Blog Post

My Widow Brain

IMG_0322“I am giving you cupcakes my sweet angel!”
This is a great memory, Jacob and I went to a local cupcake food truck near Thomasville Road in Tallahassee (Fall of 2011) and we went almost every Tuesday. It started as a parking lot and by the time we graduated FSU, it was an entire Lake Ella Food Truck Event, with music, vendors, and artists. We grew with our home, our home was Tallahassee. We were so excited to dive into these delicious treats, but when I started writing this post I imagined what Jacob would say – he would offer these to me, in his gentle and loving way.

Widow Brain – this is a common term among widower’s, but most people my age have no idea what we are talking about. I know I’ve tried to use the line with some of my in-laws and they shrug it off like it is a make-believe thing. I know they love me and I love them, but they couldn’t possibly understand – and I thank the stars they don’t have to. Anyway, It isn’t make believe! It’s real!  Even upon entering year two, my widow brain is still alive and kicking. So if yours is too, don’t worry. Some people are able to “recover” quicker than others. Don’t you hate that word? You never recover. You learn how to live in parallel with the horrible void that can never be filled.  There is no timeline for grief. My memory fades, I throw away my keys, I forget to eat, I barely take care of basic hygiene, I can’t remember what day it is or what even month. I stutter. I cannot read books. My comprehension of the emptiness and loneliness of the world without my spouse is too much to bear.  My comprehension of anything is incredibly low, in fact. I forget easily. Point is: you are so in shock and overwhelmed with grief, you cannot function with day-to-day living. It is impossible. Getting out of bed is a chore and feeling the warmth on your skin is hurtful. I remember I told this to my therapist during one of our first sessions. She asked “why do you cover up your whole body?” let me remind you, I am currently living in Florida. I told her, nervously, “The idea that Jacob cannot feel the sun makes me sick to my stomach – so I don’t want to feel it either.” She nodded, she knew that was the reason, she validated my feelings but she just wanted me to be aware that this was typical and normal behavior for someone facing grief, guilt, and unspeakable trauma.

The worst time of day for me is in the morning – I am reminded that my soulmate is not laying next to me. I used to wake up every morning and kiss him softly behind his hair and whisper “I love you, Jacob.” He would give me the hardest hug and never let me go. That was every morning, for 7 years… so these tortured mornings are a constant punch of grief. It hits me how unfair it all is – I begin to cry and cry for hours. “Why me? Did I do something wrong?” I replay the last day and how I could have done something differently. I feel guilty and I feel anger at the wind blowing. “How can the world go on when Jacob isn’t here?” Then I try to find a way to spend the rest of the day sleeping, unable to face it all.

The night carries its own set of demons. Jacob was a lover of all types of cinema and series – we watched everything together at night. I owe my love of Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, The Cohen Brothers, David Lynch (a story for later on a documentary we saw in May of 2017), John Turturro, Noah Baumbach and Gene Wilder to Jacob (just to name a few). I could go on and on forever. He knew every actor, every director, and he was this way by… age 10. He started making his own films shortly after! I mean, what an artist? A remarkable human being with art oozing from his chest. I remember he was so excited for the new movie “It” to come out – and it was released four days after he died. How cruel. When I saw posters of it, I would break down and cry. “How could you rob him of so much? Why not take me?” Now – I cannot watch anything. It feels wrong and icky. I have no desire to laugh and especially watch things his eyes cannot see. This is what my family (on both sides) does not understand. And I don’t expect them to get it, they weren’t part of our life – it was our little family. For so long. Sometimes I feel only I truly knew him as an adult because I know he only knew me truly as an adult. Does that make me feel sad? Yes – because so many missed out on his wonderful adult soul, but so many benefited from it as well ( I will get into hundreds of stories of his acts of kindness to random strangers including the famous Noam Chomsky!) Does that make me feel happy? Yes. Because I feel special that he chose me. He chose me to be his partner in this life together. When I was in high school I used to wonder what he was doing at night, and when we finally lived together I would say “Now I know! You are laying with me!” I felt so lucky he picked me to share his life with. And now, it has crumbled before me. Jacob used to play a song by Mississippi John Hurt called, “Walk That Lonesome Valley” and part of that song goes “You gotta’ walk that lonesome valley” (naturally), not only would I give anything to hear him play it for me again – with his left foot stomping loud on the wooden floor – the truth of the song weighs on me like all the soil in the earth. I have to walk alone. Without my person. The love of my life. It just isn’t fair.

