Fathers Day, grief, Life After Loss, Loss, Single Parent, survivors guilt, Vulnerability

Fathers Day after Loss

The start of summertime means pool days, bbqs, family vacation, and Fathers Day. The day we celebrate all those amazing Fathers in our lives. I couldn’t have created a better Father for my children if I sat down and wrote out a list of everything I wanted him to be and somehow manifested him into human form. Literally. Nate was patient, and kind,  and yet, he was consistent and firm. He taught them that life wouldn’t be easy, but provided them with tools to navigate it. He was working hard to shape them into strong, independent little people who love God, and love others. Their Father was busy, but he tucked them into bed every single night with prayers and heart to heart conversations. Every.Single. Night. Not going to lie, I was sometimes jealous. By the time he made it in to me, sometimes hours later, he was ready for bed. I knew Fathers Day was coming, and yet, I chose not to acknowledge it until it was literally crumbling me. I seem to have a way of doing that.

I remember our first Fathers Day together. It was around the time we had just found out I was pregnant. I was terrified. This was not how my life was supposed to look. He wasn’t terrified at all. He had the same calming ways about him that he did until the day he died. I remember going to my first appointment, he came to pick me up and brought me the book “What to expect when your expecting,” professing that he had already read the part talking about what to expect today, and presenting me with our baby’s first outfit, an orange striped Tigger character onesie. I was 19, still very much a child, but I knew in that moment that with this man, the Father of my child, I would be okay. Celebrating your first fathers Day was easy.

Celebrating this first Fathers Day though, is crushing my soul.

What now? Here we are 13 years later. Two children, and me. Alone.

Im tired.

I’m overwhelmed.

I can’t be him, and me.

So what do we do now? How can we celebrate Fathers Day when our hearts are shattered? This is just the first of many, and I know it isn’t going to get easier. I tried to buy Fathers Day cards for the other Fathers in our lives, to celebrate them, and I couldn’t.

I

couldn’t

even.

walk.

down.

the aisle.

I realized days later that wasn’t fair, so I went back. I cried the whole time, ugly cried, publicly. No one bothered me. They just went about picking their own Fathers Day Cards.  I didn’t want to be bothered and yet, it made me feel even more alone. The kids picked out their cards for Grandpas, and uncles, and a few others.

Without a beat, they also picked out several for their own Father.

I guess this means we will celebrate Fathers Day, as we always did. It will just look a little bit different this time.

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#CharlieMike, Faith, grief, Loss, Vulnerability, Words to Live By

Grief is like an Onion

Grief is like an onion, sounds cliche right? It is, but it truly is like one. I strongly dislike onions, and I strongly dislike grief too. There is an exception, I’ll eat a blooming onion from Outback, no idea why, but that is the only way I will eat an onion. I am finding that everyday more and more layers are peeled back, some make you cry harder than others, much like onions. You don’t know what each layer is going to uncover either, so you could be just getting comfortable with the last layer and BAM! It smacks you right in the face again. For me, its the simple things, I can finally say, “he died,” and not skirt around it by saying things like “when all that happened,”

I am still having a hard time saying i’m not married, I still very much feel married to him, present or not. Saying i’m a single parent, can’t do it, even though I very much am. The word single in and of itself terrifies me, I haven’t been a single person since high school. That is terrifying.

This past weekend we went to Colorado and I got to meet my newest niece, and I had to come to terms with the fact that I will never have Nate’s baby, ever again. We spent years trying, we really thought this would be our year, we finally had a doctor who was figuring it out, long story short,  it had to do with brain stuff, and hormones, and the production of male hormones, something that no one really wanted to treat, or talk about, and at first we were just going to allow whatever happens to happen, but we finally decided to address it, and things were looking positive, and then he died. I carry a lot of guilt with that, it took me longer to decide we needed to work on this than it did him, and I can’t help but think if maybe I agreed sooner? Who knows, its a rabbit hole.

So that opens up another layer of onion, one I didn’t want to think about but my brain went there. Will I EVER have another baby? The thought makes me want to throw up, but I have time, and I don’t know what my future holds, what will that look like, how will I ever explain to another man that he will never be Nate, and Nate is my true love, and yeah, too much, I can’t right now,  it just opens layers and layers of onion that I just can’t even think about. I told Nate once if he died before me, that I couldn’t go on, I would have to die first because I literally wouldn’t be able to stand, and if he died first I couldn’t guarantee I would want to live. He told me that would be a complete waste, that if he died first I better just live my life, and do it well.  I couldn’t imagine my life without him, and yet, here I am, standing, on my own two feet, I’m okay, most days. Some days I crumble, but I pick myself up, and move forward. I feel a little stronger every day.

