(by Dale Miller) * I changed his use of “her’s” to “him’s” in the poem (he is a young male widow who lost his female spouse) – I did this so it would be more symbolic of the loss of well, my everything. Without Jacob, I am no one. A body without a soul. A zombie in a haze with constant command thoughts circling in my brain of “just end this misery already”. My dear dear friend Élise who I love deeply sent me this poem. I have never found words so relatable in my grief. There is no “time heals all wounds” bullshit in this poem. There is no happy ending or moving on like all the grief books emphasize. This poem is real – it is “The Real McCoy” as Jacob would say. This is my suffering. This is the suffering I feel every moment. This is the pain Élise feels with every breath. And I want you to read this and try to understand how torturous it is to lose everything. Your spouse, your best friend, your soulmate (since 7th grade!), your future, your children. All gone. And on May 4th, 2019 I will be turning 27. Jesus Christ. That is the age Jacob died – and I have been bedridden hiding from the world (literally frozen, psychotic, and crumbling in sadness) for the past 19 months. My birthday will be exactly 20 months since Jacob was taken from the world. My birthday, a day Jacob made so special, is forever magnified in horror. Jacob would call it a “birth month” instead of “birthday”. He would surprise me with something special almost every day of the month. The little things he did were so full of love and devotion. I remember his touch on my skin and the hours of cuddling. One birthday while Jacob and I were home from school at my parent’s house- Jacob said to my mom “Thank you so much, Mrs. Griffith” and my mom responded, “For what, Jakey?” “For giving birth to my Kaitlin. May 4th is the best day of the year.” Then he gave me a giant hug from behind and said: “I love you so much baby girl.” This day with so many beautiful memories will forever be a mark of his death.
Feeling great joy and unbelievable sadness
In the same moment
Feeling like you’re breaking apart
But knowing you can’t – you’re already broken
Realizing you don’t go to hell from here
You’re already there
Waking in the morning
And crying because you did
Fake plastic smiles and sad puffy eyes
Hiding yourself away
So no-one else need suffer
Going through the motions
And not knowing why
Not knowing how to explain
Listening to people say they understand
But knowing they don’t
Feeling absolutely alone
And smaller than small
A hole inside that no one can see
Exactly the shape of him
Not wanting to eat, sleep, work, dream, or face today
Feeling like you’re going insane
And realizing you already did that last week and the week before, and the week before that
The worst feeling ever
Sadness far beyond sad
Visiting a grave to try to feel better
Trudging through knee-deep snow to clean off a headstone and have a talk
Trying to figure out
Why you’re still here
Doing everything you can think of
So you’ll finally be allowed to be with him
Getting it out
Only for it to fill back up
And doing it over and over and over
Dreading the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and tomorrow
Friends leaving your life
And you not knowing why
You ought to see them run
Feeling guilty for things you didn’t do
Wrongs you didn’t commit
And for not being able to save him.
Counselors and medications
That don’t really help
Anything but peaceful
Learning to drive
And cry at the same time
Being told to get over it
Or suck it up, buttercup
For no apparent reason
Not being able to enter a room
The willingness to do absolutely anything
To try to feel better
Being kicked while you’re down
People can be so cruel
Being taking advantaged of
Having to hang up the phone
Because you’re crying too hard to be understood
Writing stupid poems
That no one will ever read
Both painful and good
Packing up his belongings
To send them to the vultures that are circling
Laying out his coat on a table
And watching as the cat’s fight over who gets to lay on it, it still smelled like him.
Being angry at God
Picking up the pieces of your life
Just to put them down again
Trying to figure out
What grief is
Trying to learn about grief
From people who have never felt it
Crying in your sleep
Hurting this bad
And still being alive
Having to explain to someone
Who hadn’t heard he was gone
Being told to remember the good times
And knowing those are the memories that hurt the worst
*when I say “people” or “no one” I am excluding (obviously) my dear dear two widow friends, mom and dad, mother-in-law and sister-in-law, they know this but to make extra clear*
Rabbi Steve Leder once spoke about a lecture he heard by the youngest child to survive Auschwitz. He said there were no children in Auschwitz (he was six then), you became an adult as soon as you walked through the electrified barbed-wire fence. There were no children in Auschwitz.
He went on to say that one does not become a grown-up until they have suffered excruciatingly deep and horrible pain. This means that some children can become adults at 8 or 25 (like myself) or you could have adults that remain children well into their sixties – maybe their parents die, their own body fails in some critical way, or their child – the light of their eyes succumbs to disease or death, or their life crumbles down in some other way… but they are still a child until this deep suffering occurs. THIS IS HAPPENING EVERYWHERE TO ME. All I see are children walking around in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s. And of course everyone my fucking age is a child. A bunch of ignorant assholes. With no empathy – no idea of the suffering anyone is going through. No insight that the world will bring everyone to their knees – even a young six-year-old even a young 25-year-old widow. Soon to be 27… the age Jacob was when he left this world and our future was destroyed. People are cruel, man. I haven’t left my bed in ages and I went to ONE yoga class to see if it would be a nice distraction of the misery of my life. I went with my mom, and we were casually talking before class (like everyone else – and not loud) and this woman who looked to be around 70 or so looked to me right in the eyes and said: “why don’t you just shut the fuck up.” Yes, this really happened. Then we left. I don’t even want to go into what an evil bitch she is – it just demonstrates how the world is filled with children – I am surrounded by them (especially in my age group.) Well – will be surrounded by them when I go back to school – and it will be unbearable. I just chucked to myself because currently I am really surrounded by no one but me and Jacob’s cat, but in a months time, I will be thrown into the real world after almost two years in hiding.
