Christmas and New Years Survived.. again..only with New forms of Grief

It was a wonderful Christmas spent with family and friends. Aside from my daughter having caught the flu Christmas Eve it was pretty perfect.

We spent the holidays in the mountains in my childhood home surrounded by the trees, deer and elk scratching below the white snow blanketing the grass beneath. The air was crisp and fresh. The atmosphere quiet. So serenely still.

Nostalgia took over as I walked my dog around my small childhood town where me and my childhood friends played; sharing time between each of our homes, biking through the town without a fear or care in the world. As teenagers we played sports and partied in the forest. The familiar brought a smile to my face.

We celebrated the holidays with family and friends. People who know the kids and I and allowed us to rest and surround us with love. My mom and dad decorate the house each year and the decorations reminded me of the thrill of Santa coming, and the sound of family eating turkey. It was a pretty perfect Christmas.

Except it wasn’t; it was and it wasn’t simultaneously.

I had brought our stockings to hang over the fire place. It’s classic and beautiful. On Christmas Eve I sat in my dad’s rocking chair admiring those three stockings anticipating the kids opening their gifts enthusiastically.

Then it hits. It hits hard, fast, and without warning.

There is a stocking missing. There is a laugh missing. There is a person missing. My person. The person who would be as excited about the kids opening presents as I am. The only person who would share this with me.

This person is dead. He’s gone. My Peter, our Peter is gone.

I had to get up and leave. Grief has this way of coming in and making you breathless at the most inappropriate times. I sat in my brother’s childhood room and cried. I miss him. I miss sharing these moments with him. The kids kiss him in these moments and everything sucks and it’s unfair.

I remember finding his bin last year; the bin full of his belongings I was collecting to give back to him during our separation. I grieved last year but in a much different way.

New Years this year came with a different form of grief as well. A memory of our first New Years together haunted me all day. as I worked some overtime to get caught up at work. My getting ready after work to meet him back at work because he worked until midnight. I remember the outfit I wore. I remember taking the time to do my hair just right and fixing my make up. The black silk tank top matched perfectly with my purple dress pants and black earrings. We had been together for five months and everything still felt so new and exciting. I remember walking through the back doors just as the countdown to New Years started. He was standing at the slot cage, his big green eyes met mine just as everyone yelled Happy New Year. Except we didn’t yell. Our eyes stayed connected and we just smiled. The timing was perfect, the moment was perfect, I thought he was perfect.

This New Years this memory and that moment interrupted my thoughts all day. I wanted so desperately to go back to that place where I seen him and knew he was the one. The place and time where everything stood still; there was just us. The entire day was spent fighting the urge to tear my skin off because I was so desperate to get away from the pain, the grief and the want to go back to the perfect moments where he was alive, we were happy, and we were healthy.

I spent the evening being silently angry at him, getting drunk with two of his friends. I needed to numb the feelings that night. I needed to just not feel how I’d been feeling since Christmas Eve.

The point I guess I’m trying to make is the grief of last year wasn’t worse. In fact, I felt this year was worse. I don’t know if it’s because I gave up coping as well as I was, or if I was numb still, or if it’s just different from last year. Either way, year two is proving to be a challenge I wasn’t expecting.

I’m remembering more of the good, more of the man I married and less of the man bipolar turned him into. I’m remembering just how very much I loved him and how very much he made me laugh. These memories are a blessing and a curse because they make the pain worse.

The anger makes it easier to push forward. The memories make me desperate to go back.

I have no idea which way I’m going again even though I know I have no choice.

I have I mentioned how much I hate bipolar disorder right?

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Um, Exuse me… When does this ache stop and where the hell are the milk duds?!

Walmart. 

The place of late night grocery shopping. The place of sweat pants, messy buns, stained shirts and last minute school supply shoppers. At least, last night anyway, that was me. 

It’s also the place I seem to find myself breaking down …. a lot. 

In Walmart. Again. Awesome. 

I forgot to order my daughter’s school supplies from staples at the end of the school year. Something I regret not doing and something I will never forget to do again. 

Though most of her supples had been gathered hectically the week before at Staples, the crowd was insane, and I felt overwhelmed. I left without the Ficsar scissors and the USB saver thingy(I can never remember the names of these things.. Anthony would be laughing right now) to avoid the elbow bumping, cart smashing, and losing of the child in aisles. 

So, there I was, searching for the thingy and the scissors while gathering some lunch snacks in the grocery section. All of a sudden, it’s as though I’ve been plucked from my present and thrown back in time. I’m unsure of what the trigger was; a smell, a sight, Walmart itself  or the first day of school, but I was having a flashback of my sweet husband on one of our evening shopping trips. 

