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Signs

Signs from our loved ones can be a powerful thing. There are some so unexplainable you just can not deny them. Today my daughter and I got to witness a sign so strong, Jason could have personally delivered it to us.

On the way to school today my son started asking questions. It was the usual questions. Why did Daddy take those drugs? Why did he take to many drugs? Are drugs illegal? These questions and answers continued all the way to school. My daughter, almost 11 now, sat quietly listening in her seat. When I pulled up to drop them off I noticed the tears swelling in her eyes. I sent my son off to school and kept my daughter in the car to go grab some breakfast and talk. Jason has been gone over 2 years now, and I think she is starting to process it more and more the older she gets. She misses him more and more each day.

On our way to breakfast we talked about grief, crying, emotions, therapy, Jason, me, her, and signs. At one point in the conversation I asked her “do you ever talk to Daddy?” she looked at me in a way that said “huh??????” I then went on to explain how sometimes I talk to Daddy. I tell him what the kids are up to, I ask him questions, I have conversations in my mind with him. I then told her sometimes he sends me signs. Little hellos that let me know he is still very present in my life. Whenever I see these signs I tell him I love him, and thank him. I ask him to continue sending me signs, and let him know I appreciate them. She sort of lit up during this part of the conversation. Thinking of times she has felt his presence and now realizing it very well could have been him.

Well this conversation continued through breakfast and all the way back to school. When we got back to school I parked the van to walk her in. As soon as we started walking towards the school right there on the ground was a koozie with the words “happiness jones”. Why would those words mean so much? Well our last name is Jones we both knew immediately he was sending us a sign and telling us to be happy, and that he was happy. We were both thrilled and blown away to receive this gift from him. It was a beautiful moment, and I am so grateful we got to experience it. Grief may become more manageable, but it is always there. Signs like these help heal and give comfort. So today I encourage you to find comfort in the signs, and talk to your loved ones who have passed. You never know what they may send you.

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A Place to Shed my Skin

A Widow’s Journey.

I am starting a blog to document my journey as a young widow and mother. I want a place to help both myself navigate this “new normal,” that may never feel normal, and others trying to do the same.

I am 37 years old. On my 36th birthday I woke up to the worst gift I will hopefully ever receive, a dead husband. I was left alone with two young children. A 4 year old son, and an 8 year old daughter. My life as I knew it ended that day. I was born yet again on August 3rd, 2019. This time with a much different story than 36 years before. I am now a little over a year into my grief journey, and trying desperately to get to know the new me.

I would like to share with others the obstacles I have faced, the sorrows, the joys (yes there is light in all the darkness), and the challenges. I want to discuss grief, solo parenting, addiction, hope, support, my personal growth journey, and anything else. I hope that I can help others feel less alone in such a lonely place. I want others to know, even though our stories are totally different, we share something others don’t. The feeling of loss and grief. I intend to be open and willing to share, so if you have anything you want to know about my journey please ask.

I would love to work with other young widows and mothers who are trying to rebuild their own lives. I would love to help you find the rainbow after the storm. Let you know you can find your way out. Please let me know how I can help you.

Stigma

According to Mariam Webster the definition of stigma is the mark of shame or discredit. When trying to decide who, when, why, and where I would share my story stigma is the word that always found its way into my thoughts. If I share my story with those around me will it give me a mark of shame, will it give my children a mark of shame, will it give my family a mark of shame? Will someone benefit from my story? Will someone be hurt by my story. How could I ever decide if I would share it, and if I did who would I share it with, and how would I present it? These are all questions that have been on my mind the past couple of weeks.

These thoughts all started last week when I met one of my child’s friends moms. Tripp introduced himself to her “hi my name is Tripp, and my dad is dead.” Well this isn’t an unusual way for Tripp to introduce himself, but I of course jumped in and said something along the lines of “yeah sorry about that he’s very literal.” Well turns out this mother had just lost her oldest daughter. Here’s the thing once you experience a first degree loss you feel much more drawn to those who have felt similar grief. So her and I got to talking, and she asked me how Jason died. I felt safe telling her, and as soon as I did I immediately started backpedaling. Saying things like I had no idea he was using drugs, it was such a surprise, we never saw it coming because I immediately thought of what she must be thinking. Did she think I did drugs, does she think I’ve raised my kids in a drug house, does she think I’m an addict? Will she let her daughter still play with my son, will she tell the other mothers, am I now going to be the talk around the water cooler. Needless to say that experience did not sit well with me.

A few days later while camping with my boyfriend I asked him if he has told his kids how Jason died, and he said no he’s never told them how. I’ve been seeing this man for almost 11 months, and he still hasn’t told his children how Jason died. So it got me thinking about this stigma attached to people who die because of addiction. Jason didn’t die because of an overdose, addiction is what killed him. This disease that is so incredibly hard to beat took his life from him. I’ve decided if I can take his story, and help one other person it will be worth me being uncomfortable. This is my side of Jason’s story.

One thing I know for certain is that I want people to know Jason wasn’t just an addict who overdosed on drugs. He was first and foremost a husband, father, brother, son, friend, life of the party, funny, caring, hardworking, loving, respectful man. He worked hard to provide for his family, and loved us without fail.