How can I give a shit about a coconut milk cold brew and a lavender scone when THE LOVE OF MY LIFE IS FUCKING GONE? Just predicting my future grad student cohort’s vapid interests and knowing my millennial generation’s obsession with the chewed up bowl – the empty – the smoke and mirrors – you know, nothing real. The record player because it looks cool – the cassette box because it looks cool – needs approval to like movies rather than form their own fucking opinion – refusing to watch Woody Allen or Alfred Hitchcock because of their personal lives WHO GIVES A SHIT? LOOK AT THEIR ART YOU WANNA BE INTERSECTIONAL FEMINISTIC INTELLECTUAL. Or whatever new word you want to call whatever you all are. EVEN ONE OF HITCHCOCK’S sexual victims said everyone should watch his films and that he was a genius, just a sick man. Ugh. Form your own goddamn opinion. Nothing authentic anymore. Nothing genuine. The last human on earth so fucking authentic and genuine it was holy was Jacob. And people that never knew Jacob? Robbed of blinding light. There are people now that will never know “Jacob and Kaitlin” like my dad said once- it was always “Coo and Jacob” (coo my nickname). People will now never know that. And that breaks my soul. This is why I have asked my two widow friends to send me some of their favorite photos of them with their spouse so I can hang them on my wall, so they will be remembered every day together – that is one of the greatest things someone could ever do for me, but not one person has asked for a photo of me and Jacob so we will always be remembered together. After I asked them for a photo, they both said they had the same thought recently and wanted to do the same thing: to have me and Jacob’s photos around. We always save each other’s photos and videos we send on our phones. But having a physical copy is special. We get it, but the rest of the world is just cruel and stupid. Yes – I am being lazy with my words today by saying “stupid” a lot.
I have read the work of many rabbis in an effort to find some insight or wisdom into my suffering or make sense of this horrible existence that has been thrown my way. I am even meeting with a rabbi at Harvard for Shabbat dinner in May. One reason I am doing this is because of Jacob and how he embraced the Jewish culture and often looked to the writings of rabbis such as Abraham Twersky for spiritual guidance (this is one of Jacob’s favorite videos by Twersky). The second reason is out of sheer and utter desperation. There are only two young widows I know of that understand my pain – and some other widows don’t even get it because they either want to stay alive and get going with their lives or they just didn’t have as deep of a love as me and my other two widow friends. I have said this before, but it is such a chilling realization in the early hours of the morning as I have awoken from another horrible nightmare that leaves me exhausted – almost no one had a love like me and Jacob.No one. And it is gone forever. This reality makes me cry the whole cold night through and weep as the sun emerges. By the way, fuck you, sun.
I haven’t posted in a while because March 4th was the one and a half year mark of Jacob’s death, I didn’t hear from anyone – no surprise, I barely heard from anyone on the one year mark. Not like I wanted to – I just wanted people to tell me they were thinking of Jacob. But, it is a hard thing to face when no one loves or knows Jacob more than me – just like no one knows or loved me more than Jacob (even my parents can testify to that). And I have this enormous love and personality and beautiful soul in my head all the time, but without him earthside. We didn’t want any friends, we didn’t need any friends… it was just us. Now – just me. And I stopped posting because my depression was getting out of hand and I was back to sleeping 18 hours a day. I am not much better but I can at least try to post a little more. My posts might get shorter and turn into small memories of Jacob or a “story from my ___ dad, mom, a street corner, etc.” type segment. Speaking of a story from my dad, he was just reminding me yesterday of when they (my mom and dad) came to visit us in 2013 or so and we were all hiking at Leon Sinks Geological Area, a place Jacob and I spent a lot of time in the winter. As we were walking there was a big sinkhole in the middle of the trail and a long log to cross it. Jacob and my dad said, “yeah… we are going to go walk around”. Smart move. I decided to cross the log and I told my mom to come with me – mind you she had her purse with her keys, wallet, phone, etc. in it. Well I made it over and held my hand to let her know it was okay and that I would help her but she kept looking down and down and boom. She fell right into the water. Huge splash and screaming. “I don’t want to get sucked in!!” Man did that make Jacob laugh later when I told him she was screaming that. My dad said that as he was walking with Jacob from afar they heard a loud thump and a scream – they met us at the other side and my mom took her purse and flipped it upside down and tons of water came pouring out. Jacob went up and hugged my mom and said “poor cringes poor cringes” and shook her shoulder. She frowned and said, “jakessss I fell jakees”. She was a good sport about it and laughed. We all did. But I had forgotten that memory until my dad brought it up. We were talking about how many times they visited us over the years and different things we did and that memory got buried in my subconscious somehow.
