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.
“Dude…where’s my phone?”
In this day and age carrying your phone with you at all times is such a norm. If you don’t have it with you, you may say you feel naked or lost. Our phones are our lives. Jay always used to give me so much grief about the fact that whenever he called I was never able to or did answer his call. (texting was a different story) He told me after we had Aaron that I HAD to have my phone with me at all times. If daycare called about Aaron, I HAD to answer. So after Aaron was born it was like the phone was attached to my hip. It was because of this that I heard the phone call at noon on May 9th and was able to answer and get to the hospital as fast as I did, although truly I will always believe it wasn’t fast enough.
Since May 9th my feelings towards my phone are interesting to say the least. I carry it with me all the time especially when I am not with Aaron and I constantly check it to make sure I haven’t missed a call or text.
The first time daycare called me after Jay died just because Aaron had a fever and I had to pick him up I cried the whole way from work to daycare. Aaron was obviously fine but that is not how the teacher on the phone started the conversation. To the teacher’s defense she was very nice on the phone, it was just because it was my first experience talking on the phone with concern to my family that I was so scared. As silly as it sounds, when daycare calls me now…for anything…the first thing they say is “Hi Alyssa…Everything is OK and Aaron is fine…but we need you to pick him up because…” It sounds so silly to have to have them say it that way but because of the how I found out about Jay it is how things will be for awhile.
Ironically a month or so after Jay died I upgraded my phone I had at the time. My reason at the time was because it was acting up and as my primary source of communication it had to be working. If I look at it now along with many other things from that day…I had to change it. It was the phone of death. I did the same with Aaron’s and my outfit along with the car I drove that day. That topic is for another blog.
Other topics that come to mind as I have written this blog are
1) The need to change things up (in regards to my vehicle, phone and outfits)
2) My fear…not of my own death but the death of others I love around me
3) This thing they call Widows brain
4) The finish line (I will leave that out for interpretation)
What a crappy word. But I’ve been through it so might as well blog it right?
I have been in and out of denial so many times it could make someone crazy. Denial is such a weird thing. Most people may think that it is just a thought. For me it also includes visuals. I blink and I am back in the ER. Opening the door to his room with no one around me as I saw him laying there just gone. I wish I could describe the picture in my mind…how I can go right back to that moment with the feeling of shock & disbelief but not shocked because deep down I knew as I drove to the hospital it wasn’t good. Deep deep down in my gut I knew he was gone. That sounds so terrible to say but I knew. I cried the whole way from my work to the hospital.
When I look back at those first 3 days and how much I kissed him…held his hand and as morbid as it sounds I even snuggled up to him on the bed in the ER I think that I did those things because I thought maybe…just maybe they would bring him back. If he felt me…saw me he would know that he needed to come back. He needed to come back for Aaron…not for me but for this little boy he helped create. Early on I remember feeling that he would come back…that magically he would walk through the back door and everything would be back to normal. When his autopsy came in the mail, I remember thinking…OK Jay…this is enough…stop it. I purposefully didn’t contact our life insurance guy for a couple weeks because I wasn’t going to need it…he was coming back. If I didn’t take the money, he would come back.
If I didn’t pack up his clothes, someday he would come back and wear them. If I don’t organize his office, he’ll come back. And let’s be honest, he would be ticked if he came back and I had reorganized his office. If I don’t find happiness, or acknowledge its existence in my life at the moment he will come back. Let’s be completely honest here…he is in an urn on a shelf in my built in. He would like the Urn…it is his style…it actually matches his wedding band. But the probability of him coming back to life in the physical form that everyone knew is highly unlikely. Life is not a movie or a soap opera. People don’t come back from the dead because someone secretly is keeping them alive somewhere else.
Denial is a very strong feeling. It can keep you from the reality you need to face,and that in itself is not healthy.
The 14 days of Valentine’s stopped as quickly as it started but I have reasons, there was having a weekend day as Day 2 and then Aaron got Pink eye that last week. Anyone who has had to give a child eye drops by themselves knows that I wanted to eat the chocolate treats instead of give them out after doing that.
So now I am 2 days away from V-Day. UGH This is so not an important holiday. I mean I made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas…this should be a piece of cake. And yet I sit here almost sick to my stomach because it is my first Valentine’s Day without Jay.
We always got each other 2 cards. I’m not sure why that started. One was always the mushy lovey one and the other card was always “naughty”. HA! I love white roses and they really are my flower of choice but there were a few times in the 10 Valentine Day’s we had where Jay told me that a girl just deserved to have Red roses on Valentine’s day and plus then the flower shop people wouldn’t look at him like he was being dumb. I like to think that things like this are what made our love unique. Our love withstood alot of things. Not many people know this but we started dating in October of 2002 so within 2 months we already hit a “gift” holiday. Not only that but we took our first trip together the month of December to Chicago. I like to think my navigation skills of getting us to the hotel with mapquest directions and a real paper map sealed the deal on our love. Considering mapquest had us literally taking a turn where one didn’t exist and we had a street cop yelling at us to not go down a certain road downtown, I think the notion of if you can make it through a first trip together without wanting to strangle the other person it is true love is a real theory. As for our first “Christmas” together, he went all out. He gave me a ring…no no no…not an engagement ring but a ring with my birthstone in it which is aquamarine and with the quality he got looked like a diamond. That full story is for another blog.