Back to the widow brain, it is a real thing. You start your car with a banana and you drink milk you thought was water. And beyond that – it has far-reaching effects. As if grief wasn’t enough, you have the constant feeling that you are losing your mind. Listen, I know – it is awful. You are trapped in this life you never asked for. The death of a parent is a natural part of life, we learn this early on – but the death of your spouse? Let alone at 27? That is the most unnatural thing in the world. And it has happened to me (us). People don’t know what to do or say, so they disappear. They give you fortune cookie wisdom and platitudes. None of it helps, and here we are – drowning in aching grief. You are in pain, and the truth is – it can’t be made better. No one can soothe the pain, you have to experience it all alone. And when the love of your life dies? Little things like charging your phone, or social media (which I have completely gotten rid of) become so unimportant and trivial. I cannot even endure a commercial, it makes me feel sick inside. Luckily for me, I have my mother. Without, I would be left on this earth with no one. No one to see my grief, to acknowledge it and stand there in blinking horror. I also have Jacob, his voice in my head all the time- he is just not here in the form that I want. This is why we cry. This is why we burst into sorrow. There is no solution to all this either, Megan Devine said it best “some things cannot be fixed, they can only be carried.” Daniel Johnston also said it wonderfully, “some things last a lifetime…” And that is how I feel about my sweet Jacob. He is my lifetime.

So, carry your grief, your widow brain, and all the ways grief changes you. I know how you feel. Time has stopped. Nothing feels real. Your mind can’t stop replaying the events of the past. Everything is different now. 

I will leave you again, with one of the earliest poems I wrote,

ANOTHER DAY

today

is just like all the rest,

each noonday sun

has blended

with the last.

some more lonesome

than others,

but none of this shit is living.

the sky has swept

away from the clouds,

and the stagnant meat

oozes with the frost

of a sprinkled night.

there is no splendid disguise

for this kind of pain-

every breath is soaked

in your loss.

there is no spellbinding tide

or far-reaching stone.

no drinking

from their eyes.

it is just

endless sorrow.

goddammit this hurts-


laying with the torture

of the abundant murk

like some fading sea,

my eyes

steam up

like a creamy

morning mist.

my mind

feels like honey

bursting from its comb.

my heart

has grown wrinkled

from hours

in

the river.

and some nights

as the wind swells in,

I think my grief

could make

the day

stand still.

Blog Post

One year as a 25 year old widow

IMG_3355

September 4th, 2018 marked one year without the love of my life. Let me take a second to introduce you to Jacob Dante Boraggina, my soulmate since 7th grade. I remember he used to tell me, “I can’t wait to tell our kids the story of how we met – how shy you were when I told you I had a crush on you.” We actually met when I was in 4th grade and he was in 5th grade – we were both in a play together called “Toy’s Are People Too.” He also used to say, “I knew you were the girl of my dreams when I heard you deliver that one-liner.” You see, we were all toys in this play. Jacob was a jack-in-the-box and I was a bear. I had a flap that said “MADE IN CHINA” underneath my costume. Part of the play is that these toys seem to be having an existential crisis, they don’t know where they are from and I say, “I am from China, see it says so right on my belly!” He told me he was smitten from that day forward.

I call it the “luxury of ignorance” that I had before I lost my soulmate – our life was seemingly perfect. Did I think this would ever happen? No. Did I ever think I would be spending the year of 2018 in bed? No. Did I ever think this incredible human being who I made breakfast for just that morning would be snatched away from me that evening? No.

We were sizing our wedding rings, we were naming our unborn children, and we were setting up a life together. You leave your family and turn towards your chosen family – we had spent the last two Thanksgiving and Christmas’s alone and we were forming our own new traditions, together – as a family. We were robbed of all milestones – marriage, children, buying a house together, grandchildren. I never thought in a million years I would be left alone, without the one person who ever knew me – and in his own words, “you are the only person that I can truly be myself around. The only one that knows me inside and out, and loves me unconditionally.” Sometimes people say the only unconditional love that exists is within the confines of a parent/child relationship. For Jacob and I, that couldn’t be more opposite.