I am “lucky” that I have my parents and some of Jacob’s family who wants to talk about Jacob – one of my widow friends who has no real friends like me, has a family that doesn’t even mention her spouse’s name. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE!!! I will say it again. STOP. STOP. STOP. YOU MORONS. Stop tip-toeing around their name and existence. Don’t avoid talking about our soulmates. ALL WE WANT TO DO IS TALK ABOUT THEM. IT WAS NOT A DIVORCE, IT WAS A TRAGEDY. WE ARE IN LOVE. WE WILL ALWAYS BE IN LOVE. GET TO KNOW JACOB. THE ADULT, TRUE, COMPLETELY INTIMATE JACOB. The one I only knew, just like he only knew me. I know my parents would want to know every memory Jacob had to share with them if I died. The only two people who ask me questions like “what did you and Jacob like to cook together?” or “Did Jacob ever do this…” or “Tell me how Jacob changed from middle school to 27” or “What was your funniest moment?” “What was Jacob’s favorite vinyl or most played vinyl?” ” How did you know you liked each other in middle school?” “What was Jacob’s go-to first song he put on in the car?” “What book did Jacob read over and over?” “Who was Jacob’s favorite author?” etc. etc. The only people who ask these questions are my two young widow friends. No one else gives a shit. Or rather, it is kind of an inconvenience for them to give it the time of day. Another realization of almost 19 months now (jesus christ 19 months…) is that everyone is selfish. Me and Jacob have been robbed of our future, I have no home, I have boxes of our things collected from a decade of living together, I have no job, I have no routine, and I am utterly lost without Jacob. He influenced everything about me since I was in 7th grade. I AM DROWNING IN FLAMES. And people just want to continue their lives and give their shit advice in the comfort of the nice home they share with their spouse and children. Well, guess what? That was our plan and why do you get it? Why do these people around me who have been together for barely 2 years (even 5 years is honestly laughable given how long Jacob and I have been together) why do they get it all? They aren’t soulmates like me and Jacob. There love isn’t unconditional. Jacob would try to hang out with someone (like I said he had many man crushes, everyone wanted to be his friend) and he would text me an hour in and say “I am making up an excuse and coming home! I love my coos and I want cuddle times! Pick out a movie cutie!” We literally couldn’t be apart. Now his physical touch and his warm body are missing from my arms and my bed… I am in my childhood bedroom we stayed in so many times while visiting my parents. I cry out for him in my sleep. I haven’t lived anywhere without Jacob since I was 18 years old…
So, let’s see.. a lot of changes coming up that I don’t feel like talking about because I have been frozen in time for 19 months and want to remain frozen. I am forever in 2017. So, I would rather not think or talk about them. But, basically, as I struggle to stay alive – I also must speak intimately to Jacob in my personal journal and voice recorder. And that comes before this blog. But my goal, as you all know, is to share Jacob with everyone which I plan to continue doing as much as I can until … well. I don’t know how to finish that sentence so how about we leave it as “just until…”
I am sorry that I have missed my Monday posts this month of January. As you can imagine, I have been in a ginormous state of depression (even more than usual) since the holidays. Then, I visited one of me and Jacob’s mutual friends in Chicago. Now, this upcoming week I am going back to Cambridge (a very triggering city because that was the last place Jacob and I ever lived together and the last place he was alive- but I have to take care of some Harvard related business). Then, I head to Montréal, a city I have already talked about being very important to Jacob in a previous blog post, I am visiting my fellow widow friend Élise, who I described in the same blog post. So my posts will be sporadic most of January and February. I will be back on track by March.
Anyway, I visited a close friend of me and Jacob’s in Chicago who we have both known for a decade. Traveling is so difficult but I knew I was going into a safe place. First off – we don’t make plans, he knew I would need a place to cry and tell as many stories as possible – he has so many qualities that are an extension of Jacob’s soul – he is a writer, loves cinema, knows the name’s of every actor like Jacob did, makes films like Jacob, has introspection about “what is the meaning of life?”, and the list goes on and on. One of the most beautiful moments was when he started crying and said “what you and Jacob had was so beautiful I wish I had that so badly. Just for a day.” I held his hand, but every time people tell me something like this I want to say “well, why was it taken from us? We were perfect together. Beyond perfect– we should have been married at a courthouse and had a small ceremony at my parent’s house with native flowers and twinkle lights like we discussed many times over. We should have had our four children – Eli, Ira, Heidi, and Luna. WHY WAS IT TAKEN? And why do all these assholes from high school and college marry total douche bags and get to have these things? UGH! Anyway…
One expression I am getting really annoyed at lately is something of the like – “I think that would be a good change of scenery for you” or “getting out would be good for you.” or “I am so glad you are taking this trip” (do NOT say vacation – none of this is a fucking vacation people). A change of scenery amplifies my grief – Jacob’s eyes cannot see these things. So when I go someplace, it is not only a gigantic step emotionally but it is not anything “fun” or “happy”. It is a goddamn chore to put it lightly. Grief follows you everywhere so it doesn’t matter where I go. I am not suddenly going to forget about Jacob and our beautiful life when I leave my bed. Nor would I ever want to, like I said many times, he is all I think about and all I want to talk about – always and forever. The last poem he wrote to me is tattooed on my arm for God’s sake. People are so weird (again, to put it lightly) in grief – you realize your friends don’t really care and isolation is so common for us. Luckily by removing toxic “friends” from my life, it has opened the door for new positive relationships, such as the fellow widows that have come into my life. Something else I have noticed, especially while in Chicago, is that being out in the world makes me realize how much I miss Jacob even more. TALK ABOUT SHITTY PEOPLE! Literally, when it was just me and Jacob- we could laugh at the idiots of the world, like Notes from the Underground. But now, I am left here. Floating around all these annoying, grotesque people with nothing original to say and nothing of substance. Ugh. And no sense of humor! They all take themselves way too seriously and don’t realize the importance of the present moment. Everyone just sucks. No one is Jacob. No one will ever be Jacob. That realization is fucking brutal. My grief goes from 0 to 100 in seconds in the form of sobbing, anger, and inability to move or speak. This is why I feel I can never live with the real world again. I don’t even recognize myself. Jacob wouldn’t recognize me…but I know he would understand.
I do things for Jacob like usual all the time. I was at a thrift shop and I bought Jacob three little toys I knew he would like. I had to. I just, I had to. I always did that, and I had to do it. I cried as soon as I left because I wanted him to be there with me, I wanted his voice, I wanted his touch. I heard him saying “Baby coos, I love these – I want them on my writing desk. These are perfect.” Being out in the real world is fucking tough and often, “a change of scenery” can do more harm than good (depending on where you are in your grief). UGH. How is life still moving?
