Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Yearning for my Past. Why?

 I wanna be a little girl again. I wanna play with my friends, swing on my swing set, catch lightening bugs on warm summer nights, play hopscotch in the middle of the road, and run through my neighborhood playing tag, until my mom calls me home at dusk. I was happy back then. I'm not always happy now. I don't want to be a WIDOW!

During my first year of widowhood, I had to visit my childhood neighborhood. I wanted to reconnect with past relationships. "Cindy! What a surprise!" Cathy hugged me and then looked at my daughters whom she never met. "They're beautiful! Please, come in and visit." I entered the living room and memories raced in from over 25 years ago. Their 2 daughters had been my first friends. I remembered playing dolls in their house and running outdoors playing hide and seek in the back yard.

Their daughter, Rachel, lived close by, so I decided to surprise her, too. "Surprise!" I smiled at my childhood friend that I hadn't seen in over 20 years. Rachel's familiar face was still as pretty as I remembered. "I can't believe it!" Rachel's eyes widened with shock. "My mom told me about your husband. I'm so sorry. Come in." Rachel was one of my sweetest friends. It was a warm reunion making a new memory.

One of my uncle's, who I hadn't seen in years, lived a few minutes from Rachel. I contacted him next and we met for lunch. Remembering past family reunions brought up memories of me as a little girl. Now with children of my own, our relationship had changed. During our meal, my thoughts drifted between conversations. I realized time doesn't stand still. I was on a search to connect with my past. But what was the purpose to connect with long time family and friends?

I soon realized Nelson didn't consume all of my past memories. There were a lot before I met him. Connecting to childhood family and friends helped to put my grief in a different perspective. My late husband was only part of my life...not my whole life. I had been happy being a child but I was also happy being a wife. And now I was finding bits of happiness reconnecting to my past before I was even married.

I think sometimes in our grief, we are so consumed with the loss of our loved one that we can't see any other joyful moments we've had in life. When we realize that our loved one is only part of our life, and not our whole life, we can begin to live more independently. I didn't even know Nelson for the first 17 years of my life. I came to realize that I was very happy at one time without Nelson. Then, I was happy for the years we were married. Now, I'm learning how to make more happy memories for my future as a widow. Time doesn't stand still. Let's strive for happier moments!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

First Birthdays in Widowhood

My 35th birthday came a month into widowhood. One of my best friends took me out to dinner that evening. You really know who your closest friends are when it comes to celebrating birthdays and holidays in the first year. After all, how do you make it a celebration? Why would I want to celebrate my birthday on the first year of being a widow? Well, thank God for shock in the grief process. At least I was still numb when my birthday hit.

Now fast forward seven months and Nelson's 35th birthday was upon us. The shock had worn off by then. I was still trying to accept my loss and move on. Somehow, I had to make it through the day. "Girls, let's have a birthday cake for Daddy and invite some of our friends over," I suggested before they darted off to play. "Can we have ice-cream too?" Jessica asked as Nicole squealed with approval. "Yes." I smiled at their happy faces.

I invited Angela and Sal's family from next door along with Kelly and Joe's family from across the street. It was a bittersweet get-together. We all sang "Happy Birthday" to Nelson and then blew out a candle. The kids ate their cake and ice-cream then ran off to play. We sat and reminisced of our memories we had of Nelson. I needed this day of reflection with some of my close friends. It validated a beautiful marriage I had and a celebration of Nelson's life.

I was no expert, but I believed our celebration of Nelson's birthday had a healing effect on all of us, including our friends. It gave us an opportunity to reflect on favorite memories we had of Nelson. It brought us sadness, joy, and laughter. This in turn helped us take another step forward. We didn't have to forget and not talk about our grief of losing a loved one, rather it gave us all a chance to share how much this person meant to us. A gratifying experience.

We kept this tradition alive for many years. Of course as life goes on and changes, this ritual eventually ended. It served a purpose during our years of healing. Whether it's a birthday cake, or another way of celebrating your loved one's life, it's an important part of healing. It's a way to validate how important this person was in your life and shows your children that their parent is not forgotten!

I'm curious to know what others have done on their loved one's birthday. It might give other widows some ideas who have that date looming in front of them at this time. Somehow we have to get through the day. We can ignore the elephant in the room or we can accept the fact that though our loved one is no longer with us physically, they remain in our hearts forever. Let's share the love with others. How did or will you celebrate his birthday?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

First Male Caller- Poor Guy! I've Come a Long Way!

