Today is a big day for Mike and I… something that we have given a lot of thought to in the past year. This was a tough decision, but in the past few months we finally decided it is time for us to step down as writers here for widow’s voice. We each have our reasons, which we’ll share about in this final post, along with reflecting back on our full and amazing journey writing and sharing with you all here. We are both so grateful for the healing and sense of community that this space has brought us, which is why we know it is time… we are far more healed than when we first began, and its time to let someone else have the chance to heal with words here too.
Six years ago, almost to the day, I said goodbye to Megan. All I knew, almost my entire adult life, came to a screeching halt that day, as if it were the last bullet-point on a list of milestones and events.
I had lived an “entire” life. Childhood, graduation, military service, started a career, married, had a child, and finally, lost my spouse. There were thousands of other, less-significant events of course, but the major list had been filled out. There was really nothing more to strive for. I sat in that state of apathy for a few months, until finally resolving that my life wasn’t over, but it was going to be a tough rebuild, and I needed help.
I had begun writing. Not for anyone in particular, other than myself. I didn’t actively share it. I didn’t publicize it, but yet, I wrote on a public website of my own creation, perhaps hoping that someone would stumble upon it. It was cathartic, to be able to vent, complain, emote, or reflect into the abyss, without worrying about who was reading, or if they even cared.
It was only a few months later that I attended Camp Widow, in Tampa, and the rest was history, as they say. I met Sarah. I got back “up to speed” at my job. Shelby was excelling in school, and I was beginning to see some sort of path forward, subconsciously.
But I kept up with my writing. Soon, it was shared with Sarah, who shared it with Michelle Neff-Hernandez, who contacted me and asked if I would like to participate in this blog called “Widow’s Voice”. Oddly (for me), I wasn’t the least bit apprehensive. I think, by that point, I had self-discovered how much writing my thoughts out seemed to help me find my way through things, both mournful and exciting. Taking what was then a huge leap for me, I accepted Michelle’s offer, and began publicly sharing my thoughts every Tuesday morning.
I have been writing here for almost 6 years now. That bullet-pointed list of life milestones has been re-drafted in that time. Certainly, many events can’t or won’t re-occur, but the most significant one as it relates to Widow’s Voice has…I’m a husband once again.
I’ll always be a widower, just like I’ll always be a father, Marine, and Ohioan. For six years though, I haven’t felt like a husband. I’ve been a widower through and through. Even on legal forms, I’ve ticked the box for “widowed”, which brought with it that triggering thought of Megan’s death.
That has now changed. Through Sarah and I’s engagement, the sheer feeling of being married has clawed its way back into my psyche. It became more difficult for me to write about Megan. Not in the sense that it brought more emotion or tough days, but in that I started to feel like I hadn’t much left to say that I hadn’t already penned many times before.
With my new vows that I hope to fulfill for a long, long time, another bullet point is being added to my life list. The time has arisen for me to step away from writing here. That feeling has been growing for the past year or so, to the point that sometimes, I’ve had to force myself to just “come up with something”. That isn’t fair to you. I’ve always felt that writing needs to come from truth, and the truth is that I personally feel that I’ve said all I can say…both to readers here, and to myself. I am ready to focus more on my second chance.
I’ve loved my time writing here, make no mistake. I hope that those few-hundred posts have helped even one or two people. They certainly helped me. It’s time though. There are others that have so, so much to say, and so few avenues to say it, and they deserve a platform that isn’t monopolized by me. I’ve gained my benefits, and used them to their fullest.
Amazingly enough, I stumbled this morning on the Facebook post I wrote when I very first found out that I was going to be a writer for Widow’s Voice. After Michele had seen my writing about my grief on my own blog, she wrote and asked me to join. In my own words, which I actually shared on this exact day seven years ago:
“I’ve dreamed of being a writer my whole life. I cried when I read her request. Because this wouldn’t be happening without Drew. And because I will get to share his story and our story – and each way I get to do that is one more way of our bond continuing and my being able to heal. And because I get to hold the hand of so many others who are on this difficult journey with me and remind them once a week, that they are not alone. I needed this. I really did.”
Looking back after seven years… all of that was exactly true. Writing here has helped me to have a sense of purpose. I was still so broken when I started writing here… still picking up thousands of shattered pieces of myself. The writing has challenged me to find the lessons I can learn from grief. It has connected me with so many others, many of whom have become good friends. And it has absolutely given me a way to weave my life and love with Drew into my life as I continue to live forward – now in a beautiful new chapter with Mike and his daughter Shelby. It has helped me to bring Drew along on every new experience, and it has also helped me to accept where he now resides in my life. He may not exist in the same physical way, and he may not be the man I have married – but he is along for every ride and always a part of things. I think of him more as a guide now, much like I think of my parents who have passed as guides. The three of them are always here, and this is how I’ve found my peace. I still cry some days, and I still miss them, but for the most part I find peace in the space that I have created in my life where they still live.
Writing here has been an integral part of figuring out where Drew was going to exist now that he died. And figuring out so many other aspects of widowhood. I often cannot make sense of my emotions until I write them down. It is in the writing that I am able to observe myself from a different vantage point, which often allows me a new perspective on something I hadn’t seen before. I can remember countless specific posts where this happened to me: where, in the middle of writing, I had a revelation of some sort that changed the way I saw and felt about my grief. The writing is the place I have seemed to find that the most.
You have all been with me through such a long journey and so many changes these 7 years… I can’t even believe I’ve written here for that long! I have shared so many ups and downs, so many milestones… some of the biggest being falling in love again, moving across the country, and finally getting married. In the past year, I have begun to feel healed enough that writing here hasn’t sat right with me like before. Mike put it very well, I feel like the deep healing that I needed from writing here has now happened, and that it is now time to step aside and give someone else that opportunity. The timing seemed right to us both as we neared a new chapter in our life together right now…and so we decided to write up through getting married together, and for just a little while after, as we felt it good to share the experience of marrying or remarrying as widowed people. I have also been leaning more and more into my creativity and my fine art career this past year, and so I am finding a growing passion to begin writing more about creativity I think, which I plan to do on my art website. Ultimately, my gut just tells me, in that way that it often does, that it’s time. Even though it is bittersweet, and I’ll miss these Sunday mornings, I tell myself now, instead, perhaps I’ll spend my Sunday mornings as a reader here. Which I very much love the idea of.
With that said, we both want to give the warmest welcome to the new Sunday writer for Widow’s Voice: Victoria Helmly.
She and her partner Boris have shared a deep love from a young age, and unfortunately Boris died by suicide in April of 2017. She is doing the brave work of living on now from her home outside of Atlanta, where she is pursuing her PhD. She will of course share so very much more with you about her journey next week, and in future weeks to come.
Victoria, we welcome you, and we are extending all of our love and support to you as you take on this new space and continue with your healing. I have no doubt it will help you as has it has helped the both of us, not to mention so many others. We truly look forward to reading and getting to know you and Boris and your love.
Mike and I both want to thank Michele, Jenny and everyone at Soaring Spirits for all they continue to do for the widowed community. No doubt, we will still be around, helping out with Camp Widow events and any other things we can. And finally, we want to thank all of you just for reading our words. Even if you have never commented a single time, we know you’re there. We know you sit down with us often to share in this experience that none of us ever wanted to have. Just knowing that has given us some healing, and we hope it has given you some of the same. Sincerely and from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for reading our words. Long Live Love.