Tag Archives: #onemillionwidows

What you don’t know…

Earlier today, I was checking Facebook and noticed a post from my brother-in-law Chris announcing he had gotten engaged. It was a bit surprising to me, but I was overjoyed for him. You see, Chris lost his wife Debbie unexpectedly last year to complications from heart surgery. I attended Chris and Debbie’s wedding almost six years ago. In fact, Ed was his best man. Chris and Debbie shared a love that I have described as “lightning in a bottle”. Their love of each other was so evident just by being in their presence. The way they looked at each other, interacted with each other, and just their simple “being”. It oozed not just love, but a connection that comes around so rarely in life. And when it does, treasure it and cherish it. They did. Ed and I did. And we still do and always will.

No one could have ever predicted that both of Chris and I would have lost the loves of our lives less than five years after that special day that they took their vows. That Chris and I would become members of a club that no one wants to join. A club that I hope to never welcome anyone else into ever.

Very typical of Facebook, I went to post a congratulatory comment and was shocked to read such comments of hatred spewing the most awful of sentiments. These included goodies like “how dare you so soon” to “I’m glad someone so selfish is out of Debbie’s life”. I felt the knife go through my heart. I can’t even imagine how it felt to Chris. For anyone who is not part of the club, I promise you have no idea how hurtful this can be. Hatred on any given day is painful. This type of loathing for someone who has lost the love of their life and has found life and love again, is beyond anything you can comprehend because you have not lived it. You cannot judge. You see what I know that these haters don’t is this; it’s easier to NOT live life than it is to fully live it after loss. Existing after losing your partner is not easy but possible. Its day in and day out, the mundane, the grief, the loneliness. That one can actually do, and while not pleasant, it is do-able. The harder option is putting yourself out there to actually live again. To love again, to be bold, take chances and experience life for all it has to offer. THAT is what is actually downright hard.

Here’s what you don’t know that might help you to understand what your condemnation of my brother-in-law feels like:

  • The pain that comes from losing your “person”. Your partner. Your team and often times, your better half. Facing a “new normal” that you didn’t ask for and trying to survive it sometimes one hour at a time, celebrating making it through one fucking day, because that can be an achievement. But make sure you add to that pain by calling him selfish for finding a way and a person to make it through the day with once again at a time when he wasn’t sure he was even going to live let alone love again.
  • While you might have lost someone you love, you cannot compare the loss of your spouse with any other loss. The loneliness that comes from not getting that daily phone call or text, that kiss goodbye in the morning and welcome home in the evening. And most of all, coming home to an empty house on any given occasion. Because you see, after the funeral, you went back to your life of these “normal” activities leaving him to watch and yearn for it to come back, hoping to wake up from this nightmare and just go back to the way it was. Is it so wrong to find that type of happiness of life again? Because according to your Facebook responses to his engagement, how dare he do such a thing. And btw – you know exactly how long it should take him to even think about it, because you know better.
  • How about guilt? The guilt from still being here while they are gone. The hindsight of medical decisions that were made and if they were the right ones. What if he or I had chosen differently? And is it our fault they died? But you see, here’s what I know, and I am sure Chris would agree with me. I would never wish this pain that I carry around every single day trying to figure out life on my worst enemy let alone the love of my life. I’ll take this pain for them because I would never want them to experience it. I’ll let them go because staying and experiencing such heartbreak is way more painful than staying. But go ahead and say hateful things to pile onto this guilt. I can assure you, nothing you can spew on Facebook can make either of us feel guiltier about living life without them questioning all of our life decisions then we already do.
  • And speaking of guilt, how about going on a date? The guilt that comes from “cheating”. And forget about thinking about enjoying yourself on said date. What will everyone think? How can I possibly betray the love of my life? Oh right, they are not here any longer. I fulfilled my vows, but yet I still feel guilt. And other’s opinions add to that guilt. When does that pain go away? Let’s not even go down the path of sex at this point. Again, go ahead and condemn either Chris or myself for loving and feeling again. Nothing you can say is anything we haven’t told ourselves. Haven’t felt the pain of guilt ourselves. Questioned it along the way ourselves. Nothing you can say can make me feel more pain than I already to daily.
  • Our hearts are designed for love and connection, and the beautiful thing that you learn when losing the love of your life is that love never ends. There is room in our hearts to love so very much and in so many different ways. We never not love those we lost. We learn to place new love right alongside our old love. No one is better or stronger than the other. They exist together. This is easier said than done, but once it’s figured out, the depths of our love can transcend just about anything. I truly believe this. I feel badly for those of you who spew hatred at this and think its not possible condemning those who have figured this out. I’m sorry it’s not on your acceptable timeline or done in the way you think matters. Your shallowness shows clearly, and I hope you do not have to learn this lesson in life through a life altering experience such as death.

