Archive of ‘Inspiration’ category

Triathlon of Grief, Fear then Strength

By Julia Steier

My first race after my husband passed is so vivid. Pulling up to the waterfront, watching the Hudson River lap against the shoreline as my friend and his wife unhooked our bikes from the back of his car.

I can’t believe this is happening.

At day break 10 months and three days earlier I was at my husband’s bedside wiggling my hands underneath his body. Cancer stole him. His final breath escaped him and I was trying to absorb his warmth before he was taken away from me forever. I needed to feel him because time was precious. And when one area became cold I would try to find another warm spot. I held on to his warmth until they took him and that’s when the nightmare commenced. It would be the last morning with him.

I didn’t want this, I didn’t ask for this. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not to me. How was I supposed to breathe without him? We had our lives to build. And now — and now I’m alone.

At the riverfront, the sky blazed with a magnificent glow as the sun woke up. The thick cool air twisted my stomach and my heart pounded in my throat like a metronome as time pulled closer to the start of the triathlon.

I set up my station alongside other experienced triathloners. They zipped up their wetsuits with their cycling gear underneath. They weren’t going to waste time between moving from swim to biking to running. If you cut down the time between changing, the better your overall time would be. I didn’t own a wetsuit, instead I wore bright purple yoga pants, a sports bra and then threw my swimsuit over the whole thing. It seemed practical to me. But I stood out as inexperienced, and I saw the side stares, shoulder shrugs and heard the whispers. But my friends were there for support and guidance. They believed in me.

But I didn’t know what I was doing.

Everyone could see I didn’t belong there. I was different. I had gone through months of hell preparing for this moment. My limbs twitched with excitement, my palms were sweaty like it was my first date. I was ready.

The race organizer corralled all the participants to the riverfront to jump in and get ready for the start. Some gingerly approached the water, others stretched their shoulders out before slipping in. But me, as if it were a hot humid summer day I leaped into the water. The girl in the bright purple yoga pants, the one without the wetsuit, the girl borrowing a bike that’s too big for her, the girl who doesn’t belong, the girl who’s the third wheel.

I was the girl who lost her way.

The river was colder than what I was anticipating. It felt like someone was pulling apart my ribcage. The sun was hanging low and the reflection on the river was blinding. What am I doing here? I started wading in the water to fight the current. The force of the current was pulling me downward as river water choked me. I tilted my head up, gasping for air, barely staying afloat. It was unforgiving and the current kept tugging at me. The safety rope was within an arms length and I reached for it to keep from drifting away. But my chest continued to feel like it was pulling apart, as if a larger force was filleting me like a fish to rip my guts out. I couldn’t hold on for much longer. Blow the fucking horn, start the goddamn race.

Because I was about to drown.

Like a steam whistle on a training passing by, the race began. I let go with a flurry of other swimmers scratching at my legs and their feet inches from my face. I had to get away from them, I needed to be on my own so I could stretch my stroke in open water. I wanted to be alone so I could find my stride. With every reach and kick, I was one stroke closer to getting through this mile swim before clipping in and lacing up for 31 more.

I did it, I finished and I survived.

On September 28th, 2014 in 2 hours and 58 minutes and 39 seconds, my entire life shifted. I felt unstoppable. I wasn’t just a widow, I became a triathlete.

And it wasn’t supposed to happen.

At least not to me.

I never wanted to be a triathlete.

The hardest situation is watching your entire life fall apart and not being able to stop it or slow it down. All you can do is watch it come undone and see your future engulfed in flames, your dreams vanish, and your purpose and worth disseminated.

And then it’s time to reassemble. Whether you want to or not.

A broken path reveals itself covered in bramble and shards of glass of a life you can no longer return to. It’s a path I didn’t want to travel down, but what other option is there?

Everything has changed. So now it was time to begin to believe I was as strong and brave as others perceive me to be. Even though I knew deep down I’ve been burned alive and was just a shell of a person I used to be. But somewhere between the grief there’s hiccups of pride. I found support in people I never expected and I began to feel a love that was missing. So I continued marching forward on this lonely journey, one mile at a time.

My husband George fought cancer, and as he was fighting he enjoyed life to the fullest. I felt him pushing me to become stronger than I could’ve ever imagined. And that summer when I was on the trails running, zipping along the streets on my bike, pulling myself through the water, I started learning how to appreciate life again. When my body ached, I thought of him and his courage. And to honor him I kept on fighting too.

I embraced the discomfort because how much further outside the comfort zone could I possible get? Through everything I’ve gone through I felt different. And I should— because I am different.

I’ve done 15 total races since September 2014 and this October 2017 I’ll be running my first marathon. I never thought I would be capable of this kind of exertion. But I had to lose everything first, and then rebuild. No physical pain could ever match my emotional trauma. And I accept that. I bear the W and I’ll continue forward and discover inner strength only George knows I have.