So here is my advice to you – and I feel I am the last one to give anyone advice- let your grief lead you where it may. Don’t listen to people’s opinions on what you should do or how you should do it. You are a young widow – barely anyone can relate – so try your best to ignore those comments and when you can’t? Write to your loved one. I write to Jacob all the time. I talk to him all the time – because that was my life for so many years. Talking in person, on the phone, in bed, in the morning. ALL THE TIME. I cry to Jacob and hear his voice in my head every single day- especially when people say insensitive things to me. Because I know he would be so angry that anyone would be causing me any more pain. This is what you have to trust in – they love you more than anything, they are always on your side – just like in life – whether you believe in an afterlife or not – they are on your side. They love you. I remember Jacob once said to me, in tears, “I would die for you Kaitlin. If I pushed you out of the way of a truck and I died, I feel like my life on this earth would be so full of purpose. I truly believe that.” That memory makes me sob uncontrollably – every memory makes me cry – but he was so genuine and sincere when he said that. That was the depth of our love. Because when he said that to me, I had felt that exact same way so many times for him – I just couldn’t express it as beautifully as he could. He was looking at me and holding my hand and telling me how much he loved me. That was and is how deep our love is.
This is the second year of Christmas without Jacob and this year seems even worse, maybe because I was in such shock and denial last year – but the reality of a new life, returning back to school and living without Jacob is all starting to settle in. Kaitlin: you have to live and go on. Yes, the horrible reality of it all. But I think this treatment I have been going through is starting to help a little with my ability to process this “new normal” of my grief and my life going forward – but still, this year and I am not sure how many more in the future (likely very many)- fuck the holidays.
In September of 2015, Jacob and I embarked on a cross-country road trip from Florida to Washington State, we had just gotten out of college and I was offered a job as a biologist in Washington State – I talked it over with Jacob (as we always did with big decisions) and he told me that he wanted to live somewhere like Washington so badly – somewhere new and different. I remember he was the first one I called when I found out and he said: “Baby this is so exciting, I can’t wait- how awesome! You have to take this job! Ahhhhhhh! And you know what? I like the rain”. We both would soon realize that Washington state is pretty much horrible weather-wise except for two months out of the year. I remember after 3 months living in Olympia (the capital of Washington) I started to feel major seasonal depression. Anyway, when I think about the first time I told Jacob about the job offer, I close my eyes and It feels like it was yesterday – I remember where I was, at Archbold Biological Station, a short-term job, and he was spending most of his time at my parent’s house that summer of 2015. I visited every weekend and most weekdays. I couldn’t go a day without my Jacob! And since he had just finished college (he was only one semester behind me) that summer he was only an hour from me back in our hometown (of course not our real home, that is Tallahassee, don’t forget). I remember making a pros and cons list with Jacob and my mom and dad and after careful consideration, we decided – yes, let’s make our first move together as adults. Let me just say, the cross-country road trip deserves its own post – because that is filled with videos, pictures, and so many stories. So this post is very short today. Mostly short stories of me and Jacob in Washington. Outside our house in Olympia, on a clear day, you could see Mt. Rainier perfectly – such a monolith of a mountain standing at 14,411 feet – Jacob and I loved the hill on 5th street because the view of the Mt. Rainier on a clear day was spectacular. Olympia also had a ban on all chains – so everything was local. We both loved this. Jacob and I loved this food truck called Nineveh, a combination of Egyptian and Persian food and we seriously LOVED it. Total obsession. It was literally 2 minutes from our house. Jacob would say “Can we get Ninev’s tonight, please?” We had our own language called “yakescoo speak” where we shortened everything, I have a list on paper of all our shortened words and our special language. Anyway, I would always get the falafel, Jacob would always get the Shawarma – and we would also get the hand-cut fries (that were covered with amazing spices – some of the fries best we ever had) and fried cauliflower. I remember Jacob said once “I don’t know what they put in those fries, but they are dangerous. So fucking good”. Even the drive-through hamburger joints had names like “Tom’s Burger’s” – no McDonalds or Wendy’s. All local. Jacobs favorite part of it all? Four local bookstores in a small town like Olympia. His favorite bookstore was called Orca Books, again we lived downtown so we could walk to these places really easily. He loved this bookstore for many reasons, including that there were many cats in this bookstore and they loved to jump on Jacob’s lap and knead him.
Another perk of living downtown was that there was a record store only five minutes from our house called Rainy Day Records (Jacob loved this place)- and you could buy records, cassettes, and even rent movies. And when I talk in minutes I mean walking, not driving. Jacob and I would spend hours on our days off looking through vinyl together here. Jacob came home one day and said “Coo! You can rent movies there!!! How awesome is that?” It was great, we felt like we were living on another planet completely in Olympia. We also lived across the local library so we could get books and movies all the time, for free. Jacob had a true gift for finding the best movies instantly at libraries. He also found many “Coo movies” (his name for my kind of movies) – and he used to say, “Oh baby, this is such a Coo movie we have to watch it.” Not bad movies – just ones I hadn’t seen and he knew I would love – like Groundhog Day, for instance – or Plains, Trains, and Automobiles. We watched almost every Woody Allen film together and Mel Brooks films, and we would request them too. For example, “Love and Death” was the first Woody Allen film I ever watched, and Jacob and I saw it together at the FSU student life center – Jacob had already seen it and he said “I can’t believe this is the first Woody Allen movie you are going to watch, how awesome”. I loved it-and it will always be my favorite for that memory and that reason. Anyway, we were able to order it at both Rainy Day Records and the Library. It was great. I also just want to say that we both loved John Candy – especially when Jacob introduced me to SCTV (a much funnier version of SNL with John Candy and Eugene Levy just to name a few…)(this was his favorite skit of all time) and he also introduced me to Cannibal: The Musical, one of the most hilarious movies I have ever seen and the creators of South Park made it. Jacob would always sing to me “Shpadoinkle Day“. I have a video of him singing this song regularly and in his opera voice and I watch these videos every single day. He would look at me in the eye especially with the line “As I ride with my girl, she’s my best friend in the whole world.” Even though in the movie the line is declared to a horse, Jacob always made that line about me and would look me in the eye and kiss me gently while he sang it.