I think the unkind sentiments share with my brother-in-law today have more to do with those being sad, angry and still grieving the loss of Debbie, and not the fact that Chris has found happiness again. Who would actually wish sadness, pain, loneliness and a life of heartbreak upon another person, especially one that was so loved by someone like Debbie? I have to believe this, and I feel deeply saddened for everyone’s loss. Debbie is a wife, mother, aunt, daughter, cousin, sister, friend etc. etc. Her loss is huge amongst us all and the pain for everyone goes deep. I am compassionate to everyone’s feelings right now, but I will not hesitate to protect Chris. I am one of the few that “gets it” having lost my husband, his brother, a few short years ago.

To Debbie’s daughters – I commend you on how you responded to this publicly on Facebook. Not that my opinion matters, but to share so openly your continued grieving of your mom along with your feelings of how this was shared with you. Your kindness and compassion, while sharing your discontentment of the “how” it was shared was eloquently stated. Others should take pause and learn from you all. I feel so deeply for the loss of your wonderful mother that you all are still experiencing. I wish you all peace in the time ahead.

My final thoughts are as follows….Our choices in this life are our own to make without judgement or criticism from anyone else. Your decisions are yours to make without judgement from anyone else. Before you stop and make judgement upon anyone else’s decisions, take a good hard look in the mirror and make sure you remember this. Act with kindness, love and compassion.

Wishing everyone continued strength, courage, wisdom…faith, love and hope.


Tribal Visits…

This past Saturday night, I had the pleasure of attending the annual NW Sarcoma Foundation gala event, Stories from the Vineyard. It’s IMG_0317the foundation’s largest fundraiser of the year, and once again, proved to have very generous supporters and donors from a tight knit community. The “paddle raise” alone garnered $40,000. My guess is that the entire evening raised over $100,000. Shit, my table paid $675 for a cake alone, and we were not the only table to do such a thing 🙂

This year’s event was slightly different for me than last year. Last year, I had an entire table of friends attend with me, and this year, I decided to go alone and just “be” with my Sarcoma tribe, because that is what this group is to me – my tribe of those who understand this disease. For me though, visiting this “tribe” poses its challenges, which I of course let no one see. My carefully placed “mask” hides it all.

This is the annual time when I reconnect with Ed’s doctor, and get to hear updates on the advancements in the t-cell immunotherapy treatments that he is working on. It’s the one night a year I see two of his many nurses who always remember him fondly (no matter how sick he was or how crappy he felt, he was a charmer with the ladies :-)). It’s the moment where he is recognized as a “Sarcoma Angel”…this night his name was projected on a large screen for all to see, along with a list of others. A beautiful song was played in tribute to them, which was beautiful. I did not shed a tear, while you could hear others doing just that. Rightfully so. It’s a night of genuine compassion, stories of survival and passing, hope and sorrow, all in one evening so that we can do better….better research, better care, better awareness and better understanding.

So on this one night of the year, I visit my Sarcoma tribe. I wear my “mask”, smile and not say “fuck you sarcoma”. Although everyone in that room would chant it with me. The weight of the evening stays with me still today, but it is not as heavy as it was last year. Overall, I laugh more and cry less, but this vile disease, I will never understand. I will never accept it. And one night a year, I will visit it, let it visit me, allow myself to go back to an uncertain time, and then I will say goodbye. Until next year….I can only hope there are less people on the “angel” list and more on the “survivor” list.

And now to honor my husband, I will continue sipping my wine. I will watch the Chicago Bears take on the San Diego Chargers. I will smile every time Jay Cutler does something wrong and just think of Ed cursing him…..which makes me smile 🙂 And with that thought, the weight from the weekend lifts….

Strength, Courage, Wisdom….Faith, Love and Hope….


Sleepless in Seattle…sort of….

No matter who you are, no one can argue with the joy of sleeping in your own bed. Whether it’s a long day of work, a business trip, an overnight-er, or a two week vacation, I don’t know who does not take pleasure and sometimes joy or relief in sleeping in their own bed. It’s comfortable, inviting, and for me, my respite: The place where I can go and feel safe. And when you’ve slept in the same place for many years, the idea of changing that can be an odd thing to consider.

