the first year

There are no words …and would require ALL the words… to describe, recount, express what I have experienced in the 365 days since Shayne died.

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I still hesitate when I type that. When I say it. He died.
Still… HOW is that even possible and my reality?
My God… my brain still trips over the concept.

Honestly, it hasn’t profoundly gotten ‘easier’ to say, type, feel, realize, live.
This is all difficult, gut-wrenching and the basic fact is: weaved between each new moment of joy and happiness I gather… I can’t help but sink down simultaneously, “but I wouldn’t even be here, having this moment, if you hadn’t died.”
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[my first day of true, can’t-hide-it “joy” after he died… 4/25/16. we went to a trampoline park and a dear friend sent us some of this magical popcorn via Amazon. never forget this moment!]
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My life’s trajectory forever changed and set me down on a completely different set of tracks.
People I have met, things I have said, done, emotions I have felt, experiences, decisions I have made the last 365 days are ALL BECAUSE my husband died. Every single one.
Does that compute? It hardly computes with me most days.
I wouldn’t be sitting here, on this porch in these chairs, staring at this patch of sky, listening to the music I have on, typing on this laptop, having had the day I did… if you hadn’t died.

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[Sprinkled him in the bricks at Wrigley Field, Nov. 2016]

I just want to come out with it and confess, it makes me cringe when people say grief or moving through it “gets easier” or “gets better.”
Listen up. It does not get easier. Or better.
And if we deemed it so, we – the survivor – determine when and if that happens. Please, don’t put the expectation on us that it will or needs to feel easier or better. Whether or not you have been through loss…

It just evolves, everything is just different. You evolve, you feel different.

It just goes on. You go on.
It doesn’t feel easier or better, you just keep moving onward.
You get out of bed.
You make yourself available to your grief …and… support system.
And just.keep.moving.

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My life has certainly kept going.
And I have made myself available to the progress, the evolution and even the pangs of grief itself.

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I have not hidden away from any emotion… my tight inner circle has seen and heard me rage! Cry, laugh and make jokes, scream obscenities, lock myself in the bathroom, seen me smile through depression, been shoulders for me to lean on and hug tight, listened to voice memo after voice memo, not shamed me when I made mistakes and felt sorry for myself for a millisecond, and… watched and listened to me overcome and overcome and damnit …OVERCOME.

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I think a common denominator in my own journey is that I have stayed completely current and honest in how I feel and let it come and go.
I’m so thankful for that.
I am so thankful I nestle into vulnerability and being real and raw in emotions and reached deep down and grabbed what was boiling inside me and let it rise to the surface. I needed that. I needed it all to just come to the surface.

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But more importantly, the people who have stuck their hands into this fire and let me burn so I could rise. Listened to me, cried with me, sat quietly and let me recount stories and memories, poured another glass of wine but supported me when I wanted to focus on my health and give the bad habits a break, held my hand and got me to take one more step, watched as I crumbled and eagerly waited in confidence knowing I would get back up.
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Just as I would not be here if it weren’t for his death, I also wouldn’t be here without the support and unconditional love of a support system that just.won’t.quit. on me.

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My walk onward these last 365+ days now is mind-blowing to me.
You know how they say, one day you’re just going to be on a journey (whatever it is, grief or not) and look back and blow your own damn mind?
Yeah, I’ve done that now a few times in my life… this one, though, it’s beyond comprehension, a little overwhelming.
What I have done, seen, felt, worked through, battled and still… overcome.
And somehow, I’m exhausted, too. Because it feels like just the beginning.

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In the first hours, days, after Shayne was gone… I would take showers so I could be completely alone and in every sense of the word, naked.
Before I stepped into my vulnerability and shared an ounce, I self-soothed in the shower.
I’d let the tears flow.
It was my escape, private retreat… I wouldn’t feel obligated to stop crying or have anyone else’s comfort or feelings in mind while I fully expressed.
I could (literally) strip down, let it go and let it wash away. And step out clean, empty.
The showers were my first way of releasing all the sadness, tears, snot, burry my face in my hands and shake like a mad woman with fury and just FEEL IT.
Completely, unapologetically emotional. Without a single soul seeing me.
Mornings are difficult. Still. Not even a few months ago I was struggling to get up out of bed. Sometimes I feel guilty for even waking, and sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t have at all. I walked into the shower ready to set down some guilt and wash it off before I started the day.
I couldn’t help but feel angry. Rage.
WHY did you DO THIS to me!?
I squared up both feet in like a staggered runners stance and put both hands, palms flat against the shower wall and just started pushing as fiercely as I could.
I was crying my eyes out, just pushing the damn walls away. Seeing his face, hearing his voice and being so angry. I pushed and pushed… my arms trembling.
I didn’t want to stop pushing until the walls cracked, I wish they would have, or until it all disappeared.
Leave me alone.
I don’t want to do this anymore.