Anyone that knows Jacob knows he hates coffee – but, he loved the coffee at Olympia Coffee Roasters– I remember one time he said: “baby, that is the best coffee I have ever had and you know I HATE coffee – truly next level. I would drink this every day.” We also had a tradition (so many, I know) of going to Darby’s Cafe for breakfast – they had this AMAZING breakfast item: yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, and granola rolled into a tortilla and deep fried covered in whipped cream and more fruit. Out of this world. But of course, Jacob always had the Corned Beef Hash. So cute. I could talk about our life in Olympia for days, for instance – a little corner store called “The Little General Food Shop” was literally around the block from our house and sold household essentials and very progressive food products (Oregon ice cream Jacob loved and I would surprise him with).
But I want to talk about our first hike to Mt. Rainier – which I have barely touched on- I just have so much to say I get disoriented and end up switching topics easily. We had been on other hikes in Olympia and in Thurston County, but nothing intense like Mt. Rainier. So, August and September are really the only months you can visit Washington because the rest of the time it is gray, rainy, and just… well, hazy and gray. But now, I am longing for the weather in Olympia. I wish I was there now. I hate the sunshine here in my parent’s house in Florida. The feeling of the sun makes me sick – that Jacob cannot feel it. I am crying as I type the words. Also, I cannot energetically align with the sun – It doesn’t fit my mood. I want rainy days and hazy weeks full of just…gray. Like in Olympia. So basically, I want Washington weather right now. Okay: onto our first hike. I am going to leave our first hike mainly in photos. It was a hard hike, no doubt, but it was uphill to see Mt. Rainier, and then downhill the entire time with the view of Mt. Rainier in front of us the whole way. We couldn’t figure out which was worse – uphill or downhill because downhill really fucks up your knees. Jacob voted that uphill was much worse. I told him I couldn’t decide, but my knees are really bad, so downhill was very hard for me. They both were super challenging – but the view was beyond amazing and our first true hike in Washington Jacob declared as truly magnificent. Even though his favorite hike in the whole world still resides in North Carolina, he absolutely loved the scenery and our first hike at Mt. Rainier (and we had many more there, our Thanksgiving hike in 2015 at Mt. Rainier we had snow chains on Jacob’s car and played in the snow up in the mountains). Also, there were moments during this hike where we were on the edge of the mountainside (actually, many times during this hike) and Jacob overcame some of his fear of heights. I was so proud of him. I always was.
Broken heart syndrome is a heart condition that’s brought on by highly traumatic situations, such as the sudden death of a loved one. People with broken heart syndrome may have sudden chest pain or think they’re having a heart attack. It is also known as “Takotsubo cardiomyopathy” in the medical world… blah blah blah. But the story is pretty interesting: The name “Takotsubo Syndrome” comes from the Japanese word Takotsubo which means “octopus trap,” because the left ventricle of your heart takes on a shape resembling a fishing pot. (It is real, people!) This cardiomyopathy is now a well-recognized in the medical community as an actual cause of acute heart failure, lethal ventricular arrhythmias, and ventricular rupture. Yeah, those words mean nothing to me either. Google them if you are interested, I guess. My biology major was very anti-pre med (the pre-med students had HUGE ego’s where Jacob and I went to undergrad), and especially now, after experiencing the coldness from the night Jacob was taken from me, and the trauma, I really have no desire to even hear medical terms- as I have mentioned in previous posts- when I see an ambulance I have to pull over and try to contain my vivid flashbacks, when I pass a hospital I have to pretend it doesn’t exist. But, I do not want to talk about this. I bring this broken heart syndrome up because there seems to be a common thread among a lot of widows. Because many people think those in debilitating grief look “perfectly fine” on the outside, they reject our grief or think “we are getting better and moving on” all the while our insides are filled with massive holes, crippling pain, and despair that goes unrecognized and dismissed because it is not seen physically. I will take physical pain over this emotional agony any day. And the word “emotional agony” doesn’t even come close to describing how I feel inside.
