Thanksgiving shopping

The day after Thanksgiving will mark 3 years since George passed. This will be my 4th Thanksgiving without him. As I was shopping for groceries for the holiday,  I looked around me at all the people rushing around inspecting turkeys and sweet potatoes, staring at which brand of cranberry sauce to buy, and barking orders at children to put things back. I gazed down at my cart barely half filled and a single bag of salad laying on top of everything and then it hit me, this holiday doesn’t have the same meaning for me anymore.

I’m not going home this year. I decided to stay in Montgomery due to fiscal and convenience. I feel bad that I’m not going home, but I also know that sometimes going home is like an opiate and just covers the pain of being alone. I need to feel the loneliness.

I am thankful for 364 days of the year. Losing him and dealing with the grief forced me to make huge life decisions. The thing about emotional pain is it can either tear you apart, or create an opportunity for change. And I’m so thankful for the love I shared with him and the relationships I’ve created and strengthened with those since he’s passed. But this holiday is a reminder of what I lost rather than what I’ve gained. And shopping alone for a holiday I used to love had me feeling hopeless, depressed and longing for a life that feels so foreign to me now.

I miss him a lot.

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Triggers

So now that I’m over a year out from when George died, there’s a lot that has changed. I’m a part of these widow groups online and it’s really hard for me to read about these women who are posting heartbreaking recounts of how lost they are just weeks and months out. I really am considering removing myself from these groups because I really do not like reading the negativity and I know it’s so hypocritical of me because I was the same way at one point in my journey, but some people aren’t helping themselves at all. Not leaving the house for three months really is foreign to me. I was coaching and running a lacrosse program at just about two months out. I also think I’m a very strong person, even at my most vulnerable.

So that leads me to my follow up… triggers. There are some situations I just try to avoid entirely and one has been going on throughout the last couple months. With having to encounter first anniversaries by myself I really focused on taking care of myself. But during the process there was one person who consistently tried to rip me down. But I think to her dismay, I never fully crumbled. I kept my distance from the whole situation swirling around me because I knew it was going to result in me losing everything I’ve worked so hard to build. And I wouldn’t allow the petulance of one person do that to me. Now that I’m not out of my mind and feeling emotionally uneasy, I am ready to take care of what should have been done months ago.

One thing that really triggers my grief is that feeling of being out of control. I know there’s some situations that are technically “out of your control,” but being unable to respond or handle it drives me wild. I haven’t had too much of a complete emotional meltdown recently, even with the death anniversary, I felt much of everything was very placid. Tip toeing and peering around corners as I wait for something to jump out. But nothing did. I feel I’m in the clear… Even during Thanksgiving, when I started to get really down about what I lost, I would go for a run and think about how far I’ve come. And I’ve noticed that when I feel grief boiling inside of me, when I start focusing on my journey and where I am, I feel this indescribable amount of pride.

I don’t know, maybe I’m starting to find my stride in this new life. There will always be good days and bad, but I think what matters most is how I react and come out of it. I do love who I’m starting to become.

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Favorite time of year

The end of October heading into November is my favorite time of year. I love the colors, smell, festiveness, basketball, cool weather, and everything involving pumpkins and cinnamon. I love the Fall. Halloween and Thanksgiving are two of my favorite holidays and they are less than a month apart. My birthday is November 2nd, and 2 days before Thanksgiving this year is George’s death anniversary. Unfortunately the grim reaper will linger for much longer than just Halloween night. My grief has been getting worse, and it’s impacting my routines. I’m crying in public again, which in itself is humiliating for me because I hate feeling weak. I’ve been shutting my office door more often and I’ve been becoming more reclusive at night. When I go out I need to be home by 10p so I can just be.

I’ve read that heading to the first death anniversary is the hardest time, but I thought I could be the exception. But I’m okay. It’s okay it will crush me all over again. I have different weaponry and perspective than I did the first time around, but unfortunately the reality of this emotional uncertainty is the way of life for a bit. Try explaining that to colleagues. You may have forgotten I’m widowed, but when I go home and cook a meal for one, go to bed alone and wake up on George’s side of the bed, I have that excruciating reminder every day. I put on a good face and take my position in the foxhole knowing I’ll be stronger later.

