I thought I might leave him Suddenly Single when I had to go in for surgery for brain cancer, but I lived. So, he is stuck with me for the foreseeable future as long as I have anything to say about it.

We really didn’t know what was in store for us. Just kind of hope for the best and focus on the present.

I tried really hard to make it a little bit easier for Austin and prepared a whole bunch of notes for him, one an hour, for a lot longer than I thought the surgery would take. I did give him and if everything hits the fan kind of a note so that he would know what I wanted for my funeral and some promises I would haunt him if he messed things up for our kids, you know, sweet things like that. Unfortunately, that didn’t go quite the way I planned.

In the waiting room with the family and her parents, we were there for a while. We were told it would take between 4 and 8 hours. We were prepared for the long haul. We get past 8 hours, 9 hours, 10 hours…notes are long since gone, 11 hours 12 hours…yeah, it got a little unnerving there looking at that last letter haunting me.

I tried to be so thoughtful and give him extras. I think I wrote him 12 letters thinking it’ll never go past 12 hours. Unfortunately, I ended up leaving him there for 4 hours with just the not to open in case it all went wrong. But it was a great plan.

Just showing that I was there for her and not focus on what I was going through. For selfish reasons it was easier, but also that hopefully gave her less to worry about.

We’re really fortunate that her family is close by and her mother is very involved and that really helped out immensely. My sister also came out to help for I don’t even know how long at this point. It’s all a little bit of a blur.

In terms of relationships, I really learned that having a really strong relationship can get you through a lot. There’s so much that changes. It’s great that I survived, but there’s a lot that goes into survival. I had this marathon brain surgery and I had to come back from that. I had to get to the point where I could walk farther than the door of our townhouse to the car. I had to get to the point where I could sleep for more than a couple of hours without waking up in pain. Austin was fantastic so he would get up and give me my medication on the ridiculous schedule that I was on.

He did such a great job taking care of me. I learned a lot about our relationship as a couple and what we could endure together. A lot of people worry about their relationship with their husband, and he really did see me at my absolute worst. I looked like Frankenstein…bald head, staples up the back. It was really bad and he never left. He just stayed and that kind of security is amazing.

I learned about the importance of family. My mom basically took a whole year off from her dream to help me. We’re so fortunate to have her. I learned that those relationships are everything and to put energy into them. Not so that you can use people when you need them, but so you have that support and that love that those people and those relationships are so valuable and can be gone at any time. I’m never going to be sad about the time I put into my marriage or the time I put into my children because they could be gone tomorrow.

It reinforced that I’m pretty resilient. I think I already knew that but this was certainly a big curveball and then the power that perspective has. Seeing her after surgery and seeing her on the bed, the doctor had told me things had gone very well, but going to see her…you know, all the tubes and the different everything she was hooked up to…swollen and not looking like herself, bald and lot of bandages but she recognized me and that was a huge deal.

A lot of recovery for me is kind of hearsay. I hear about the things that I did but I don’t necessarily remember.

I was overjoyed at the sight of her. She could move her fingers and her toes and she knew who I was. My sister started freaking out. Ladies, that’s what you’ve got to find is a man that loves you when you come right out of brain surgery.

It gave me a lot of peace and a lot of joy to know that we had people who wanted to step in. I didn’t make a dinner for 9-months after our surgery. People filled our freezer, filled our fridge, sent pizza, sent casseroles. Don’t give people casseroles. My children still have PTSD about baked ziti. They see it and they’re like OMG, cancer!

People like to help. You’re not putting them out. You’re giving them an opportunity to bless you and to step into your life in a moment of need and to feel useful and to feel connected. There’s no shame in taking help.

After surgery and beginning of recovery, the support that we got was overwhelming. I’ve always been independent, kind of a self-sufficient person, and relying on others is not something I was particularly comfortable with or used to. It was a big change. It’s one thing when it’s your family but when you have complete strangers going out of their way to do things to make your life easier it’s a really foreign experience and gives you a renewed hope for society. There are so many bad things that go on around us in the news and even in the places we live but there are a lot of great people out there.

It’s not something you choose. It’s just something that happens and something you do. Every day something new happens and you’ve just got to roll with it.

I think one of the things that made it possible for us to get through this was we were able to still see each other. I remember a couple of times at doctor’s appointments just laughing our heads off about the most ridiculous things.

I don’t know. Am I going to be in a walker? Am I going to be in a wheelchair? What am I going to look like when we’re done with this? We found a way to joke with each other and connect with each other.

Anything you can do to maintain connection, anything you can do to find little pockets of joy in your situation, anything you can do to laugh together as a couple is really important.

Austin became my security blanket for that time. If he was there I was going to be okay.

My mama had already stepped in and promised that she was going to make sure the kids kept going to church and scouts and all the activities that they were a part of.

As much as I wanted to be there if you took me out it was still going to be okay. It might not be what I pictured but it would still be okay and that gave me a lot of peace.

I had tremendous faith that God had a plan for my family and it was a good plan even if I wasn’t in it. But it was hard, it was a hard thought.

