Sure, my heart is broken. We have suffered a great loss. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel like there’s no good reason to get out of bed every once in a while. But the biggest source of my misery right now is stress. This stress comes in the form of all the life changes you never chose for yourself but are forced to walk through anyway. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way and some ramblings from coming home from our trip abroad.
Matt was the breadwinner of our family. We lived a comfortable life and lived well within our means. Cancer took our financial security and ruined it. Our retirement plan was solid. He was young, strong, and healthy- until he wasn’t.
The biggest source of stress and pain is that people disappear. No, really. They do. What I have learned about cancer and death and being a fresh new widow is that socializing as a newly single person with a small child is very difficult. I went from being “Matt’s wife” to public enemy number one with some of my couple friends. Gone are the invites to do things. Gone is the “being included” feeling. I spend a lot of time feeling like an animal on exhibit at the zoo. No one wants the one single person hanging around all the married people. It’s similar to what I felt like after my divorce, but worse. Because I didn’t choose this.
I can tell the people who have a genuine interest in being here for our little family of 2, because they show up. They don’t show up when everything is nice and pretty and organized, they show up and meet me in my mess and help me get what’s left of my life together. I cannot tell you how many times my friend and her kids have shown up just to eat dinner with us and help me fold clothes so I don’t feel like I’m drowning in the mundane. My friends with big families bring all their kids over and we let them run though the house and act crazy so our house won’t be quiet and lonely. The night before we flew out I couldn’t find a very important document I needed to transport the ashes. My friend called and could tell I was losing it. Instead of saying “Bye! See you when you get back!”, he came over and dug through piles of paperwork until we found it. The people that see me at my absolute worst and show up anyway are my people. They know this stress won’t last forever. They know I don’t have a lot to offer them right now except tales of what continues to be our crazy life, but they don’t let that stop them. People that spent months inserting themselves into our lives and asking us to repeat every single detail of trauma and tragedy every time we saw them have now moved on to the next tragic situation. This is probably a good thing, but it doesn’t hurt any less.
When we were out of the country for Christmas, friends helped take care of our house and our animals. I was so grateful not to have to board them and that they were surrounded by people for the holidays. When our big, lovable, fluffy dogs had a big accident on a stormy day because one of them has a really nervous stomach, they tag teamed and cleaned it up. Another friend cleaned my entire house while we were gone. Coming home to a clean house after a long day of travel was a gift I didn’t know I needed.
Feelings and emotions are hard to navigate, especially when you’re carrying the pain of losing someone to something so horrible. It’s easy to feel like you’ll never be loved again. It’s also easy to feel the urgency to tell people how much they mean to you because you know too well that tomorrow is promised to no one. Love doesn’t come in the form of manufactured for profit holidays like Valentine’s Day. It comes in the form of someone who loves you and loves your child scrubbing your floors and your kitchen, and someone else who loves you sending you a picture of the mess your dog made and then relaying how she cleaned it up complete with gagging noises while you both laugh maniacally. People who love us checked on us on what they knew would be hard days while we were abroad. When we got home and Quinn was horribly jetlagged, one of our favorite people met us at Waffle House at 3am. Giggles of delirium ensued. That’s love. My circle is small, but it’s solid.
So, stress. Stress over no longer having health insurance, stress over bills, stress over whether I’m making the right decisions for our daughter or not, stress from knowing that everything falls on me from here on out- stress. Stress will kill me long before a broken heart ever will.
Quinn and I fell in love with England while we were there. For 2 weeks, most of my stress was gone. I could just eat, drink, and be merry. Being with Matt’s parents was a great source of comfort for us. It was like we were with him. I felt the heavy weight of everything come back the minute I pulled back into the driveway of our home.
The night before we left England, our British family and friends gathered to send us off in style at a local pub.
If you have friends going through life changing trauma and stress, love them. Celebrate them. Meet them in their mess. Be the person who eats scatter browns with them at 3am. Understand that emotional outbursts by their 6 year old child are directly related to the trauma her little heart has been through and not indicative of how she behaves regularly. Talk to them. Tell them about your life. Love them anyway. Even when they are at their most unlovable.
I have big plans for 2020. If people want to continue to gawk at us like a zoo exhibit, now is a wonderful time to do so. You may just enjoy the show.
Blonde Black Widow