Friday the 13th this month...this year. It's been 17 years since the passing of my first husband. Seems like a life time ago. But when I open my book, that I condensed from my journals, I remember clearly how I felt during my grief journey. I have special memories that live close to my heart. Yes, I grieved deeply because I loved deeply. When I became a widow, for a long time I wanted to die a widow. No one could ever replace Nelson. No one could ever make me as happy!

About 6 months into my widowhood, I received my first phone call from a male. He was one of my friend's relatives that wanted to help me out. If he was one of Nelson's friends, I wouldn't have minded. But he didn't know Nelson, so why did he call? He left a voice message and freaked me out!! I didn't want the girls to hear a male's voice on our answering machine and I didn't want to talk to him!

I hysterically called my friend. "Tell him not to call me!" My heart was beating fast. I didn't want any man calling me unless they were Nelson's friends. Such a small matter in my life loomed like a skyscraper. You would have thought he was trying to force me to marry him. I never wanted to talk to any males on the phone, or date any males, and of course, NEVER marry anyone else. I told my girls that we didn't need any men around, and certainly didn't WANT any around either!

So how did I ever get remarried?? Here I am, 17 years later, happily married again and looking forward to our 3rd anniversary this June. I look back on those first couple years of widowhood. I wasn't going to budge. It was a process. And I do believe that for some widows, it is better not to remarry. There's nothing that feels more protecting than having God our father fill in as our husbands.

But there's this thing called human nature. I desired to love and to be loved. It took me a while to understand, but I finally realized that our hearts our big enough to love many people. Just as I love each of my daughters 100% each, I found out I could love another man 100%. Just as one child could never replace another child, my second husband will never replace my first. But that doesn't mean I love either one of them any less. It just means I'm blessed to have had 2 wonderful husbands!

What I did learn though, was that in order to love the second one 100%, you have to grieve the first completely. Each widow has her own time table and I recommend God as your guide. I could have made some really bad choices for our family but I choose the path less traveled by most. Continue on this journey with me and find out how I made it this far, with God's blessings, in a beautiful second marriage.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Widow's Protection- Don't Mess with Her

After my husband died, and I was ready to go through his belongings, I had to decide what to keep and what not to keep. I came across his .357 magnum. It had been locked in our safe for a half a year before I could make a decision of what to do with it. When my husband first bought it, I was horrified and mad. WHAT DID WE NEED A GUN FOR? In my opinion, we didn't have the money and there was no sense in purchasing one. But he loved this gun!!

I peered into the safe at the firearm. I didn't even know how to use it. There was some sense of power of having it even though it scared me. The idea to keep it seemed more logical now for protection. It was the three of us girls living by ourselves now. We had our Chow and I had a .357 magnum. The girls never knew about the gun. It remained locked away and out of their reach.

I decided that if I was going to keep it, I better learn how to shoot it. I called a local gun shop and arranged a class. The instructor tried to get more info from me but all I knew was that it was an automatic. "Well, when you come in," stated the instructor, "just make sure it's unloaded." "Umm...I don't know if it's unloaded," I replied. "And I have no idea how to check." I was petrified of it and thought that if I held it the wrong way, it might accidentally go off and shoot me!

Cautiously, I placed the gun on the front passenger's seat while I drove to the shop. "You have a .357 Magnum," the salesman said with a smirk, "and it's loaded." So what should I have said...I didn't know because I'm a woman. I am woman! And don't mess with me! I made up my mind that I was keeping it and would use it to protect my family if I had to!

The class had 2 sessions. The first session consisted of a video and how to operate the firearm. The following week, we'd go to a shooting range. I was unable to attend the 2nd session but my friend Trish suggested I practice with her uncle who frequently target practices. This sounded like a good idea, so a few afternoons later, I met up with her uncle for target practice. I was amazed at how well I shot. This boosted my self-confidence even more.

After this, the gun remained untouched in my safe for maybe another 7 years. Another spring cleaning episode caused me to rethink if I should keep it. I probably forgot how to use the darn thing! I had given up on the protection plan it originally offered so I gave it to my brother-in-law, who was a policeman. The only protection I needed was God's protection. And there's none more bullet-proof than that!!