A Letter to My Father

By Christina Saunders

I have battled with losing my father since the age of 6. At 43 I finally worked up enough courage to share how losing him infected my life. I want to share a letter that I wrote him once I finished writing my book ” A Little Girl Broken.” I spent my life just going through the motions not realizing that the root went back to losing my daddy and not dealing with it. Not having him placed this void in my life and it was slowing killing me inside. Now understand this I am not over his death but I am able to navigate through life and live a happy and healthy life. And writing this letter was a way for me to finally move on and know that I am okay. As a child I always thought is he thinking about me? I wonder what he would say if he was here? I encourage others to write a letter/letters to their father and share where they are in this moment.

Daddy’s Little Girl

Dear Daddy,

There have been so many times that I wished you were here with me. So much that I missed out on  you showing me in this life. So much that you have missed out on seeing as I grew into a woman. As a little girl I never thought that one day you would be gone. I thought my daddy would always be there. I know that you didn’t want to leave me that was not the plan but here we are. No amount of words can express the pain that it caused me in this life. The words that you were gone and would never come back still has a sting to it right now today.

I didn’t have you here to show me how a man should love me. Honestly that missing relationship caused me to not understand how to have a relationship with God. I was so disconnected from feelings of love that I was stuck looking for it. I didn’t understand that I had value because it wasn’t something that I was taught. So I searched for that thing that I was missing in other men. That thing called LOVE left a big void inside of me. Not realizing that the void was getting larger every time I gave myself to someone who couldn’t love me the way I needed or deserved.

But this is what I want you to know that God sent a wonderful man to show me how a father should love his daughter. He lovely placed me into his hands to grow me. Not just in the area of fatherly love but in all areas of my life. He taught me so much in my time with him and his family. He showed me how to be in relationship with God. That was the most important lesson he could have ever taught me. The result of that was me learning how to love myself and let go of the hurt from the past. I’m thankful to you for giving me life. Please know that I am okay because I am finally walking in healing. I love and miss you daily.

Your loving daughter,

Angel

Wonder Widow

By Michelle Miller

I first realized I had superpowers about two months after my husband’s death. I was out of state at a birthday party for a good friend whose other friends only knew me from a distance. Last they had seen me was years ago with my (alive) husband and our two children at a wedding.

Word spread quickly through the party that day that I was now widowed to (gasp!) suicide, after a party go-er casually asked me, “So where’s John at this weekend?” and I responded with, “In an urn in his parents living room…that’s where bad husbands who shoot themselves have to go.”

And gradually as the whispers and stares begin to increase (along with the vodka in my fruit punch), I felt a cold sensation ascend my body. I was morphing into: Wonder Widow, and my first super power was the cloak of invisibility. I think I even sprouted a cape…an invisible one of course.

No one could see me once they heard I was widowed, let alone talk to me and they liked it this way. I did not.

I proceeded to get drunk and talk to my reflection in the bathroom mirror every fifteen minutes or so for the remainder of that party. I don’t remember what I said to drunk Michelle, but I do remember feeling small that entire weekend and completely inhibited by my invisibility. I wanted so badly to be normal; to have normal conversations with The Norms (Norms:normal people living normal, non-traumatized lives), but I was no longer normal. I was Wonder Widow, able to repel humans and become invisible in two sentences or less!

As widowhood dragged on, the next superpower that was brought to my attention was flying; which wasn’t nearly as graceful or cool as it sounds because when Wonder Widow flies, she’s basically just catching air as she falls from the bar stool to the sticky, old-beer floor.

Worthless invisible cape.

Years went by with my superpowers overpowering me until I discovered the superpower that changed everything: My Super Strength.

It started slowly at first with the discovery that my ability to become invisible could be a good thing. The Norms didn’t want me around? Well good, I don’t want to be around them either! I began to use my super strength to take my power back as I dropped the widow bomb in conversations as early as possible with strangers to gauge if they were a Norm or a Cray (Cray: crazy, traumatized people with dark senses of humor). The Norms would thankfully make me invisible and the Cray’s would laugh at my dead husband jokes.

If I could use my widow super powers to weed out The Norms and create bonds with The Crays, what else could I do?

I could fly. Eloquently this time.

I realized this last Tuesday when I was flying down the Pacific Coast Highway with the windows rolled down and Courtney Love blaring on my car stereo. Courtney Love always makes me think of flying off of bar stools. Try as I might though, I could not recall the last instance in which I flew off a bar stool. As of late, I had been too busy soaring above my drunken depression and looking down at the buildings of my past traumas that seemed so very surmountable to me now. It was 78 degrees, not a cloud in sight, and the smell of the ocean intoxicated me. As I thought to myself, “I still can’t believe I get to live by the beach,” my cape not only became visible, but also became covered in glitter.

On that Tuesday, I was an eloquently flying Wonder Widow on a secret Wonder Widow mission.

The mission? Gumballs. Yes, I Wonder Widow, was following a guy around San Diego county who is selling me his Gum Ball machines. I really want to make a “ball” joke right now, but I wont because I am a fucking lady.

