posted 2/28/2013


Triggers are everywhere.  They are sneaky at when you least expect it one can take you dow n.  I think this is true of many situations but I am talking about ones that make you sad…make you miss the person that is gone.

A PRIME example of this is today.  I am sitting in a all day seminar at work.  The presenter is great…the content is very interesting…but as I sat listening to him he was sitting at the table on the stage rewriting some code as part of  his presentation and I look at how he is sitting in the chair.  It is EXACTLY the way that Jay sat in his comfy chair in the living room.  He actually sat this certain way alot but when I saw it my mind instantly when to when he would sit there watching tv or playing on his tablet  Jay being a programmer by trade I think  may have emphasized it as a trigger.  And with that, the rest of my day is shot.  Do I want to be mentally drained….absolutely not…am I…Yes, Yes I am.  I want to focus…I want to do things on my to-list at work…and the things I’m trying to coordinate for a fun weekend but it just isn’t that easy.  I wish there was a magic button that could take me back 1 hour…just 1 hour to the mood I had then.  When I was laughing…enjoying the day and the presentation.  It has affected me so much that I cannot really even be hungry to eat.  I actually feel a little sick to my stomach.  All because a guy presenting at my work that Jay never knew and I don’t even know sat in the chair like Jay did. 

Part of the journey right?…now if only  I could figure out to get focused again, that is the hard part.

Regrets…I have a few…

posted 2/27/2013

Regrets…I have a few

 I have a lot of perspective now but the other day when I was talking to someone they said they could see how far I have come in the last 9 months and I got to thinking about the first couple weeks…sigh.  I am going to try and force myself to take my mind back to those first weeks and give you a peek inside my world at that time.

 I think everyone tries to not have regrets in life but for someone to say that they don’t have any…well I don’t believe them.

 Within the first day or two after Jay died I had asked many people the following question many times.  “Did Jay know how much I loved him?”  If that question isn’t full of regret I don’t know what is.  It seems like such a loaded question and one that really should not have been my priority but it was.  It’s like if I asked it enough times it would show how much I did…or that it would make him come back to me…to us and tell me that he did.  That statement sounds so silly but my mind was silly back then…just ask anyone that was around me…I was out of sorts so to speak.

 I have found that regret is something that is very sticky and you have to really work to break free of it.  That said I have a lot of work ahead of me.  Some of the specific regrets I have will stay between Jay and me but for those I will share I regret…

 Not going to the house the Monday before he died and having lunch with him when he was working from home.  He told me not to burn my lunch to hang out with him. 

Not getting to the hospital sooner.

The arguments we had.

Not playing Monopoly with him more.  I played once…but to be honest he was ruthless at Monopoly. 

Not kissing and hugging him more.

Not giving him his son sooner although I know that wasn’t all in my control I still regret it.

Holding Aaron so much those first 6 months.

Being crabby to him.

Not being stronger when he was here.

Being mad at Jay. 

Not being there by his side when he died.

Not listening to him

 My biggest regret was taking everything I had for granted.  I try very hard not to do that anymore.  It is a constant battle to keep my priorities straight and to keep perspective with the underlying thought that tomorrow it could all be gone.    I tell my family and friends I love them more than I ever had previously…I tell people I appreciate them more than I ever did.  I take extra special care of those close to me in any way they may need at anytime and they have done the same.  If this experience has taught me anything is that Jay, Aaron and I are loved and I am so very blessed to have the people I do surrounding me with encouragement and love and I promise never to take that or them for granted.

Divorce or Death

 Posted 2/26/2013

Divorce or Death

Look at me…going straight to such a touchy topic…here goes nothing…

Many in my group session at Amanda the Panda would say they had friends say that they understood the death of their friend’s husband because they were divorced so they understood.  These widows would be so angry when their friends said this.

Right after Jay’s death and at the beginning of group I didn’t care who you were and what you lost or how you lost it…you didn’t understand me and my loss…period.  

Luckily I now have a clearer thought process on the whole situation so here is what I think.

Divorce and Death are two completely different situations…but they are still loss.  Death is most commonly known as a living thing dying.  Divorce is a death as well just not a death of something everyone can see.  So when you step back, Death and divorce are both losses.  So in the situation of me losing my husband to a heart attack or a friend who loses her husband to divorce, they are both losses of something very important. 

