Blog Post

To believe in this living is such a hard way to go

This is the recurring theme: Quick! She’s in pain! Let’s talk her out of it. Let’s tell her things will be better someday. Let’s remind her to be grateful for what she had. Let’s tell her how smart and funny and kind she is. And let’s be sure, because we know it’s weighing her down, to reassure her that someone other than the man she loves will eventually be beside her, snoring softly, waking up to kiss her good morning, rolling back over to have five more minutes while she gets up and feeds the cat so he can sleep. Great Bring it on. Thanks so much for your kind words. You’ve really relieved my suffering, with all this trying to talk me out of it. The people I love, the ones I will go to, again and again, are the ones who do not in ANY WAY try to “solve” this for me, or fix it, or fix me. They do not make any attempt to cheer me up, or shame me into feeling thankful I had as much as love as I did, and so I should be happy with that. They do not tell me things like it will be better “later,” and that I have much to live for. They do not remind me I am part of the cycle of life. As though that matters, all that pandering, condescending crap.”

– excerpted from “Ask, Don’t Tell: How to Help Someone in Grief”

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Jacob at one of our favorite restaurants, Hopkins Eatery near Lake Ella in Tallahassee

Judgment, criticism, and dismissive comments are the norm in deep grief, not the exception. Sure, most people have “good intentions,” but the difference between their intentions and the actual impact of their words is vast (I have a whole post on the things people have said to me in the last year – including one of the worst imaginable, “everything happens for a reason.” Just posted last week).

I feel like I could have written the paragraph above, except for the part where the author states she has people she loves that she can return to time and time again to NOT give her this awful type of advice. I have (some) of those people, my mom, and dad in particular and I am so grateful for the love they have given me through this horrible time and all the love they gave Jacob, for so many years. I also have my mother-in-law and sister-in-law who I can go to as well which I am also very grateful for. Other than that, well – that’s about it. I don’t really have friends because as I said many times, Jacob and I were each other’s best friends – we were dependent- oh no! I said that a female was dependent on a male, yeah that’s the truth. So what? Someone said to me “you must not be a good feminist if you are this derailed by losing a male, I just said – fuck you.” – listen, we had no need for anyone else. We were soul mates and he was and is and always will be the love of my life – and for so long, I had a full-blown obsession since 7th grade. Now, it is just me. But some days, the people who are supposed to support and love you most, just add to your suffering in ways I never thought imaginable. Just an insensitive sentence or phrase from someone who is trying to “support” you can knock you down for days.  The type of grief I experience every day is so heavy and so consuming it really feels like my body is boiling- like my insides are shaking with flakes of oatmeal coming to the surface. I have no idea who I am. Jacob and I were one person. We walked in rhyme, we developed similar language, mannerisms, everything was so homogenized for so long, I can’t even see myself without Jacob. If Jacob saw me now? Sometimes I think he wouldn’t even love me. But I know that could never be true, because he loved me so much, beyond any earthly terminology. Just as I loved him. Just as I love* him. But I am a total mess. I bet you are too. I bet you lie in your bed or drive in your car or walk through a store, looking at the world like a cat – through the window, seeing people and things, but never being able to truly feel or experience any of them. I can’t imagine anyone enjoying a concert, a football game, a birthday party – how could you? When Jacob’s gone? But that is because my (our) grief is so heavy and just…different. The “fortunate” part of my situation, is I don’t have any invites to really decline because I don’t have any friends… but if you do, please take care of yourself and sometimes (or often, or always) just say no.

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Jacob and I outside one of our favorite local restaurants in Tallahassee, Joe Mama’s – one of his college friends, Patrick, used to work there and give us free Pizza – his favorite was the pecan-pesto pizza.

In April, I went to a Birthday Party for my nephew (Jacob’s nephew, but still, I call him my nephew because Jacob always referred to him that way to me, “You are my spouse, he is your nephew too!) And I love him to pieces. Seriously, he is one of the cutest and sweetest boys you could ever know. He will always be my nephew – the oldest of two incredible ones. Jacob was blessed with two beautiful nieces also, who I get to call my nieces – and I remember telling Jacob the first time I met his eldest niece and then saw a photo of his second niece, “What is the deal? You just have the cutest most adorable nieces ever?” Anyway – sidetracked – widow brain-  I remember the second I arrived at his Birthday Party I realized it was the worst decision I had made in a long while. Not only did I look like complete shit (which who cares? you just lost the love of your life, I know) but I knew I would be boxed into forced socialization and conversations that were like emotional landmines. “So what do you do for a living?”, “So do you have anyone special in your life?”, “So where do you live?” Well let’s see, I have been on leave from Harvard for two years because I am in such grief I cannot move from my bed. Yes, I had a spouse who passed away at 27 and I live with my parents with boxes of our former life as a constant reminder of the misery I walk in. Oh, also – I was put on a medication (a big fuck you, Seroquel) that made me gain 60 pounds in two months! How are you doing?

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Goofing off as freshman/sophomores in college – 2011

The problem with these situations (any social situation where strangers are around- solely family gatherings are much different) they aren’t made for people like us – who are truly suffering. Who are in the most desperate, dark places imaginable. The darkest of the dark type of grief. You can’t small talk, you can’t laugh politely, you can’t put on a brave face and all I wanted to do is go home, write about memories of Jacob, talk to him out loud, and cry in my room until I fell asleep. It didn’t feel good to get out, to drive, to be around people- none of it. Of course, seeing Jacob’s wonderful family – who I consider my family- and seeing my little nephew open his gift (a pillow of Jacob and our cat Abe) was a beautiful moment – but so fleeting.   You cannot push yourself in grief. No matter how much of a Type A personality you have. And trust me, as a student at Harvard, I was one of those (but honestly, not as tightly wound). People ask stupid questions because they are used to it – one year and one month ago if someone asked me all three of those questions I would have answered them with enthusiasm and with Jacob right by my side. “Oh I am a graduate student at Harvard and this is Jacob, my spouse, and we live in Cambridge, Massachusetts! We love it. We love our life there!” Because these stupid questions are so much a part of our lexicon during any social event – they become incredible punches of grief to those in mourning. I cried that day when a friend of the family suggested I watch the new Wes Anderson movie that just came out. I told him I couldn’t do it – I had watched every single one with Jacob (his favorite being The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore a close second). But I just couldn’t bear the thought of going without him. I thought He can’t see this with his eyes. I can’t hear his commentary. He was looking forward to it. It is so unfair! I started to cry some more. Then I had to leave, I was unable to control the breakdown. Then not too long after, another “friend” told me I was doing a disservice to Jacob’s memory by not watching it and that Jacob “would want me to go see it.” I hate these comments, I swear. No, he wouldn’t. HE would want to watch it with me by his side. So be quiet. Stop speaking for him, when his voice was always the closest to my ear.  Take this example: just say no to anything social you are invited to when there are strangers around for a long while (this was 6 months after I lost Jacob, so like I said – people’s timelines are all over the place- and there is NO timeline in grief.) And I have bad news for you: there really is no timeline at all. Grief will stay with you for the rest of your life.