This might not seem like a big deal, but for me, it is….or it was. I never really thought about the notion of sleeping in the entire bed after Ed passed away. Not because I was keeping a spot for him, just because it never dawned on me that the entire bed was mine. I didn’t think about this until my friends were telling me about their purchasing a new, king sized bed. Ed and I realized early on that a queen sized bed would never be big enough for us, so about three months after we moved into our first home together, we bought a kind sized bed. We’d never slept in anything smaller except if we went on vacation and the place we stayed had a smaller bed, but regardless, we always had our respective sides. And in our king sized bed, we had plenty of room to sleep comfortably where touching was optional 🙂 We would joke on occasion that sometimes we felt so far away from each other, we had to wave from our respective sides. So when my friends were telling me the tales of moving to a king sized bed, all I could think was how have you done without for so long? As we talked more about the new king size bed, they each teased each other about one or the other still going to the middle of the bed and taking up all of the space. They further went on to talk about how when one or the other went out of town, they immediately slept in the middle of the bed and it was a luxurious treat. I paused with this notion and just thought to myself, I don’t sleep in the middle of the bed. Why don’t I sleep in the middle of the bed? In fact, I hadn’t even thought about it. The idea never entered my mind. I did however, recall reading Kristine Carlson’s book, Heartbroken Open, where she describes her sadness with the empty side of the bed where her husband Richard, who also had been taken from her much too soon in life, had slept. She goes on to write about her experience the first time she slept on her husband’s side of the bed and how comforting it was to her. When I read this all I could think to myself was, “why would I sleep on Ed’s side of the bed? It’s further from the bathroom”. Ms. Practical I am…

But this notion of sleeping in the middle of the bed just stuck in my head. Thinking about it. For months. I had plenty of room on my own side of the bed. I didn’t think I’d find comfort sleeping on Ed’s side of the bed. This did not seem like a change I needed to make, particularly one that would help catapult me into my new life. Instead I brushed it off and got back to other things. More important changes in life in my efforts to move forward.

I went to Chicago the first two weeks of October; two different trips for different occasions – one pleasure one business. And I paid attention to how I slept in the bed at the hotels I stayed at over the course of these two weeks – there were three different hotels in just one weekend. Did I sleep on one side? Did I sleep in the middle? A natural over analyzer I am. Was I over analyzing the entirety of the situation? Yes, but why? Why is the idea of sleeping in the middle of the bed such a hard concept to wrap my head around, let alone do? Of all of the changes I have considered making, why does this one, small action, seem so difficult?

During my travels, I noticed, that I did in fact, sleep in the middle of the bed. So I told myself, I am going to do this when I get home. I am going to conquer this small, seemingly meaningless action and see how it feels to sleep in the middle of the bed. And so I did it. One night, I just took the plunge. I even got into bed on Ed’s side. And it felt amazing!! I cannot explain it, but there was something so refreshing about it. It was now my space, and maybe there was something comforting about just being in it. This space that was the middle point of where Ed and I shared our nights. This wall that separated our respites on any given evening, while allowing us to share it at the same time. I was in the middle. The bed is no longer divided into individual spaces, rather, I now have what was ours as mine. Every night. As much of or as little of how much I want. I can go back to my space at any time, however, when one takes a step forward, going back is safe but never the same. I don’t think I can go back to my side of the bed. It’s all my side now. This is a small step forward in my new life, and inconsequential to most; huge for me.

They say small steps are the way to go the distance, so I’ll take this one proudly 🙂

Strength, courage, wisdom….faith, love and hope,


Who Am I – the Identity Crisis (not mid-life crisis….)

This is a question I have often asked myself even before Ed passed away. But now I do so with greater urgency. There are days I feel so lost in this that life just gets overwhelming. No longer am I defined by my career – something that defined me for so many years – too many in fact, nor am I defined by being a wife – the role I enjoyed most. So who am I and where do I go from here? Most days I feel as though I am living my old life just without him in it.

When I met Ed, I was very career focused. I wanted to be a VP of Marketing by age 30, and while I don’t think I was going to get there by then, I was well on my way. My meeting him changed that dramatically. I realized there was so much more to me and my life than my career. Love gave me so much more. He gave me his heart and cherished mine. He gave me two children is a non-conventional way. I realized that I was happy to earn a living not let a living earn me. Marrying him and my identity changing from single, career gal, rental apartment on Lake Shore Drive to wife, mother, and suburban home owner was an absolutely defining moment in my life.