 So…how do I compare a death due to cancer or death from a heart attack to divorce…that is actually what made me think of them as both losses. 

 Someone who dies from cancer in most (not all) cases has a prolonged fight against one of the hardest diseases to cure.  If anyone has a friend that had a tough marriage and was constantly fighting to keep it alive but it ends in divorce…well there is your similarity. 

 To correlate a heart attack to divorce is also simple.  Sometimes a marriage is just done.  Fast…easy…no fight it is just done.  Again…there is your similarity. 

 Some people will say to me…”But Alyssa…people in divorce have a CHOICE…I didn’t choose to lose my husband to a heart attack or cancer.”  Although in some situations this is true, it isn’t in all.  I believe that no one goes into marriage hoping it will end.  Whether the marriage ends with a death of one of the people or the marriage itself falls apart, no one truly wants the end result.  The truth of the matter is that the people in these two situations are very sensitive.  Yes…I am admitting I am sensitive. 🙂   And early on there is no rhyme or reason to anything you feel or go through. 

 So whether a spouse or loved one dies of cancer or a heart attack…a marriage ends after a long fight or just ends…or I’ll even say if a pet dies…or you lose your house from fire or tornado…it is all loss and it all sucks donkey.  And until you walk in similar shoes to the person you are talking to you never truly understand what they are going through.  You understand they have lost…lost something very important to them and to begin with that understanding is what is needed to fully begin to grasp what the other is going through.

Are we there yet?

posted 2/24/2013

Are we there yet?

As I was folding Aaron’s clothes this morning I came across a shirt of his that said “Are we there yet?”  I think it was a sign so let’s talk about it.

There have been many times I have asked myself if I am there yet.   Where is “there” you ask?  “There” is at the end of the grief.  The end of the pain and sadness I feel daily.  If you talk to any grief counselor or attend any grief group they will all tell you that there is no timeline.  Everyone grieves differently and in their own time.  That is consoling to the extent that no one should expect me to be “over” my grief a month after it happened…or a few years but for me…I just want it done.

Realistically I know that for the rest of my life I will grieve in “some” way every day.  How is that possible you ask?  I can’t…nor most days do I want to stop some of the random mail we get to not have his name on it.  I can’t…nor do I want Aaron to stop growing and having milestones that I wish Jay was here to see.  To the first point, if mail still comes for him…maybe that means he will come back.  As for Aaron…as his mother I want him to flourish.  Everything I do is for him.  Everything.

I have a great support group around me that for the most part has not made me feel like I have to be done.  I don’t have to be “there” yet even when I wish to warp to another world like in a Mario brothers game.  To be on “the other side” of this journey.  There are people out there that don’t have such understanding.  For a friend I talked to the other night I told her to tell the people around her that she is “grieving as fast as she can.”  I have to admit I stole that phrase from another friend but it says it all.

Those of us grieving are doing just that…grieving as fast as we can and please understand we want to be done…we want the pain to go away but it isn’t easy.  My life changed in ways I never thought it would.  I worry about what he used to worry about.  I took on the responsibilities he had in the family.  I’m raising our beautiful baby boy all by myself.  Those changes aside, I lost the love of my life.

As a child I remember asking my parents “Are we there yet?” when we went on long trips in the car.  I’ve asked them the same question in this journey as well as many others in my life.  It may not have been the exact words “Are we there yet?” but it was close.

I’m not there yet…hopefully in time I will get close.

Do not judge me

Posted 2/22/2013

Do not judge me

Tonight Aaron and I were having a fun night out with a friend and her little boy.  Aaron was doing well but then started to get tired and then I started to hear the croup cough.  Any parent who has heard this cough knows how scary it is.  My blood pressure starts to rise so I take him outside quick to the front of the restaurant.  At this point there are many people in the lobby and taking a 15 month old out in the cold probably did seem wrong and not right but the look they were giving me wasn’t right either.  There was so much judgement in their expressions.  When I walked back in and they all were looking at Aaron and me the only thing I wanted to say is…”All he has is me…his daddy died of a heart attack at the age of 33…Try judging me NOW!’   But the reality is that is not going to help them understand.  They probably don’t even care…they are just waiting to get a table and think Aaron was being a bad boy and I was disciplining him.  He was being a good boy…a tired little boy that was done for the night and was starting to get a scary cough.

