The Wandering Widow

Observations, Tips and Reckless Truth Telling on the Road Through Grief



Just Dance

A Wondering Widow Post

When was the last time you opened your box of treasures? When was the last time you took them out, held them in your hands, and went back in time? Sometimes on our grief journeys, no matter how well we’re doing, it’s important to take a timeout and honor the things you miss about your dearly departed.

That’s what I did this week. I hadn’t planned on it, but some of my new friends found that box of memories and dragged it out in the middle of the room for me, where I couldn’t ignore it.

Steve, Andrea and I were hanging out at the pub one evening. The singer that night invited people to come and dance on the mini dance floor she’d made by moving chairs out of the way. Steve dragged Andrea out on the dance floor and proceeded to shake his goofy groove thang. Andrea was a little self-conscious since they were the only two on the dance floor in this tiny pub.

I was laughing my a$$ off but told her how much I loved their love and that I thought it was fantastic. Dan danced like a dork (and there is a wedding DVD somewhere in storage that can prove it). He may not have invented the T-Rex dance moves, but he sure owned them. And lemme tell you, I would give just about anything to be able to dance with that goofball again, even if we were the only two on the dance floor and everyone was staring at us.

Somehow that memory opened the floodgates to all the little happy memories about things I miss. It was as if the contents of my treasure box got dumped on the floor so I could find and savor all the little ones that get buried at the very bottom like tiny legos or Barbie shoes.

Things like how he’d run around the house singing falsetto and opera just to be funny. Or how we shared the same adolescent sense of humor and could drag any event into the gutter with just a look.

I miss coming out wearing his favorite Boise State hoodie, only to see him roll his eyes and complain that he was just going to wear that. All the while knowing he secretly loved seeing me in it. Something he proved when it mysteriously showed up in my side of the closet one laundry day.

And I miss all the little thoughtful things he would do, despite being a knuckle-dragging cretin (his words, not mine). Like how my coffee was always waiting for me on the bathroom counter when I got out of the shower, or how he’d fuel up my car while I was still asleep. Or my favorite, how he’d throw my bathrobe in the dryer to warm it up for me on cold winter mornings to coax me out from under the warm blankets so I wouldn’t be late for work.

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about these little things. I’m grateful Steve and Andrea helped me rediscover them. I’m grateful they danced and laughed that night. And I hope those of you still lucky enough to have your hubs with you remember that it’s the dancing that counts, not what you look like or who may be looking. Someday all you’ll remember is the joy of the moment. So don’t be self-conscious, just get out there and dance.

The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

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King and Queen of the dorky dancers. This photo still cracks me up.

Letter to my 25 year old self

A Wondering Widow Post

Dear Lisa,

It’s 20 years from now, and amazing things are about to happen in your life.  I wish I could spare you the heartbreak and pain ahead, but can truthfully say it will forge you into a better you. And while it won’t feel like it, you will survive.  Here are some words of wisdom I wish you could hear:

1. Your goal to retire at 45 WILL happen, but you will pay an unbelievably horrible price to achieve it.  Don’t let that stop you from doing it.

2. Forever isn’t linear, it’s now. Forever is in every tiny moment. Don’t waste a single one. Stop working so damned much and invest those tiny moments in those you love and those that love you. Memories will always be worth more than things (trust me, at this exact moment you are selling everything you own). Take that trip. Take the class. Take a chance on love. Take the risk of living outside the plan, and outside what is expected of you. Sometimes happiness lies on the other side of playing it safe.

3. You have no control over anything but your attitude. I know your inner control freak won’t believe me until the universe decides it’s a lesson you WILL learn, and it will be in the hardest way possible.  It’s okay. It will be okay.

4. You are f@#$%^g awesome. I know you will spend years feeling insecure and not enough. You will hide those fears and lack of confidence in a hard shell that does you no favors.  Don’t be afraid. Believe in yourself. You are stronger than you could possibly know. 

5. It’s taken me our whole life for me to learn to love me.  Love you for you, and don’t wait so damned long to do it. 


Future You,  aka The Wandering Widow

The Grief Recovery Project

Did you know the caterpillar doesn’t just grow wings and become a butterfly? It digests itself, dissolving into a cocoon full of goo before reforming into a butterfly. It’s messy. And I’d imagine it’s painful. How is that for a freaky visual?

As disturbing as I find it, I love that analogy for what happens to us as we allow ourselves to come through the grieving process. It’s gruesome and gory. Who we were is destroyed. But in the end, we come out of it transformed. We are reborn. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve heard me say that the old Lisa died that July 10th morning, may she Rest In Peace. I chose to experience grief fully, allowing myself to become the caterpillar. I dissolved into a gooey mess that resembled neither who I was nor who I am becoming.