With Memorial Day coming up, I think i’m carrying a lot more this week, I’ll be out of town, but I’ll be able to go to Arlington and pay my respects to some friends that I haven’t been out there to see yet. I have worked through not being here to be part of that with Nate, I think he would be okay with this, we have amazing friends who are going to make sure he is taken care of here, so that helps too. The kids and I are attending the TAPS National Seminar, so it will be a good time to heal, and grow. I am going to meet up with a friend that I awkwardly avoided the last time I was in DC too, (loooong story, but a very onionesque one that I may blog about in time, )  so I am looking forward to that. I can’t help but  wonder though, is there ever a time you peel back all the layers of the onion? What happens then? Does the onion just go away?

#CharlieMike, , guilt, Loss, survivors guilt, Uncategorized

Guilt is Destructive

The guilt is consuming me today. It’s overwhelming. I feel like I could have, and should have done more, I feel like I should have known this was coming. He didn’t feel good, and I left anyways. I feel like I did this. Did I cause too much stress? I am a difficult person, I am needy, and I put a lot of pressure on myself and others to be more, and do more, to push the limits. I’ve always put that on him, I’ve always pushed him. Was there more I could have done? I don’t know, I’ll never know, I mean, I do know, I know my own brain is playing with my mind and heart, and there was nothing I could have done, he was surrounded by the most capable people, and they couldn’t even do anything. They tried, so hard. I don’t know that I could have been here anyways, I don’t know where I would be if I were there and couldn’t save him. Ultimately, I couldn’t save him, but physically being here and being unable to save him, I feel like would have crushed me more. I am trying to draw on my own strength. I know it’s there because I’ve been able to find perspective in hard times my whole life, granted, things have never ever been THIS hard, but nonetheless, at the time, what I thought I was dealing with was the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with, and yet, hear I am. I feel like looking back, so many things foreshadowed this, that sounds absolutely nuts, but my whole married life, has been documented, in many ways, my own thoughts and words, written for me to see, our story, captured by so many. We always seemed to grab the attention of someone, we’ve always had so much favor. It’s overwhelming and powerful at the same time. I have all this to look back on, all of this to revisit, my own strength and his to draw upon. My blogs, our documentary, news stories, random pictures that people took, random stories shared about him, all of it. There is a bigger purpose, there always has been, but it’s really hard to see right now, it was then too, but now I know what that purpose was, so it kind of smacks me in the face when I’m down. Flipping through old blogs this morning, I found this, it was referencing a scene (notice I said scene, like I live in a movie or something, must be a lifetime movie, honestly, I want my 2 hours back,) at our kitchen table where Nate was having trouble with a school assignment, it was not the work that was challenging, it was simply copying something from the screen to the paper, as I sat there with a kid in my lap, eating, with my phone, and doing my homework; I was multitasking and he couldn’t, something I took for granted.

“I learned two very important lessons just  sitting there last night. 1.) Determination.  He kept trying no matter how frustrated he got, no matter how many times he didn’t get it right, he was going to sit there until he got it right. If he needed to take a break for a few minutes and come back to it, he did, but he never gave up. 2.) Appreciate a little more. In this life we tend to say don’t take things for granted, but most times we mean family, friends, life in general, we never really take the time to think about the small things. Appreciate EVERYTHING, even if it is a simple thing like the ability to do math, or copy from a notepad to a computer. Appreciate that you can hear, that you can see, that you can hold a pencil. Appreciate that you can run, and jump, and swim. Everyone has an amazing skill set, use it, perfect it, and never take it for granted. Things could change in an instant, and you will wish you had.” 

Things did change, again, and in an instant, again, and here I am. Trying to find the strength, trying to find the perspective in all THIS, that I did in all THAT. 

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#CharlieMike, grief, Loss, Single Parent, Vulnerability, Words to Live By

It’s not Okay!

May will be month 5 without him. I feel like I’m finally starting to slow down.  Things are finally starting to settle, and yet, i’m drowning. Seemingly worse than before. I had tasks daily for months, phone calls that had to be made, paperwork to be  sorted, appointments to go to, and now, now that its mostly all settled, I don’t know what to do. Honestly it hurts worse.

Everyone is ready for me to rise up, and become the person I was before, to stop letting it consume me, and just live my life.  Honestly, I don’t know that it will ever happen like that. I don’t know that there will ever be days that I don’t think of him and cry. I don’t know if there will be  days where I don’t want to leave home, or days where I can’t be home. This is a marathon for me.  This isn’t “over.”