I hate feeling judged.


Love me…Love me not

Posted 2/22/2013

Love me…Love me not

How does one put love back into their heart and/or their life after losing the love of their life?  I have asked myself that question over and over MANY times in the last 9 months.

OK…that is the glazed over version of what this blog is about.  Let’s get to the guts of what this is really about.  *deep breath*

How could someone ever love me…or for that matter me love anyone in the way that they need or deserved?  How fair is it to someone else to always feel like they were third on my list.  And if the person was third on my list…how could I expect to be anywhere at the top of their list where I may feel I need or want to be.  *deep breath*

You have no idea how hard it was to type that. 

But…that was how I felt for the first few months after Jay’s death.  People would say “Alyssa you will date again someday and find love…we know you will.  You are not done.”  That used to irritate the HELL out of me.  If I am honest it irritated me on so many different levels.  Early on I couldn’t believe people were thinking of me falling in love again.  Not that I would fall in love after his death but that they were thinking of it then and that it would eventually happen. 

The other self degrading part of it was “WHY would anyone ever love me?”  I’m a 33 year old widow with a baby boy.  A BEAUTIFUL….happy…baby boy yes but those two qualities alone should in my mind scare off any man of ever wanting anything to do with me.  I know I have one little man that will always love me and I will for most of his life be number 1 on his list but *hold your breath because this next thought alone makes tears come to my eyes*…what if that isn’t enough.

So let’s summarize…

I couldn’t believe people would think of it…I didn’t/don’t believe I deserve it…I don’t think I am or can be enough…I think people should run from me and yet I have a little man that will always love me and yet maybe he is not enough…so I want…I need love in my life yet I don’t believe I deserve it.  Well that is just debilitating and so counterproductive.  There has to be more to this….

So let’s go a little deeper on the subject…I knew how lucky I was to have Jay in my life.  He was amazing.  Did I take for granted that he would always be here?  Absolutely.  Did I think for one minute that life would take him away from Aaron…no…me maybe but not Aaron. 

Maybe I don’t feel I deserve love again because how can someone be with me and not feel compared to Jay. Maybe I feel damaged or maybe I just am.  One of my good friends has said to me “Alyssa…you are a beautiful person inside and out.”  It’s one thing to hear it…it’s completely different to feel it.  I may have a smile on my face…or wear a cute outfit or say the right things but is that really me?  Or is this just a mask or a guard so people don’t see the “real” me.  Maybe that was something only Jay could see. 

People have told me they see me as a different person…a stronger person.  Different…yeah I can go there but stronger…I think it is more of “guarded”.  And maybe if I’m guarded I cannot be hurt.  Guarded is dangerous.  How do I become unguarded…how do I trust again…love again? 

 I end this blog with two songs.  The Blenders are a group that I have loved for a long time.  They are North Dakota/Minnesota boys that can sing and dance.  I went to their Christmas concert in December in Des Moines and it was after the concert that my heart started down a new path of healing.   

Put a Little Love in Your Heart

Love Train

What goes up…must come down…

Posted 2/20/2013

What goes up…must come down…

It is simple gravity right?  What goes up…must come down.  Well gravity is not needed for ones emotions to be up and then in a heart beat for them to come down.  Especially when someone suffers such a significant loss.

Today was one of those days that started off with such hope.  I was on cloud nine with how yesterday went at the state capitol and was feeling OK about some of my work and then I decided I needed to get out of the office for lunch and needed to take a drive to clear my head.  As I drove around I began to break down.  I started to cry.  What is so unique about how I cry now is that I don’t have to make a sound.  Tears just stream down my face.  There are specific thoughts that probably started the force of gravity on my emotions and so many times I wish I could control them.  A good friend of mine has told me many times that she wishes there were feel better cards for Monday….or for Tuesday…or even Wednesday…I think you catch where I am going here.  You see it doesn’t have to be any specific holiday…or anniversary…or even feeling or thought…it can just be because it is Monday and or in today’s instance Wednesday.  And because it is Wednesday…I am sad.  And because I am sad I cry…and I cry because that is the only thing that makes sense right now in the momemt.

