Being Widowed

Soaring Spirits – September 2018

I swear when I first found the Soaring Spirits website I thought it was a religious affiliation (I’m still uncertain about that part) or some kind of cult.  I am always hyper-sensitive and on the look-out for widow trolls.  People looking to take advantage of widowed people.  I had one encounter in a Facebook group and I cut him off immediately and blocked him.  I no longer accept Friend requests from people I do not know personally.  So I was on alert with this Soaring Spirits thing.  I watched from a distance for a while.  They were having a Widowed Camp (WTF?) here in Tampa and I finally managed to get the courage to attend.  I was not going to stay at the hotel … in case they were all freaks, I could make a quick get-away.  It was a great weekend.  I do not socialize easily but the members do not let you isolate yourself.  I am so glad I went.  Not only did I learn so much about this horrible experience but I learned I was not alone.  I was not weird for acting the way I do or feeling what I feel.  I finally realized that there are people out there who get it.  They are where I am.  I think the best experience is that I have made some friends in the Tampa area from this group.  It is so nice to have someone to call on a “bad” day.  If you need company, or want to go out, you just post on our page and someone is there for you.  I feel hugged.  I’m not sure how else to describe it.

We are all so different in so many ways and that’s okay.  We have patience with each other and understand when someone is a bit off for the day.  That’s okay.  As a matter of fact, anything you do or feel is okay as long as you are not going to hurt yourself.  I find that even if someone in the group gets on my nerves, that’s okay too.  We cut each other more slack than we usually would.  This group of friends have saved my life.

I’m still not sure about Soaring Spirits (I think I watched too much of that Cult special on A&E) but they helped me so much and for that I love them.


What’s Expected – August 2018

It amazes me how people think they know how you’re supposed to act, what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to feel better.  I’m one of thousands of widowed people who can tell you there are no rules.  I carry on, put one foot in front of the other and smile when I’m supposed to smile, but it’s still there.  It doesn’t go away.  The emptiness, the loneliness.  I was driving in the car today getting last minute items for a party tomorrow and I started crying.  I had to pull over.  I felt so lonely, like the loneliest person in the world.  These are things we did together or split between us (I’ll pick up the wine you get the ice,  meet you home in an hour.)  Sigh.  Nothing will be the same ever again.


The next day the “kids” arrived.  I was not able to have children so I only have Dennis’ son and daughter.  I brought them to the funeral home to see Dennis’ body and say goodbye.  A tough day.  That night Susanne, Delia and Mel came to have dinner and offer more support.

I hadn’t slept in two days so I was exhausted and went to bed early.  The next morning Dennis Jr. tells me that he and Keri went through all the closets and drawers that their Dad used.  They wanted to look at stuff.  I felt a bit violated.  I understand it but …

On Tuesday we had a gathering at the house for people to come say goodbye and share good stories and memories.  I then realized how many friends I had.  I think every person I knew in Tampa came to support me.  That felt so good.  I had people fly down from New York just to come see me.  My boss came down, flew in and out the same day, just to hug me.  I know that many widowed people say that friends disappear after a spouse dies but I am pretty lucky, that has not really happened to me.

The kids left on Thursday.  Finally I will be alone and will be able to fall apart.  NOT.  I just did not breakdown.  I don’t know why.  It scared me for so long.  I felt disloyal and guilty, at least until my sister passed away.  Betty was my best friend for my entire life.  She died two months after Dennis.  My world, as I knew it, ended.  I never broke down over Betty either.  I guess that makes me feel a little better, it is just how I deal with loss.  I think falling apart makes me feel out of control.  The next time you see someone who doesn’t fall apart or “didn’t seem upset” … do not judge them.  You have no idea how you will act.  Dennis was more important than the air that I breath and I did not fall apart so please do not judge.

We had a service in NY for Dennis.  It was on our Anniversary (and my birthday), August 6, 2017.  At least 200 people showed up.  That showed the kind of man he was and how many lives he touched.  We had fireworks at the end of the night.  So important to me to have those and my step daughter found a friend who had some left over from the 4th.

Too funny – there was a couple who had known Dennis for almost 40 years.  They came and they left after about a half hour and said to me “we don’t know anybody”.  Seriously?  Now those people I haven’t heard from since he passed … and I don’t mind.