 No specifics really. Just him running up behind me and smacking my behind like he used to. It infuriated me when he pulled stunts like that in public, at home though, I openly loved his playfulness and flirting.  And, maybe secretly, it really didn’t bother me when we were out and about, but I worried others would see it as inappropriate. 

It felt so real. I could see him.  I swear I felt his swift, large hand smack me and I even laughed for a second. When I realized I was standing alone in the aisle I gasped sharply, and then, my stomach turned. What the hell? Why this? Why now?  And then came the tears. 

Awesome.

I need milk duds. NOW. 

I held back the tears as best I could, anxiously running my hand through my already “crazy lady” dishevelled hair. Milk duds. Where are they? I need to calm myself down and I need the milk duds to do this. 

As inconspicuously as I could I wipe the tears from my face, and continue on filling my cart with the last few items on my list. A well meaning Walmart employee caught my eyes and began to approach me. 

I could imagine the conversation ” Excuse me mam, is there something I can help you with” 

Me: nope. 

Employee: Are you sure? 

Me: Unless you can tell me when this ache stops and where the hell the milk duds are, nope. You cannot help me. Unless you can bring back my husband or at least help me with the jobs he took care of like getting the library card every year, then nope. You cannot help me. Unless you have a bag of milk duds and a bottle of Vodka, nope. You cannot help me. I cannot help me right now. 

The conversation never happened because I ran down the aisle before she could approach. 

They’re probably in the bulk section. 

A stood in front of the orange bulk crates staring at the milk duds. They don’t look that good. I slipped my hand in the bucket and quickly threw one in my mouth… and they certainly didn’t taste that good either. Damn it! I took one last plunge into the chocolate macaroon bin, and decided they weren’t really what I wanted either but they would do the trick. 

Pay. Leave. Eat. Cry. 

About 7 minutes later I found myself in my car in the baron Walmart parking lot full on ugly crying filling my face with chocolate macaroons. 

I miss him. Peter, I miss you. She misses you. Our son misses you. 

Sometimes I feel like if I scream his name over and over again, he might just come back. I want to be back in that moment where I felt him, where he was inappropriately flirting with me in public. I want that moment back so I can feel him again. 

But I can’t go back. I can only move forward, and my daughter needs her things for school tomorrow. 

The next day I get up, we get ready for school and life moves forward. 

It’s been a year since my Firsts post. What I’ve realized and am having difficulty accepting is, this was the second  first day of school without him. Our second anniversary, his second birthday… then there will be thirds, and fourths….. they won’t stop because he is always going to be gone. 

Thank you second year of grief. 

Thank you Bipolar Disorder. 

We’ll just have to keep moving on and through. It just kinda sucks. 

He loved milk duds. 





I Know What Day it Is Tomorrow. I Just Don’t Want It To Get Here. 

I haven’t posted in a while. 

He’s been gone from this world for 15 months, 10 Days, 8 hours…

My goal this summer has been to enjoy the hot sun, gorgeous weather and all the activity that comes with summer. This meant putting a hold on posts, and focusing on the moment and planning for our next adventure. 

We’ve been hiking, swimming, travelling and visiting with friends and family. We’ve plopped ourselves on beaches and experienced the feeling of freedom on a boat. We’ve held baby kangaroos and picked cherries from an orchard. We’ve slept in, stayed up late, played board games, read books and had naps. It’s been a fantastic summer. 

The little one riding the front of the boat; Freedom
 

We’re three months into the second year without Anthony. So much healing has been done, yet so many new wounds have been discovered or have been re-opened. 

I was foolish in thinking the second year would be so much better. I thought somehow magically, after all I’ve read about grief in the first year, that the second year would bring peace, clarity and ongoing joy. 

The grief has only changed.

Nothing is better. I mean, atleast not in the way I thought it would be better. Maybe my expectations were unrealistic  (wouldn’t be a first!) or Maybe I’m just broken. Maybe I was so focused on surviving the first year, the guilt from choosing to live in the second year is weighing me down. Maybe, there really isn’t an answer and I think too much. 

I thought anniversaries would be easier to cope with too. Yet I sit here in my basement praying for time to stop so I won’t have to face tomorrow. 

I know what day it is tomorrow. I just don’t want it to get here. 

Our Wedding Day August 27, 2005

Tomorrow, 12 years ago, we committed to building our lives together. We stood in front of a JP at Gyro Park and read our own vows. My son became our son as he nervously held the rings tied to the little teddy bear that was wrapped tightly in his 7 year old arms. 

Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. Tomorrow is gonna suck. The days this week, that paved the way for tomorrow to get here, have left me exhausted, weepy and lonely…. I couldn’t figure out why until last night when I looked at the date. 

I still wake up wishing someone would wake me up from this nightmare. 

I want to go back to the days I’d wake up to the smell of coffee while Norah Jones played from our CD player. His bright green eyes smiling at me while he ran his fingers through my hair. I want to go back and feel the way it felt to look at him and ignorantly know, THIS is the man I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. I want that ignorance back. 

Instead I get to wake up tomorrow remembering how Bipolar made him delusional, psychotic and unpredictable. I get to remember him leaving me and the kids so he could be homeless instead. I get to wake up remembering that we can’t celebrate our 12 year wedding anniversary because he hung himself in his dad’s barn leaving us to remember that image instead. 

I can’t avoid tomorrow. So I’ll try to make a point of remembering the man I married that day. I will try to celebrate the good years, and the life I did get to share with him … if only temporarily. 

Fathers Day Without Him

Father’s Day 2015. The last Father’s Day my children had with him. 

We spent the morning at home relaxing and enjoying each other sharing our morning coffee and in the afternoon we took our daughter out on her two wheel bike for the first time. Our cat, Cooper, followed us to the park eager to see her try her bike. 

We spent an hour or so watching her and taking turns pushing her while she nervously and cautiously peddled forward. I remember how proud she looked while Anthony pushed the back of her bike. 

She didn’t notice how tired or sore he was. She didn’t see the slight changes in his personality at the time. I was and am thankful  for that. 

It was in June 2015 I began to pick up on the subtleties of his personality changes. His irritability, changing sleeping patterns and exhasperated pain. I didn’t know it yet, but he’d gone off his lithium. Cold turkey. 

Father’s Day that year will always be deeply embedded in my heart. It was one of the last days we spent together as a family happy and enjoying each other. Our daughter loved celebrating him and our son enjoyed the downtime with him. We ordered Chinese food that night and he opened our gifts of appreciation for him; his laugh, love, advice and comfort he brought to our lives. 

Our daughter painted him a picture frame with a photo of her – her hands shaping out a heart. I had struggled picking out an antique carver he had been talking about buying for several weeks from our son and I. When manic he would become almost obsessed with things and this carver was one of them… so was the antique store he  as eventually banned from after the mania took hold. 

At night we cuddled, and embraced each other.  “Happy Father’s Day Peter. I love you”. 

This is the second Father’s Day without him. No morning coffee, or family afternoon strolls, no game night, no gorging on unhealthy food infront of our favourite shows, and no night time cuddles. 

But he’s still a father.  Our children will forever have the better memories of him etched in their hearts of the teachable moments and skills he shared. 

Our son learned carpentery skills from the skateboard ramp Anthony helped him to build, and words of encouragement and love during his own struggles. He will always carry his father’s taste in music and TV, and will remember him helping him to tie his little tie our wedding day. 

Our daughter will fondley remember movie nights cuddled against his chest, and rides on his shoulders in her younger years. She’ll remember his creativeness and laugh.

I’ll cherish the earlier years and the pride he felt with each mildstone each of our children reached. Our daughter’s birth to our son’s school performances playing guitar and singing. 

This year we spent our day at Watertown with family and friends. It definitely helped to take the sting out of the day. We hiked to the waterfalls and ate giant hotdogs for lunch. We spent Father’s Day there when our son was 8 years old. I was excited to share those memories with our daughter while we were there. 

The Lookout on the hike where 10 years earlier Anthony, our son, and I stood on Father’s Day.

We all miss him dearly.

Happy Father’s Day Peter❤️️.

What will happen….

It’s just me now. 

Just me.

What the hell was he thinking when he took his life? 

I’m going to need a moment to get angry. 

What went through his head when he decided to end his time here on earth? No more daddy, no more husband, brother, nephew and son. He just walked off the stage and left all his roles with cliffhangers that would continue to be just that. . . Cliffhangers. No goodbye, no final hugs, no bow to his beloved audience to acknowledge the show was done. No warning.

No apology to his children for walking of stage to soon. He left them with me. Just me. 

What was he thinking? 

Don’t get me wrong.  My support system is big, and strong and wonderful. The family and friends I have in my life are a blessing and have lifted me many times this past year. They are there to help me and our children through this, and they are the reason I have survived this trauma.

But at the end of the day, it’s just me.   Their mom.