There are some events I can go to where I know I will be around people that 100 percent know my situation and are there to dry my eyes and offer support or just kind of… leave me alone. I feel contagious sometimes. But I would rather be left alone than being asked derailing questions…I feel like if Jacob would want anything – above all else, he would not want me to deal with this suffering inflicted by other people. Support has to be support. It can’t just be called support while all it’s really doing is eclipsing your story and downplaying your grief.

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Jacob and I at one of our favorite parks to throw the Frisbee at and walk around and picnic at – J. R. Alford Greenway – December 2016 (he set up a whole picnic one time for us here as a surprise, all he said to me before we left was “make sure to bring a book!”)

Everything is dark. Suddenly the only movies you can swallow are horror films (Yes, Jacob and I watched them before, but I always watched them for him, not because I wanted to that much- out of love for his sweet, sweet soul). Now it is the only type of movie I can watch. War documentaries have become soothing. Any form of misery or agony as entertainment is all I can endure and that doesn’t make me/you a bad person or unhealthy – it is because IT IS THE ONLY THING YOU CAN RELATE TO. I have profound trauma associated with my grief. So the trauma of war is something I can relate to in a different way and somehow find a weird comfort in it. Seeing your loved one dead and holding them in your arms at 25 is completely unnatural – just like a lot of the tragedies of wartime. So please understand, this darkness is because you have no light in your life right now. And you are all alone in this. Even with me here, with family by your side- you have to cry alone, walk this path alone, deal with the shit comments people spew your direction alone – and I wish you didn’t have to. I wish for Jacob back every second of every day. And somedays, to believe in this living is just a hard way to go. (John Prine lyric) What John Prine meant by that is – well, to believe in this life of suffering – this pain – this is not easy. Essentially, what is the point of all this? It is a hard way to go. And for us young widows, it’s like we have been dealt a hand of cards from Satan himself. I have no answers. No one does. But I know that anyone that gives you light, that lets you tell your story, that’s the only way you can start believing in this life again (or attempt to) – because you cannot hide an entire life that was destroyed, inside of you. A part of me died the day Jacob passed. Almost all but this body. That will always be gone. You need to tell as many stories as you can of your soul mate and your shared life – and if your family and friends don’t show up? Then find a support group – a real one that helps you. I hate when people say “You should find a grief support group” – literally everyone in the groups around my area are in their 60s. They have had children, a long life with their spouse they have grandchildren – WE HAVE BEEN ROBBED OF ALL OF THAT. It’s bullshit and it is not fair. I am not saying you would not benefit from going, or their grief is any less than mine- but for me, I want people around my age to relate to – so I don’t feel as isolated. I tried going to these groups – several, and I heard “I am so grateful I have my kids and grandkids to keep living for.” How am I suppose to feel after that? A support group has to support you- it cannot just be a title. Again, this is just my opinion.

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Jacob and I on our first hike in Washington called Naches Peak Loop  – October 2015 – a nice couple we hiked with for about half an hour took this photo of us, they were from Tacoma and told us all about the places to check out – including an old diner solely dedicated to root beer, Jacob was so excited about this place!

So I am going to give you one resource called Soaring Spirits International there you can get hooked up with “Widow Village” which is a highly moderated social network of widows from all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities. There is a Widow Penpal program where I met my first … friend! I say that with an exclamation mark because sometimes I think she is one of the only friends I have. I also feel like Jacob would really, really like her. I could always tell who he would like or dislike – we were always on the same page with people.  She has an almost identical situation to mine (age wise), she knew her spouse since middle school (just like me and Jacob), and she was left suddenly widowed at age 27. She lives in Nepal – but hell, I’ll fly to Nepal for a friend like her. I talk to her literally every day. She is the only one that checks up on me… every single day. We share our stories – we let each other know how we are feeling. She wants to hear about Jacob and his adult life, and our life – and I want to hear her stories. No one is more closely connected to you or more intimately connected to you than your spouse, and the stories we have feel locked inside sometimes. We don’t try to cheer each other up, either. Sometimes it is nice to say, “I feel like the walking dead. This life is cruel. I want to die.” and the other person knows EXACTLY how you feel. Why is it nice? Because it is validating.

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Jacob in a flower field off the road outside of Woodstock, Vermont before we went on a maple syrup and cheese tasting tour at a little farm.

 

She, like I, spent about 14 months in bed after her spouse passed away. We just have so much in common and we would have never come together if it hadn’t been for this organization. There are groups and forums for widows like “Born in the 90s” (which has only 7 members of, go figure), “Suddenly Widowed”, “Widowed without children”, you name it – there is a group. And these widows are incredibly supportive people. They want to be your friend. The motto of the organization is “For Widows, By Widows. We Get You.” Including my wonderful Penpal, I have found two others around my age. This program hosts a “Camp Widow” three times a year to bring together widows for a weekend of healing and support (and yes, I am going to two out of three of them). To have this network – this alone makes me feel less alone – like someone my age is dealing with such misery. There is a Ted Talk called “When Someone You Love Dies, There Is No Such Thing as Moving On.” She talks about this organization, Soaring Spirits International – and if you are recently widowed or in mourning, you might want to watch it. But I know for me, I couldn’t watch something like that during my first six months – or even 8 months. I am only just now (after one year) coming around to the grief books. Like I said, everyone is different. Some people want a solution really quickly – for me I am still mourning and unable to accept the life I lost. I still wake up thinking “this is my fucking life?” In the words of another young widow blogger, Olivia Arnold,

“I wish I had an answer but I don’t. I wish that it would stop but it doesn’t. I wish I was better at this “widow thing”  but I’m not. I’m tired. I’m grieving. I’m sad. I’m still a mix of all of it including the blurred lines in-between.”

This post feels so naked without mentioning a Jacob story. The whole reason behind this blog is him – to share him with the world – I want his memory to stay alive and reach as many people as it can – this isn’t a “healing journey” because… there is no true healing from grief in my opinion. Maybe moments of healing here and there, sure. My therapist says, “you just have to learn how to live in parallel with the grief, and I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news – but your grief is never going away. Ever. It might change form, but it will always be there.” And your grief is as big as your love was – and I loved Jacob so deeply and so unconditionally my grief covers the sun.

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” WHAT? How cool is this?” Jacob exclaimed – outside bookstore in Boston – May 2017

One day, while living in Cambridge, MA Jacob saw a homeless man on the street corner. Jacob had just bought a burrito at a place in Harvard Square that was really cheap – which is an oxymoron in Harvard Square. He saw the homeless man, and immediately went back inside, and bought another burrito. He gave it to him. Then, he sat and talked with the man. This man started to weep – no one had given him the dignity of talking to him in years – “all I have gotten is dirty looks, money thrown to me, food – but no one ever wants to talk to me.” This is a story that is very indicative of Jacob’s personhood – he felt the pains of the whole world. He didn’t proclaim that to anyone else either – he didn’t go tell a bunch of people what he did for this man- he didn’t have to- it was just a character trait that he had. I remember one day, he saw a balloon floating in the sky and he started to get sad because he said, “oh man I hope a little kid at a birthday party or some shit didn’t lose their balloon.” You see what I mean? So sensitive inside, while having this very outwardly gregarious and quick-witted personality. I feel so lucky to have seen all sides of him, so intimately – that no one else saw.