Ed’s death forever changed my identity as well. I went from my favorite identity of being his wife and married to now being a widow and not married. Defining and equally life altering? Absolutely. Then why is this such a difficult thing to discuss with others? Let me explain…

I traveled for my job last week. One of the perks of this particular job of mine is the fact that our offices sit just outside of Chicago. A few times a year, I get to go “home” to work and the perk is I get to visit friends and family. It’s this perfect combination of work and vacation; I get the best of both. This particular trip had me meeting some new people that were new to the company due to a recent acquisition. I really enjoy connecting with new people, but the idea of “small talk” where the question I feel the need to avoid most is “are you married”? This used to be a question that I loved. I was so proud of my wonderful marriage, my amazing husband and what was an amazingly happy life. And frankly, I am proud of myself and how I have survived the past 2 ½ years. The things I have overcome, the things I have done to survive. I am proud of it. But that question, “Are you married”? In my new life, that is not something that is answered easily, and not because I have an issue with answering it (although saying the words “I am a widow” is not something I will ever be comfortable saying”, but the aftermath that follows. “No, I am no longer married” and then the explanation that follows, “My husband passed away a 2 ½ years ago”…the holy-shit-I-just-stepped-in-it look on their face and everything else that follows. Basically, I am consoling the person on the other end of the discussion when it’s all said and done; “It’s okay, I’m fine”. “It’s been over two years….I’m fine”. “He had a very rare form of cancer – I’m fine”. “Yes, he was young like me – just shy of his 49th birthday”. “I’m fine”.

Why is this? If I was divorced, this would be glazed over and not given a second thought. But to be a widow? At my age? It is unthinkable and untalkable. Why? The reality is, there are over one million widows out there. And a lot of them are young. Younger than me and older than me. But it doesn’t matter. When you have lost the love of your life, your partner, your better half, it does not matter how old you are, how many years you had together, nothing matters. Your life has been changed and your identity – in one last breath, is altered. And no one is comfortable talking about it because society defines being a widow or widower as something we just don’t talk about. Think about what comes to your mind visually just saying the word “widow”. What is it??? Give it a Google and see what comes up under images. Just for fun 🙂

My being bestowed the identity of a widow is the one I never asked for. I would trade it for anything else. It is the most horrific thing I have experienced to date. But we should make it more awful but not being able to just come out with it?

Because here’s the deal….as much as I don’t want being a widow to define me, it does. It defines me as much as becoming a wife and a parent did. It 100% changed my life, and I am working my hardest to define me for the better because I can assure you, my husband would not have it any other way. He gave me the most wonderful pieces of me in being a wife and a parent. And now his life is making me work to be the best version of myself I can be. I can only hope to be the person he saw me as because he always saw me better than I saw myself.

Here’s the deal. Life is hard. Death is a part of life. And it isn’t always fun to discuss but guess what? It is what it is. We need to change the dialogue on how we talk to widows and widowers. Period.

So back to my original question -Who am I? I’ve decided that I am not defined by one thing at any one time. I’m a lot of different things, and I can be anything I want to be – because I said so…So here’s who I am:

  • I’m a widow. There is no getting around this and there never will be, and when Ed was alive, this list would have started with “I am a wife”. I “own” both and talking about being a widow requires me to “own” it.
  • I’m a parent to two amazing adults who I could not be more privileged to have raised and proud to call my family
  • I’m a daughter and my mom and dad would say I’m the best J
  • I am a doggie mommy to two of the most spoiled pups EVER – and they deserve it
  • I’m a sister and sister-in-law – one brother and his wife and thanks to my husband being the youngest of eight, I have two sisters, five brothers each with their own partners; all of whom I love and appreciate dearly
  • I am an auntie and yes the kind you can come to when your parents are really pissed off, and I’ll tell you it’s okay – they did worse growing up 😉
  • I am a friend who will go to the wall for you, laugh, cry and always be there
  • I am a writer – yep, I said it, and I put it out there – “owning” it. I don’t need to be published to be a writer. I just need to write. Maybe someday all of this gibberish will turn into a book. Maybe I’ll write and post frequently enough that I will be a “real blogger”. Maybe I’ll figure out what my platform and message is, and I’ll be passionate about something. Something that helps someone else.
  • I am a Chicago sports fan – god help me…
  • And finally, I am a career marketer. A storyteller and communicator at heart who has told the stories of software and technology for a very long time, and connected those stories with people who were in need of that particular product or service. And now I work to tell my story and connect it with those it might help in some way.

I kind of like who I am today – even the widow part of me. I’d trade it all in to have him back and not have that title in my list. But alas, it is here to stay and he is gone but is always the best part of me and with me in my heart. Forge ahead I must and improve on all of these parts of who I am, while discovering more and expanding this list even more.

Sending you all strength, courage, wisdom…faith, love and hope.