Even with the hope that I had and even with the assurance that I had from people around me it was hard. Ultimately I did have a lot of peace knowing I Picked a great dad for them and that even if it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be it would still be good.

I really focused my time and energy into taking the time I had with Kristina and the kids together and just preparing for that and being there for her afterward rather than trying to focus on how I was going to handle potentially becoming a single parent. Maybe that was stupid. Had things gone another way I would have been pretty unprepared but how much can you really prepare for that?

Every day is valuable because you never know. We knew so it’s a double-edged sword. We knew it might not go well. We might all be looking at tomorrow as benign our last day or our spouse’s last day and it’s just about appreciating each other and accepting the other person for who they are and valuing that time together because the things that make you crazy today may be the things you wish they could do tomorrow.

It could all change tomorrow.

Even on the worst of days, there are still good things that happen.

I keep not dying so he’s stuck with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The short version is my husband passed away just a little over a year ago. He was diagnosed with stage 4 oral cancer.

He went into the hospital to have surgery to remove cancer and he never came home. He was at the hospital for about 6-months. It was an incredibly rough road.

At the time when everything happened Mike was 57 and I was 50.

I did not realize he was not coming home for a really long time. He was aware of his situation. He was awake, he was alert and from all accounts, we were told that he would likely be able to come home so that was the plan all along.

At the same time, he was in rehab for the stroke he also had to start radiation for cancer so we were never just dealing with one thing. The cancer treatment was just horrible. Looking back on things, I think the six weeks of daily radiation really affected hsi stroke rehab and may have been the tipping point of not allowing him to recover from the stroke. We’ll never really know. It was awful. It was truly an awful experience to go through with him.

As time went on it became apparent the stroke had done more damage to his brain than we could see.

I had friends, I had family, all of our family is local to us. We were very lucky to have people around us, but when you get to that point there’s only so much other people can do. Everybody means well and they want to help but sometimes they just can’t.

I had to accept that my life was never going back to the way that it was before. All the time that there was hope that he was coming home there was that little bit of hope that some of our life would return. As soon as they told me he couldn’t come home without 24-hour care all that hope was gone. No one can help you with that, as much as they want to.

In some aspects his death was almost a little bit of a relief in that I knew that he didn’t have to suffer anymore. He didn’t have to live this life that he absolutely hated. One of the things the stroke did was take away his ability to speak. He had such severe apraxia and aphasia from the stroke he couldn’t get the words out. It was really really difficult knowing he was trapped inside his head.

At 51 this is not the life I thought I was going to have. I thought we would still be married and doing our things and traveling and spending time together and just living our life. This was not part of the plan. This was not something that you ever even consider and then all of a sudden you’re put in this situation that you’re not remotely equipped to handle and you have to figure it out.

On the surface, it probably looks like my life isn’t very much different than it was before. I live in the same place, I have the same job, but there’s that piece that’s missing. We bought this house together, we built this life together and now I’m the only one that’s living it.

I feel like my grief sort of recycled once I started working from home. I didn’t have those same social outlets. Therapy and grief therapy have definitely helped me a ton.

Mike was in hospice for probably the last 2-months of his life. Part of the hospice program was grief therapy for survivors for 13-months after Mike’s death so I took advantage of that as well. The targeted grief therapy has really helped. It has been a lifesaver.

I’ve learned a few things. I’m somebody who likes to have control over my situation. It makes me feel better, it lessens my anxiety, and I really struggled with losing control during this situation. I wanted so badly to control the outcome. To dictate how things were going to go. To make sure that he had the best of everything to get back to where we were before. The harder I tried to have control the less control I actually had. At some point, I realized that I couldn’t control everything and let certain things fall by the wayside and hope that they would be okay and know that I was doing the best that I possibly could. Once I finally grasped that concept of letting go of control things got a little easier.

It’s so difficult. You have to get to this point where you’re not always going to have every answer when you want it. You’re not always going to have every outcome that you want when you want it. Sometimes that has to be okay. It was such a hard concept for me to wrap my brain around because I naively thought I could control everything. In a situation like this, you just can’t.

I always thought that if I had control I would feel so much better but it was actually the opposite of that.

Grief has its own timeline and you don’t always get to dictate what that timeline looks like. Grief deserves a lot of respect and it’s something as a society we could do a much better job of. It’s just one of those things that will come into your life when you’re not expecting it and it will take over. It will make you do and say things you never thought would happen and that’s okay. You’ll be alright.

I would encourage them to seek out whatever support they can, even when it seems like you can’t possibly do that. Asking for help is so important. Ask questions, press for answers. It’s okay to do so.

Just be kind to yourself. You don’t have to have all the answers right now. You don’t have to have total control. You will get through it. It might not feel like it, but you will. It will take time but you can do it. If I can do it anybody can do it. I never thought that I was a particularly strong person and as I was in the middle of it I looked back on everything I had gone through and thought, you know what? I am pretty strong. I survived all of it and I’m still here. You can do it. You can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first time was nearly eight years ago when I went through my high-conflict divorce. It was awful. And then I guess again it has happened recently too and it was a bit more of a surprise than I thought.