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Jacob, in his favorite sweater I bought him in Olympia, WA in front of his favorite little movie house, Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square during David Lynch Week – May 2017 (electronic cigarette and Vietnamese iced coffee in hand – we both didn’t like it very much, but he held onto it until we found a trash can.)
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Where we started our walks every day – this is the house across the street from our apartment in Cambridge. He loved these homes. This is a hard photo to look at…

The walk from our apartment to Harvard Square was 20 minutes – Jacob and I would do it together all the time and it was beautiful, we would pass all these quaint, flower-laden New England homes. It was quiet and we would talk about everything on these walks – from religion to making up bad poetry on the spot.  He loved walking down to Harvard Square and going to the Brattle Theatre – it was a single room movie house and only showed very eclectic films. One week – it was “David Lynch week” at this movie house, who Jacob LOVED (Twin Peaks, Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, etc.) “How fucking cool is this place for having a David Lynch week?” He was so happy as he looked at the movie schedule and hugged me from behind. He used to tell me “Don’t expect a conclusion- type ending with any Lynch films – you will never get that, that’s part of why they are so good.” The last night we would ever spend together we watched the season finale of the new Twin Peaks. He got our bedroom all set up with snacks and soda and he just – he never lost that child-like way about him… when I would say “Do you want to have a movie night”? he would get so happy and say “Really?? YES! Baby – that’s what I have been wanting all week.” I wish you could hear the inflection he had when he said baby – it was a huge emphasis on the baby. I wish I could hear it in the physical form, just one last time. That last night we spent together, I remember Jacob saying “Man, I really hope we get a couple more good years out of David Lynch – you know he’s a smoker… I want him to keep creating art.” Then the next day, Jacob would be gone. How could this life get any crueler? That memory pierces my skull. I cry as I write this because I can picture it like it was yesterday- where he was standing, how he scratched his left knee after he finished a long sentence, the sweater he was wearing, the cadence in his voice- and I just want to jump back into that life – I want to rewind – I don’t want to push forward or restart.
The only person that would be able to soothe me, say all the right words, be there for me in all the right ways – is Jacob – and he is gone. I wake up in a room full of all our possessions that once adorned our houses and apartments and want to go back to sleep. I have no answers, and no one else does. Even “stay strong” or “he would want you to be happy” land so flat because they are empty, they are coming from a place of no understanding of our life. My therapist says, “”You are so strong” is one of the most offensive things my clients in grief tell me they hear- because in this season of your life, where you feel so incredibly weak, which is okay to feel – and perfectly normal to feel – you are just being told you are strong – I mean, how is that supposed to help you out of grief? Or make you feel any better? There is nothing comforting about “you are strong” when you feel so broken.” My therapist does think I am strong – and points at all the ways even during this terrible time I have shown signs of strength – but she understands why I don’t like hearing it. All I can do is say I am sorry. What a horrible life this is that we are living… I know. The nights are restless, the enthusiasm people have for life is unfathomable – and for those of you with trauma, like me – the isolation takes over you. But even though I have no answers, I can listen to your story, as I thank you for continuing to read about ours.

*I wanted to add a quick thank you to those that have reached out since I publicly shared Jacob’s passing on social media and so far, not only have I heard incredible and new stories of Jacob but you have connected me with THREE young widows my age, very similar stories who have checked in on me weekly and one in particular almost daily…*

 

Blog Post

“Everything Happens for a Reason”

 

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Jacob enjoying the Apalachicola River at Torreya State Park
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Jacob and I snorkeling at Wakulla Springs ( he hated this Bob Marley shirt and laughed at how ridiculous it was)
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Jacob and I road-tripping to Washington (somewhere between New Orleans and San Marcos, Texas)

WARNING: this post is full of curse words, tangents, and ridiculous (but only because they are so unbelievably stupid) TRUE comments people have said to me in the last year… and I wish it would END.  I also have bolded what my immediate emotional reactions were, so don’t take offense, just know what goes through a grieving widow’s mind when, well, you say stupid shit. And unfortunately, my list is identical to all other widow’s I have talked to on online forums. Jacob would want all these phrases to end because they bring me such pain, and I sure as hell do. Here we go. *Also, I know that these comments are not ill-intentioned but I’m over the whole “people are just trying their best.” Try a little harder, people!

“Jacob wouldn’t want you to be sad – he would want you to accomplish all your dreams and goals.” No. All my dreams and goals were around and with HIM! Don’t you get it? 

“You should try volunteer work!” Are you kidding me? I can barely get the guts to get out of bed. I hate that the sun is shining and the world is continuing without Jacob. My mind is in chaos. But sure! Let me start volunteering immediately. 

“At least you had him as long as you did.” WHAT THE HELL? I WAS 25, HE WAS 27.

“I have been thinking of you lately, I just didn’t feel like calling or texting.” Oh, nice. 

“Maybe I just don’t feel empathetic towards you because I don’t know what you are going through” Yes. Good point (this was from a “friend”) Thanks for the support!

“You should start to think about your future as a single female.” I can barely think of my next breath? Are you kidding me? Jacob is my one and only – forever. 

“They are in a better place now” Really? REALLY? Please explain this to me. The only place he should be is with me in OUR shared life. How easy for you to say when my life is shattered and my future is gone. 

“God will never give you more than you can handle.” Well, guess what, he has. 

“You know that he cannot get into heaven until you accept his death” Fuck off. 

“I understand” or “I know how you feel” NO YOU DON’T – STOP SAYING THAT.

“You need to let him go, or he can’t be truly happy. You are causing him pain” Fuck off even more.

“You’re smart, strong and resourceful- you’ll get through this!” Are you kidding? I am lying in bed – I haven’t eaten in weeks, I am free floating from the sky with the only person, the love of my life now dust. Gone forever.  YOU TRY GETTING THROUGH THIS. ASSHOLE. 

“My dog passed away last month, I know how hard this is for you.” I have no words. 

“My 87-year-old Great Grandmother died last year, I know exactly how you feel.” Jesus. At least your comparison is to a human – but you visited her once a year. I SPENT EVERY SINGLE DAY WITH JACOB.  

Point is – none of these are COMFORTING. They make us feel hurt. They are insensitive. And… I just don’t understand it.