Why was I buying some guy’s gumball machines? Because widowhood is fucking weird, that’s why! Five years ago I was living in a tiny little desert town that no one has ever heard of, working a 9-5 with dreams of going to seminary and growing old with my husband. Now I am living in San Diego with my best friend, five kids, a dwarf bunny and a beta fish that has icks disease, with dreams of owning five-hundred gumball machines so that I never have to go back to working a 9-5 again.

If that’s not flying eloquently, I don’t know what the hell is.

Widowhood takes. It doesn’t care if you are down so low that you are buried; it will kick you anyway. It doesn’t care about your open wounds; it will salt them. Widowhood will take your power from you, and any power you do have, it will use it against you.

The power you once had over your emotions? Gone. The power you once had over how people perceived you? Gone. The power you once had to say no to that cocktail at 8am? Gone.

But once widowhood has beaten you down, broken you beyond recognition and unmercifully buried you under twenty-five tons of shit, you will be presented with a choice. You can go deeper, stay where you are at, or put on your damn cape and fly.

Living through widowhood means that you have been forced to hold your head up high among the whispers and stares. It means you have tied your toddlers shoes while crying. Widowhood means you have felt the physical weight of his old shirt at night as you sleep in it and you still kept right on breathing. Widowhood means you have carried his burdens and yours and possibly those of your children every damn day since you heard the words, “I’m sorry ma’am, he’s gone.”

Widowhood though, also means you have super strength. It’s there whether you have taped into it or not. Over time, you will have muscles the size of the universe that have been built over sleepless nights, and screams, and tears, and a necessity to survive. Flex them  my little Wonder Widows! Thrive.

If She Were My Widow (In honor of National Widows Day)

By John Polo

Michelle,

It’s National Widows Day.

May 3rd.

I know you don’t pay a lot of attention to these type of things.

But I also know you heard.

I see you cry. Every single day.

It hurts me still.

I wish there was another way.

You know I fought so hard.

With all of my might.

I didn’t want to stop.

You and your daughter.

Both worth the fight.

My body was tired.

My mind so weak.

I had to stop fighting Michelle.

There was no cure to seek.

I want you to know, that you were always the one.

My love for you never went away.

It still hasn’t.

It never will.

By the way, the baby we lost.

I have him.

Yes. A son.

He looks just like you.

Thank goodness for that.

Although he has my cheeks.

Nice and fat.

I know you feel alone.

You’re sad and scared.

You cry out to God angrily, and ask him why I could not be spared.

The answers you are looking for, won’t come to you now.

Just know that eventually, you will see why, and you will see how.

I want you to know that I was there at hospice.

Through the sleep, I saw.

What you did for me.

The tears

The love.

That was pure.

That was raw.

I heard the eulogy that you read to me.

Yes, I listened.

Yes, I saw.

I love you so much.

I always will.

You are my soul mate.

Past, future and still.

You can do this Michelle.

You are stronger than you know.

Happiness. Not survival.

That should be the goal.

Our love is more than that world.

It is soul to soul.

Copyright 2017 John Polo

 

A special note to our Hope Widow Sisters on National Widows Day

By Chasity Williams

 

We want to send a special shout out to honor all our Hope widow sisters today, on National Widows Day. We appreciate you and are very proud of your resilience in the face of extreme tragic circumstances. We always want to validate your emotions, feelings and thoughts as they matter. You matter.

Nothing prepares you for widowhood!! It’s a committee that no one wants to be a part of. No instructions, no reference guide, no rules. We are left to pick up the pieces and find out how to get through and survive. Most days, weeks, months, even down to the second that’s all you can do. To us, the word ‘widow’ means: Hope, Strength, Warrior, Resilient, Faith, Overcomer, Determination, and growing your soul and self to new and greater heights than you ever imagined.

As widows ourselves, we know something stunning and magnificent can happen after time; emerging from a devastating loss or tragedy, then transforming and changing, like a caterpillar into a butterfly. It’s not right away, not even soon, but we promise you will see the light in the darkness eventually. There is no time limit, but you will go from surviving to thriving. One of the hardest parts is the acceptance, acknowledgement of the loss and the future that was to be, and then surrendering to it. Knowing you will never get ‘over it’, but learn a better way to ‘get through it’. Remember, you have to feel to heal.

So, as beautiful, flawed, and broken you feel, battle scars, wounds and all, to hell and back … the beautiful, messy, chaotic life that is now yours, just breathe — take ownership of all of it- It is ENOUGH. YOU are ENOUGH. You can DO IT! Our Hope sisters are here for each other. A sisterhood of us who relate, understand, listen and care. Grief and heartbreak of losing a loved one is an unspoken language, until it happens to you no one on the outside will truly understand. Our Hope Sisters are some of the strongest and most beautiful people we have ever met.

Our Hope Sisters continue to inspire and encourage us daily. We want to tell you how much we care for you, how strong you are and that you can do the tough things! Hang on to your anchor, because Healing Happens.

You are enough. You are strong. You are brave. You are beautiful. You are amazing….. We believe in YOU.

“Pain is real, but so is Hope.”

In Hope,
Chasity Williams, Khadija Ali and Maureen Bobo
Hope for Widows Foundation Directors

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