Here is something else about the physical recognition that widows get (and it is again, very common – my dear widow friend Élise told me people have said this to her and continue to say this to her all the time) and, unfortunately, I have heard it as well. Many have, and I am getting this out right now in defense of widows everywhere. The grief diet we have and how people say the most stupid shit imaginable. Here is how the conversation goes down (or something of the like). “Wow! You look great! You’ve lost so much weight. Did you start running or something?” “No, my partner died.” “Well, whatever you’ve been doing, keep it up! You look amazing.” Are you fucking kidding me? I look good? First off, do you think I GIVE A SHIT about how I look when I have lost everything? My spouse, our apartment, our children, our entire future together- do you think this weight loss is healthy? Do you think this is wanted? HOW STUPID CAN YOU BE? Jesus. People think you want to hear this kind of garbage but no, they need to think again. It adds more salt to the wounds. My nutrients come from bread and butter. And that is starting to wane quickly into no appetite for anything – not even bread. Yeah, yeah – it isn’t healthy – BUT I HAVE NO CHOICE. It isn’t a choice. My therapist explained it pretty well – she said “we as humans have an animalistic instinct to nourish ourselves with food, water, etc. in typical, normal healthy conditions – but you do not want to live, therefore your body is completely shutting down, lack of any appetite is part of the last phase, it is unnatural because what you are going through is the most unnatural thing in the world. Your depression is killing you, mentally and physically”. People just do not get it – when you are in horrible grief and deep depression you do not want to eat anything. You shut down. And you know what? I know in my heart not only does Jacob understand this but that he would react in a similar way if the situation was reversed. I wish for that every day- “why was he taken? why didn’t you take me? He was such a gift and light to the world – why didn’t you take me?” People tend to make comments of what made Jacob and I happy (I’m sorry, but I know that best) but anyway, the point is- he/we liked to do these activities…when we were both alive and together. Yes, we enjoyed cooking and taking walks in the forest – WHEN WE WERE BOTH ALIVE AND LIVING TOGETHER. Yes, we loved trying and enjoying new food and spending time with children and watching movies and taking showers/bubble baths together and new adventures and drinking hot chocolate and celebrating the holidays and feeling the cool breeze on our faces – WHEN WE WERE BOTH ALIVE AND LIVING TOGETHER. I mean, what do you not understand about this? It is so easy for people to just word vomit stupid shit and offer platitudes in their comfortable houses with their family and spouses right by their side. Or even friends by their side, for that matter. I will say it in every post – Jacob has been my one and only since as long as I can remember. He was my best friend. My only roommate – ever – since 18. My entire world. He was, was going to be, and is my all and everything. When you talk about having children together from such a young age – when you set a wedding date – when you build a future together from such a young age (middle school, cough, cough) and when it is all taken from you in the blink of an eye, yeah – your “you look great!” comments make me want to vomit. Do not mention my weight, that my skin looks good, my outfit is nice (I am literally picking from a pile and throwing on whatever smells clean when I have to leave the house for a doctor’s appointment) or my hair. Which, by the way, not only goes unwashed for weeks and weeks but now I just wash it under the sink – the whole getting into the shower, getting wet and changing clothes is too much of a chore. I’m tired of all this sugar coating nonsense – THIS IS WHAT GRIEF LOOKS LIKE. I am sorry if it makes you feel uncomfortable – try living it.
I just feel like only other widows understand this kind of grief… and even though no one can fully understand (even other widows) the depths – I mean deep deep depths of our love – they can relate on a level no one else can. I went from having 0 widows in my life to 3 that check in on me regularly… I will take that. They let me cry, tell my story, and can relate to the endless horror and misery. I hear their stories. And even though they are far away… I feel that maybe it is a reason to turn on my phone, and hear a voice that doesn’t judge, project, add stress, give me “wisdom”, cruelty or tell me what to do – but they know all the right things to say.
You know what box sitting in my childhood home (where I am currently living and all of our possessions are) makes me most sad? Well, one of the boxes that makes me most sad. Our kitchen boxes. All of our kitchen supplies have been with us since 2010 – the records and books have too, so those boxes make me beyond sad – but the kitchen boxes bring memories of how we would cook together, how Jacob would surprise me with meals so often (even vegan meals, I wasn’t vegan, but he would research because he was so curious like that) and our little plates and mugs we would find at thrift stores. One mug in particular I know I will break down when I eventually see it. All the knitted mason jar covers I would make for him. Our re-usable metal straws. The hanging fruit basket he bought us. The silly aprons he bought me. Our vintage goodwill soup bowls we loved. These are things we have had for so long…even the kitchen towels with botanical plants on them and Simpon’s characters. It just makes me want to crawl into a hole.
Currently, well for a while now, I am reading Jacob’s favorite books and they bring me some comfort. Movies are off-limits right now because he introduced me to all of it – Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Charlie Kaufman, Wes Anderson (in 7th grade mind you – so, 2004 for me, 2003 for him) – it just is way too much to watch any movie – and new movies his eyes cannot see and I know he would love (like The Meyerowitz Stories and the second season of Stranger Things, both on Netflix) make me sick… because he talked about watching them together. He read about them coming out. I cannot even log into our shared Netflix account (Yakescoo). It is one of the biggest triggers I have because it was a huge part of our lives and it completely influenced and shaped me and this shaping was done all by Jacob. The last movie we ever saw together in theatres was “Baby Driver” which he loved, as did I, and it was August 4, 2017 – exactly one month before he died. I remember our walk home that night was beautiful. We held hands the whole way home and with the colder weather, we could tell Fall was coming. He kept his ticket stub from that night in his wallet. Jacob was like that, he kept all the movie ticket stubs he went to with me in his wallet or in his “blue area” as we called it – a blue colored box with tons of papers and cards shoved inside. I remember on our walk home we passed a garden level basement, that of course, Jacob pointed out because he was so observant, that had lights flickering and a broken window and Jacob said “Kaitlin, look at this-this is the stuff of nightmares right here.” He looked around, could tell I was scared and was like “Yeah, we need to go. Fuck this” I feel like that walk was yesterday.
