Monday, July 23, 2007

On Widowhood, After One Year

"But 46 percent of the widows and widowers in this study reported that they had satisfying marriages. They believed that life is fair and they accepted that death is a part of life." Deborah Carr

My sister's husband was killed in a plane crash last July. Forget about lucky 7/7/7, to us 7/16/06 will forever be a seriously unlucky day. And it's back in the news this year too.

Judy has shared some thoughts on widowhood with us during the past year. I asked if she had anything to say about the one-year anniversary of Bob's death.

Oh boy, did she.

If you know a widow--or are one--maybe these thoughts and feelings will help you. And if you have anything to share, please add a comment.

A year. A widow. A WHAT??? So hard to believe it's been a year since I got the call my husband's airplane had crashed at an air show in Hillsboro, Oregon. Life, as I had known it, was gone forever. I became someone else through all the emotional ups and downs.

Bob and I had been together for 21 years. We had so much fun and he gave me so much: travel, skiing, diving, his great intellect, his humorous habits. I even got my own pilot rating so we could share his passion for flying.

Legend has it that when you receive news of this sort, a tsunami of grief knocks you down and takes you away. Not me. Instead, there were fuzzy, muddled thoughts... trying to digest what had happened... figuring out what to do now... back to what had happened... on to how do I spend the rest of my life.

And worse, feeling so in sync with Bob, imagining the sheer terror he must have felt as the ground came up to meet him way too fast. Wondering how his perfect airplane--the other love of his life--cared for so efficiently and completely could have let him down.

Legend also has it that people often turn strange in the wake of a personal tragedy. My plans for a memorial service were bucked along the way by Bob's son from a previous marriage. It surprised me since we always got along so well.

When we finally came to terms with help from my sister Sally, it was a great memorial. A celebration of Bob, crowded with camaraderie. Bob's friends meeting Bob's friends and so many Bob stories evoking smiles and laughter. He was one of a kind, this strange ranger. MY strange ranger.

The year has been a roller coaster. I have therapeutically thrown myself into my work which gets me up early and lasts until late. I await the day when they figure out I do it with mirrors. Sometimes I feel very incompetent but Bob was always so encouraging, I still turn to him -- inside my head.

I find escape and relaxation going to a movie alone, so I've seen nearly everything worth seeing and defended myself to no one.

I have also found that while Bob used to be the prominent elephant in the room, that has diminished and not everyone whispers his name any more.

There have been low moments, too. I wept at photographs. I choked up as I drove past 'our' places. I thought I would never travel again because I had lost the best trip planner and traveling companion.

I still wonder if I'll every ski or dive again, but it isn't critically important any more. I've had the experiences and I'll always have the memories. So I just wait and see where life takes me.

For the memorial we made large posters of the final pictures of Bob and they now grace my living room walls. Sometimes we chat. Strange, talking to a wall but it makes me think more clearly. I realized I'm beginning to forget how he felt and smelt, but with a little effort I can conjure him up and that feels pretty good.

April brought both his birthday and tax time. To celebrate, the tax man was Pac Man, munching up a big chunk of his estate. Those two events, followed by a Blue Angel crashing in South Carolina dumped me into a deep hole. I got some help and while I'm still occasionally on the ledge, for the most part I am living my own life.

I still travel. My most recent overseas nursing venture was a trip to Vietnam for two weeks of operations on needy children and adults, an activity that always impressed Bob. I have visited my scattered family several times.

I'll go back east in October for my XXth high school reunion. I hope to continue on to visit family in Israel, where I've never been and Bob had no desire to go. He won ... then. Now it's my time.

All of the above notwithstanding, I miss him terribly. I wish he was here. There are so many things, big and small which catch me up.

I take a perverse pleasure in getting my own way without 'the look.' But I miss it anyway.

I still sleep on my side of the bed.

I still occasionally stumble into what used to be 'my' bathroom.

I can't bring myself to go through the box of 'our' personal items.

I have one of his flight suits hanging in the closet that was 'his' and is now mine.

I've kept his blue blazer with the Harvard buttons and a ski jacket there too.

My favorite is the Hawaiian shirt he wore when we went to Maui ... and the last picture of US in which he's wearing it.

I got rid of a few pieces of furniture he liked and I didn't, but I haven't bought anything new. Except the new bed we had already chosen. It's comfortable. But emptier now.

I found I don't have to explain myself to anyone, I really can do anything I want, I can manage Bob's estate just fine with some expert help, and I'm doing okay.

I don't minimize the depth and importance of our relationship, but I have come to grips with reality.

He isn't here, I am -- moping my way through life accomplishes nothing.

Clearly, Judy's still a fighter. No matter what our status in life, we can all learn from her.

Thank you, 'Dith. Keep fighting. We've got your back.

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Nancie said...

Thanks for sharing this, Sally. My mother died a little over a year ago and my father has struggled through everything that you sister has. Hearing her talk about it (in ways my father cannot) helps me understand. I deal with my own grief, but I can't imagine what it's like for him to lose his "girl" after more than 55 years. Judy helped.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Judy said...

Always glad to be of help.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for ur blog. I lost my husband last year..he was so young..35 years old and am 32..with a 3 yr old son. It was so difficult to handle it early..but right from the day one..I was determined to fight it out. I did all things which ur sis did...and today after a year..I still feel the same way..but somtimes I think am tired of being lonely.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still trying to figure out when the loss will get easier to bear. My husband and companion of my entire adult life, married over 34 years, Steve, died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm in June/08. I'm fine financially, and my life continues pretty much as it did before, except without his company. I have lots of friends, but most are couples, and nobody invites me to hang out. of course, Steve and I mostly hung out with each other, and kept ourselves busy with our hobbies and projects. If it wasn't for all the things I HAVE to do, like take care of my 4 elderly cats, go to my part-time job, pay the bills,mow the lawn, etc., I'd have no reason to continue my life. It's not that things are bad, and I'm not 'depressed' (that doesn't seem to be in my psychological make-up), but I know that the best years of my life are behind me. I'm running on automatic. Steve and I traveled a lot, and I'd like to do more, but with out him to share with...We built OUR dream home, and now it's only mine. I can't get 'we' and 'our' out of my sentences. I feel like his being gone is getting old, and it's time for him to come back. I'm not gettin gused to his absence.13 months seems to have made no difference so far. Any advice?

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Judy said...

I know the feeling: lost. You'll move on when you're ready. Yes, my biggest adjustment has been being a onesie. I miss the fun we had and the things we did and I don't seem able to do it alone. But for now I'm content with my own company; I like me! Eventually I'll be full-on social but for now it's one day at a time. I work when I can, which gets me into quasi 'social' situations. I have a wonderful family who, thankfully, leaves me along when that's what I want.... which might be too often, but it's MY choice.

My advice would be to take care of you. Start by putting yourself out there. I'm sure you have value, skills you could put to use for pay or not, people who would like your company -- or not, if you don't want. But it's all YOUR choice.

I love to travel and went on a cruise with a girl friend. We had a sensational time laughing our way through Europe. Yes, I get sad when I realize that I've gone from an annual Europe and Hawaii to neither, except the cruise. I have a widowed friend who takes European tours, also with a girl friend... and a tour group. She just got back from Russia, Latvia and Estonia and was propelled into compiling her family tree.

I suggest you travel. It takes you out of your own head and your own surroundings. And learn a language; it's fun. It's only tough coming home to an empty house the first time -- it gets easier. And there's so much to learn. Good luck.

I often think I may never ski or scuba dive or fly again, all things we did regularly and together. But of course, if I want to, I can. There's nothing stopping me but ME. I offer you that.

9:54 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home