I loved and love everything about him – I would have never broken up with him and the thought would never even cross my mind in the 7-8 years we lived together. With each new day, I found something to love even more and there was a secret little surprise of his personality that would shine through. He was a poet, a writer, and a true artist. This is part of the reason why I released my book of poetry, My Groans Pour Out Like Water. Not only was it the only thing I could do after I lost him, but it was almost as if Jacob was flowing through me. I wanted to continue what he could not – trust me, if you like my book at all – Jacob was ten times better writer than myself, but it was the only thing I could do for the first 6-8 months. It was one of the most bizarre things in my life, I would wake up and write 20 poems – without any control. I never sat down and said “I am going to write a poem today” it just flowed through me for months and months. And my degree is in biology! But I have always felt like an artist deep down – never a scientist. This is why Jacob and I got along so well – we both had an artistic soul (his far greater than mine). In fact, my first major was in writing – but that is a story for another day.

This is one of the realizations I have had during this grief-hellhole-knee deep in shit river experience at 25 – creativity has been the only way to save myself (at least this has been the case for me). I have written over 500 poems, 30 songs, and a 75,000-word book (it probably isn’t any good) – but there is nothing that can heal more than creating. I don’t even like using the word “heal” because I lay in bed all day, more depressed than ever, going onto year two – but it gives me a reason to do something – anything. Jacob once told me, after I wrote a song about him, how proud he was of me. “I love you being creative”, he would say like a proud parent. Any achievement, he was there. And he truly was like a proud parent, that’s how pure our love was and is. When I would paint watercolor he would take the time to kiss me behind my neck and say, “I am so proud of you my sweetest girl.” He danced when I got home. “Finally! My Baby Girl is Home!” He did the dishes, took out the trash, made dinner – wrote me poems and brought me flowers. He even helped me close up my night shift (at midnight) after a hard day of his own school and work during college when I ran a local coffee shop. Here is the point: he found all kinds of ways, and was always in search of new ones, to express his love for me. I haven’t had it in me to write about my loss, but I am finding out there are very few resources for young widows. And most young widows are considered to be in their late 30s and early 40s. Everyone at 25? They are either dating, engaged, having babies, or enjoying life. I am like the walking dead, barely able to summon the strength to go to the bathroom. I have to set an alarm to brush my teeth. But this isn’t about me right now – this is about Jacob. His love was pure, and we had a beautiful life together that I miss every second of every day.

When you lose your spouse, you lose your routine. People go back to their lives, their work, their families but you are left with nothing. You are left with ghosts of a former life. You are left in despair, misery, and your one person is gone. Your whole existence is shattered. I didn’t get to have children with the love of my life, so I don’t have that to “hold onto” or “keep going for”. You are left with brown boxes with labels on them if you move (which I had to), t-shirts you sleep with at night before their scent ultimately leaves them. You are the only one that has to live this lonely horrible existence in this way. For me, not only is it lonely and isolating being a 25-year-old widow (now 26), but Jacob and I were each other’s lives, each other’s best friends (we didn’t need anyone else) so I don’t have any social support – not even one friend, really. But Here I am. A friend to you, and any young widow who needs one. Seriously, there is so little information about young widows out there, I almost had to start this blog out of necessity. I want to hear your story and I want my story to be heard. Because the truth is, I was the only one who knew him as an adult. I have to carry on our stories. I never want people to stop talking about Jacob, for the rest of my life, his love is in my soul. It rattles in my bones. I will continue to post about him, our trips, our life, and maybe how my two years in bed might change. And if it doesn’t? That’s fine too. Grief doesn’t follow a timeline.  Just know, you are not alone.

I am going to leave you with one of the first poems I ever wrote about my grief:

 

I LIE HERE

as water wears away stones,

I lie here.

as night swallows the day,

I lie here.

as our books,

once resting in the sweet air

gather dust

I lie here.

as your clothes lay gently in boxes,

mourning the loss of their master’s body

I lie here.

as wind gives the arms

of your favorite trees

direction,

I lie here.

as smoke layers above the sea,

I lie here.

as your ashes sit on our table,

I lie here.

 

I lie here

bathing in sorrow

forsaken,

and

unable

to swallow my fate.

I lie here

unable to build,

without strength to tear down.

I lie here

unable to keep

and

unable to throw away.

I lie here

not wishing I were dead

not wishing I were alive

but wishing I had never existed,

for then I would never know

the suffering

that settles

under the sun.