JM Storm is amazing and one of my favorite writers.

I’m told I’m goal oriented. I LOVES me a checklist. I set goals, and I figure out how to make magic happen. Once I set my mind to grief recovery, it became a project too. One of my W friends laughed as she accused me of over-achieving my grief. And I laughed with her! I had already given myself permission to take all the time I needed so I wouldn’t turn into a self-destructing-ticking-grief-bomb but was desperate to get as far away from the black pit of despair that almost cost me my life. So I went full bore into project mode.

The next few posts will cover my experiences with the different things I tried as I researched the Grief Recovery Project. I’ve already written about my experiences with grief counseling, and that is still at the top of my list for being the most helpful. But  acupuncture, massage therapy, Reiki, hypnotherapy, travel, a makeover and tons of books and blogs also became part of The GRP.  I’m far from being ready to fly away, but I can feel myself becoming solid again. I’m tired of the cocoon and getting ready to break out and flex my new wings.

Year One: What I’ve Learned About Grief

As we wrap up what has been, by all accounts the most challenging year of my life, I’m forced to reflect on what I’ve learned about life, death, love, and grief.  

1.We all grieve for different things throughout our lives…lost loves, lost innocence, lost opportunities, even election results. None of life’s previous losses prepared me for losing Dan and Dad. I quickly learned that grief doesn’t just make you sad.  It can be an overwhelming pain that affects you on an all encompassing level: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and financial. If you would have cleaved me in two, I don’t think it could have hurt more than the pain I’ve endured. For the first time in my life I had no answers, no plan, and no solutions.  I couldn’t fix it. All I could do was keep breathing…and that was harder than it sounds.

Grief also seems to come to the party with anxiety. This was a surprise, but it is pretty common even for those that never struggled with anxiety before their loss. I’ve decided that it’s the pressure (unintentional, of course) by others to be back to normal (not an option), have a good time, perform on the job, etc. that makes the anxiety so much worse. You wouldn’t believe the amount of energy it take to smile or hold back tears. I think as women we are taught to focus on others so much, that even in our worst pain we don’t want our grief to make others uncomfortable.  So it’s just easier to hide.

Screw that! When your W doesn’t want to go out, leave the house, or do anything but live on the couch, support her in that. Unless you’ve been through it, keep your advice to yourself. (On that note, every single W I’ve talked to encourages couch surfing as a survival tactic). If her grief makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you should take time to reevaluate what kind of a friend you are, because it’s not about you buddy!

2. In the darkest depths of despair, there are so many shining lights of hope.  So many lovely people stepped up to surround us with love and light and support. The meals, the angels who showed up to rake the fall leaves, the friends who never gave up on checking on me, even when I withdrew, all shining examples of the good in the world.  As Dumbledore wisely said, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Sometimes we just need someone else to help flip that switch.

3. You can’t do it alone, but being alone is okay.  I continue to survive with the help and guidance of my grief team: which includes my BFFs, family, grief counselor, financial advisor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, reiki master and others. I’ve also had my fellow W’s surround me in a ring of love and acceptance and support. Their unique understanding was something no one else could provide. 

But being alone was also a key component to my survival. After spending years in caregiver mode, giving myself permission to take care of myself was the best gift I could have ever received. And while nothing will ever replace my perfect travel partner, I’m looking forward to finishing out our bucket list as a solo traveler.  There is something therapeutic about being alone…it counters the anxiety/pressure of being with others.  

So many great memories to treasure. Take that vacation. Live now.

4. Grief isn’t linear.  It gets better.  And it gets worse.  And it’s different for everyone. On some days it’s hour to hour, or even minute to minute. So you shouldn’t beat yourself up about having a backslide because there is no forward and back. There is only now.

The circle of life goes on. Our sweet nephew has been my joy since losing Dan.

5. “There’s our old Lisa,” was one of the most painful things (even worse than the first time someone referred to me as a widow) someone said to me AD (after Dan).  I wanted to scream. The Lisa you used to know died that July 10th morning, half a second after Dan took his last breath.  And FYI she won’t be back.  I think that’s one reason the pain is so excruciating…you are really grieving for two.  In addition to learning to live without your love, you are mourning who you used to be.  And that’s not all that died that day.  Your hopes and dreams for the future were also snuffed out. So you grieve for all of you. And that is almost freaking impossible to shoulder. 

So as most people enter the new year with new goals, new dreams, and new hopes, those of us drowning in grief just focus on continuing to keep breathing. And you know what, that’s damned good enough if you ask me. 

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