Listening to our favorite records is also so hard – but necessary sometimes because it was what we did all the time, every day – as soon as we both got home, a record was put on and we would decide together. Just one of our many daily rituals. But certain things I can listen to and others I cannot. We couldn’t back out of the driveway without music decided upon. If I was driving, “Jacob you are the DJ” or if he was driving, “Coo you gotta be the DJ for us”. If I found out about a new artist (usually from the past) or he did – everything stopped. We listened together. Or if I would find out about a new modern artist that he would end up loving like M. Ward he would say “Coo, you can’t hide this stuff from me!” He loved M. Ward and one song, in particular, he would play for me so often, was Eyes on the Prize. That song is incredibly hard to type let alone listen to – he not only played it for me but he would sing it into my ear as he kissed my neck. The lyrics for him were so important. “Wow, what a great line” he would say in the car. He was always completely engaged. If you started to talk in the middle of one of his favorite songs, or any song he put on, he would pause it – listen to you and then restart the song. I picked up that habit too! “It is a good one to have”, we would say. We were constantly excited about discovering new music. For instance, when I first learned about Jimmie Rodgers, Jacob was obsessed. He read about him, listened to all of his music, and for 2-3 months had a complete fixation. “Classic Yakes!” I would say. Same with The Pet Sounds album by The Beach Boys, Blaze Foley, Buddy Holly, Leon Redbone (this was his favorite Redbone song), and Doc Watson. Just like Jacob showed me Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Daniel Johnston, The Pixies, Blind Blake, Bob Dylan***, Leonard Cohen, and Hank Williams (well we both came to Hank Williams at the same time – a story for another time). The list goes on and on… I came back from Rochester, New York (where my mother is from) in 2011 with what turned out to be Jacob’s favorite and most prized vinyl of all time – and again, that is a longer story for another day – but it is one of the rarest 1920s delta blues compilations in the world, you cannot find any of these songs online. If he read a poem that brought him to tears or really moved him it was “Coo, come in here quick! You have to read this.” If I read a short story I knew he would like, I would give it to him immediately. Such as, Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” which turned into one of his favorite short stories of all time, and a tradition that we always read it together on Christmas… since like 2013? He would read me Stephen King short stories especially the magical realism ones which he loved most, and we would listen to David Sedaris stories while cuddling together. If one of us wanted to write or cover a song together, we would both play guitar and sing – or I would play the banjo or he would play the banjo. Or one of us would play our cigar box dulcimer, “Wandering Bear” we named it. Sometimes, listening to music is too painful. Other times, it reminds me of the memories I have to hold onto and I cry and cry for hours and it reminds me of the depths of our love. Our music and records, just like his poems and love letters are reminders of our soul connection to each other – forever.
I am going to leave this post with a poem from the collection I self-published, which I realize probably very few have read but, what the hell? Maybe you want to read some suffering. I know I do. There is nothing relatable about self-help books or all that “happiness and rainbows” bullshit.
It is not uncommon for widows to spend days in bed. But I must tell you, I have spent most of the last year (now, approaching 15 months- Jesus, how can that be?) in bed. In particular the last 5-6 months I can barely get out of bed to go to the bathroom and I haven’t been able to walk to the kitchen. I go to therapy … my psychiatrist once a month…and recently, this brain procedure… and those are about the only things I can do. I can’t even drive myself to these things. It is not out of a lack of “trying” or because “I can’t force myself” or because I can’t “just will myself out of it” it is because I am crippled by grief and in serious depression. The weight of grief has caused me to completely melt. I cannot move. It is like the force of a freight train is on my chest. The depression from grief (losing my best friend, childhood sweetheart, partner, soul mate, our unborn children, our future, and life together will ALWAYS be there… obviously). But this clinical depression has turned into the darkest cloud – the deepest hole – the dreaming of death…the hopelessness… the feeling of no reason to live. The guilt. This is debilitating. Yes, believe it or not, I am really trying to stay alive. Desperately. This is why I go to therapy twice a week, am on medicine and trying this procedure. This is someone who is trying, as pathetic as it may seem this is all I can do. That and cry…and cry and cry… write and talk to Jacob, and sleep with his ashes. Sometimes I really feel my only reason to live is to keep our sweet cat Abe taken care of…
I think of Jacob’s hands so often, how delicate they were, how long and beautiful they were as they stroked my body. The milky white color. I think of every part of him. I miss the deep emotional connection, how we were the only two to understand each other- the inside jokes, the cynicism, the silly nicknames and language we spoke and humor we shared. I think about how literally every person we encountered we felt the same way about – no one was absolved of being made fun of or joking at something they said. Never in a malicious way (well, only if they were an asshole) but always in a lighthearted way. We just didn’t need other people, it was just us and we loved it that way. I remember when we were in college, we were invited by our mutual acquaintance who lived in our apartment complex to a “Christmas get together”. She told us it would be really intimate. Jacob and I both thought she was
a little weird – but she was so nice to us – brought us cookies and homemade jams all the time- we couldn’t say no. So we went. And man, was it awkward. And no A/C either. Jacob was sitting on what looked like a pop-up parade chair found at a thrift shop as we were both using napkins to keep our foreheads from sweating. We both were listening to the most vapid conversations. But, the worst part was that we didn’t know it was a “White Elephant” party – you know, where you exchange gifts. We didn’t bring anything – nothing. We thought it would be an event with some soda, some beer, some snacks and that was it. So Jacob and I received gifts, even though we didn’t bring any. We both got these CVS blankets that were Christmas colors, we literally saw them the day before at the CVS on Call Street near FSU. I think we still have them too… Anyway, we felt bad that we got these gifts and didn’t bring anything.
Jacob and I later said, we didn’t feel that bad because we got the shittiest gifts ever. But, without bringing anything we kind of felt obligated to stay longer. Jacob made a joke about our friend’s (the one who invited us) boyfriend – he was from Norway and didn’t really understand the difference between college and university so he was wearing a “Tallahassee Community College” shirt. Jacob was like “Coo, did you see his shirt – what the hell was the deal with that? Why would anyone advertise that they go there? Jesus.” And Jacob went to TCC before he transferred to FSU, so it wasn’t an egoistic comment, it was just – really odd. And hilarious. “Go Eagles!” Jacob laughed later (The Eagles were the TCC mascot). The whole night was so bizarre. Jacob and I were incredibly eager to get the hell out. Finally, after three hours we got out of Dodge and walked back to our apartment. We joked about how weird the group of people was – one lone international student in the corner just staring at all
of us “I thought he was going to shoot up the place” we joked, a couple preppy girls that didn’t even say hello to us, a girl who was obviously a physics major and really into talking about her research, and a couple engineering guys talking about…I don’t even remember. Conduction? Jacob tried to make some jokes with these people but they weren’t exactly the type to get humor… I remember he even said, “Jesus, this is a tough crowd.” I would say that often in high school and he loved that expression. See? We used each other’s expressions and our vocabulary became one. Our reactions, our thoughts, everything became one. I remember Jacob said “Baby, I don’t think you realize how bizzare and amazing it is that we get the same songs stuck in our head ALL THE TIME.” It was really true. I would start singing a song and he would say, “What? I was just thinking of that song.” Or he would start singing a song and I would say – “Did you sing that before just now? It has been in my head all day.”