For those going through loss know this up…down…ALLLLLL around is normal.  A very sucky normal but normal nonetheless.  For those helping us through the loss…think of the cheer “Stand Up….Sit down…fight fight fight!!!!” Help us fight to get “to the other side” wherever that is in the moment we are in.  We depend on you all to help us.

Capitol IDN

Posted 2/20/2013

Capitol IDN

If you don’t like my content you have to recognize the clever blog titles I can come up with, I think they are quite fantastic. 😉  This post is about my visit yesterday to the Iowa State Capitol to talk about the Iowa Donor Network (IDN) and tell our story.

I had an amazing opportunity to visit the Iowa State Capitol in downtown DesMoines today and share our story with Iowa State senators and representatives.  The day started at 10AM when employees of IDN and about 5 other volunteers gathered to review the agenda for the day.  When Paul from IDN introduced me to the group in the room where we gathered he said something like this…”And I’m sure you all remember Alyssa from when she spoke at our employee meeting a few months ago.”  That introdution made me realize that our story had already made an impact on others and for that I was honored and humbled.

The Capitol is amzing with the marble and the paintings everywhere that it is kind of overwhelming.  After a few hours I was able to not be so overwhelmed and instead enjoy it as the surroundings.

I was first able to “send a note” to my senator Brad Zaun.  At first when our guide for the day told us that we would send in notes to the senators and representatives I thought it was a joke.  It sounded so “middle schoolish” but it turns out that is exactly what you do.  You put the person you want to speak too…their seat number…your name…a short message if you choose and then put a check mark if you are outside the door or somewhere else to meet them on a piece of paper and give it to the person at the door of the room in which they are part of.   Senator Zaun was available and came out to hear what I had to say.  I was so scared because now I actually had to talk and tell my story.  I wasn’t able to get through my short blurb on our story without crying but I did tell our story and all politics aside I really feel and hope sharing our story will help in some way. 

After that experience I really wondered if I was cut out to handle the rest of the day but in the interest of curiousity and the fact that walking to the Capitol from where I parked my car was freezing cold, I opted to stay in the Capitol and stay warm for a little more of the day.  And I’m glad I did. 

The rest of the day consisted of meeting in two different lobbyist rooms where our guide was able to get 4 different senators to sit with us as a group and hear our stories.  At the end of the day I wasn’t sure if it was exhaustion from telling our story or from hearing the others stories.  I was surrounded by so many brave people and was filled with so much perspective and strength it was mind blowing. 

I won’t do their stories justice but  here is a synopsis of those that were with me to speak for IDN:

A 42 year old woman was joined by her mother and spoke of her transplant.  She was a double lung and heart receipiant.  Yep…just 14 months prior to yesterday she received 2 lungs and a heart from a single donor.  She was born with a heart problem that eventually affected her lungs.  After her transplant she was unable to walk and yet yesterday she walked the stairs of the Capitol with the rest of us. She had been on the transplant list for 8 years and the 2 months prior to her transplant was put into ICU because she was so much in need of the transplant.  She is lucky to be alive.

A 30 something woman joined us as a proud momma of a donor.  She was pregnant a few years back and into the last trimester found that her little boy had problems producing ambiotic fluid.  His kidneys or liver (I can’t remember what) were not functioning.  The technical gene structure to cause this is so rare and they knew at that point that his life would be very short.  He lived for 45 minutes after birth but I agree with her when she said he accomplished more in the 45 minutes of his life then most of us will ever do.  He was able to donate his heart valves.  At this point she knows that a 20 month old boy in California was able to use one of her sons valves.  As a mom myself I cannot imagine her loss but her strength and resolve that she was the mom of one cool little dude is something I understand and I could not agree with her more. 

