. "As if it were just yesterday," are the unsaid words hanging in the air. We give each other a knowing glance and she hugs me. I wonder how long I will run in to people who don't know or I haven't seen since his death and I have to have the awkward conversations.

I realize that though the connection feels like it is slipping he is still here. Not in the way we all want, but in the only way he can be. In our memories, in the faces of our children, and in our hearts.

"You're still here" by Faith Hill

Thought I saw you today
You were standing in the sun then you turned away
And I know it couldn't be
But my heart believed
Oh it seems like there's something everyday
How could you be so far away
When you're still here
When I need you you're not hard to find
You're still here
I can see you in my baby's eyes
And I laugh and cry
You're still here

I had a dream last night
That you came to me on silver wings
And I flew away with you on a painted sky
And I woke up wondering what was real
Is what you see and touch or what you feel
'Cause you're still here
Oh you're everywhere we've ever been
You're still here

I heard you in a strangers laugh
And I hung around to hear him laugh again
Just once again
Thought I saw you today
You were standing in the sun then you turned away

Friday, May 13, 2011


I shamelessly stole this from another widow blog. Sunny Sings the Blues had it posted the other day and it spoke to me. I've been coming back to it for days, letting it seep into my consciousness. Thought I'd let you all know what has been occupying my thoughts...

"Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

This line especially speaks to me:
"And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be."

I am finding peace...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


In the beginning there is an obsession with the one who has died. A desperation for the thread to not unravel, to hold all that you had as couple together for as long as possible by trying to keep every memory you have in immediate awareness. Striving to stay connected by any means possible. Eventually some acceptance settles in that no matter how hard you try, there is no way to keep them alive through memories alone. The constant drive to stay connected tapers off; the fire within subdues and the rumination lies dormant.

After a while there is a stirring inside. Something sparks a curiosity. A yearning for new connection.

A desire to be fulfilled by another. To be appreciated, understood, comforted, and admired.
There is a longing to be touched. To be whispered to. To develop the subtle give and take that comes when two people develop a unique bond and share in the human experience together.

Once you’ve experienced fulfilling love the desperation to have it again can be intense. At times, the desire to interact with another on a level that is unique to only the two of you can be powerful and overtaking. I find myself watching other couples in public. Jealous of the nuance between them that only they truly understand. A certain look, a tilt of the head, a hand placed on the shoulder just so.

When you know what you’re missing, you suddenly have a new appreciation for it and seek to find it again. Perhaps that is why they say that widows who were in fulfilling and happy marriages tend to remarry sooner…because they crave that kind of closeness.

Eventually the rumination returns, but with a new focus when you begin to see that you might find another worthy of your attention, and they in return may also find you worthy.
When it comes within striking distance you seize it for fear it will get away.
For fear that you might miss your one shot to be truly happy again.
And the connection becomes the new obsession…

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

With appreciation...

In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us. – Flora Edwards

Most of the posts I write get commented on. Usually by my faithful followers. But what amazes me is how often I get emailed privately about my posts. Several times a week I get an email from someone telling me that something I have written resonated within them and made them take pause. Most times it is by someone who is not even grieving, but rather they can identify with the emotional undertone of my post as it relates to their own relationships. I am told that they can see themselves in me, or that I have made them change the way they look at things.

In my selfish act of baring my soul and using the blog as my own personal therapy, I am touching others. Making them reflect and self-evaluate, and in the end hopefully helping them become more self-aware people.

This is the greatest compliment I could ever receive. That through my personal pain and catharsis, I might be helping someone else to heal one of their wounds.

And in return, I heal a little more too…

It is with a humble heart that I thank all my readers today for continuing to push me along in my journey by choosing to share what’s in your heart.

Monday, May 9, 2011

ugly side

Looking back at some recent interactions I have had with those close to me I realize now how emotionally guarded I must have been my whole life. I didn’t really understand how much I have kept people at a distance. And continue to keep others at a distance…until now. Now I see me for what I am: vulnerable, terrified of getting hurt, afraid to show weakness.

It is hard for me to accept that sometimes “good things” just happen…I’ve always felt like the kind of person who draws in the “bad things happen to good people” vibe from the universe so I always have my guard up. I’m in a constant state of hyperawareness, overanalyzing, planning my escape route. Waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop, and never wanting someone else to get the best of me. It takes me a long time to trust someone and even those who are in my closest inner circle rarely get a glimpse of how I truly feel. I’m a born skeptic, constantly thinking about the “what if’s”. I find myself pushing the limits to see how far I can go, sure that when I cross the limit and someone finally gives up on me, I can stand back and place the blame on them for not being able to take all that I dish out. Not always giving due credit for what they did do and how long they did endure.

Ridiculously immature of me. I see now the ugly side of me. The martyr, the “woe is me”, the “can’t I catch a break” whiny side. I wonder how difficult Andie must have found it to be in this constant sparring match of wits with me. Always trying to stay one step ahead and continually reassure me. Sometimes feeling as though he could never win…in truth, cause he couldn’t. I never let him. I see now that when I thought he was giving up on me, he was really just refusing to engage in a losing battle. Knowing I’d always come around somehow. I want to tell him how sorry I am. That I didn’t realize how difficult I was being. That if he were still here I’d start letting him win every now and then. Recently, I have begun to embrace the idea of sharing my honest feelings and have been surprised by how freeing it is to allow someone to see through you. To the real you. And I like it.

The grief process is funny; it’s not always about the grief. More often it turns out to be about you and your underlying issues. It continually challenges us to reevaluate who we are and face things we were never forced to face before, and in doing so we have a new perspective on who we once were. We see ourselves through a vastly different lense. It’s not always fun, and it’s definitely not always pretty.

I realize now how unfair it is to keep people at a distance.
I want to let them in.
I want to be able to share myself on a genuine level.
I just have to start letting go of the fear…