Jason’s drug of choice was alcohol. He battled alcoholism since the day I met him although it probably took me a few years to realize what a battle it actually was. See we met in our early 20’s when life was a party so I never realized he was an alcoholic. You would think growing up with one I would know, but I didn’t. Or most likely I didn’t want to admit he was. He was so funny, so sweet, so adventurous, so what if he liked to drink. We were young we would grow up and quit partying when we needed to. Well as the years went by instead of growing out of it he grew deeper and deeper into drinking. We couldn’t plan a vacation without either buying all the beer and liquor before we left or looking up the closest place to buy alcohol wherever we were going. Alcohol was part of every event. If there was a reason to drink Jason could find it. As the years rolled by this got worse and worse. As far as I know he never drank at work, but there were many nights he didn’t make it all the way home from work without a drink.

Jason and I got along wonderfully unless alcohol was involved. Every fight we had revolved around his drinking, every argument, every spat. I used to say if it weren’t for alcohol things would be perfect.

In September 2018 I had reached my breaking point. I had decided I couldn’t do it any longer. The alcoholic was around all the time I never saw the Jason I knew and loved anymore. I had to get to a healthier place, and my kids deserved better. I had decided I was done. As fate would have it Jason called me that very day to tell me it was time and he was ready to go to rehab. We called around and found out Bradford was basically our only affordable option. We didn’t know much about rehabs, or what we needed we just knew he had to get help. The next day we drove about an hour away Warrior Alabama and checked him into rehab.

I’ll never forget dropping him off. The feelings I was having. I was scared, sad, lonely, terrified, optimistic. Above all else I couldn’t imagine the feelings he was having. I cried myself the whole way home. Wondering who he would be without alcohol. So much of Jason revolved around drinking. Everything he enjoyed doing he did while drinking. Grilling, watching football, camping, watching tv, going to concerts, yard work, all of it. How would he learn his new normal, how would I learn my new normal, how would we learn our new normal.

Insurance would only cover 15 days at rehab, what a joke. Jason needed way more than 15 days but we got so lucky with his counselor, and his will to want to get sober. He did it to. He finished rehab, attended AA meetings, and started turning back into the Jason I had known once before. As far as I know he stayed completely sober for 6 months. We both did. We didn’t touch a thing. No alcohol or drugs.

On the day of his 6 months of sobriety for some reason we decided it would be ok to eat a small THC edible. We figured it was just pot what harm could it do. Well that one little “innocent” edible ended up opening Pandora’s box. After the edible we decided it would be ok to smoke here and there, after that it would be ok to take a hallucinogen at a concert after that for Jason it escalated to a little bit of cocaine being ok if we were going out. The whole time I never thought anything of it. He wasn’t drinking for the first time since I met him, he wasn’t drinking. I had watched him use drugs recreationally for our entire relationship, and never once saw him use them addictively. Because of this in my mind his addiction was alcohol. Alcohol was the problem not drugs.

Since Jason started rehab I had been going to SMART recovery meetings, and I would share very honestly and openly with them the things we were doing. Ensuring them every time that I was fine with it because Jason’s addiction was alcohol. He isn’t addicted to drugs. Every time I said that the facilitator would warn me that an addict is an addict and this was in fact a very dangerous road for him to be on. I refused to believe her. I refused to believe her 20+ years of experience. For whatever reason. Maybe the thought of me never being able to “party” again didn’t appeal to me, maybe I honestly believed he could handle drugs, maybe I believed that was all those other people but not Jason. Whatever the reason I never believed her.

Well at some point Jason’s recreation use turned to addictive use. On Tuesday July 30th 2019 I realized maybe my facilitator was right. Maybe he can’t control drugs the way I thought he could cause he was acting very strange when I got home from my meeting. I decided I would let it slide. It was probably just a one time thing.

The next night we were going to celebrate my niece’s birthday by going to my moms. Something we always did for everyone’s birthday. I called Jason to tell him the kids and I could give him a ride. We would be there soon to pick him up. He immediately stepped back into his old alcoholic behaviors. “Actually I can just stay home with Tripp so you and Ellie can go and stay as long as you want, I don’t really have to go do I?” This was very strange and I was able to convince him to go, it was a birthday dinner. My niece would want him and Tripp there to celebrate. After dinner Jason got up to help with dishes, as he always did at my moms house, and when I went to join him I saw white powder in his nostril. I was furious. I could not believe he couldn’t make it through a family birthday dinner without doing some cocaine.

My smart recovery facilitator was spot on this was a very dangerous road he was on. I had to do something, and I had to do something quick before I had a full blown addict on my hands. (Notice I still didn’t really believe he was an addict, I was just more open to the fact that it could happen). When we got home from the birthday party I couldn’t even talk to him. I was furious.

Well Thursday rolls around and he comes home from work, and is messed up the second he gets out of his car. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something wasn’t right. I sent him a text message. I told him I had been there 100% by his side through alcoholism I was not going to watch him become a drug addict. He agreed telling me he would slow down. He was doing too much, and this would be it. He would go back to using recreationally just at shows or special occasions.

Well I’m sure you can probably guess what happened when he got home Friday. He was messed up yet again. He didn’t seem drunk, or high I still couldn’t figure out what it was. What I did know is I was scared, and I didn’t think I could handle being married to a drug addict. I ended up going to my room for the night while he hung out in the kitchen. He was in there listening to crappy music, in and out of the house going to his car, and just acting very out of character. I just decided to keep my distance. The next day would be Saturday and my 36th birthday. My plan was to just talk to him in the morning. He would have time to sleep off his buzz, and wouldn’t have time to get messed up before I would see him.