It was feeling like not again, here we go.

We had been together for nearly three years and we decided to blend our families. I’ve got two kids and so has he and they all got along fabulously.

I had made myself emotionally unwell going through this dilemma. The whole stress of it all I literally got sick for probably 6-weeks. I wasn’t sleeping, I was waking up and I was just stressed.

I think when you’ve been through it once before and you’ve waited so long to meet somebody again it was like, really? Again?

We’ve always had a great relationship where we’ve spoken about things and it has brought us closer together and that’s what I loved about our relationship.

We decided to live separately and see what would happen then.

This time around there was a lot more sitting and reflecting. I sat with it, I thought about it, I did some inner work and some journaling, you know…all the things you’re supposed to do and there was that part of me that was like, “I’ve failed again.”

We all have flaws. We’re perfectly imperfect people.

I was an absolute emotional mess for about 6-weeks.

We took some time apart and he really honored me and my need to not talk about it.

Why not? No harm could come from it. The mind was going crazy.

It’s been quite a journey. A lot of self-reflection and digging deeper and feeling into it.

I had to stop the thinking and tap into the feelings of my heart and what was my intuition telling me.

I didn’t want to have tension in the house for the kids. I wanted the kids to have peace and calm.

The mind wanted to take over. My pattern was a great guy, a good man but this is my feelings. It was a constant head-heart intuition battle. I had to have conversations with myself to trust in my body and my intuition.

I literally sat out in the car two days ago and burst into tears. It doesn’t make sense but I had to trust. It will be okay. You know the cycle. Allow the emotions and get the learning.

I had to come back to what was right for me. I had to trust and have faith in myself and my feelings.

When I had my divorce I couldn’t imagine getting through it. I felt like it was always going to be that way. This time around I knew that it would feel different sooner than when I thought. I knew it wasn’t a failing.

No one really wants to hurt anyone. The grief cycle is important to go through.

What’s been hard this time because I’m being the one who’s the breaker-upper. I’m not used to that.

Logically it doesn’t make sense but I had to go with what I’ve learned.

I had to own my part in it for sure.

Breathe. Do your inner work. Do the self-care. Do the emotional stuff because that’s what’s going to drive the decisions anyway. Have those heartfelt conversations with your partner and just come from an absolute place of love for yourself. When it comes time to have that conversation no one is ever really ready, but it has to be done. On the other side of that is freedom. You’ve got to face that fear and come from a place of love and trust in yourself. Take the time to nurture yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You called me 30-minutes after it happened.

I would say that I was dating someone for 6-years and every time they told me who they were I wouldn’t believe them. It took me until the week that my MFA dissertation was due.

It happened way before the actual event which I think is really common.

We went to Japan to celebrate our 5-year anniversary and when we got back it had been such a horrible trip and I’d asked him when he came back if he still loved me and he said, I don’t. I decided I don’t know if that’s true and I stayed with him for 6 more months and during that time he was developing another relationship.

I was coming out of it and I was having to put up this show for my MFA and I was having to go through all these motions in order to succeed and do the thing that I came to do. I was sort of in this position and I was like, you have to do this. You have to finish this.

You come from this long legacy of women who have endured a great deal of hardship and disappointment and frustration and every time they have come out of it and they have blossomed and there is no reason that that cannot be you. I learned that there really was no reason I could not be the beautiful gem that the other women in my life were. That there was nothing wrong with me and nothing deficient. They had been through the nasty swamp that I was going through.

There has been a rediscovering of the garden that I felt was within me all this time. I’d kind of closed the gates. I was like, yeah! I’m really funny and I moved to NYC without a job and nobody came with me. I’m adventurous. I’m exceptionally brave. I can walk into most rooms and find somebody to talk to. Having come from that relationship was ridiculed a lot and discouraged and seen as a betrayal to my partner by shining brightly. It was a rediscovery that I’m bright and shiny and I’m this little beautiful, brilliant gem, and all this time I’ve been allowing it to collect dust in the corner of the closet.

I lived my life every day like it was a movie because I decided my life was a movie and I was the star. It was exciting but it was also like a huge middle finger. I think you’re like this too, I’m going to do this out of spite. You tell me I can’t do this? You tell me this is something only special really go-getters do? I’m going to go do this.

I think that a lot of being single for me was rediscovering. It was a lot of trial and error.

I had never been the sort of person who dated casually and had to pick the people I like. It was just like the one person in class who expressed interest in me and that’s who I date. I have a say now.

I found that the eggs I was attracted to and the eggs that are good for me were different and finding the people who were those two things was very difficult.

The person I’m dating now, I couldn’t see myself with them in my early 20’s because they were persistently kind and persistently understanding. Previously I was more interested in people who were mean to me and ignored me. I was like if you’re the worst person ever and I can make you love me then I’m worthy.