Adjusting to being an only parent has been the hardest transition for me. I was so blessed in the person that my husband was as a husband and a father. I took a lot for granted, just little things that you don’t always think about like holding my hand while driving, or bringing me water in the morning. Things that you don’t always realize are happening until they are gone.

I have really really good days, but sometimes, it’s almost like those days make the bad days worse. I have a lot to work through still. The kids and I are rebuilding our whole life. Our life and our hearts literally shattered that day, and we will probably search for the pieces forever. So, if you see us out, and we are having fun, don’t assume that the next day will look the same because it doesn’t. Don’t assume that 15 minutes later I’ll still be ok, because sometimes, I’m just NOT okay, and thats ok. I wrote a piece years ago dealing with my life after Nate was injured, and I’m finding a lot of similarities. I said,

“Sometimes, I think I just need to talk. There are days I bring up my husband being injured in conversations about Tupperware. I think I do that because I want someone to ask, I want to tell someone. To cry, to laugh, just to get it all out. I want people to ask if I am okay so I can say…… NO, I am NOT okay.”

I have a lot of guilt because I really struggled during that time, I was lost, I was alone, I was angry.  Granted, I feel like we came out on the other side, but even in that article I questioned whether it was all worth it.

“Was it all worth the price so many of us have paid? As selfish as it sounds, sometimes I think it might have been easier if he didn’t come home at all.”

Looking back, I see it now.  It was worth it.  He was supposed to die on January 13, 2007. He didn’t. I got 10 more beautiful years with him.

This is NOT okay, it never will be. I’m NOT okay either, and thats Okay. it’s okay to not be okay. IMG_0229-1bw

 

 

Uncategorized

32 Without You

I am on day 3 of being 32, and all the things I thought I would be are no longer. I never expected this, I couldn’t have ever imagined this, I wouldn’t wish this on the worst person I know. Some days are productive, but exhausting, and then I can’t sleep, my brain is foggy, and my emotions are in overdrive. Some days are not productive, somedays I can’t pull myself out of the hurt. Some days I have to sit in it to know it’s real. I never know from minute to minute how I am going to feel, and I can’t do any more than right now. I don’t interact the same way I used to, in fact I’m choosing not to interact as much as I used to, its easier than letting people know how much I really hurt. Spend too much time with someone they begin to figure you out and you can’t pretend, and then they want to to talk about it, and I don’t. There isn’t much to talk about. Nate died, it’s what it is, and now I just have to figure out where to go from here, and no one can do that for me. I spent my entire adult life with him, I literally grew up in his arms, and now I’m alone. That changes everything. My daily routine, my kids, finances, social life, work life, there is not any one thing that this did not change. It’s hard to try to figure out what you want when up until 3 months ago, you had it all, and this isn’t something you can just make happen again. The life we built is gone too, it will never look the same. How do you begin to sort this out, where do I begin?IMG_0168-1bw

 

 

 

 

#CharlieMike, Faith, , Loss, Shaken, Vulnerability

Trigger Warning: Suicide

I guess, now that things have settled some, I should take some time to address the elephant in the room. I’ve been asked, friends have been asked, it’s been said in front of a large crowd, there is this quiet buzz kind of going around. The topic no one wants to talk about, but everyone wants to talk about. Cryptic messages, slight side eye looks that come with phrases like, “Did he….was it….was he one of the 22? ” No one ever wants to outright ask, Did he what? Was it what? Did he kill himself? Was it suicide? No, the answer is NO, my husband did NOT take his own life. Does this mean that I won’t continue doing the work I do in the space of Veteran Suicide Awareness and Prevention, absolutely not. This is a cause that has been important to me for a very long time, and will continue to be, let me take you down a rabbit hole really quick…