About 11:00 Friday night Jason came to bed. I told him to please let me sleep in in the morning because the next day was my birthday. All I wanted was a good night sleep. Well about an hour later he was snoring. Jason snored often and usually a poke or shake would be enough to get him to roll over and stop so I could fall back asleep. Well this night I could not get him to stop snoring, and it was so loud. So for the first time ever I decided to get up and go get on the sofa to sleep for the rest of the night. Little did I know that would be the last moment I spent with Jason.

When morning rolled around I decided I would get up with the kids, and let him sleep. I wanted him as sober as possible so we could have a conversation. Around 9:00 my daughter woke up so I sent her in my bedroom to wake up her Daddy. She came back out into the kitchen where I was cooking bacon and said “I tried to wake up Daddy, but I couldn’t and he is so cold.” My heart dropped. I ran in the bedroom and knew immediately he was gone. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I can still see and hear the entire moment as if it’s a movie I’ve watched 1,000 times. I told my kids to get out of the bedroom. I told them this isn’t good Daddy is dead.

The detective said we had to have an autopsy since he was so young. When I received the autopsy results I was in total shock. Not only did he have cocaine in his system which I expected, but there was also Hydrocodone, Xanax, methadone, and ketamine. How did it get that bad that fast? I could not believe my ears or eyes when I heard all the things he had done. Addiction had taken over, Jason was gone and addiction had taken another victim. when will it stop? How can I make a difference? How can others make a difference? Because I promise if love alone could have saved him he would still be here by my side.

I wish this wasn’t my story. I wish this wasn’t Jason’s story, and I really wish this wasn’t my children’s story. The only thing I can do now is hope that our story helps someone else. Stops someone else from dying too young, or stops another spouse from loosing their partner, or stops another child from loosing their parent. Maybe it’s too late and you’ve already lost a loved one to addiction at least you know you’re not alone. My hope is our story serves a purpose.

I decided to reach out to both his rehab, and to SMART recovery and offer to share my story with others. In this crazy time of covid neither are having live speakers or guests now, but they both know when it’s safe I will be someone available to them to share my story. I’ve never spoken to a crowd. I have never tried to tell such a personal story, but I’ll do anything I can to help. Please share my story with someone you know if you think it could help them.

Wishlist

Today is my daughters 10th Birthday! How is that even possible. How did I do it, how did we do it, I can’t believe I’ve been a mother for an entire decade! Every time a milestone has occurred since Jason passed I’ve thought about what it would be like if he were here. What would be the same what would be different? I also think about how I can make these milestones different and keep them the same. I spent a many hours not too long ago going through old memory boxes. Boxes with pictures, cards, little nick nacks and memories. You know how many cards I found from Jason to his kids? One, one card to Ellie when she was one! That’s the only hand written card or note she will have from her father and Tripp won’t even have that. I write this not to fault Jason. I always thought of cards as a waste of money, and now what I would pay to have more cards for both of my children. For them to be able to read how their dad loved them. For them to be able to see his handwriting and the goofy pictures he would doodle. I should have done a better job saving things and encouraging cards, but it never once occurred to me he wouldn’t be here to write to them another time.

All of this got me thinking what can I do for my kids that he couldn’t so they will have those memories of me when I am gone. I decided to make a short list of the things I wish I had from him or at the same time the things I want my kids to have from me.

1. Videos

I have gone through all our videos, and I have none just of Jason. None of him talking, telling jokes, telling stories, telling his kids how much he loves them. What I would give to have just one video from him that the kids and I could watch and have to hold onto forever. So the other day I just sat down with my phone and recorded a short message to each of my kids letting them know how much I love them, and how special they are to me. I hope to maybe make the a yearly thing so they will always have those to look back on. In this digital world it’s such an easy gift to leave them.

2. Cards

I want to buy them cards for all the big occasions and write letters inside them. Telling them how wonderful they are, how I am amazed by them every day, and how lucky I am to be their mother.

3. Pictures

This I already do pretty well, but again in this digital age there is no reason for there not to be tons of pictures. Pictures of me, pictures of them, pictures of us together, professional pictures, candid pictures, all the pictures we can have. That way they can always look back on all the amazing memories we have made together.

4. A will

Jason did not have a will, and we never really discussed his wishes. I can only hope I did what he wanted, and that he would be happy with the choices I made. I don’t want my kids to have to think about any of those decisions I want everything to be as easy as possible on them, and whoever else has to help in the time of my passing (hopefully this won’t be an issue for a very very long time).

5. Gifts

It would be fun to go ahead and set aside a gift for a wedding, or baby shower, or milestone birthday in case someday I miss those things. Something so they will always be reminded of how much I love them.

6. Passwords

Somewhere I need to stash away all my usernames and passwords for them so if something happens unexpectedly they can find anything and everything they may need. That way they have access to my cloud and all those videos and pictures.

7. Memories

I always want to make sure we make life about making memories. I want them to treasure their memories with me and their dad above all else. The experiences we’ve shared, the laughter, the tears, the fun, the adventure. I want this to be their greatest gift.

8. Skills

I want to make sure I teach them the necessary skills to get through life. I want Ellie to be able to do all the things a man can do from taking out the trash to changing a tire. I want Tripp to be able to do all the things a woman can do from cooking dinner to being compassionate and loving. I don’t want them to only know gender roles. I want them to know it all, and have all the skills to be as well rounded as possible. I have learned so much these past 15 months. I have changed a tire, taken out the trash, fixed the washing machine, taken care of the lawn, climbed super tall ladders, changed a door knob and lock. So many things I would have never learned or tried that I was sort of forced into doing. Either that or I would have had to pay someone else to do it. Above all else I want my kids to be self sufficient, and always able to take care of them selves and know it’s ok to be alone, and not have to rely on anyone else.