My chest is lighter for sure and I have a lot more confidence in how I react to other people.

I noticed that when the person I loved the most was critical of me I viewed everyone else as benign exceptionally critical. Now I think I trust that my friends love me no matter what because I trust that my partner loves me no matter what.

I think that I reacted almost typically in that I wanted to isolate myself. I wanted to be alone all of the time and heal. Kind of like a cat when they go away to die. They crawl under the couch or run away to the woods…but you’re not dying. Being with others in your pain is not only the greatest gift that you can give other people, it’s also one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself.

Listen to what your heart is telling you.

What you are thinking and feeling, what you are noticing is real and it’s not made up and you are not crazy. There are a lot of flags that you can’t read right now. If you feel like things are not how they should be, they’re not, and you should listen to that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a random Monday night. I was married, I was 32 my husband was 31 nad he basically just dropped dead in our bedroom. I called 911, did everything I was supposed to do, unfortunately, it was one of those situations where perfectly healthy people just drop dead.

I don’t think I was functioning at all. I am very lucky in that I have a great family and great friends who took care of me. I was able to go home. The military provides benefits and I was able to take the time I needed to grieve and deal with everything I had gone through in that loss in a way that wasn’t involved with anybody else’s needs. I was very lucky in that way and that took about a year. There was like a year of fog and I have no idea what I did.

I had some issues with some benefits that required a little bit of a fight on my part. That was what I did the second year.

There are tons of organizations out there to help surviving spouses with what they need. That’s where I started learning about inequities facing military widows. While there is a great support system for that initial trauma and death, down the road, there may not be.

Because I didn’t have to care for anyone but myself, that’s the road down which I headed, to care for my fellow military widows.

Now I work for an organization where I get to walk in under the words, “We honor the dead by helping the living.”

What I remember first and foremost is that my husband loved to have a good time. He was all about vacationing and being with family and friends and enjoying life so I kind of took that idea and a lot of that first year was traveling. There was a lot of laying in bed and a lot of traveling.

I don’t want to gloss over the pain. It was serious, it was real…we were together since we were 16 years old so he was all I ever knew and I think that follows me now.

What really hit me one day was the idea, do dead people watch you shower?

I had an aha moment and I thought, if Jeff is going to check in on me, shouldn’t I give him a better movie of my life than lying in bed and crying all day? Because I don’t want to watch that movie and I don’t want to make him watch that movie so I’m going to watch him do amazing things.

I think there was probably an ounce of trying to escape with all that traveling and then what I learned from that was you can go anywhere but your problems stay with you so you have to work through them if you’re going to find any sort of happiness and calmness in your life.

It taught me if I want to feel better I probably have to do a little bit of work myself on this grief. That looked like therapy. I’ve had three therapists since losing my husband and they were all at different stages because my issues were situational.

I miss him benign there. I miss his arms. I miss having a soulmate…somebody that knows me. I have great friends and they know me but they don’t know me the way he knew me. We just had a connection that I honestly don’t know if I will ever find again and I’m okay with that. Still get a little teary, but I think what we had was special and it was also special because of the time in our lives that we met.

We were together for 11 years before we got married. I just miss him being there. I loved seeing him become the man that I always knew he could be and we were a team. I miss being part of a team. Being alone has its great points and I do love my life but, there’s nothing like having a partner to walk through life with.

Even the worst divorces can turn into 20-years later you’re happily at your kids’ weddings together or you’re able to do the college graduation and nobody’s fighting and bickering. There’s a chance with divorce, whether you stay or whether you leave that later on things could change and be better and death just doesn’t have that option.

Jeff was the biggest cheerleader. He believed in my ability to do anything. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know where I was going. I had a bachelor’s degree so that box was checked. I was completely lost job and purpose-wise.

My goal was to come to DC and fix one specific issue and that anger at that issue was what got me to go back to school so I did that and that’s how I found the organization I’m in. And now, the issue to come to DC to fix has been fixed. By no means by myself alone. This was a massive group effort.

I feel like when bad things happen to us, one of the best ways to heal is to take it out of us and put it onto how do we help people like us who are going through this.

You’ve got to embrace the suck. You’ve got to acknowledge the situation sucks and that there’s nothing you can do about it.

Death is something none of us have any control over, whatsoever. Being able to release from that is important. Figure out what moves your heart and how you can share that with people. Whenever we give of ourselves we get back so much more.

I’m a big believer in it’s okay to cut out toxic people in your life, no matter who they are, how they’re related to you. That’s one thing I became a lot more firm about after losing him.

I’ve learned we’re here for a certain amount of time and none of us knows how long that is going to be.

I refuse to spend my time on this earth expending energy on people who are nasty, toxic. I’m going to spend my time with people that I love, that I respect, that I care about.

At the end of the day, if everybody that you love knows that you love them you’ve done a good job on this earth because there’s nothing else you can take with you other than love. That’s what goes across being alive and being dead.