WARNING: TANGENT COMING


I bet you have dealt with this same thing, people minimizing your grief or acting like it is something like yours. In the wise words of Megan Devine “Grief comparison and shared grief does not bring you, the widower, any comfort. It can feel like your own loss has been eclipsed by the speaker’s need to tell their own story- no matter how long ago it happened, or how irrelevant it is to your loss. Talking about their own pain is a way the person moves the focus off supporting you and onto getting their own needs met.” And the competition of grief? Yikes. I have seen this with my own eyes and it is ugly. This is something Megan Devine also summarizes in her book on grief (It’s OK that you’re not OK – which I highly recommend- buy it here). It was as if the words she was saying came directly from my soul. She says we need to talk about the HIERARCHY OF GRIEF. Divorce is not the same as the death of a partner. There is a hierarchy. I am sick of this “every pain is the same but different” bullshit. TOTAL BULLSHIT. Some pains are worse than others and you all know it. We all know it. Death of a grandparent is not that same as the death of a spouse. Death of a cousin is not the same as the death of a child. “YOU CANNOT FLATTEN THE LANDSCAPE OF GRIEF AND SAY THAT EVERYTHING IS EQUAL. IT ISN’T.” Can I get a Hallelujah?


Of course, everyone might be in grief, but the thing is – we cannot assign equal weight to all levels of grief – because this does not support the griever (me) (you) and all the young widows out there. But the truth is – and this comes mostly from the book I referenced earlier – defending the uniqueness or intensity of your loss against the comparisons of others is not going to make you (me) feel better. Pointing out the various orders of magnitudes of loss is not going to help us feel better. So, what do I do when someone tries to link arms with me in grief when they HAVE NO IDEA THE DAMAGE THEY ARE INFLICTING OR WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT? I just nod (maybe offer a forced smile). Leave the room. Not answer phone calls. Turn off my phone completely. Sometimes punch a hole in the wall. Cry into a pillow. Watch videos of Jacob telling me he loves me more than anyone in the world. Look at photos of us together. Scream at the sky. Think about how I was the only one that knew his adult self – and how he was the only one that knew me. How lucky I was that he picked me to share his whole self with. Cry some more. It all depends on the person, and what they said. Here is the thing – I know many of these people are just trying to say what they can, what they only know how to- and a year and one month ago, I might have said one of those stupid comments – but I also know much of what their words are doing is turning the focus away from my pain. For many, it is inconvenient for me to be in more suffering. Any suffering. But haven’t I suffered enough without having to worry about if I am too much of a burden on others? Give me a fucking break, here.

Okay, more comments:

“This experience will make you stronger! Buck Up!” TOUGH LOVE? NEVER WORKS, NEVER WILL.

“You can always try again-get another partner, have a child” HE WAS MY SOULMATE. WE DIDN’T BREAK UP – HE DIED. 

“You need to put this behind you.” HOW CAN I PUT MY WHOLE PAST AND FUTURE “BEHIND ME?”

“You are so strong.” NOPE. NOT NOW. 

“You need to get out of bed and start living.” AGHHHH, GRIEF HAS NO TIMELINE. AND I DON’T WANT TO BE ALIVE – GET IT? 

“You are lucky to only grieve for Jacob, I feel the pains of the world” LUCKY!?!?!??!?!?! Yes, a 25-year-old widow is lucky.

“You were apart sometimes, you did fine enough then” I don’t even have a response other than you are ignorant and stupid.

“You are so young, you have to find someone else, you need a companion.” UGH. WHEN WILL THIS END?

AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE AND TITLE OF THIS POST:

“Everything Happens for a reason” NO IT DOES NOT! TELL ME THE REASON NOW, GO AHEAD AND TELL ME THE REASON JACOB HAD TO DIE.  

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Jacob (2011) at Lucky Dog Diner

Well let me tell you everything said above is not only TRUE but everyone who said those awful things needs a “crash course on when to shut the fuck up.” One of my widow friends said that, and man was she right on the money. And the worst part is, you are only seeing half the list of what people have said. Here is the thing: like I said before, I know the comments aren’t ill-intentioned, but it comes off like a dagger to the chest. We are already grieving so heavily, that these insensitive remarks act as another punch of grief in the gut. We find ourselves having to defend our grief. We find ourselves victims of grief shaming. People tell us stories of other people who have overcome “far harder situations with much fewer resources” – as if that is supposed to soothe the

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First Christmas as adults together, we were such babies! (2010)

pain? Why is it so difficult for people to sit down and say, “Tell me about Jacob”, “What was your favorite story- or one of your favorite stories?” “When did you know you were in love with him?” “What was something only you knew about his life that would surprise other people that knew him?” “Tell me about your day-to-day living?” “What were his favorite books? hobbies? restaurants?THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU PEOPLE. But instead, you offer shit advice. SHIT WRAPPED IN GLITTER as my therapist would put it. You hand it to me, with some idea that you are giving me some novel wisdom but all the while it is just another shit comment.

 

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Jacob in front of one of the oldest movie theatres in the country in downtown Cairo, Georgia

I know I seem fired up, but it is only because a distant “friend” of mine recently compared losing her dog to me losing Jacob. I got so angry. I lost my childhood dog 10 months before Jacob died. Jacob and I cried over that dog – Precious was just as much his dog as mine. But since Jacob died? WHO GIVES A SHIT. How could anyone compare such a loss? This is someone I laughed with, I made love to, I watched movies with, I made meals with, I shared an entire life with. Someone I met in 4th grade. My crush since 7th grade (12 years!) I was just so angry when I got that message I thought- first, I will take some of the drugs my whole team of doctors has prescribed me to ease the anxiety and depression (which never really works), and then second – write a blog post about some of the most insensitive comments told to me this past year. After looking up some other widow’s experiences, I was horrified to see my list was the same as theirs. I am sure if you are a widow reading this, you have a whole host of your own. PLEASE IF YOU ARE READING THIS AND YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS A WIDOW OR ANYONE IN MOURNING, AND YOU HAVE SAID SOMETHING LIKE WHAT I MENTIONED ABOVEYOU SHOULD BE AWARE, AND CONSIDER APOLOGIZING. But, if you are going to be passive and only offer comments in a card or a text here and there, this is what you can say – “thinking of you” “sending healing light” “I love you” That is about it. And I am not trying to make you feel bad, but people need to be told when their behavior is damaging – we do it in all other life situations – why not in miserable grief?

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Jacob, Precious and I after two weeks of dog sitting. Family photo. (By the way, he LOVED this rocking chair. He always wanted one – and he got one on our cute Southern porch and inside our cute little house.

What I wish more than anything is that someone would just show up and want to talk about Jacob. Real adult Jacob. Who he was from age 18-27. But no one does that, they tip-toe around his name and memory like it is some disease. And because many have guilt that they didn’t know him as an adult? They don’t want to hear my stories. Jacob was much different at 12 than he was at 16 than he was at 20  (when we finally started living together, I was 18) than when he was 25. People just want to hold onto their stories, instead of lifting his life and his pure joy to new heights and dimensions by listening more and adding more complexity to the beautiful human he was. If Jacob were here, he would say to me “It’s okay, baby, because you know what? You know of our life – and that’s good enough for me.” When I just wrote that, I broke down and started crying because I could hear him say that so clearly.