9. My meaning of Life

To me the meaning of life is to form relationships. Relationships of all kinds. I want my kids to choose their friends wisely and love them deeply. I want them to trust they can call on those they love, and be the person their friends call on. I want them to find love and a partner that’s perfect for them. I don’t want them to settle just cause it seems like it’s the thing to do. I want them to be selective. I want them to always tell people how important they are and how much they cherish those in their lives. I also want them to understand that relationships don’t always last forever. Some will, but some may only be around for a season and that’s ok too. Each person is placed in your life for a reason and weather they are there for a short time or the whole time or anywhere in between each relationship is important.

10. Lead by example

I hope to lead them by becoming what I want to see in them. I want them to see me putting others before myself, but also taking the time to care for myself. I want them to see me vulnerable and brave all at the same time. I want them to see me love my friends, family, and partner. I want them to see me make mistakes and stumble then watch me dust myself off and try again. I want them to see me win and lose and be happy with both outcomes. I want them to see me always wanting to be better, learn more, and try harder. I want them to know they have given me so much and that I always want to give back to them.

Everything Changes

The day my husband died everything changed. People told me my life would forever more be defined as life before and life after his death. So far that has proven to be the most true thing I’ve heard. Every single thing changed. Some of the things that changed were my appetite, I quit biting my nails (after biting them my entire life), I started shaving my legs way more regularly, I stare (a lot, at nothing), I get sad without realizing it, my temper is a little shorter, I love a lot harder, empathize in a way I never knew I had in me, crave attachment, crave human contact, treasure every relationship I have like they are what give me oxygen, allowed some relationships to fizzle out, accepted that other relationships would forever be changed, realized how the people I love love, just to name a few.

I think the biggest change I noticed was in relationships. It took me a long time to realize that the reason each and every relationship I had changed was because I am forever changed. I am not the person I was when I was Jason’s wife. I had always heard how surprising it is who fizzles out, and who shows up at your darkest moment. accepting that this is part of the process was not easy. Then you throw a worldwide pandemic in the mix and relationships really become different. I’ve always known people are put in my life for a reason and sometimes just a season, and I believe this now more than ever.

I had friends I just knew would hold me up and get me through who barely showed up, I had friends who I didn’t even consider as part of my support system turn into the strongest pillars I had to lean on. I had one friend who I went to concerts with who told me she would check on me every day and here we are 15 months later, and she still checks on me almost every single day, unless one of us is out of town. She has sent a text, called, FaceTimed, Marco poloed, sent letters, you name it she’s done it. We were friends for 4 years before and have become the best of friends ever since. She is someone I will always remember as being the one who never gave up on me. She never judged me, was always willing to listen, was gracefully honest, encouraged me to grieve, and is always there. There are not enough words available to describe how forever thankful and grateful I am for her.

Another person who stepped up beyond what I expected was my mom. She helps me with the kids regularly. Letting them spend the night usually twice a month, having us for dinner regularly, watching one while I take the other to an appointment, and anything else she can do to help. I am so thankful to have such amazing women supporting me.

What have you noticed changed the most for you? We’re there changes your were expecting or changes you were surprised by?

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 was never a term I had heard, outside of a book, until I became a widow. So much new terminology to learn. So from what I’ve gathered chapter 2 means the second person that’s meant for you. Is it possibly to have a second partner after a loss? Is it possible to form a connection as strong, to feel as connected, to laugh as hard? Is there any way another man could make me smile like the first one did, make me feel like I am the only one, and maybe just maybe provide feelings I had possibly missed before. When is the right time, is there a right time, is this the right thing? Is it possible to have space for both? Could another man accept the impossible situation my heart is in? Could I allow myself to grieve properly and be with another man. My goodness the questions never stop, and questions about chapter 2 are endless.

About 5 months out I had decided I could go on some dates. Now this didn’t mean I was looking to meet someone, or that I was ready to “move on.” What this did mean is that I wanted to go out maybe grab a dinner and drinks, and see a show with a man. It would be fun. Nothing serious.

Well as the cliche as old as time goes, you’ll find someone as soon as you aren’t looking. Five months after my husband passed I was out with a guy at a concert. We were having a decent time. He bought me a drink and pinched my butt. I smiled and batted my eyelashes, but there was no love connection. After the show we moved to the bar for the after party. Well this guy decided to go to the restroom, and while he was gone another totally handsome man approached me. He was laying it on thick compliment after compliment, and I just became putty in his hands. The first man emerged from the restroom saw what was happening and graciously bowed out. He told me it was time for him to head home, and I did not object. I stayed and spent more time with the new man getting to know him a little better. Within moments we were talking music, and he invited me to New York City for a widespread panic concert. Now if you know me at all you know this is an offer I can’t refuse. He would get our plane ticket, our air B and B, our concert tickets. This concert was set to run for 5 nights. I simply told this man there is no way I could commit to 5 nights in New York City to a man I had just met, but I could possibly swing 2.

We ended up spending the rest of the evening together, and to be honest into the next day. He was so sweet, and said just the right things. It was as if Jason had hand picked this man for me. As the night turned to morning I learned very quickly just how incredible this man was. He focused on me, we had so many similarities, he communicated like a man out of the movies, he almost seemed to good to be true. (For the record 11 months later I feel exactly the same about him).