Know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You might not see the light. There might just be darkness in front of you. With the right support, there’s a light at every tunnel and we can get there. It might feel like walking across glass and fire to get there, but I know my friends and family love me and that’s the light. The light is getting back to some semblance of happiness and normalcy and you’re not going to see that in the beginning but know that it is there.

It will be better one day and that’s for anybody going through something. You can get to happiness and calm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was married to my husband for 3 years and he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was a very aggressive type, unfortunately, he lost his battle and I was Suddenly Single for the first time since I was 20 years old.

He was in the military and was near the burn pits so we suspect but we could never prove that’s where he picked up his cancer.

When he was diagnosed we had already been through this crazy medical journey with our daughter. She was born 2 years prior to that with a very rare disease. When he said he had cancer I went into denial.

At first, I was pretty optimistic but also trying to protect myself because we had already been through so much.

He really had a beautiful death. He was in the hospital but all our friends and family came. We all surrounded him as we took him off the ventilator, we just surrounded him in love and talked about how much we loved him and were making jokes in the room. It was just a very happy place and I know that sounds so weird. It was really full of love and happiness. To me, that was a really beautiful way to die.

The next couple of days were honestly a blur. I was trying to take care of my daughter. I was suddenly a single mom with a medically complicated kid. Just trying to survive at that point.

My daughter passed away 8 months later after my husband, so that’s a whole different story. It was a bad year. My family was extremely supportive. It was very, very difficult.

When my daughter was first diagnosed they told us she was only going to live for a year. She ended up living three and a half. That first year she was alive I went through grief counseling. I felt like going through grief therapy for a year helped me put things into perspective as it was unfolding that my husband wasn’t going to make it. After my husband passed I went back into therapy and I did grief counseling again for a full year. I really can’t stress how important therapy is, not only for a death but for any kind of loss.

I went to a lot of different dark places during that time. I feel like having the support of therapy and a professional guiding me was essential.

I’m a productive griever. Some people really process it by crying and other people stay busy. I was definitely the stay busy griever and went headfirst into exercise. Exercise has always been a coping mechanism for me so I went back to my Crossfit gym. I went 3 times a week and got back into martial arts. I had been into martial arts for almost a decade before life got busy. I feel like those two things really helped me focus that energy in a positive healthy way. I stayed away from alcohol.

I focused my energy on work and keeping healthy.

I think it’s about living in the moment. I don’t really worry about what’s going to happen in the future because I live like nothing is owed to me. I don’t expect anything to happen tomorrow. I try to really live in the moment. I really, really try to appreciate every little thing….try to appreciate the ordinary day-to-day because when things happen that are so terrible you really miss those normal boring day-to-day things the most.

I think you can let grief destroy you or you can let grief build you back better. I went through a really difficult time, but I always think about the time that my husband and my daughter didn’t get and I want to live the best life that they would have wanted.

I really feel like I am so incredibly lucky and grateful and blessed to have a healthy body and to be able to do the things that I can do and so I don’t want to ever take that for granted. That’s what has helped me rebuild because they couldn’t do that so I want to do that for them.

I love my life now. I loved my life before, but I love my life now too. I got remarried so I have an amazing husband named Adam and we have a oneish-year-old son named Noah. Being a mom and being a wife are my two most favorite things in the whole world and I’m just so lucky that I got to do it twice.

I really feel like I got a Mulligan. I know that sounds awful, but I feel like I am a better wife and a better mom because of what happened.

I really try whenever I’m with my husband or my son, I put my phone away. I put all distractions away as best I can. Of course, I’m human but I really try to turn off distractions and focus on them when I’m with them. I really try hard when I’m with anyone to turn off the distractions and focus on them.

Resilience is something I’ve really strived for just because you never know what life is going to throw at you and you want to be able to bounce back as best you can. I think everyone has that within them. It’s a learned thing and I think that comes with therapy and putting the tools in your toolbox and making sure you’re focusing on that muscle. I feel like everyone has that ability to do that. I don’t think it’s special or limited to some people. I think it’s something you learn to do.

As a society, we think of grief as a beginning and an end when really there is no end and I think that kind of catches people off guard when they go through it.

The number one thing is, you are doing a good job. No matter what you are feeling…grief is such a weird situation that happens within you that you’re constantly doubting your ability on the external because grief is pulling you so much internally to think about things. It’s easy to feel like you are lacking in other areas of your life. Whatever you can do in that moment is totally fine. As you move forward, you will realize a lot of those things you were so worried about, they really don’t have a long-term impact. Just make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and if all you can manage is a couple of things to do during the day that’s fine. You’re doing a good job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My ex-husband and I met when I was really young, I was 19 when we met and we got married when I was 21.

We were married for 18 years. There was a specific event that occurred where I just knew this was the end of our marriage and everything kind of spiraled out of control for a moment after that.

I think I handled it pretty well, looking back on everything. I actually surprised myself about how strong I can actually be. It was a sudden change in my marriage. Things hadn’t been great, but I just saw it as a little downhill in the marriage which happens when you’ve been together that long. But it really was sudden.