Thats what it feels like.
You can push, and push, and push… and its still there. The wall doesn’t move.

The pain. Its there.
So what do you do with the void this person left? What goes in it?
As painful as it is to hold onto, hopefully, they left you a lot of love to give.
That’s what Shayne left me.
And I have been Hell-bent on living in it and giving it away.

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[Safe-keeping Shayne at our wedding venue, 05/16/16.]

I have pushed, and pushed the last 365 days and…
Over and over had to tell – and still having the conversations – with his little ladies why their Daddy is not here,
after being on the road from May-July… started completely over from scratch and moved from Houston (with huge help from friends and family) to our beach babe cave nearly 3 months after his death,
met dozens and became connected with the most amazing people during our travels,
bought myself my very first coffee maker,
been lifted up daily by a support system that is out of this world incredible,
road warriored all over! …traveled and sprinkled Shayne in Tennessee, along 65-S in Alabama, the Emerald Coast here in Florida, Kennedy Space Center, Magic Kingdom at Disney World, Wrigley Field and Millennium Park in Chicago, from a plane when I went sky diving for my 30th, the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon,
celebrated all the first birthdays and holidays and leaned into every single one with people who love us,
stepped into solo-parenting… like making the decisions by myself on where to place the girls for school and got them settled and Audrey into her language therapy,
hung curtains and built a book shelf (both of which have fallen apart and now rendered useless),
shared the ugly story, the truth of how he died… over… and over… and over… breaking open each time,
listened to enough Green Day to keep me satisfied for the rest of my life,
started and finished a 21 day detox and lost 13 pounds in December,
got a memorial tattoo of his name on my ring finger in his handwriting,
lost my damn mind and wildly celebrated for him when the Cubbies won the World Series,
unapologetically rolled 3 deep everywhere – this is me and my squad,
started training for and ran my first 10k Thanksgiving morning – and became infatuated with distance running,
experienced hundreds of breathtaking sunsets with my toes in the sand… living where I’ve always wanted to,
leaned in and on an out-of-this-universe inner circle of selfless hearts who have taken us in as their own and quite literally helped us get moving,
had a vision for and created this blog,
showed up to the first of many of the girls’ school functions and pageants as a solo parent,
to make my horticulture guy proud… successfully replanted and kept alive two plants I have no idea what they’re called but I named them Grace and Frankie,
drove us to and attended my brother’s funeral back in Texas only to attend another service a month later for Shayne’s sister’s husband,
checked the mail on so many(!!!!!!) occasions to receive so many thoughtful gifts and cards to make me smile and feel loved,
took myself on my first solo movie date post-Shayne and cried nearly the entire way through it watching Hidden Figures,
put myself “out there,” flirted and felt like a total idiot… and guilty,
then put myself “out there” again, and felt/feel really hopeful and grateful about how it turned out,
had so many visitors to the babe cave and enJOYed every second of their company,
been blessed with some incredible friendships born out of these circumstances I otherwise would not have,
celebrated Audrey’s 5th birthday and visited a fellow young widow in Vegas,
held Celine Dion’s hand at her show (I can die now but …won’t),
tried and face planted with reenergizing my online business,
realizing …and it taking my breath away… that my heart really is more open and willing and capable of loving more than ever (thank you Shayne),
spilled a bit of Shayne on our living room carpet and all I could do was laugh, and tell him I was sorry and I promise I wouldn’t vacuum him up,
transitioned from doing things that I think Shayne would want to do or enjoy or want me to do… and started listening to that voice inside of me that wants and desires and still wants to live and be heard and begun doing things and sitting around the decision-making table with her more often,
woke up on the year anniversary and did the damn day and realized… there’s been massive healing. I didn’t buckle or fall completely apart like I anticipated I was going to. I did the damn day. I showed up and had a few moments in the morning but… to my surprise, that was it. Loved and lived and surrounded myself with good experiences and people. Went to brunch, Lake Mead and ate an entire bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies in the presence of a fellow widow who I only hope I have encouraged, because she has lifted me up plenty.
I’m not healed, but I am on my way.
Healing isn’t a sprint, its certainly a marathon. And I’ve got miles to go.