He has been patient, kind, understanding, willing to take things slow, allows me the space I need to grieve, comforts me in times of need, and makes me smile and laugh every single day. He accepts me exactly for who I am. After losing my husband I never dreamed it would be possible to find someone new. To find someone who, not only understands me, but allows me to be me has been the greatest gift I’ve received in the past 14 months.

We have taken things at a snails pace which has been exactly what I need, and allows me plenty of time to continue the to work on myself, grieve, and grow. He’s helped me discover what kind of person I want to be and what kind of person I can be. We have been together almost 11 months and we are still on the same page. We both take self care very seriously and make it a priority in our lives.

I don’t think my time line is the right timeline for anyone else but me. Some may find someone sooner some later some may choose to never find someone. All of those options are perfectly fine and perfectly normal. I think one thing we can all agree on is is giving ourselves grace. Do what makes you feel good, and is healthy. Be kind to yourself and take time for yourself. Don’t be afraid to move slow or fast. Don’t let others tell you what is good for you or what isn’t good for you. If the person is right for you they will move at the pace that is right for you.

One final thought on chapter 2. Do not worry about what others will think or say because of you finding someone. No one else is living your life day in and day out, and no one else knows how you feel or what you need like you do. I am a firm believer that if it’s right then I won’t worry what others will think or say. This isn’t to say telling all of my family and friends was super easy and comfortable, but I did it confidently because I know I’m in a healthy happy place. I don’t know if I’ll be with this man until the end, but I do know he is in my life for a reason. I will hold on to this relationship as long as I can, and enjoy every moment I can.

Solo Parent

Solo parent is a term I had never heard of until I became one. It’s much different than a single parent. I’ve never been a single parent so I don’t truly know the struggles of a single parent. I can imagine what I think it would be like, but that’s as good as it can get. I imagine co parenting also comes with its own set of struggles that I will never truly know.

What I do know about is solo parenting. When I became a mother I thought that would be the hardest job I would ever have. I also thought I would always have a partner and someone else in the trenches with me. It never occurred to me that I would ever be a parent alone. Carrying the weight of both parents. I never realized how heavy that weight would be. I never in a million years thought this would be my story, but it is.

The day Jason died the three of us moved into my parents house. Tripp had recently turned four, and Ellie was getting close to nine. It was about a week before Ellie was set to start third grade. What a third grade year she had. Starting the year with the death of her Dad, and finishing it in March due to a world wide pandemic. In her first decade of life she has experienced more than some experience in a lifetime.

Living at my parents house was hard on all of us, but I am so grateful we had that as an option. Jason died in our bed, and I was not ready to go home for quite some time. In fact I didn’t think I would ever go back. I also could barely take care of myself so how could I also take care of these two children that would now depend on just me for everything. My parents were amazing. My mom helped me, I think more than she will ever know. You see she allowed me to grieve, she allowed me to do whatever I needed to do in order to survive those first few months. She also made me take care of my kids. She helped a ton, but she made sure I was the one to put them to bed every night, and I was the one to get them up every morning, pack their lunches, and get them to school. Knowing I had to complete these tasks every day I think helped keep me alive and moving forward. As the days passed she would give me a little more responsibilities really without me even noticing, or maybe I started to take on more without her asking. Who knows, but I very slowly came back to parenting. In fact I’m still trying to be the parent I want to be, but I’m light years from where I was this time last year.

Solo parenting is hard, doing this all by myself with no one in the trenches with me is hard, having no one equally invested in my children is hard, but I’m doing it. One day at a time each day slightly better than the day before. Of course there are difficult days, but I’m doing it. I’m surviving. I spend time working on myself every single day so I can be the mother my kids need and deserve.

There are so many things I took for granted when my husband was alive. Things as simple as running to the store to grab something without having to bring both kids, or being able to go out on a girls night without having to find a sitter, or even just having someone else to squish the bugs.

I also feel so much more pressure raising my kids, because their future depends on how I raise them. Just me. It’s a lot to hold on to. I am lucky. I do have family and friends who are extremely supportive, but as you know it’s just not the same. I do recognize I am luckier than some with the support and love the 3 of us do get.

I think through all the struggles that come with becoming a widow, solo parenting is one of the most difficult. One of the things I find difficult is answering the questions they have, and the conversations we have to have that I never would have imagined I would had to have with them. I have taken the approach that honesty is the best policy when it comes to the difficult conversations, and it seems to work. because Jason died of an overdose there have been many mature conversations. I believe I am doing the best I can by being open and honest with them.

So I’m curious what have your struggles been? What things do you do you feel you are doing right to over come them? I know it’s so easy for us to focus on what we think we are doing wrong we often times forget to think about all of the amazing things we are doing right.

The Day I Will Never Forget

On August 3rd, 2019, my 36th birthday, I woke up to the worst morning imaginable. I was on the sofa. I was woken up by my four year old asking me to help him wipe his butt. Really, on my birthday!?! Isn’t that your dad’s job, on my birthday? Isn’t this the one day I don’t have to have that job? Sure I’ll help, but when your dad wakes up I’m really going to let him have it. This is what I thought was going to be the worst part of my day. What I would give now for that to be the worst part of my day.