I wrote this in 2011,

I wanted to write you a letter, but I don’t even know your name, I didn’t take the time to get to know you, to know your story, to feel your pain. There is no way I could have known. The closest thing to Military I ever knew was the ex Army guy who drank with my Dad, oh and there was a Marine I messed around with the summer before my senior year. In my naive teenage brain, they certainly were not hurting, or maybe they were. Looking back they certainly were. They were trying to burry they hurt.Is that what you were trying to do? Soldiers are supposed to be strong, I thought I was strong,I was doing my job, but you, I thought you weren’t. I didn’t know. I thought you were so stupid, so ignorant, what could ever be so bad that you had to take your own life. If it sounds like i’m making excuses for myself, I am. I think about you all the time. I can’t get you out of my head. Your half smile, your eyes and the way they closed so peacefully,your smell, that god awful stench that is forever imbedded in my nose. The way your barracks room was left in perfect order, nothing out of place. Did you do that on purpose, or is that just how you were, I want to know, I want to know you. Its cold here today, when it gets too cold and my feet start to change color I think of you, you looked cold the way the blood pooled in your feet. Where were your friends that night did they care? Maybe they didn’t know, or maybe they ran at the first sign of shit hitting the fan. That’s what people do I guess, we run, run from our problems, from our fears, we run as far and as fast as we can never looking back. Now, now… I get it. I get that you tried to run and no matter where you went or what you did these images, these thoughts, the guilt, it haunted you, it chased you down until you couldn’t run no more; until the light at the end of the tunnel, the sacrifice of the very breath you breathe was the ONLY way out. This is me… running, from you, trying to escape the image, the guilt I feel for not even knowing your name, for not taking one minute out of my life to TRY and understand what several combat tours did to you, for jumping to conclusions about your selfish motives.The images, the the thoughts, the smells, they never left did they? I saw a picture today of a young cowboy, reminded me of you, he was rounding the corner of an old brick building, light behind him and darkness up ahead, I can’t stop looking at it, not for a second.His clothes, the way he wrapped his bandana around his neck just like you did, like it was comfortable, you probably did it all the time too, but this time would be different, THIS time it was a tool to cover the weapon that ultimately took your life. Anytime I see those cords I choke a little bit, I don’t keep them in my house, I can’t. Life…and Death for that matter are crazy, every moment preparing you a little more for the next, this moment being the start of a journey I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined. I think you may have saved my marriage, that moment of self realization that occurred within me, that moment I realized that it could be me, it could be anyone, that moment was my saving grace. I owe that moment to you.

This cause, will always be important to me, but this is NOT Nate’s story. Nate fought hard, were there moments where he questioned his purpose, I won’t lie to you and say no, we had our moments, there were times I thought he was going to be come THAT statistic, but he didn’t. He became another one.

I’ll dive deeper into this brain stuff in another post, but for now, this needs to be said.

My husband  did NOT commit suicide, he died of heart failure. His heart failed due to hypertensive heart failure, directly linked to his brain injury. He lacked the ability to regulate his blood pressure even on extensive medication, he was hospitalized several times in the last year for low blood pressure, for insanely high blood pressure, and for uncontrolled fluctuations. No matter what medication they put him on, they couldn’t fix the damage to the brain that controlled this. It was only a matter of time. We knew this, sort of, we didn’t have a number of days, but we always knew it was a possibility. He chose to love deeply, live like it mattered, and live every day in a meaningful way. Now all that is left to do is for me to fight at least as hard as he did. Helmuth(5of227)

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Sacrifice

Easter was Nate’s favorite. Never have I met a man that was more deeply rooted in his faith than my husband. He was always so grateful for the gift that Jesus is to us, and for the sacrifice made on our behalf. There was never a day that he did not remind me or our children to remember that, to really remember that, and to live like it mattered. We were given something no one can ever take from us, to live like that isn’t huge is not okay, and he made sure we knew that, not just in his words, but in his actions.

The word sacrifice is used a ton in the military community, and in our lives, and while there is a lot of sacrifice made, my husband made sure we knew that it paled in comparison to the sacrifice Jesus made for us. I have a hard time with that, its so big, and I can’t imagine what that had to feel like, what it felt like for God, the love He has for us, its unimaginable. We send our husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, our children to war, and that is a sacrifice, long hours, days, months, years apart, and that is a sacrifice, lives are lost and that is a sacrifice, but to send your son to sacrifice for all of us messy people, I just can’t.even. begin to imagine.

But, He knew, He knew the plan, and he still does. He knew the plan then for Jesus, and He knows the plan now for me and my life, and that is what gives me strength.That is what keeps me waking up every single morning. Every morning I wake to a brand new day, to a day that is full of new grace, and mercies that are un-ending. A day where my sins are still forgiven and no matter how big they feel, He is on my side.

I was going to run away this weekend and not participate in Easter, I didn’t want the Hurt. I wanted to pretend like none of this happened, but it did, and the sacrifice Jesus made happened, and I am selfish for even thinking that I should avoid it, when in reality it is the very thing I should cling to. Helmuth(5of227)

Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope (1 Peter 1:3)

#CharlieMike, Community Service, Faith, grief, Loss, Shaken, Vulnerability

What’s best for three.

