Blog Post

Losses that change your world

 

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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.

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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.

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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

One year as a 25 year old widow

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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.