The worst part? I am human. I could die. Today. Tomorrow. Three years from now. I am fragile.  

What would happen then? What would happen to the kids? How would they do without me? 

I sit on the couch after school/work someways; after I’ve picked our daughter up at the bus stop, walked home, done dishes( no dish washer in the rental) swept mopped and made dinner, and just watch them. Our daughter sitting at the kitchen table watching utube videos on how to draw before she gets ready for soccer practice and our son standing at the counter listening to the Ricky Gervais show while he gets ready for his evening out with friends. 

Do they know how fragile I am? 

It makes me panick. I used to be afraid of death. So much so I would avoid living. Now, I’m not afraid of death so much as leaving them behind when they are not ready. Or them leaving me. 

It makes my heart hurt and I have difficulty catching my breath. Am I totally fucking them up? Am I enough? Am I doing a good job at this parenting alone? What will happen to them if I’m not? 

I do what I can to take care of myself so I can be there for them. I’m eating healthier(oh how I miss chocolate chips), going to the gym a minimum of four days a week, blogging, and am in counselling. I do not drink alcohol often, and I do not use drugs. I take my anti-anxiety meds every night. 

What will happen if this is not enough? I know I don’t sleep enough and I certainly smoke way too much. I’m cutting back on caffeine to help with the sleep issue. But what if these changes aren’t enough? 

I’m scared. I feel lonely. He left me alone. And I don’t know what is going to happen. 

I have no control over any of the outcomes. I choose my attitude as best I can so the children will learn resilience but is that enough? 

I’m so angry at Bipolar right now. Fuck Bipolar. What will happen to my children if Something were to happen to me? Thanks a lot asshat Bipolar. Thanks for leaving me alone.  

I know I don’t have control over my future. I know all I can do is let go and give it to god. It’s not an easy task, especially after trauma. Especially after your husband dies. By Suicide. 

I once again have to remind myself to breathe and trust no matter what, those two of my babies will be ok. We will be ok. And just keep moving forward through the fear and know that even through our past experience and though We cant predict what will happen tomorrow we will be ok. There is no other option.

Dig Deep and Sing

http://likesuccess.com/topics/32594/deep-pain

I was just barely 21, a single mom, and full of dreams when Anthony and I first met. I needed something to pass my time alone before we met, so in the evenings when my boy was asleep, I’d make myself a drink, write and play guitar. I’d sing my own songs, and those musings of others while I sipped on Bacardi and Coke. 


Trust me, I’m not that good at it, but I love the sound of the strings and the flow of words. I took pride in  my calloused fingers and steel tinted skin. My little hobby brought me to life in my loneliest moments. 

Anthony taking a picture while I played

I sang for Peter the first time about four months into our relationship. I never felt so vulnerable and exposed. I remember the look on his face, and the twinkle in his eyes. He used to love listening to me pluck away pointlessly; I never did improve much in playing, but he was my biggest fan. He encouraged me to continue playing and I even performed at small coffee houses on folk or open mike nights. He was there to support me. 

Then over the years as we travelled more and had our daughter, I slowly quit playing. Barcardi and music gave way to Netflix, and breast feeding. My guitar became my son’s favourite past time, and man, he had a talent for playing that I, to this day, could only dream of acquiring; so I gave the guitar to him. 

When we separated, and the love of my life left to live in his vehicle, I was desperate for something to bring me to life again. Something to break up my obsessive worry about how ill he was and how to get him help. I needed something for me, that I could do at home and that wouldn’t cost a lot of extra money. Something to break up the tears. 

I bought a guitar and a mutual friend of ours hooked me up with an instructor who, conveniently would come to the house to give me lessons for cheap. I played, and practiced and loved the sound  of the twang coming from the strings beneath my fingers. I began to sing again, and for brief moments, I wasn’t consumed by mental illness, grief, thoughts about how to get the psychiatrists to listen, over my ending marriage, his possibly dying by suicide, carelessness or murder, and the anger I was feeling about being left. I was no longer being eaten by the shame I felt when my co-workers and old acquaintances started asking about what was wrong with my husband(I was never ashamed of him, I was ashamed at the time because I felt I hadn’t done enough and was responsible for his well-being). 

For a brief time each evening I began to feel free. 

For a brief time each evening I could express my feelings and not care about being judged. This was for me. 

I continued to play through our moving, between calls to the hospital, between the police and fire department calls to me, between hurtful conversations, with family in and out and running the kids around to their programs. At night alone, the kids asleep, when the pain was the worst I’d play and sing and be free and feel hope. 