They always say, your life can change in an instant and that’s how I felt.

I’m definitely a planner. For me, I didn’t cope with it very well at first. Surprisingly, I didn’t really break down and cry. I don’t know if I was in shock.

I need to be strong. I can’t lose it right now. It kept me calm but in my head, I was like, what am I going to do? My first reaction was I just want to flee. I don’t even want to go back home. I just want to flee from everything and not have to deal with it. Once I calmed down a little bit I realized I need to go about this in a rational manner and try not to freak out so much.

There were all these questions…where do I want to live? How am I going to support myself financially?

There was a lot of thinking going on. We actually lived together for 6 months after we separated, which people think is insane and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it but the good part was I didn’t flee and I was confronted with him every day and it allowed for us to talk a lot, to cry a lot, to yell a lot. Not necessarily in front of our daughter. I felt like I was able to process everything by talking with him and being confronted by him and I think he needed to talk too. I think, in the end, it was actually helpful to me.

During this time I was just trying to figure things out. There were meltdowns for sure. The minute I was in the car for the first time by myself, completely by myself, it just hit me and I had to pull over in the parking lot and just cry.

All in all, I remember waking and thinking, this isn’t it. This is not the end of my life. I just decided to see it as the beginning of my second life. I always say we only have one life. I didn’t want to waste away the rest of my life being upset and bitter and depressed and heartbroken. Just decided this is my chance to start over.

Just being able to focus on myself a little bit more and being able to do things that I want to do without having to answer to anyone. Just not putting the man first. I know that sounds awful but my life did revolve around him. He was the center of my universe. Everything in my life revolved around him. Any decision I made revolved around him.

It was my mom who said to me that I had put him on this pedestal and nobody could touch him. He was definitely the center of my world and it was probably wrong for me to do that. For my second life, I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to answer to anyone. I just wanted to put myself and my daughter first.

I wanted to make sure I was not ignoring my feelings about everything. I wanted to make sure I was processing everything. You are grieving. I was grieving the past and the loss of this marriage and I was also grieving my idea of what I thought our future family life would be like. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t denying myself of feeling those things.

I went on a trip all by myself to figure out how am I feeling about all this. I wanted to check in with myself. I needed to make sure I was able to get away and think.

Sunday morning now is my thing. I don’t have to worry about anybody else expecting anything of me. That’s a new thing. I don’t want to clean up the dishes I don’t have to. It’s so freeing in a way.

There’s no tension around me anymore. It’s just so nice not to have that tension anymore, it’s like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

I’m still working on my dissertation for my Ph.D. I’ve been spending more time with friends. Most of my friends are married and with kids and it has been a new thing for me to find single friends or friends who don’t have kids. I’m meeting all these new women that are single. It’s fun to be able to connect with them and go out with them and just have fun. It’s this whole new group of friends that I’m finding. That’s really new.

I just started getting into meditation. Those who know me probably think I’m insane, but one of the problems I have is switching modes. Meditation has helped me calm my mind a little bit so I can focus on the next thing.

I’ve never been a really religious person but I’ve just recently started becoming more spiritual. I have found that has helped me. That belief that things do happen for a reason and let go of control of your life and trust that things are going to work out has helped me. I’m a doer and I need to control certain aspects of my life so I’ve learned to just take a breath and relax and everything will be fine. You don’t always have to DO all the time.

A few things have happened in my life where I thought, this had to have happened for a reason. This can’t be a coincidence that this happened the way it did.

Everything was just going crazy and I just needed to get some control back and a way of doing that was benign proactive about my future and my daughter’s future and it felt good. It helps in a way but it can just block a lot of things too.

One of the things that has been hard is if I’ve had a rough day and I come home and there’s nobody there sometimes I think it would be nice if somebody was here who could just say, it will be okay. Somebody to talk to about it.

I met my ex-husband when I was 19. I’d never dated. I don’t understand the rules. There were no text messages back then. There were no dating apps back then. I remember we were talking on the landline on a calling card. I don’t understand the rules and I don’t know any other way to be than in a relationship. I’m just being me. It’s not like I’m trying to rush into the next relationship, I’m, just being me.

It’s okay to grieve and to be upset and to process all that, but at the same time, there is so much to look forward to. See it as a new beginning, as a chance to do something with your life that maybe you weren’t able to do while you were married and just see it as an exciting part.

Making all these decisions, it is liberating, it is empowering to do all these things on your own because it can actually be fun. I know it’s scary and I was scared too because I didn’t know what was going to happen (and I still don’t know what is going to happen in my future obviously), but a the same time, being scared isn’t going to change anything so just go ahead and get out from under the blankets and start living again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I grew up in a strict Catholic family and went to a Catholic college that was definitely more strict than probably a lot of Catholic institutions of higher ed. It was just the culture there that a lot of the women would pretty much immediately get married. They actually called it getting your Mrs. Degree so there was a lot of cultural pressure to marry.

I married right out of college and it was kind of getting married just to do that. I had this sinking feeling in my gut a little after I had done that.