Sometimes you just have to let your grief exist between you and your soulmate, even though he/she is gone. I know it is so hard. I know.

I had this realization about six months ago… I felt so much more connected to Jacob when I was alone than with anyone else- when I was time traveling in my mind to memories or when I was writing about the adventures we took alone. Because, the truth is – it was just me and him. It is just you and your partner. And I am very sorry we both have to walk this path.

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Jacob in a cotton field outside of Cairo, Georgia shortly after an art festival

 

Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Some people get it worse than others – and life just does whatever it wants. I know friends and friends of friends who have a fraction of the love Jacob and I had and they get to get married, have children, and do everything we were planning on doing. NO, EVERYTHING DOES NOT HAPPEN FOR A REASON. People with no love, passion, or personality spend their long miserable lives together and we got robbed of all the joys of life with each other. Jacob talked about growing old with me almost every week, we loved each other so much it was almost unearthly. This was an awful tragedy. And instead of hearing that horrible expression “everything happens for a reason” what I would like for someone to say is “This really fucking sucks. How can I help you put the pieces of a broken life together”? or “This is an awful situation and all I can offer is to sit with you in your suffering.” These are the real questions and statements that everyone is afraid to ask or say – but unless they have experienced true suffering or life has brought them to their knees, they will continue to say… “Everything Happens for a Reason.”

I apologize for the angry post – but I really think people need to be aware of how damaging these comments can be… I promise next week won’t be as heated.

I am going to leave you with a new poem called “grief shame” (never before published).

 

GRIEF SHAME

 

just like

sunset smothers out

all the light,

I am on my knees

begging for

it back,

make it how it was

 

yeah – just like

the clouds

go speeding up

against all this wind,

I am matted in gold

with

these dreams

that won’t let go.

 

people make me sick

once they find

someone they know

or

wave until they

feel important-

there is

always a moment

where they feel

entitled to go on,

about so little.

 

people make me sick

the way they

clean up their mess-

either hidden

or

on the table

layered with oil

and

splattered with jelly

 

he never made me sick

 

he brought

an easy living breeze

on the fleshy skin

of persimmons

 

he brought

cotton rolling flowers

and

cool pink mornings

 

he brought

midnight stars

to my legs

and

morning sweat

under my hair

 

he was nothing like these people

 

people make me sick

once they finally discover

the pain I am in,

and then

they

do nothing.

 

but I know,

there is

nothing

anyone can do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Post

From widow to widow

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Jacob on July 4, 2017, at Acadia National Park (stay tuned for an entire post about our trip.) Doesn’t he look so beautiful here? Tell me what is on your mind sweet boy… I remember you were telling me you couldn’t believe you were standing so close to the edge, and how proud of yourself you were. “Go Jakes, Go!” you would say –  you would also say, “stop taking photos Coo! Come over here and check this out!”
This National Park was in Maine-a state he always thought was intriguing as a little one and he used to say “wasn’t I cool kid for wanting to go to Maine?” YES of course you were and I would say – just the cutest baby boy! But his favorite state as an ADULT was North Carolina – western part for sure, but he loved the eastern longleaf pine forests as well. He loved the bogs filled with venus fly traps and pitcher plants growing wild – he put his finger in their traps and watched them close in on his finger. That is a wonderful memory, how enchanted he was. By the way, Jacob had the most beautiful hands in the whole world – long, delicate, milky white and made for playing music and creating art. 
We talked about settling down somewhere near Asheville and buying a house together and raising a family in that corner of the world. Plenty of land, babies, cats, art and lots of love. Plus it would be close enough to both our families. We talked about this a lot because this was our next step. The next stage of our life together was just beginning.
He always reminded me that of all the hikes we ever did together – Washington State, Oregon, New Mexico, California, Maine…etc, North Carolina hikes were always his favorite – his all-time favorite? Max’s Patch on The Appalachian Trail – again, I have a whole post coming up about that hike we took together and a trip to North Carolina we took with my parents.
He loved how old the mountains were on the east coast. You could find fossils of the ancient seabed on top of the peaks there. When I first told him that the only reason the western U.S. has such huge mountains is because they are so young and haven’t had the time to erode and wither – and that is why eastern mountains are so old and so diverse – oh man, once he heard that, he was hooked. He thought that was the coolest thing. “Baby, that totally makes sense. How awesome is that?” He was so humble about gaining knowledge and digesting more information – you have to imagine this is a kid reading “Notes from the Underground” by Dostoevsky at like 14 – and comprehending it. Everything he learned that interested him he was excited about and always retained that childlike curiosity.
Ugh…then the world was set on fire…
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Jacob at Acadia National Park, looking over the Atlantic on July 4, 2017.
I am going to leave you with something a little different today…
This is advice after a recent widow talked to a fellow friend who had been widowed for many years. The recent widow said she wanted to die, and was in the darkest part of her life and asked, “didn’t you ever…want to… end it all?” I think this important to post today because it is advice we all need – but not advice that we can all necessarily relate to at the same time. I know for me, there are many parts I cannot relate to – I have no hope – no motivation to keep on –  very little will to live – but maybe in two years, five years, I will- and this will help. Maybe I never will. But this might help you – and young widows especially need this support because most of us are robbed of kids, marriage, and a whole life together with our soulmate. When you are no longer “the most important person in the world to someone else” and when the most important person in your world is gone – there is little hope to be had. And I want to give this advice to you, from someone who has been in our shoes. I hope it may help some. I am keeping today’s post short today because… some weeks are harder than others. As you know all too well.
 (after hearing the question)
My heart immediately hurt for her.
So much.
And my mind immediately went back to that cold, lonely, inky black place where she is now.
I remember every detail of that place.
Even though I’d like to forget …… as I’ve forgotten so many other things.
And I know that she is not the only one out there who feels this way.
Who hurts this way and wonders if she/he is alone in that wondering.
Has anyone else ever wanted to just …… stop?
Yes.
Very much so.
I did more than just want it to stop.
I attempted to stop.
But I couldn’t go all the way.
Someone intervened …… and here I am today.
I’m not sure if I would’ve gone all the way …… had they not intervened.
Sometimes I think no.
Most times I think no.
But sometimes …… I wonder.
For all of you who’ve been there ……
For all of you who are there right now ……
And for those of you yet to go there ……
You are not alone.
Many of us have been there.
And are still here.
No, not everyone goes there.
It’s not a requirement or anything …… for grieving.
Thank God.
But it’s not all that unique, either.
Or abnormal.
Or wrong.
You feel what you feel.
And sometimes …… you think that you cannot feel like that for one more moment …… let alone for the next 40 years or so.
You want the pain to stop.
And it doesn’t matter who might be left behind.
Or how it might affect them.
Because you think that they’ll be better off to be done with you.
With you and your grief.
I get that.
I understand that like I never, ever did …… or could …… “before”.
So I will tell you what you don’t …… can’t …… believe.
You matter.
Your existence matters.
No matter how negative you think it may be.
No matter how much you are grieving each and every day.
You.
Matter.
And the emptiness you will leave behind will shatter someone …… several someones …… into a million tiny pieces that cannot be put together again.
They have already lost one of the most important people in their life.
They cannot lose another.
You can’t believe that.
But try to believe me.
I have been there.
I was there for a long time.
But I’ve made it to here.
And I worked damn hard to get here.
So try to believe me.
And if you can’t …… let me believe it for you.
You matter.
And …… this is the most important thing I can tell you ……
You.
Will.
NOT.
Always.
Feel.
This.
Way.
I promise.
That’s all I have.
My word.
I hope that you can trust me.
Or …… let me believe it while you can’t.
Your days will not always be this dark.
His death will not always be the first thought you have when you open your eyes in the morning.
Her absence will not always be the last thought you have before you fall asleep at night.
The pain will not always be this intense, this suffocating, this soul-killing.
It will not always be this heart-shattering.
My existence here is proof of that.
And your presence here is my reason for that.
I’ve made it to this point so that I can help others make it.
And I will do whatever I can …… whatever it takes …… to help you keep believing.
To help you …… keep breathing.
And to keep coming back here.
One breath at a time.
That’s all.
Just one breath.
You are not alone.
Blog Post