Two days later, on August 8, 2017, I drove to Connecticut to see my sister for, what I did not know, would be the last time in my life.  I’m so sorry my dear Betty that I was not a better sister after you got ill. I’m sorry that I was not there for you enough.  I hate me for that.  You looked so beautiful.  You looked almost transparent.  Your skin and hair was so soft.  You loved me unconditionally me and I miss you with all my heart.

On August 28th, 2017 Dennis’ remains were buried at Bay Pines National Cemetery.  He had full honors for his service.  It was so beautiful.  I think he would be proud.  He is the only person in his section who was awarded the Purple Heart.  I told him he was a show-off.  I would go every week on Sunday to see him and bring him flowers.  I have cut back to maybe once or twice a month.  It is tough going, and it is tough not going.

One day on a conference call at work my boss said she needed to visit Tampa and that she would come and stay at my house.  I say no, you cannot do that.  Everyone just stopped and looked at me.  My house is the only place I don’t have to make believe.  I don’t have to smile, laugh, be nice, or make conversation.  I can sit in a corner and cry all night if I want to.  I can sit and look at pictures of my Dennis and my Betty and nobody can tell me to stop.  I can make believe I am out when I am really home wishing I were dead.  It is my safe place.  I am not going to share it with anyone.  Ever.

Now what do I do?  Okay, I’ll look for support.  I searched for grief counseling and other widowed support and I found an organization called Soaring Spirits.  They have chat rooms.  For a while I just read what others were saying.  OMG, they get it.  They know why I leave the cart half full in Publix and run out crying.  They know why I have the most horrible anxiety when I have to leave my pets for any length of time.  It’s not just me.  Thank goodness I found this site.  Now lets see where it leads me ….


Move, move, move – August 6, 2018

Happy 30th Anniversary Dennis.  You are still the love of my life and will remain there forever.  I know you are watching me.  Today I went to the cemetery and brought you flowers.  As I got in the car to leave The Dubs came on the radio.  One of our favorites, “Chapel of Dreams”.  Their song “Could This be Magic” was our wedding song.  So I know you were with me.  I think because this day was coming up is why I felt I needed to write it all down here.


So, you just keep moving.  If you keep busy, you do not have to think about anything, maybe it will go away.

The Sheriff kept me inside all night.  I understood.  An unexplained death and I was the only person here (even though the EMT’s told him that Dennis was gone for a while).  He was outside talking (or interviewing) all my neighbors.  He obviously would not let me talk to any of them and almost everyone was huddled in front of my house.  Susanne came over and had a great solution … wine.  After the Sheriff was done with his interviews he came in and sat next to me on the sofa.  He said “I learned something about your husband.”  I looked up and asked him what that was.  He said “I wish he was my neighbor.”  Then he stood up and told the Deputy he was ruling it a “No ME” death and she could call to have the body removed.  By the time the funeral home got here and had Dennis prepared, it was 1 in the morning.

The Sheriff was shocked that the first person I called was Dennis’ ex-wife.  I needed her to tell his son and daughter.  It had to be done in person.  Then I called his brother.  That was the worst part, the phone calls.  Trying to keep it together because all those people on the phone were falling apart.  Well, what about me!

For so long I thought there was something wrong with me because I never “lost it”.  Then I remembered that I was the same way with my mother and father and then with my sister.  I never fall apart.  People think that means you do not care, or later on, that you are “over it”.  Believe me, you are never over it.  Once again, YOU ARE NEVER OVER IT.  My heart is torn apart and my world has no meaning.  I still go on and live each day with a smile on my face but the world as I knew it is not the same.

The gentlemen from the funeral home were so respectful.  They said they would prepare the body and would let me know when they were leaving so that I could say goodbye.  I told them that I would walk Dennis out.  I said “He is not leaving this house for the last time alone.  I will be with him.”  And that is what I did. With Susanne at my side, I held onto him and walked him out.


WTF! – July 2018

Life sometimes kicks you in the ass and then laughs at you.

July 7, 2017.  You know that feeling on a Friday.  You usually have it all day long.  The excitement of going home knowing you do not have to go to bed early and get up early and go back to work.  It is a neat anticipation of what the next two days will bring.  That was the feeling I had all day.  It was our anniversary at work.  We were the first department to start operations in Tampa.  So that morning on my way to work I bought donuts for everyone.  I ordered Italian food for the whole department for lunch.  I didn’t eat any of it because Dennis and I were having a dinner date and we were going to get Ribs.  We always made “dates” with each other.  Something to look forward to.

