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.
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.
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.
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.
suit fairing men
fill their houses
these sleek moms-
they never miss
a good chance
to stay quiet.
you are not here
and this is why
in your hands-
like a kite
in the wind.
but in the soil
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,
I never saw how they
I never saw
from the sun
so their bodies
pollen can soar-
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-
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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,
is just like all the rest,
each noonday sun
with the last.
some more lonesome
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.
from their eyes.
it is just
goddammit this hurts-
laying with the torture
of the abundant murk
like some fading sea,
like a creamy
feels like honey
bursting from its comb.
has grown wrinkled
and some nights
as the wind swells in,
I think my grief
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
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
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
to swallow my fate.
I lie here
unable to build,
without strength to tear down.
I lie here
unable to keep
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
under the sun.