A man and a woman joined us and I apologize because I cannot remember specifically if they received livers or kidneys but they both became so sick that they were within days of death and the woman actually received her transplant the same day the doctors had told her family if she didn’t receive it she would die that day.  The man had been diagnosed with a disease that the only cure was a transplant and would be put on the list when he became “sick enough”.  10 years to the day of his dianosis he was sick enough.  His only goal was to watch his son graduate high school and he wanted to live to see that.  Because of IDN he has done that and more. 

And then there was this woman whose husband received a liver transplant many years back.  A few years after his transplant the medications had taken their toll on his kidneys and he needed a kidney transplant.  This story makes me cry every time I think of it because it just so happen that his wife was a match and was able to donate a kidney to her husband.  She now works for IDN because it was the organization that gave her family back to her.

There are many days I wish I could have donated something to Jay to help save him…to keep him here on this earth.  There are days I get mad and I wish it would have been me and not him.  He was going to be such an amazing father and he DESERVED to be that to Aaron. 

At the end of the day, IDN put together a reception of ice cream and cake for the senators and other staff to join us in the cafeteria.  I was able to see Senator Zaun again and to be honest I was a little embarassed because of me crying to him as I told our story.  Around 3 I was ready to leave and pick up Aaron and as I was telling people I was leaving I happened upon the IDN’s CEO and another man (I later found out is an IDN board member) and Senator Zaun talking.  He was telling them he had talked to someone that was there for them and as I walked up he smiled and said…”It was her.”  He remembered me. 

Democrat or Republican, I truly believe those Senators we talked to today now understand the need for the Iowa Donor Network.  Organ donation affects the young, the old…people in need of hearts and lungs or those that need corneas.  I have a new found respect for those behind the scenes in the politics of it all.  And politics aside we made an impact today…that I can be sure of and I am truly honored to have been part of it.

The butterfly

posted 2/18/2013

The butterfly

I had no idea the significance of the butterfly in death until Jay’s funeral.  The pastor told the story of the caterpillar that goes into a cocoon, dies and then in the spring breaks from the cocoon and is this beautiful butterfly.  It symbolizes life after death.  This story has carried me through many dark moments.  Infact, mother’s day was the Sunday after Jay’s funeral and I went to a local pottery painting place to pick up the gift that Jay and Aaron had made me and painted a butterfly plaque.  At first I saw it as only life after death for Jay.  But as the month’s have progressed I have seen it as my life after Jay’s death.  It was the beginning of December that I feel I broke out of my cocoon.  That I can honestly say I wanted to live after Jay’s death.

7 months.

7 months seemed like forever and yet not long enough all at the same time.  What is the “right amount of time” anyway?  Again, another topic that requires its own blog entry.

But 7 months…did this mean I was over his death…no…does it mean days don’t completely suck without him…no…but it took 7 months to feel human again.  To be around people and not feel like the only thing that we could talk about is Jay’s death.  After 7 months I was ready to focus on me…on what my needs were and not just Aaron’s.  My dad actually said that to me.  He understood that I was doing everything I was doing for Aaron and that was fine and good but he looked me in the eyes and said “Honey…at some point you will have to do things for yourself…take care of you.”

It’s hard as a mother to think of yourself and as a widow it is just as difficult.  So really, I was faced with two battles.  The war may never fully end but to win these two battles…well I will take that for now.

No Fear


No Fear

After Jay’s death there isn’t much in this world that surprises, shocks or scares me.  I think if you talk to anyone who has had a significant loss like this they will tell you the same thing.

You would think with all the stress my blood pressure would go up.  To the contrary, my blood pressure has gone down.

Before Jay’s death I was scared to die…now I am not.

I was scared to get a tattoo…now I’m not.

I was scared of needles and now I get acupuncture every week to two weeks.

All of those fears aside, the one that stuck around was the fear of losing someone I love…someone close to me.  It sounds completely insane but the thought sometimes crosses my mind that people should stay away from me.  If they stay away from me then they won’t get hurt…their families won’t suffer the pain that I have.  I know I don’t possess that power but when you suffer a loss like this the mind goes all kinds of crazy.  But Jay was here one minute and gone the next.  How fair is that?  He was a good person, it couldn’t have just been his time.  I was the reason he was gone.  Again, I don’t possess those powers, this I know but I can go there very quickly on a “bad” day.

There used to be shirts that read “No Fear”.  I wish I had one.