About a thousand times, I have heard, “Just do what is best for you and the kids,” Or “you have to do what feels right.” Does that mean what I think is best,  or what you think is best, which definition and whose opinion are we basing this off of? Is it what feels right to me, or to you, and when? Because we all know, I am currently a minute by minute kind of person, I have to be. Sometimes, things are really good, and other times I crumble, and there truly is no rhyme or reason to it.

You begin to second guess yourself when you have a thousand opinions in your ears, a thousand people who think they know what is best. I am grateful for those who truly know me, and who truly knew my husband beyond small glimpses of things. You see, there was a lot people didn’t know about us, about our life, and about my husband. He struggled way more than most of you know, but we kept it within the confines of our 4 walls, and those closest to us, because he truly wanted what was best for us, and that for him was to be a provider, and to be strong, to lead us to Jesus, and to put aside his own struggles for the three of us. He never wanted the attention to be on him, not for a second.

I often wonder what many would have said to him, if they knew how much he struggled on a daily basis, if they knew how much pain he was in daily, if they knew he fought to do basic human things, and yet he was the first to work, and the last to leave every single day. He worked alongside me in the community despite his pain and struggles, he supported the kids whole heartedly at all of their activities, even beauty pageants, he was an amazing pageant Dad! He painted an image, he paved a path, he made his life what he wanted it to be despite struggles. More importantly, despite the opinions of others, Nate did what Nate wanted to do. We were told in 2008, he would never hold a job, that he would never have the mental capacity to complete school, that we needed to accept that he served honorably, and now it was time for him to rest. That wasn’t what was best for him, or us, so we fought it.

Almost 10 years later, Nate had the life he fought for, he graduated from UF and fulfilled his dream of becoming a Gator, he had one of the highest GPA’s in his class, and was excelling in his career. He still was in the same position health wise that he was 10 years earlier, and in retrospect, even worse. If we listened to everyone’s opinions then, where do you think we would be? The move to Florida for Nate to go to school was the best decision we ever made, and the judgement was laid on thick for that one. We literally sold everything we owned to take a chance, for him to make his life what he wanted it to be. In his eyes, this is what he fought in Iraq for, for the freedom to choose, for the freedom to make life what he wanted it to be,  for the freedom to do what is best for three. MM_0175-1.jpg

 

Faith, grief, Hero Missions, Shaken, Truck, Uncategorized, Vulnerability

Spoiler Alert; This wasn’t supposed to happen.

I’m not good at talking, I can’t find the words to say when we sit face to face, probably because I’ll crumble, maybe I fear the reaction, maybe I fear judgement, I don’t know, but I can write. I can write because I can spew, no reactions, and then, I can walk away and be done with it. There is so much of this that can’t be fixed, nothing that anyone can do or say can fix this. I have to work through it on my own. Im angry, everything hurts, everything. Just breathing somedays hurts because I can’t understand why it had to be him and not me. We talked about this, we talked about how I thought he would be stronger than me, and he could live without me, but I could never live without him, and yet, here I am without him. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Simple everyday things were not supposed to feel like this.

The list of things I currently hate includes, but is not limited to;

Restaurants we have been at together

Restaurants we have never been at together

Driving his truck

Not driving his truck

Having his things in the house

Not having his things in the house

Living in the house

Thinking about NOT living in the house

The fact that he is soooooo loved

How prepared he was for this

Sleeping

Not Sleeping

Not being able to have stupid arguments

The fact that we EVER had stupid arguments

Hearing songs that remind me of him, or special moments

Bonfires

The VA

Putting things in JUST my name

Kids activities, this week Dads and doughnuts, we avoided it.

Math- that was his deal, and I am not smart enough to help my kids.

Going to Church

Not Going to Church

Meeting People who will never know him

Working

Not Working

Hanging out with couples without him

Traveling

Not Traveling

Leaving my kids for even 5 minutes

Not being able to leave my kids

Being far from my siblings

The list is not all inclusive, but that should give you an idea of the plethora of emotions I go through on a daily basis just trying to get through every day tasks.

The one thing though, that I hate more than anything else in the whole world right now is the fact that he knew the real me, the me I am so good at hiding, the me that is not as well put together as you all see. He held that together because when I fell apart he picked me up, he he was my punching bag, my voice of reason, my everything. I keep people at arms distance so I don’t have to let them in, I’m really good at that, always have been, I let him in, and now I’m here, without him, and I don’t know which way is up.

 

Spoiler Alert; this happened, we are here, and now I’m stuck.

 

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