Losses that change your world

 

IMG_8737
Jacob and his son, Abraham (March 2016 at Glenview house)

There are losses that completely turn your universe upside down. The way you see everything-  the world tears apart and turns into misery. Every breath you take is covered in barbed wire – it is sharp, it hurts, and it keeps all your love hidden inside. It is a pain that puts you on an entirely different planet, even while everyone else thinks nothing else has really changed. Sure they might feel sorrow, but I can’t think of anything worse than losing the love of your life at 25. That is what my widow friend, Monika, in Nepal once told me, and I couldn’t agree with her more. You can tell me I am wrong, but I really do not care what you think – nor does any other grieving widow. We know our pain because we have to experience it completely alone. Some are fortunate to carry on for their children, but for me – I am left with nothing. Broken pieces of a shattered future, and memories only I possess.

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Thanksgiving 2015 at Mt. Rainier National Park

Today I woke up and I missed Jacob to the point of almost no return. I yearn for him every day, but this morning was different. I felt sick. I wanted to die. I was praying for death and dreaming of a sudden brain tumor. I was thinking of the last seven days after he was gone – I was praying to be pregnant, but just like this cruel world seems to be- I got my period a week after he died. I screamed and cried. “Seriously? You couldn’t just leave me with a piece of him? What is wrong with you?” I am not sure who I am talking to when I say these things – I cannot believe in a God that would take away such a loving soul as Jacob. I read the bible for the beauty – the dense Hebrew poetry – the lyricism. For all the reasons Jacob did. I especially love the wisdom literature like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Sometimes I will read a passage and think “I wish I could ask Jacob what he would think of this.” He used to tell me, “look to the bible if you want inspiration – there’s no better place to go” – but he still had trouble believing in God. It was so hard for him, like me, to wrap our minds around it. “I wish I was just a little stupider,” he would say, maybe then I could have faith. I wish that too. And I feel the exact same way. But I am unable to have faith. Trust me, I want it. I try hard to attain it, but I just cannot grasp it. People tell me “Open your heart to the Lord, once you do you will be amazed.” You think I haven’t tried that? I have cried in desperation in bed to God, asking him to give me strength and show me Jacob is not dust on my table. Like the ash from my cigarette. But I get nothing. I watch videos of NDE’s in hope that maybe one day I will see him. But the way I am grieving now is as if I will never see him again in my life. And that truth is so hard to swallow I feel like I am breathing nails.

IMG_1251
Jacob hiking on a trail he found himself and he was so excited to show me, Betton Hills Nature Reserve (hidden behind a cute neighborhood) “Coo I found it all on my own!”

I have severe PTSD symptoms from that horrible night of finding Jacob gone. Every time I hear a siren I have to pull over. Hospitals are off limits. Medical professionals, in general, are off limits. When I see road kill it makes me want to throw up because any dead animal reminds me of the death I saw in the hospital that night and what I came home to. The constant triggers are around me, but no one knows about them except… me. I pass buildings we shared memories at, and I burst into tears. Thank goodness I am living with my parents and not in Tallahassee, those emotional landmines would tear me to pieces. I hear songs and I sob uncontrollably. What I am saying is: you are not alone in this. You might have different symptoms, maybe your loved one wasn’t suddenly dead like mine – but you share the dreadful life that we both have to find a way to navigate. Sometimes I think I can never navigate this life – that it is better to end it all. Other days, I try to think that maybe I could find a way to live again. Grief makes your mind a jumbled mess, and the only thing that can save you is allowing yourself to grieve. Write, journal, keep his/her memory alive, paint, create, tell your story – these are the only things that have made my life just a little bit tolerable. I heard this analogy to widows in one of the grief books I was reading. Imagine you are like a shaken up soda can – from the outside people think you look perfectly normal but once you crack that lid, a storm of shit comes pouring out. That is our insides. And that is one of that hardest parts, living alongside people that live in the perfect soda can world, with no shaken up cans.

The Book of Ecclesiastes summarizes what I am feeling best,

“For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases pain.” 

I feel this is what Jacob and I both struggled with. But for me now, more than ever. As I realize that the sun sets and rises with my loved one gone, as I realize the rivers will flow into the ocean for thousands of years after he is gone and I am gone – everything here on earth seems like absolute futility. So what is the point of it all? This is a question that plagues us widows early on (at least for me) and I think about the answer a lot. But I have no answers for you. I wish I did.

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Jacob outside of a record store in Seattle, Washington (he made friends with the owner, of course, everyone loved him. He could make anyone smile and laugh. I also bought him that cute hat just minutes before!

 

Wisdom translated into MAYBE reasons to find meaning in your miserable world of grief

(1) There is no profit under the sun. What I mean by that is, you cannot profit from anything in this human world, and boy does intense grief teach you that- no amount of drugs, booze, new clothes or a new television for sale on black Friday can heal your suffering. Material and worldly possessions when faced with the realities of your loss, are as meaningless as your name itself. And from that, you might find a reason to live in order to lead by example – stop consuming, stop buying, and just be appreciative you are living your life with the wisdom you gained from your grief. OKAY, TOTAL BULLSHIT RIGHT NOW. I don’t even believe myself – I am too much in grief to think that is a reason to live, but It might be in a few months, years, or even a decade. But I would rather live knowing how meaningless all these “things” are around us than using them to somehow fix the style of my soul – which is total shit if you are a person like that. Point is: STOP BUYING MATERIAL STUFF AND START DOING GOOD THINGS FOR PEOPLE IN DESPERATION AND IN DARK PLACES. Widows know this best.