Then I got the call. May 16, 2016 at 5:02pm. 

Anthony on a bus tour we took in 2013. He had just finished Electric Shock Therapy(ECT)

The music stopped that day. 

I hadn’t even realized I quit playing again. The black leather guitar case became a shadowed decoration in my room; sitting in the corner by the door collecting dust. Nights playing and writing were replaced by tears and grief. 

Last Saturday evening, I sat alone in my room restless and wrestling with my guilt. I sat at the end of my bed head in my hands just missing him. In my blurred peripheral, I caught the black shadow in the corner, and lifted my head. 

The skin of the case was cracking and now blanketed with a layer of dust. I wiped the case down with a damp cloth, carried the case to my bed, took out the wooden instrument and held it for a while. 

I swear I could hear him “sing Ker, play for me”. I could almost see him as clear as I did that first time I played for him.

I loved his eyes and lips. He had dimples on the sides of his mouth when he smiled. His green eyes were bright and filled with life when he was happy. Damn I loved that man. 

I dug deep. I felt the pain, hurt and guilt well in my chest and I sang for the first time in 11 months. I pictured him there with me, peering up from his book, his eyes welling with happiness. And underneath the release of all that pain, hurt and guilt, there was a well of love, peace and life. 

I dug deep, and I felt a little more alive that day. Maybe he was trying to show me this. That each day if I dig deep and “sing”(metaphorically)I can peel back the layers of the grief I feel from his being gone I can see in some way he’s still with me, helping me to remember we were once happy, and in love. Our relationship in someway still exists, it’s just evolving into something different. . .

Tell me about your digging deep? What does that mean and look like for you? Together we can dig deep and ‘sing’ and move through this difficult time. 

– A Letter To Heaven-

Anthony, 

If I wrote a letter to heaven to tell you how much you are missed, would you be able to read it and know, your still loved here on earth? 

If I could send a letter to heaven to remind you that its been 7 long, excruciating months since you’ve taken your life. Would you be able to understand how devestated everyone is now that you’re gone. 

If you could read a letter written to you in heaven, I would tell you I wish I could go back in time and try to stop you from doing what you did. I would tell you you were worth it. I would tell you you were enough. I would tell you Bipolar was lying to you and we all loved you and needed you here. I would have gone to the hospital with you as I had so many times before and held your hand. I would have done anything to help you recover. 

If I could see you one more time before you went to heaven, I would wrap my arms around you so I could take you all in again; smell you and hear your heart beat while my head is pressed against you chest, feel your arms wrapped around my shoulders and your lips pressed against my head. 

But I can’t. I can’t go back. Because you are in heaven instead… 

So instead I’ll write you a letter and hope by some miracle it will get to you in heaven. So you will know you were enough. You were a great father, husband and best friend when you were well and Bipolar was not messing with your brain. It wasn’t your fault you couldn’t be here when you were ill. 

While you are in heaven, I hope you know how much I still love you. I hope you understand now the kids and I needed time to heal and you needed help. We all loved you so very much. The situation was temporary; it was never set in stone. 

In my letter to heaven, I need you to know I love you still. I need to say I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for the hurt I caused in our marriage. I know you forgave me, but I need to say it again. I’m so sorry. I know you are too. I need you to know I forgive you. 

I’d tell you in the letter how our children are doing. Our daughter is a ray of light; a symbol of hope. Remember how we picked her name? It fits. She misses you so very much, and she is thankful she had you as a father. I cried at her Christmas concert yesterday… I wish you had been there to see her. I told her how proud of her you would be. 

Our son is continuing to grow and find himself in this scary world. He’s talked about how he wishes he never would have sent you that text. He talks about how much he misses you and how he wishes things didn’t end like this. 

I’d tell you It’s Christmas. You should be here wearing your Christmas cap and making your wonderful eggnog. I’d tell you I miss our goofy dancing and play fighting in the kitchen while we are listening to Christmas music. 

If I could write a letter to heaven I’d tell you that though it hurts you are gone, it’s okay. It’s okay because though I believed in recovery for you, I also know how much you struggled daily. Maybe now you have found peace. 

In my letter to heaven I’d tell you I made a promise to you; I know you’ve heard my prayers and are listening. I will keep my promise; some things will take longer than others, but I will do my best. I’d also ask if you are proud of us, and finally, I’d tell you again how loved you are and how much we all miss you. 

In my letter to heaven, I’d wish you a merry Christmas Peter, and send all the love I have with pictures of our children… but I know you don’t need them because you can see them as they are. I love you, I miss you, I hope you can read that in my letter to heaven.