You may be wondering why I was waking up on the sofa, and not from my comfortable bed. That’s because I was upset with my husband. You see he had been partying the night before, and when he came to bed he began to snore. He was snoring so loudly I could not make him stop no amount of poking, yelling, or shaking would make it stop. This wasn’t that abnormal for him after a night of partying. So instead of lying miserably in the bed unable to sleep I decided to move to the sofa where I could at least sleep, even if I wouldn’t be as comfortable. Strange thing is this was the first time in our almost 12 year marriage I had decided to move to the sofa.

When I was woken up I decided I would just let him sleep off his party from the night before. Making sure he was good and sober when he woke up. I was prepared to tell him it was time to go back to rehab, except this time he would be going for drug recovery not alcohol. You see what I never believed was that alcoholics and addicts have the same disease. I believed people were one or the other. Jason’s “drug of choice” was after all a bottle of cheap vodka. I was totally wrong in this belief. You see if someone has the disease of addiction they will find a way to escape and numb their pain any way they can. Sometimes they are able to get sober, and find healthy coping skills. Other times they aren’t.

Jason had not touched a drop of alcohol since going to rehab the previous September. He was so close to almost an entire year alcohol free. I was so impressed, so proud, so so happy for his accomplishment. I couldn’t believe he was doing it. I believed we were back on track. We were getting a second chance at marriage, a second chance at life, and a second chance at being the family I always wanted.

At some point about 6 months into sobriety we decided he was doing well enough to try some “non addictive recreational drugs.” What would be the harm in that? It would allow him a little escape, without being ” too risky.” Boy were we wrong! What went from a little pot here and there quickly escalated to hard core drugs. I was so blinded by how well he was doing not drinking I didn’t even realize how bad it was getting. One thing about addicts is they are tricky and super sneaky.

Four days before my birthday I started noticing that Jason was acting different. Some of his old habits were showing up. He tried to get out of a family birthday dinner for my niece, he was talking with a little bit of a different inflection in his voice, he was withdrawing from the family. Something was going on, but I could not quite figure it out. After each day I became more and more suspicious of what was going on. Reaching out to friends, and asking if they knew anything I didn’t know. I first noticed the behavior on a Tuesday evening, on Wednesday I caught him with white powder in his nostril at the family birthday diner, and by Thursday I was only speaking to him through text message. I told him I stood by his side and supported him whole heartedly while he went through rehab, and battled sobriety, I was not going to go through it again especially with drugs. He admitted it was a problem, and told me he was going to stop.

Well Friday came, and I saw he had withdrawn $800 from our savings account. I could no believe it. I was livid. We were not well off, and never would just spend that kind of money without a very long discussion. When he got home Friday evening he was acting the strangest he had all week. I got the kids to bed, and went to spend the rest of the evening in my bed away from him. He was doing all sorts of strange things like listening to terrible music that he never listened to, going in and out to his car all night, and he even cleaned a toilet that night. I decided I would just go to sleep and talk to him in the morning once he slept everything off.

Well August 2nd, 2019 was he last time I saw my husband alive, and the last night he went to bed. At 9:00 in the morning when my daughter woke up I sent her in to wake up her father. I was cooking bacon, and it was close to time for breakfast. She came out of the bed room and told me “I tried to wake him up, but he wouldn’t move and was super cold.” I knew immediately this wasn’t good. I ran in the bedroom to see him already spotted black and blue bruises, vomit all over the pillow, and no life left in him. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, I didn’t want to believe what I was seeing. I grabbed his face and yelled to him “what did you do, why, what did you do?” I then looked at my precious babies and told them to “get out of the room this is not good.”

After that things started happening so quickly, and simultaneously in slow motion. I called 911, and nothing could be done he was gone. Just like that I lost my husband of nearly 12 years, by best friend of 15 years, my children’s father, my partner, my lover, my life. Nothing would ever be the same.

It’s now been fourteen long months, and I have slowly been putting the pieces of our lives back together the best I can. The pieces I can’t put back together I try to mend the best I can or add new ones that will hopefully fit. I have worked daily to help myself and my children survive the enormous grief of this loss. I am so proud of how far the three of us have come. This has not been easy, and it sure hasn’t been pretty, but I didn’t expect it would be. With continued work and support I am at a point where I can say with confidence we will survive this. We will survive this, and we will be prepared to survive other hardships that come our way.

I am here to say today I am happy. I am also heartbroken, and that’s ok. I have learned to live with the heartbreak, learned it is part of me, learned it will forever live inside me. I have also learned it doesn’t have to be a life sentence for unhappiness and misery. I have learned to feel joy, give joy, and receive joy. I want more than anything for others to know they can do the same. This has been the most difficult journey of my life, but I am a survivor. I want to help other young widows, especially those with children, not only survive but thrive through this painful beautiful journey. Your journey wont be like mine, I promise, but I am willing to walk beside you through your journey. I will help you write your own story of survival. Reach out and let me know your story. Let me know how I can help you.

What Could You Do For Thirty Days?

Well I haven’t been shy about letting you know alcohol has been a great coping mechanism, and escape for me the past 14 months. In fact it got to where it was way too easy of a crutch. Of course like a lot of people covid made drinking even more enjoyable, and more “necessary” to help escape. Something just to wind down from a difficult day of doing exactly the same thing I did the day before.

When Jason died I had been a stay at home mom for over four years. He was our provider and I was the home keeper, and by home keeper I mean I kept the kids alive and the house mildly presentable. After Jason died going back to work was super overwhelming. I decided I would wait a little while before going back to work. Well once I was finally ready to get my feet wet again in the work force covid-19 hit. So I am still a homemaker and stay at home mom doing the best I can to live off what little we receive in survivor benefits, and what’s left of some money raised from a go fund me.