I pulled into the driveway and just about cursed because Dennis had not moved his truck over and I could not fit.  I had to park half on the sidewalk so that I could open my car door to get out.  Then I saw that his truck had the hatch down and he had been taking plants out of the truck to plant.  Dennis loved his flowers.  He used to say “I want color, I’m sick of all the green.”

I came inside and heard the shower running.  So I sat in the living room watching the news.  All of a sudden I realized it had been 25 minutes and Dennis was still in the shower.  I started walking into the bathroom and I was laughing and saying “How dirty are you?”  Dennis was lying on the floor of the shower and all I could say was NO.  I thought if I said it enough it would change what I was seeing, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.

Hurry up, get the phone, call 911, turn off the water.  “Yes ma’am, is he breathing?”  “I don’t know.”  “Can you turn him on his back and see if he is breathing?”  “No, I cannot move him, he is ice cold and hard.”  “Please get someone to help you.”

I ran next door and Troy answered the door.  All I said was “Dennis” and he went running into our house.  The fucking 911 operator had hung up on me.  I called back so that they could give Troy instructions on CPR.  As that is happening, the EMT’s arrive.  Three of them.  Two go into the bathroom first and the third just takes me by the arm and walks me into the Living Room.  He started asking me questions about was Dennis sick, on medication, not acting like himself, then he said something in past tense.  I stopped “Is he dead?”  “Yes, I’m sorry ma’am.”

The Sherriff arrives and tells me I can call someone to come over.  I text Susanne “Are you in Tampa?” … “Yes” … “Can you come over?” … “What’s wrong?” … “Dennis is dead”


September 19, 2018

I’m sitting here watching The Today Show and they have a segment on “What Makes You Happy?”  Every single person they asked that question to attributed their happiness to another person(s).  First, I thought it was amazing that everyone puts the power of their happiness in someone else’s hands.  Second, if the very definition of happiness includes someone else … do you get it now?  What it’s like to be Widowed.


January 3, 2019

A new year.  Yippee!  Weird, I can no longer say Dennis died “last year” and that feels strange.  It puts him further away.  I know I am moving forward and taking control of my life but I don’t like the feeling.  I know I will get used to it.  It’s sort of like how I still could our wedding anniversaries because I’m still married to him.  Okay, fine, you don’t get it, that’s okay.

I got a text message from his daughter on Thanksgiving and again on Christmas that wished me a happy happy.  I didn’t even reply.  I guess she did not understand my letter saying that I was not going to play that game anymore.  After 30 years I know damn well I deserve more than 3 text messages a year.  If she wants to be in my life she can call me  or send me a text asking me to call her.  But, do not send me a text message wishing me a Merry Christmas and think I should be grateful for that.  Dennis would be so disappointed in how she is acting.

I went to a year end healing grief meditation and message session run by Jennifer Farmer.  It was lovely.  End the year clear with healing messages and thoughts and start the year fresh.  When I came home I went to look at the security camera in the master bedroom suite (where Dennis died) and the orbs were shooting around the room like crazy.  They do not show up on any of the other cameras.

Someone asked in a forum whether people had regrets on words not said or things not done.  I really don’t.  We always said how we felt, did so much together and never held back.  We had a great love life and were teenagers with each other.  The last thing we said to each other was to make plans for a dinner date the next night and we each said “I love you”.  I guess the only regret is that there are no more “I love you’s”.

I still go to the cemetery all the time but not every week.  Usually at least once a month to make sure there are beautiful flowers for him, to talk to him in a special place, to let others know that he is not a forgotten soldier.  I’m still trying to define Carol without Dennis and that is the most difficult part.  I started volunteering and that has been helping me heal.  I often think how great it would be if he were there with me.  I guess the most important part is that I talk about him all the time.  I never stop.  I keep him alive and his name and memories alive.  He is so much a part of me.  I wear his wedding ring on my right hand all the time and feel so special because of that.  Still married after all this time.

I know this “blog” is jagged but I’m not writing it for anyone but me – since nobody reads it LOL sometimes I just need to say something so I’ll be back.