He thought that was so incredible. He would bring it up all the time. Just another sign we were twin flames – true soulmates. Our energy was the same – about everything and everyone. We not only felt completely understood by one another but comfortable with each other in every capacity.
Our society thinks that “happiness” is the ultimate form of success. I think that is bullshit- so did Jacob. I remember an extended family member said one time (a couple years ago) something like, “You are so young, you should just be happy.” I rolled my eyes at that one… because the truth is, life is fucking hard and full of suffering no matter what age.
And I realize that now more than ever before. There is no such thing as just a happy life. And you are setting yourself up for failure if you think that is the acme of existence. No one is getting out alive or without suffering. For me? Being with my childhood sweetheart, marriage, growing old together, a big family – these were the things that I thought were set in stone, of course they would happen – these were things that Jacob and I talked about ALL THE TIME. I remember Jacob looked at me in our Glenview House (the last place we lived in Tallahassee) and gently touched my hair and said, “I can’t wait to take care of you when you are pregnant. Pregnant coos will be out of control with her mood swings and cravings but I cannot wait to take care of you every step of the way. At 3 AM when you want fries and pickles. I love you so much Kaitlin.” When he used my name, I knew he was going to cry. He had “that look” which I have captured on video two days before he was taken from the world, “that look” of true love – that he loves me so much he cannot contain it. I know that look so well. I don’t want to experience life without Jacob. He is the love of my life – and always will be. You don’t get a love like this often – it is 1/100000 lifetimes kind of love we had. I look around the street and I see couples, bickering and fighting. I see mom’s scrolling on Instagram as their toddlers try to get their attention. I wonder to myself “why them? why do they get everything I wanted with Jacob and that he wanted with me?” I am sure you are thinking to yourself the same questions. I wish I had answers. I would have never dreamed of this miserable, horrible reality- which is why I stay in bed. Trying to stay frozen in time.
I miss the emotional, the mental, and the physical connection on such a deep level it makes my insides hurt. The kisses, the hugs from behind, the cuddling – literally every night we cuddled. EVERY NIGHT. We discussed everything together – from books to art to cinema to music (oh music…) to writing screenplays together to writing music together to playing music together to Jacob loving me so much he would clean my ears for me with q-tips every night – he loved to do it. He always said “Baby, I love taking care of you. Let me do this.” I mean, to everyday interactions to recipes to EVERYTHING for so long. This is why I can barely get out of bed. This is why simple tasks like responding to an e-mail, or a text message is like hiking up a mountain. It isn’t laziness. It is grief. It is depression. It is not wanting to be alive. I want his touch, his love, the sweet kisses on my neck, the showers we shared, the way he made me feel – the way he constantly praised me and the way I praised him. I want to give him the love and support I always did, the encouragement I offered without a second thought because he was the love of my life and I would do anything for him, and I want to give him the unconditional love I showed him and he showed me every day. I want our life back. I want our house back. I want our dishes back. I want our library and bookshelves back. (not in boxes, that is). I want to kiss the sweet freckle on his left ear as the sun rises. I want to give him a loving hug in the morning from the back because he hated mornings. I am telling you he was the most perfect spouse. We were perfect together. This is why I lie in bed all day. Not out of a lack of will – but out of a lack of will to live. Jacob and I loved Hank Williams – we have many of his albums on vinyl – the real Hank Williams – not this bullshit Hank Williams Jr. garbage. We played a lot of music together, which I have recorded some of it, thankfully – but only some. Jacob had the most beautiful voice (and I feel so incredibly grateful he shared his voice with me because he rarely did that with anyone). He could sing “I’m so lonesome I could cry” (listen here please) It is a very hard song emotionally and vocally to sing – and he could sing it perfectly. We loved to sing it together but he had to take the lead because I sure as hell couldn’t hit those notes. Jacob said Hank Williams was quite possibly his favorite voice of all time – Hank Williams and John Lennon. Anyway – getting off focus here, as usual – there is a line in the song…
Did you ever see a robin weep When leaves begin to die? Like me, he’s lost the will to live I’m so lonesome I could cry
I have lost the will to live – and I know exactly what he meant when he wrote this song.
Another reason not to feel bad about not getting out of bed – for me? Jacob. I trust that he loved me unconditionally and therefore, my lack of ability to function is something he would understand. Because he loved me and understood me more than anyone, he understands how devastated I am because we both lost our future. Jacob wanted everything I speak of – and we talked about it all the time. Heidi and Eli, our two little children. I feel that every tear and every ounce of pain I go through he somehow understands – I cannot explain it but I just feel that he understands why I cannot function because that is how much I love him, how much he loves me and that is how deep my pain is. He understands. When you are tired of insensitive comments that make you feel queasy, think about how much your person loves you. More than anything. They understand your pain and would never judge you for it – never in a million years.
I recently read an e-mail from Jacob from June 2013 – we were away from each other for a little over a month – and he was describing how he was so sad and in pain without me, he said in this e-mail that he didn’t even want to laugh, watch movies, or do anything without me. He didn’t want to get out of bed. He said he felt like he was in grief. After reading this the other day, I finally felt understood…5 years later, by my one and only – my twin flame – my spouse and love, Jacob.