It was a couple of years later someone said to me Catholics can get an annulment and you don’t have to be in this situation if you don’t want to be so eventually I did that. It a long separation process and there was a lot of drag on me from my husband at the time and my family.

I feel like I’ve had a whole couple of lives since then.

An annulment seemed like a nice way to have full closure. I had already done my separation and my divorce and the annulment just seemed like the last piece. It seemed like it would be nice for my family to do it and nice for myself. I got married in the catholic church and it kind of made sense to end that process in the church. I slowly drifted out of Catholicism.

I drifted out of Catholicism but I knew that I wanted to do some kind of spiritual practice. I did a conversion to conservative Judaism for a year. I had to study fairly extensively for that and that was a pretty cool thing. I don’t practice Judaism anymore either.

What got me into the thing I’m into now was via yoga. I was going to start teaching portions of yoga teacher training I started studying a lot of history philosophy of that and one of my dues diligence things I thought I would do is go to the Hare Krishna temple. It’s a cool thing to go to during non-COVID times.

I just meant to do that to experience it, not to start doing it but I got kind of unwittingly drawn into this tradition of Bhakti yoga.

I find a lot of times it’s when you’re not looking for something, that’s when you accidentally stumble into something and you’re fortuitously into it.

The initial thing that helped me get nudged out of the marriage was martial arts. That’s another thing I’m not doing currently. I didn’t expect to get as into martial arts as I did but I definitely got sucked in.

Maybe the theme there is me not knowing how to dabble in something and getting sucked into my activities of choice.

I’m naturally a little bit of an aggressive person and I think a lot of times people have that streak and it’s not necessarily bad, and I think martial arts are a really healthy way of expressing that aspect of ourselves. There’s almost a kind of love expressed in sparring with someone when they are part of your same team because it’s really like you’re giving them aggression and they’re giving it back but you have an agreement to not actually hurt them. Oddly enough, there’s an interpersonal aspect to it. I enjoy connection and that’s another way of connecting with people.

My philosophy is very much that it doesn’t need to be all love and light all the time, and I don’t necessarily think that’s authentic. As a yoga teacher and as a professor I try to hold that space for people to have all these different feelings.

Naturally in life, you’ll be feeling uncertainty or anger or loneliness or sadness and it’s valid to feel all that.

Aggression is a kind of human expression. I think it’s important to explore those darker aspects of yourself. I think people navigate through it a lot better if they acknowledge that they have those feelings. You don’t need to feel zen all the time.

If people don’t get to channel those aggressive feelings in a positive creative way they might get pulled into one of these systems that offer that peak experience in a negative way. Music has always been used as a vehicle of culture.

I’m a person who is very willing to go outside their comfort zone. I’m very willing to try new things. I’m very willing to talk to different people outside of my same sphere of experience. In fact, that’s something I really value. I don’t want to be around people of my same experience all the time or be in an echo chamber. I want to hear how they have lived their lives and how they came up. Part of that got shaped by the fact that I was homeschooled.

If people get that feeling that it doesn’t fit just acknowledge that. Don’t try to smush their life into some parameter that it’s not meant to be in energetically. Especially don’t try to do it for years. If you get little feelings of discomfort maybe it’s a bad day, but pay attention if it really persists over a long period of time. Just allow themselves to explore. Try different things. Go to that weird random event. Talk to that friend of a friend.

Just try. There doesn’t have to be any clearly plotted trajectory.

I really feel like if people are curious and open to trying a lot of times the options that naturally drift their way through all these interpersonal connections, they’ll start to work out a different more fulfilling path for themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was with my partner for 29 years. One Saturday morning I was outside gardening and Ed came home from spin class on a Saturday morning and said I don’t feel so well.

He was in the bathroom showering when I heard this thump and I went into the bathroom and he had fallen and he was lying flat on his stomach.

I called 911 and they walked me through doing CPR. I was doing CPR when about 7-8 minutes later the police came and they took over doing CPR. 5-6 minutes later EMS came. It took almost 30-minutes for the ambulance to get there.

I was in shock. He was 56, a pediatrician going to spin class, and 29 years together I was in shock. I was just standing there.

Some of it is hard to remember because a lot of it is kind of foggy. I think I called my mom and dad while I was in the car.

My life upended at that moment.

Things were just surreal at that moment.

I remember wondering where my life was going to go. We had plans. We had planned on retiring and doing things and that whole plan, in an instant, just changed.

We had a really good life. I loved my job, he loved his job and his patients. I don’t know if it was a fairytale life, but it was good.

I can remember in my early teens and 20’s when I first came out as being gay thinking, what is my life going to be like? It’s not going to be a wife and kids and the house with a white picket fence, but times have changed and we had that life. A life that I never in a million years thought I could ever have.

We had good friends and family was accepting, the community was accepting, we didn’t live in the closet.

He always had this motto, it’s not my motto, you only live once. I know you’ve heard that before but he always said that.