I’ve gotten much better at the homemaker part, and now my house is mostly presentable. I’ve de cluttered the house multiple times, frequently donating bags and boxes of stuff we just don’t need. We had accumulated so much stuff over the years. Stuff we never used. Every time I throw away, recycle, or donate something I feel lighter. I hope to someday get down to very little stuff and only enrich our lives with experiences. It’s been a process, but one I have thoroughly enjoyed. Decluttering my home helps de clutter my mind. I’ve even de cluttered the yard.

Decluttering my mind is something that has really felt good, and been a huge outlet for me. I’ve read self help books, watched documentaries on manifesting my own destiny, and worked on having a growth mindset. Ready to grow and change and become the best I can be and loving each day to the fullest. As I’ve mentioned before I want to become the best version of myself so my children can become the best version of themselves.

I decided I would challenge myself again. This time 30 days alcohol free. How hard could it be? I can do anything for 30 days right? It’ll be over before I know it. Wow was I wrong. I’ve been sober before for different reasons diet, pregnancies, breast feeding, in support of Jason, but this was just a personal challenge.

This 30 days proved to be more difficult than any other time. What I realized when I wasn’t having a glass of wine at night was that I wasn’t able to numb my feelings, I wasn’t able to escape my emotions. I guess I should also mention I quit using social media at the same time which was also a favorite mind numbing escape for me.

There were many nights I wanted just one glass of wine to relax. and to ease into the evening. Just one drink at family dinner, a beer while out with friends. But each time I said no, and each time I stuck to my word. I have officially made it 29 days without a drop of alcohol. For some this may be no big deal, but for me it was hard, and I’m proud of myself for doing it. I don’t think of myself as an alcoholic. When I am drinking I don’t drink daily, and don’t drink to get drunk, but I do enjoy a glass or two of wine. I’m thankful I stuck to it over this month. I was able to grieve more and feel more than I realized I would. It was hard, I cried a lot, but I did it. I enjoyed this time of self discovery. Who knows maybe I’ll try it again sometime, or maybe I’ll challenge myself in some other way.

How would you challenge yourself? How have you challenged yourself? What ways should I challenge myself?

What would your 30 day challenge be?

No alcohol?

No drugs?

Dance every day.

Exercise every day.

Eat a healthy diet?

Cook every meal at home?

Read daily?

Write daily?

Throw away something you no longer need everyday?

Do a random act of kindness everyday?

There are so many ways we can challenge ourselves and learn about ourselves. It doesn’t have to be for 30 days that just seemed like a good number to me. Tell me how would you challenge yourself? How have you challenged yourself?

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

A quote by Chuck Palahniuk, from Fight Club I just heard the other day, and it hit super close to home. So what have I done with my life now that the life I knew is over. The slate was theoretically wiped clean, and I get to rebrand myself. I get to become whoever I choose. I am no longer “Jason’s wife” no longer a “we” no longer “me” as I’ve known myself for the past few decades. Some things have stayed the same. I still have two kids, a cat, and a home, but besides that it seems as though everything changed. Every relationship, my behaviors, beliefs, habits, routines, interests, even my taste in music. It felt as though nothing stayed the same. The day Jason died my world was turned upside down, and shaken to its very core leaving me just a shell to figure out how to nurture and regrow into someone different. Hopefully someone better, stronger, and more empathetic.

One of the strangest things about experiencing a loss is that it ends up being compounded by many other “losses” as well. Some friends and family fall by the way side never to be heard from again. People you thought without a shadow of a doubt would be there for you no matter what. They don’t know how to handle the transformation taking place in front of their eyes. Activities you used to love don’t bring you as much joy, there are so many new things out there to try. On the flip side others who you may not have known or been close to in the past show up as pillars of strength and friendship for you.

When you are born you are given a few years to figure everything out and sort of grow into your own little person. When your husband dies it’s as if people expect you to just keep on going as the same person not skipping a beat. Or they claim they want you to take your time and grieve, but then seam scared to witness you grieving. Scared it may be contagious or scared they will make it worse or maybe it’s just too sad for them to deal with. I don’t know what it is, but what I do know is that if one of my friends or family looses someone I will never leave their side weather they like it or not. Those people who did not leave my side reminded me of the parts of me I wanted to hold onto, and the parts I didn’t want to lose. They let me know that maybe some of the new parts I was trying out weren’t such a good fit, but they would support me until I figured that out. They never judged me, and held my hand as I fell into my deepest darkest place no matter how scary it got for me or them. They are still holding my hand today as I continue to claw and crawl my way out of that hole.

Some of my habits that changed were that I started drinking again. Almost immediately. I had been sober to support Jason in his journey for almost 11 months. I quit biting my finger nails not on purpose I just stopped. I had bit my fingernails my entire life. I quit sleeping. I had always slept 8-10 hours a night, now thanks to my new found grief I was maybe getting up to 4 hours of sleep a night if any. I basically quit eating. I had been on a good keto diet for a while, and once grief hit food became just a necessity only eating a few bites to sustain me each day. I quit being an attentive mother. I basically did enough to keep us going. We all moved into my parents house the day Jason died. Thank God I had that option for myself, but most of all for my children. See I was just sort of a shell of a body going through the daily motions. Someone said to me it would feel like walking through mud on a foggy day, and that was exactly how life felt. I would get the kids up every day and off to school, and put to bed every night. I did what I could to help keep some sort of normalcy for them. Some mornings packing their lunches for school while still awake from the day before. I would spend my days shopping, hiking, exercising, doing anything but sitting at home. Trying to constantly stay occupied doing things that felt “good.” I would spend my nights with a “best friend” partying, and trying anyway to feel good. Always avoiding any time I would be left to sit alone with my own thoughts. At the time nothing was scarier than being alone. Alone meant time to think. If I was alone I had music on, and I had it on loud enough to where all I could do was sing along still unable to think still avoiding having to feel the immense emotional pain that I was in.