This morning when I looked at the young widow board a woman posed a question I cannot stop thinking about: “What’s the one thing you’ve turned to during this time of loss that has given you the most comfort and hope to keep moving forward?” She’s not asking for what people are doing to cope with grief because there’s an endless array of combative strategies. I’ve adopted fitness as my strategy to deal with my loss. But the thing that gives me comfort and hope… That’s what had me humming and hawing.

I work out to make myself feel better. I work out to change my body. I work out to focus. I work out to be different than I was before. I work out to control my grief.

When I became more involved with fitness and training, I wished for my body to change. And it did. I’m not physically the same person I was when I was with George. But I had a dream several weeks ago where I visited him in the hospital and he didn’t recognize me. I cannot believe I didn’t write about this yet! I kept trying to explain to him it was me, but George just didn’t recognize me, and finally I went out with my grandfather (who passed away in 2011) for pizza in NYC. So with a drawn out anecdote, I don’t think fitness provides me comfort– at least not in the way I want.

I believe I’ve found different avenues that have given me hope to keep moving forward. My lacrosse team being one of the most important and ever glowing beacon of hope. But as I reflect on what has provided me comfort, I think it’s another sad realization the feeling and idea of comfort is eluding me. But I also may be preventing myself from becoming comfortable. It may be time for a visit to the grief counselor.

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Pain in the neck

It’s a mystery to me how seesaw my days have been. Yesterday I felt in tune with what was going on around me, and today, well I was incredibly irritable and then numb to anything. My sister called a few times and each time I just waved the phone away when my mom asked if I wanted to talk. I just don’t want to talk, it’s nothing against her. If you’re in front of me, I’ll engage and be pleasant, but phone calls just seems like work. I’ve been on the phone a lot lately to cancel things that George subscribed to, and it just awful to be on it. Being on the phone is like a rug burn. It’s not crippling but it’s annoying enough where you don’t want to continue doing it.

So today I went to my brothers house to help break in his new juicer. George and I were big juicer and smoothie makers. We loved making drink with whatever fruits and vegetables we had laying around. So I brought whatever was left over in my apartment and headed over. This one time on our way to Sunday brunch in NYC, George and I ran into Joe Cross, the guy from Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. We were pretty excited to meet him. Anyway what’s the point of this post? Well My brother’s girlfriend had a neck injury from the gym today and it really drummed up a strong memory:

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It was right before Thanksgiving break my first year of coaching at Sacred Heart University in CT. The day prior I went to the gym and did some power lifting. At some point during the night, my neck just completely became inflamed and incredibly stiff. I got to our team lift and by that point I couldn’t even bend or turn it. If I coughed I grimaced, and if I laughed I winced. My neck felt like it had quickly transformed into a wood board. It was that stiff. Well after team lift I was going to train into the city and George was planning on shooting out of work early and meeting me at Grand Central. This still went according as planned. I went into the city.

I always loved seeing George in Grand Central. He always looked like the smoothest and coolest guy in the bustling crowd. He would lean against the wall with his arms folded and legs crossed. When I got off the train, I saw him and started carefully walking toward him. I couldn’t tweak my neck because as the day progressed it got worse. Luckily midday trains are the best because they’re not as crowded and neither is Grand Central. When I approached him he gave me a big squeeze and I yelped. He took a step back and examined my face. The inflammation had moved into my face and my left cheek was swollen. He asked what was wrong and I explained that I hurt my neck lifting. He grabbed my hand and started pulling me toward the subway and said “You can still eat right?” I reminded him I always was in the mood for food.

Unbeknownst to me, but George had made reservations for an early dinner (late lunch, depends how you interpret it. It was about 430-5ish) at this upscale Indian Restaurant called Tamarind. It’s always voted best Indian in NYC. Well we followed through with the plan and we went to Tamarind. At that point, I seriously couldn’t move, but he didn’t care. He thought it was really funny. My movements were as if I was wearing a back brace underneath my clothes.

But to make a long story short, after dinner we were supposed to go to a movie, but we headed back to Queens to his apartment instead. He helped me into bed, gave me a neck pillow and a popsicle and ran out to the pharmacy to get some muscle relaxers. The next day, the swelling in my face had gone down, and I had some mobility. But he was the best nurse I could’ve asked for.

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