I was really probably in shock for a couple of weeks. I went through the movements, the emotions of life after the dust settled. I love to cook and I love to eat and I probably didn’t cook a meal for two weeks. I was barely eating and eating terribly.

I thought to myself, I’m not an alone kind of person. I haven’t been alone in nearly 30 years. I don’t want to be alone. This is probably now a month after he died. I thought to myself, how long do I go through this mourning process? and I went online.

Right away I clicked on this guy I thought was really cute, a lot younger than me but he didn’t seem to mind. He was a nurse. We met one weekday after work and we met and I was very attracted to him and he was apparently very attracted to me. We had a wonderful sushi dinner.

We really hit it off, we kissed in the car, and off he went. Three years later, we’re engaged to be married next year.

I don’t want to be alone. I want to be happy. We are now so happy.

You have to at least seek out that person. That person is not going to come knocking on your door saying, do you want to be my spouse? It ain’t happenin’ that way!

I found love twice when I never thought it was going to happen.

It’s like I was 21 all over again. The feeling of love and the feeling of lust doesn’t change because you get older. Your heart beats faster when you talk to him my blood pressure probably went up.

He was worried about the rebound effect. He was also falling in love with me. The feelings were mutual.

It wasn’t a rebound because I knew I was looking for a partner. I wasn’t looking for that one night stand. I wanted someone to share my life with, to share my house with, my home, my dogs. I knew this wasn’t that rebound effect just because I’d had a loss.

We became a couple pretty quickly. We moved in 2 years later. We spent a lot of time together in those first two years so I don’t think I rushed it. It just happened.

It took me actively looking. It took two to look.

He was looking for me and I was looking for him.

Was I lucky? Was he lucky that we found each other at that time? I don’t know if it’s luck, but it happened and I feel lucky. I feel honored and grateful. It turned out to be really wonderful.

I want to take care of him. That’s what love is.

He’s a hero and he’s certainly my hero.

I don’t want to sound cliche here but life does not end when your spouse passes away. Your life goes on.

Realistically speaking, I wanted my life to go on and I wanted to be happy because I’d been happy most of my life. I wanted to pursue happiness again and I found it.

I hope I can help one person. If I can help one person through the tragedy I went through it will all be worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband I were happily married. He was my Prince Charming, and nine years into our marriage he had these terrible headaches.

He ended up with a brain tumor and had surgery that left him physically and mentally disabled. We were not prepared for that. Suddenly I was taking care of a 37-year old man and a 4-year old and a 6-year old, so I was Suddenly Single.

Nobody was taking care of me. Nobody prepared us for him coming out completely disabled.

Immediately after the surgery, he seemed fine. In the days after it started coming out that he’d completely changed. It was very hard for everyone to deal with. He was very much trapped inside his body and unable to do anything to help me and I was feeling helpless not knowing how to help him.

It was a very long time before he was back home again.

There are very few women out there like me to reach out to to talk through it and the few that I found, their partners had fared much better.

I tried everything in the world to try to fix him. I finally hired caregivers which is very hard to have caregivers in your house, especially because all he wanted to do was watch TV. We got him stable and he finally got to the point where he could feed himself again, but he never got back to being able to do the activities of daily living himself. He lost all motivation, which was part of the injury.

Two and a half years of this…I was just a shell of a person. Again, nobody taking care of me. Just me taking care of him and taking care of the kids.

After a while money got very tight. It was really hard.

Despite swearing I’d never divorce him, I decided to move him out. I got him a handicap-accessible apartment nearby. I got my life back. I just needed that separation to focus on me, focus on the kids. I found myself sort of single in a new way, 2.5 years later.

The cancer came back several times. He went through radiation, chemotherapy. Cancer is so awful.

I felt very guilty. I made a point of making sure the kids got over to see him one night a week and on weekends.

I found a boyfriend. I felt like I needed some care as well. I stayed married to him, he had my health insurance that way.

There were times early on when I don’t think I even allowed myself to imagine where life was going to go.

I just kept moving forward and really didn’t allow myself the chance to reflect. I just kept pushing forward.

I made sure I was taking care of myself. I made time for myself and made time for the kids. It was such a difficult decision.

I made a decision that I had to take care of the children, and I couldn’t take care of them if I wasn’t being taken care of myself.

Our old couple friends didn’t involve us in anything after it happened. Nobody knew what to do. I lost a lot of friends and a lot of socializing but I built that back up.

They say it over and over, put your own oxygen mask on first. You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself and I had so many people to take care of.

As people get older, it’s going to be common for one-half of a couple to be disabled. Be there for the person who is still the able spouse.

The girls and I are super close, tight, and wonderful. We have a 3-way text chat that’s going on all day long every day.

I’m not a caregiver, that’s not my strength.

Get power of attorney for all the loved ones in your life while they’re well. Get your paperwork in order. You just don’t know.

Find ways to laugh. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find you’re not the caregiver, that’s not a role that you embrace. Decide what your priorities are. You yourself have to be a priority but then decide is it the spouse, is it your children, is it your business.