I lived this way for months. My friends and family started to worry about me. Hell, I started to worry about me. I wasn’t eating, wasn’t sleeping, only finding “joy” in bad or obsessive habits. Then one day I realized this IS my story, and this IS my reality. I can either continue down a this very dangerous path of self destruction or accept my sentence and move on. On New Year’s Eve going into 2020 I decided it was time to change. Time to become the person I needed and wanted to be. I needed to be the best I could be for myself, and even more importantly for my two kids. If I can’t get healthy how could I ever expect them to be ok.

I decided I would pick a word to focus on and make that my New Years resolution. The word I chose was balance. I have spent the past 10 months working on balancing my life. Some days I do a great job some days I fail, but I haven’t stopped trying. I am doing much better being a mother, much kinder to myself, and following much healthier habits. I am trying to figure out what I want to do with this new life I‘ve been given, because I sure don’t want it to go to waste. I am hoping to one day crawl all the way out of the hole, and be able to help others when they are ready to crawl out as well. It is possible. I see the light, and want to be the light for others. I want to become someone people are drawn to, and trust, and seek out for advise and help. I want to help others through their darkest hours. I am working towards becoming a life coach, and think this is a perfect step for me to be taking. I can’t wait to see what new life I build for myself and for my children.

I’ll Eat Ant Poison

“I’ll eat ant poison so I can go be with Daddy.”

“Oh no, you can’t do that, because then you won’t be with me or your sister or any of your other family or friends”

“I would still be able to see you and get in the van. I just wouldn’t be able to buckle my car seat, but you could put up a picture of me.”

“Let’s please not do that, Mommy wants you here as long as possible.”

“Ok, I’ll wait til I’m really old to eat the ant poison”

This is a conversation with my five year old son who lost his father to a drug overdose 14 short months ago. I would like to say this was the first and last conversation of this type, but it’s not and it won’t be. Last time it was benedryl, and god only knows what it will be next time.

By the way did you catch the pet where I said that was my five year old? I can’t begin to imagine how complicated his fathers death is to process for him. Everyday it feels like he stabs me with a fresh cut of grief and sadness.

Why did Daddy want to die?

Why did Daddy take those drugs?

Where is Daddy?

I miss my Daddy.

I’m sad, and my feelings are hurt because my daddy is dead.

I just want my daddy to take me to the Mcwane Center (our local hands on kids museum).

I love my Daddy

EVERY SINGLE DAY!

Everyday I panic and pray I am comforting him in the way he needs me to. I pray I’m giving him the answers he needs. I beg that I am setting him up for a life of happiness and healing. I try to dress each new wound, knowing yesterday’s still hasn’t healed. It feels like every time I can take one bandaid off I have to add another one, and I’m left with all the scars of the old ones.

I also have my own thoughts and questions EVERY SINGLE DAY!

Why do my children have to experience such heavy adult feelings?

Will they be ok?

Am I doing this right?

Am I helping them like I should?

What am I messing up?

Why can’t I just make everything better?

Why did you do this to me?

Why did you leave me alone?

How will I make it?

I’m so overwhelmed I feel like I’m drowning.

What does their future hold?

This all falls on my shoulders.

You asshole!

I love you, and miss you, and need you.

This isn’t my story, this can’t be my story!

THIS IS NOT FAIR!

Yes, I did say children. We have two. My five year old son with the daily stabbings and reminders of our reality, and my now nine year old daughter who would rather hide in her bedroom and play with her toys than talk about her feelings. She’s fine to share a happy memory or tell a funny story, but just like her father she totally shuts down if any uncomfortable feelings or emotions are brought up. I’m living in constant fear she’s going to grow up with the same demons as her father. That she is going to try to self medicate. How do I keep her safe? How do I make sure she makes good choices? How do I shield her from the evils in this world that can provide such comfort to those searching for something to make them feel good? I know I’ll do everything in my power to help her avoid that messy dirty road, and I know it won’t be easy.

I know how easy it is to find comfort in the things that bring us temporary relief from the pain. Sex, alcohol, social media, food, partying, under eating, over eating, over exercising, being sedentary, and any other way to escape the pain, heartbreak, and grief and feel good even if it’s only temporary and just a quick fix.

How I wish I could have saved him! How I tried to save him! If I had just tried something else would my story be different? What I have come to believe is that I did the best I could, and I can’t save anyone. What I can do though is save myself. Do everything I need to in order to care for myself, and that will help all of us. As long as I do everything I can to save myself that will mean I am doing everything I can to save my children.

I know I won’t be able to save them, I wasn’t able to save my husband, but I will do everything in my power to save myself. This will hopefully be the best example I can give my children. They are what he left me, and I am forever grateful for both of them. I will do everything in my power to give them my best so they can grow up to be their best.