(2) The wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. What I mean by that is, you now know how to show up for others in desperation (because you know how dark they feel). You can see and recognize the suffering of others, and therefore you know what to say, what to do, and how to offer love when they feel completely abandoned. In particular, you know what NOT to say “he’s in a better place”, “be glad you had him for so long”, “everything happens for a reason” – you know, the stuff that never comforts any widow ever. I have a list two pages long of things people have said to me. Including “My dog died last week, I know exactly how you feel.” No joke. For me, I have no friends – so this wasn’t an option for me to receive, but one day I might have a friend where her/his suffering brings them to their knees- and I will be there no questions asked. I heard a quote once that fits well with this point: “If a man was drowning in a river, you wouldn’t just ask “if you need anything just let me know!” you would just jump in.” I mean I cannot count the number of times my family has said to me “I’m here if you need anything!” Yes, you know what I need? I need Jacob back. So, I am unable to, with my barely functioning widow brain, summon the strength to decide what I want to eat let alone what I need – so this is something you have to help us do. And us, as widows, we know that you just show up. You knock on the door and offer a hug. If they don’t want it? You come to the door and leave some food, a picture framed of you and your spouse, a gift card to a place that delivers. A memory of your spouse, a story, ANYTHING. And we have that wisdom at a young age that most people don’t get until they are like … 60. I know, I don’t want to hear this either – but I am grasping at straws trying to think of some reasons to push on. And I would trade any amount of wisdom for my life back with Jacob.

(3) A time to weep and a time to laugh. Hear me out, hear me out. I have a poem I never published about this that I am going to post below. Because we are in such grief and misery, we become so aware of anytime something makes us laugh, smile, or even makes us recognize beauty. To those of you who didn’t know Jacob, not only was he sensitive and creative, he had a wonderful sense of humor, quick wit and had been told numerous times “you should be a stand up comedian”, he always told me he would never do that, writing was much more important to him. I have a memory of the first uber ride we took when we first moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in May of 2017. We were in an uber pool and Jacob was going back and forth laughing and laughing with this total stranger. Jacob said, “So buddy, what do you do?” (Jacob could talk to anyone, even our mailman knew him by name and gave him a handshake every morning- Mr. Donahue). Anyway, the guy says “I’m a graduate student at M.I.T” and Jacob’s response, “Well that explains the quick wit.” He could tell he was in a place where his humor and intelligence would finally be matched. But he was humble about it, always. He was so happy he found a place that energetically aligned with his spirit. But, the reason I tell this story is that Jacob made me laugh so often and I didn’t fully appreciate it back then because our life was perfect. Now, I think of every laugh as sacred. And after losing him, anytime I laugh, it is highlighted because it is so rare. And that might give you some hope to keep on- for those moments ONLY YOU are able to appreciate so much. I know, I know, “But Frances, I am not even able to laugh!” I know. But one day something will make you laugh – just out of sheer necessity. You will be hard up for a laugh, and you will never forget that day.

These are the only things I can think of, and I barely believe them myself. But think about them for a while and come back to this post as time goes by… it might help you in your journey, it might not. Most days, I say “Fuck this – I don’t care that I appreciate beauty more, I want Jacob back.” But other days, I see Jacob in beautiful things, and I remember how sacred those moments are. Those days are much rarer. I want our life back, always and forever. I know you do too.

IMG_4094
Jacob in August 2017 admiring a pear tree growing on the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

UNTITLED

It takes

the

heaviest

darkness

to find

bright light

in

small places.

 

driving through

this neighborhood,

suit fairing men

and

doe-eyed women

fill their houses

like they

fill

their brains-

with

empty,

shallow,

ugly,

crumbs.

 

these sleek moms-

they never miss

a thing

around here

except

a good chance

to stay quiet.

 

you are not here

and this is why

my song,

once

floating sweetly

and resting

in your hands-

has stopped.

 

the hours

take

so

long,

and

the weeks

go by

like a kite

wrangling

in the wind.

 

but in the soil

of desperation

there is

something in sight-

here comes a field

of shining pink grass flowers

that always bloom in the fall

 

I never noticed their beauty

in this way,

before.

I never saw how they

danced.

I never saw

their smile

pouring down

from the sun

so their bodies

can sway

and

pollen can soar-

and in

the

emptiness of

an endless road,

there always comes twilight.

 

the moon is calling out-

“look at the way

I sweep the stars

under my rug,

look at the way I make you forget

the night is black,

the way I make hidden trees

reveal their shape.”

 

no, it isn’t til’ you’ve walked

on the road

so long and so far-

when something

gives you the gift you can’t return

(and there is no unseeing this kind of gift)

til’ you have been so low like this.

 

my friend,

until this happens-

you cannot see the little ways

that life rewards you.

and I am grateful for the sight

I have been given,

after so many years without eyes.

how ashamed I feel,

to have not shared this sight

with you.

 

 

Blog Post

Our Favorite House

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Jacob in front of our favorite house, 502 Glenview Drive

We call it our “Glenview House” because it was on Glenview street in a very liberal neighborhood in midtown Tallahassee. Just in case I haven’t said it enough, Tallahassee was our home. Every time we came back to Sarasota (both our place’s of origin) it never felt like home – we both had a yearning to go back to our true home. We shared that feeling. This neighborhood, in particular, was called “Glenview-Pinegrove” and we had the best neighbors and in addition, the best cats. Jacob was a cat lover – he loved all animals, but cats over any animal, his number two was sea otters (which he always told me was his spirit animal – I actually have a great story when we first saw a river otter together but I will write a whole post on that later). He told me the reason he loved cats so much was because they were so dynamic – full of different personalities. Where dogs are kind of just – “I love you I love you,” etc. “You have to work to get a cat’s affection”, Jacob would say, and he liked that about them.

Most nights, or early in the morning no matter how tired Jacob was, we would take “Cat Walks”- it was a 30 minute walk around the back of our neighborhood (which was a circle of cute houses covered in flowers, full of neighborhood free book stands and tons of gardens), and every time we went on one of these walks we would see a cat. Every time. Most of the cats were outside cats with collars and we made it a fun game of who could point out the cats the quickest. Of course, Jacob always won. He was just so observant – like most artists, and especially writers.

We would talk about so many things on our walks – and hold hands under the moonlight. Jacob would say “Baby, I don’t think you realize how lucky we are to have found each other so young. So much had to go wrong in my life, to have found you.” I can still hear his voice in my head. I am scared for the day his voice fades. My therapist says that will never happen, but I still fear it. Constantly.