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Its mind-blowing.
This time has passed, and what has transpired.
Where is this will to live and love coming from? Me just a year ago was in a million pieces. Feeling empty, broken, confused, couldn’t catch my breath.

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[Let Shayne go here at the South Rim at the Canyon. Realized later it says “Unstoppable” and “Be kind”…4/15/17] [And gave Shayne a nice view of the bridge at the Hoover Dam]

How am I here?
Surely, even in those first few days and weeks after.. there is no way I would have foreseen THIS.
This.
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The connections. Experiences. Kismet. Relationships.
Every breath I have taken since April 16th… I’m listening to it all, tuned in and not wasting the energy.
Of everything I have done, what I’m most proud of is the connections I have made and relationships I have gained, the people I’ve come into contact with who without probably knowing… lifted me way up. I didn’t think I was capable or could be so open… but I want to connect now more than ever.

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If you have loved on us, in any way, shape or form… you did this.
You made this happen and possible and it is all being heard.
I believe in the unconquerable power of our collective intentions and energies, and every time you have sent up a good vibe, prayer, thought, in our direction… it is and was being received.
I am carrying it all. And giving it right back. With each step onward I take, living my life.
I’m still here. And look what I have done.
But… look what you’ve helped and inspired us to do.

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All these days. All these damn days.
And I’ll do 365 more. And then 365 more. I’m not going anywhere, I can’t.
Theres no way I can abandon my station now. I’ve come too far. Felt too much.
Been given too much.
Have too much more to give.
I must keep raging against the dying of the light. Keep pushing.

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If you’re deep in it, deep in grief… don’t look for comfort in it getting easier or better.
Feel comfort in knowing the truth… it doesn’t.
Thats like someone trying to convince you that a shit sandwich is an acquired taste.
I look at photos of him and fall apart still almost daily, memories come to me, things remind me of him and I suddenly can’t breathe.

You just keep living. You keep doing the next.right.thing.
You make lists or find hobbies, you keep your soul simmering by making decisions and acting on your deep-heart desires.
Because now, baby, its all you.
You find out what those are and you are unstoppable.
Especially with your perspective now about life and love and death? Its not a super power we want or asked for, but my God we got it!
Grab onto it. Don’t let anyone take it from you.
Give yourself permission to completely go deep sea in the ugly.
Bury yourself in your grief. Don’t fight it. Don’t suppress it.
The strong aren’t those who don’t show vulnerability or their emotions, let those emotions ROAR.
Let it dig its claws in you and you get weak. Then rise. You get so tired and ugly and worn out that you have no other option but to set ablaze and then, rise.
Let it tear you apart and sit in it. Feel it all. Then rise. And you will.
Thats all you gotta do. Feel it, set it on fire and rise.

He always used to tell me… when I’d try to tell him how to drive from the passenger seat, “Just sit there and look pretty, thats all you gotta worry about.”

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I have a feeling he’d tell me something along that same sentiment now…
Just keep living (and look pretty), that’s all you gotta worry about. 🙂

Here’s to another trip around the sun without you… of truly living. I’m getting the message.

This post is sincerely, whole-heartedly, tears-flowing dedicated to every.single.soul who has lifted us up in prayer, good thoughts and intentions, loved and supported, held our hand and heads up and maybe even without even knowing.. even just smiling or being kind.. changed my world. Thank you. I’m still here, I’ll keep giving what I have because of you.

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joy+health+peace,

caroline

#widowstrong

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2 thoughts on “the first year

  1. This was a total reliving of the past year as I read this aloud to Ace. I’ve seen you go through all of this sweet sis, and I truly can say you’re a super woman. We’ve cried together, laughed together, and sometimes just sat in silence together. I’m ALWAYS gonna be here for whatever you need. I love you three ladies so much!

    Can I just say how I had to chuckle when a came across the vacuum part of the blog? 😉 I know Shayne had a sweet laugh with you when it happened. I can just see that smile of his now. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is beautiful and I’m forever grateful to each person who played a role in getting you through, each person that’s hopped on this journey with you. I know Shayne is so proud of you (as he’s always been!) and will continue bringing you love and joy throughout the rest of this life. I love you and the little ladies and will forever keep you all in my heart and prayers. Love you MOST!

    Like

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