February 21, 2019

I just read an excerpt from a friend’s book called “Sit Down and Shut Up”.  It was meant to deal with people who felt they had a right to an opinion on how and when a widowed person has the right to start dating again.  To me it meant so much more.  Unless you are widowed you do not have the right to an opinion on much of anything having to do with being widowed.  And widowed folks know that there are no rules.  You grieve the way that feels right for you, in your own time and in your own way.  There is no right way, it is your way.  Nobody has the right to tell you that you should “be over it by now” or that you should “move on”.  Even if you look at the other side, nobody has the right to judge you if you look like you are “over it” too soon.  They have no idea what you go through at night … alone, in your house … alone, in your car … alone.  Nobody sees me cry every day, now almost 2 years later.  I can probably count 3 people who have seen me cry since Dennis died.  That is not something I share out in the world, with anyone.  As I said before, even that day/night, I barely cried until after everyone left and I was here alone.  I did what I had to do and moved on auto-pilot.  And if people thought I looked cold or uncaring, I really do not give a fuck about them and what they think, that is how I got myself through the worst day of my life.  So, sit down and shut up.


July 2019

Well, it’s been two years since Dennis died.  I went to the cemetery and brought beautiful flowers for you.  I spent the evening down at Pass-a-Grille, our favorite beach here, and sat on the beach and watched the sunset.  Just you and me.  I did not shed a tear because I will not allow that day to determine how it is going to make me feel for the rest of my life.  The day before I did ask you (out loud so you could hear me) to play our wedding song on the radio.  And you listened.  When I came out of Publix and got in the car there it was, “Could This Be Magic” by The Dubs.  Thank you.

I’m at that point in my grief where everyone thinks that when they see you smile, it means you are “over it”.  Lord I love that.  Nobody ever gets “over it”.  There are still days when the pain is so strong that I wish I were no longer living.  I do not say that I wish I were dead because then there are people who think you are suicidal.  So, I say “no longer living” because I do not want to kill myself, I just do not care if I died.  This stage in grief is when people also feel it is okay to ask if you started dating.  WTF!  Just shut up.  It really is best that no words leave your mouth at all instead of asking me that.  You are just so foolish.  A woman asked me “don’t you miss someone holding you?”  NO, I miss Dennis holding me!  When you said you want “someone” holding you, you immediately devalue your life with your partner.  Like any old “someone” could take their place.

I’m having a sucky Summer.  First there is Father’s Day, then Dennis’ Death Anniversary, then our 31st Anniversary will be in August.  I miss him so much.

With all this said, I smile and move through life and keep in touch with positive people.  I made a resolution this year to keep all negativity out of my life.  I met one woman during the first widowed conference I went to.  I love her and know she has a heart of gold but I realized that she sets different standards for me than for herself in a friendship.  I believe she has been desensitized because she lost two husbands.  I feel so much compassion for her because of that, but I just could not do that to myself any longer.  I realized I have to care more about my spirit and dignity that I do about her losses.  She has often said things to me that were extremely insensitive and hurtful without even noticing – and that’s the part that stinks.  I realized that if you do not even notice or remember that you say hurtful things, it is even worse.  It tells me that I did not matter enough for you to care that you hurt me.  Anyway … then one day I posted something online about teachers and she sent me a text right away telling me she felt “disrespected” by my post.  Yes, you can feel that way if you want.  *light bulb flashing*  I get the rules now, I have to watch what I say but you do not.   Sorry, I’m bowing out of this friendship.

I am surprised I have not written anything about the volunteer work I do.  Last November I started volunteering at Oldsmar Cares.  It is a Food and Clothing Pantry 5 minutes from my house in Tampa.  I was at a place in my grief where I could not move forward and I needed something I could do to help others.  I remember so clearly on my second day there I helped a woman find an outfit to wear to her granddaughters christening.  She was so happy and was hugging me and thanking me so much it was almost embarrassing.  I got home that day and sat here and sobbed.  In 30 years at White & Case I never made anyone that happy.  I knew I found the place I belonged.  It has helped me move forward knowing how absolutely blessed I was to have the most phenomenal person ever as my partner.  Some people are lucky to meet anyone that fits so perfectly in their life.  I had my Dennis for 30 years.  30 YEARS!  I am so lucky and Oldsmar Cares helped me see that by showing me how much other people do not have.  I love it there so much and am so thankful I found them … and they wanted me.  I work there three mornings a week and if I could do five I would.  Thank you for saving my life OC!