This house was amazing. It was the biggest house we had ever lived in and it was adorably modest. We had a back porch, a front porch, two bedrooms, a dining room an awesome kitchen – and because the house was built in the 1930s it had all kinds of random quirks that Jacob was the first to point out. We had old wild west ranch style doors that opened to our kitchen – random but incredibly cool. We had beautiful wooden floors and finally our own washer and dryer! We had spent six years saving quarters to do laundry in our apartments or even worse when we lived in Olympia, WA we had to go to a laundromat. We just wanted our own washer and dryer – and for once, we got it! We had to mow the lawn (which was new territory for me, but I was excited for Jacob to teach me how to do it!) He didn’t understand how it could be exciting for anyone, because he grew up having to do that kind of thing a lot. He taught me how to do it and would bring me lemonade on really hot days. I enjoyed mowing the lawn – it was fun for me. We were really entering our adult life together. I love this photo of Jacob because it captures so much. The love of my life, smoking a cigarette, with twinkle lights around sunset, and just utterly and completely in love. Some of the happiest memories I have in my entire life took place in this home. We loved this place more than any dwelling we EVER lived in. I remember he chased me from the kitchen to the bedroom to tackle me with hugs. I remember he made me dinner and left me with a gift and a surprise when he went to work. A huge bonus in this house was the location – it was literally two minutes from both our jobs. We watched movies together and Jacob would turn all the lights off, scare me and shut the door. He loved doing this and would make a menacing laugh to scare me. He would hate when I started to get tired because he wouldn’t want the day to end. He loved that when you entered our house, all you saw were records and books. He would often say “Aren’t we a cool couple? Look at this place, it is covered in books and records. That is all I need. Except you of course. I could never live without my coos! (nickname)” He said it in a really genuine way, not a pretentious hipster way, either. In other words, he read every single book he owned.

IMG_8698
Jacob in the living room about to play the banjo

One day, we hadn’t really decided what the second room was going to be used for… we thought about a guest room (but honestly, no one visited us that often so it seemed like a waste of money) – Jacob really started writing a lot during this period on his Olympia vintage typewriter I got him. I decided one day while he was at work “I should set him up a writing room!” He had just finished reading “on writing” by Stephen King and King mentioned how important it was to have a separate place just for writing. So, I got a small desk (which I later promised him I would get him a bigger one) bought him a comfortable chair, set up his typewriter and loaded him up with tons of blank sheets of paper underneath the desk on a piece of wood that dropped down. I put all his little trinkets and toys on his desk. When he came home he did the cutest little dance. He was so excited. “YOU DID THIS ALL FOR ME? OH MY GOD, I LOVE IT! YOU ARE THE BEST GIRLFRIEND IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD”. It felt so good, that he felt so loved and excited about that room. I even made a sign out of cardboard that he could hang on the door “WRITING DO NOT DISTURB” and the other side said, “COME ON IN”. He thought that was one of the cutest and silliest things he had ever seen.

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Meet Abraham!

We loved this house. We loved everything about it. I have a video (which is private, and Jacob wouldn’t approve of me sharing it, of the whole house and his voice is so adorable in it. I watch it every day). The bathrooms had black and white floors, the doors had strange knobs, none matching the others and we FINALLY had a ceiling fan in our room. One of the best memories of that house is that we finally got a pet together, our beautiful cat Abraham or “Abe” for short. One of the few days we had off together we went to the humane society in Tallahassee and we found out that it was free adoption day, how serendipitous? We found little Abe (formerly known as Leon) and when we saw him we knew immediately he was ours. The name tag above his cage said “I am very shy but if you rub my head I will purr.” Abe is anything but shy now!  We decided to make his birthday October 31st since we got him in October, and one of the cruelest things is that Jacob never lived to celebrate Abe’s second birthday – even though we talked about getting one of those cat-friendly cakes. We were planning his party just a few days before he passed.

 

We were able to buy him a little Christmas sweater (see below) but Jacob took it off him in about two minutes – he just looked too pitiful with that thing on, and he kept trying to rub it off. It was adorable while it lasted. His two minutes in that sweater was a Christmas gift to ourselves. Also, Jacob pointed out that he thought it was for a dog, “Baby, this has dog bones all over it.” I looked and found them, “Well damn it!” We laughed about it, of course.

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Jacob and Abraham, Christmas 2016 at the Glenview House (Abe’s first Christmas)

When I think of these memories I get bombarded with emotions. I am sad, I am angry, and I am unable to breathe. I miss him so much it hurts to type. I cry when I write every post, but this one- this one is hard. I am in a constant state of misery without him. Without my life partner. Without out our life. I have memories that belong only to me because we were the only two that existed with one another. I look at this house, and think of all those wonderful nights and mornings with our little cat Abe and think “If we only stayed in Tallahassee, he would be here right now. He would be alive. I know it.”  “This is all my fault.” “How could I have failed him so much?” We loved our life, why did we leave? I go into a cycle of grief and horror. Which I know is unproductive – but you can’t help it. 

 

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Jacob, Abe and me cuddling up for a movie

There are some messages of wisdom from other widow’s I want to share with you, to hopefully make you feel less alone: “There is nothing wrong with grief. It’s a natural extension of love. It’s a healthy and sane response to love. That grief feels bad doesn’t make it bad; that you feel crazy doesn’t mean you are crazy” (I hate that the word crazy gets thrown so lax here…) “There are losses that rearrange the world. Deaths that change the way you see everything, grief that tears everything down. Pain that transports you to an entirely different universe, even while everyone else thinks nothing has really changed.” The second quote resonated with me really strongly. I feel as if my world has gone completely upside down, I am on another planet, and everyone else is just… existing fine. Buying clothes, putting Halloween decorations up and acting like… well, that Jacob didn’t die! Don’t you people understand? No. They never will. And again, I am glad for people who never have to experience this kind of pain. It is like a terminal illness inside your soul. It never ends.

 

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Jacob with Precious September 2016, while reading “On Writing” by Stephen King (note: there is a corgi on the cover as well).

I just want our little house, 502 Glenview Drive, back. It was our safe place, the fourth place we lived together (our best place) and we really felt like we were making it. We watched my parents dog (me and Jacob’s dog in many ways) for the two weeks while my parents were in Italy. Jacob said, “I think we got this parenting thing totally in the bag- this dog is easy!” She would die only two months later. But that doesn’t even feel like a loss to me – I cannot feel anything but the loss of Jacob – because he was mine, every single day. This was the house that I could tell Jacob was home when I heard him blasting music from down the street on Meridian Road. This was the house we were living in where he would wait for me on the front porch and run to my car door to kiss me hello. This is where Jacob gained confidence in his skill in writing. This was the most space we ever had and the most adult we ever felt. This is where we made plans for our future. He said to me often “You know what Kaitlin, I could not live without you, I really couldn’t.” And here I am- doing just that. Failing miserably. But also feeling guilty that I am living at all.

I am going to leave you with a photo Jacob took of me, his favorite flower was any kind of yellow sunflower (although he loved the purple ones as well) and I showed him a secret part of the Florida panhandle where fields of wildflowers grew. He said it was always one of his dreams to run through a huge field of sunflowers. I thought I think I can help you accomplish that dream! I was working as a botanist at the time so I knew all the local hidden spots. He was amazed. “Baby, this is unreal” emphasis on the Baby. We walked through the flowers in total harmony with the world. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Such ignorance I had, in less than a year, his life with be gone. Mine too.

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Florida panhandle wildflowers caught on camera by Jacob in October 2016 (that’s me running through them).