I miss so many things about Jay. I could always tell once he had figured out what he was going to get me for Valentine’s Day, or any gift holiday really. He had a certain smirk about him because he thought he was so clever. Truth be told he was. On Valentine’s day particularly I knew he would be waiting to get an email from me thanking him for the flowers he sent because an email would almost instantly come back saying “Your welcome baby”. I miss that email. I miss that smirk. I miss his hugs and kisses. He could give me a hug after a rough day at work and I just knew everything would be OK. He would always get sick of how long I would want to hug him and say “Lyss…come on….” He was my safety net. My security blanket. I trusted and loved him unconditionally. I hope he knew that.
I would always try to get him something for Valentine’s Day although he would tell me…”This is a girls holiday Lyss…you don’t need to get me anything.” I tried a couple times to get him something a little extravagant but learned early to not push my luck. When Jay had a thought about something it was pretty hard to change it.
On the topic of cards, shortly after he died I was looking for something and opened up his bottom drawer of his nightstand. It was there that I found almost every card or note I had ever given him. He kept them. I always thought he threw cards away, but I guess not. We gave each other cards on occasion for no real reason at all and even those were in there. The only card I gave him that wasn’t in this drawer was the one that Aaron and I had given him for May day last year. That was still on his desk. He never had the opportunity to put it away I guess.
It’s hard to understand why life took this wonderful man away from us. Like I said in my first Valentine day post, this holiday is bitter sweet. You see tons of heart shapes around and Jay had such a big and wonderful heart and yet that was the one part of him that failed him in the end. It really hurts to hear and know that so many people come back from heart attacks. They can be unresponsive for many minutes and still come back. I shouldn’t say it hurts because for those people it is a miracle. I think one of Jay’s doctors told me that more times then not, the first symptom of a heart attack is death. So he really didn’t have a good chance from the get go. His heart stopped but mine continues to beat so although it feels broken I will move forward remembering our love and embracing my new kind of Valentine’s Day.
I don’t want to do this anymore
If I could have a dollar for everytime I have said this phrase in the last 9 months I’d be rich.
Whether it is…
planning a funeral…
getting out of bed (or off the couch) in the morning…
going to a dr. appt for Aaron alone…
asking for help when I need it…
or make another decision on something as small as “what should we eat tonight” to something as major as “Do I take Aaron to the doctor?”
I am very fortunate to have amazing family and friends. My support team around me is absolutely amazing. Many of them have and continue to tell me how well I am doing through this whole journey. They tell me I’m brave and so strong.
What if I just don’t want to be that anymore?
What if I want to do the exact opposite ..curl up in a ball and wish the days away because the cards I have been dealt stink to holy hell.
I know I have a beautiful baby boy that needs me and that should be the best reason to get up in the morning and face the day. What if some days that wasn’t enough. Wow…that sounds terrible.
Everyone can call off the alarms because Aaron IS the most important thing in my life and he IS enough but I can easily see where those who don’t have a strong support group can go down a very dangerous and scary path and if I’m completely honest, I don’t blame them one bit.
I have said, screamed and cried this phrase many times, yet when the screaming is done and the tears run dry I somehow find it in me to do what I need to do and continue on. To do the one thing that I need to do…move forward. I don’t do it because I want to or because I should or because it is easy…I do it because I HAVE to. It’s never easy although some may say it looks that way.
did he die?…pass away? or is he no longer with us?
This topic came to mind the other day when I realized that I was saying that Jay had died instead of passed away and it just seemed weird. You hear people say that someone has “passed away” or even shorten it to they have “passed”. Even more confusing is when someone says that the deceased is “no longer with us”. So my question is…did Jay die…pass away or is he just no longer with us.
If you sit and think, these 3 ways of saying someone is deceased say the same thing just a little differently. In my opinion when you say someone has died it just seems so harsh but if you think about it, that is exactly what happens. When they say they have passed away it is just a “nicer” way of saying someone has died. The whole “he is no longer with us” poses the question…well where is he? Until this experience that comment didn’t bother me. Now the more I think about the “well where is he?” question I can think of two answers. The first is “in his urn on a shelf in my built-in” and the other is in heaven. Neither answer seems like a good answer to give in conversation. And honestly brings anger and sadness.
When talking to others, the conversation was interesting. To say someone died meant they died young or suddenly. To pass away meant you were older or had a long illness.
So I guess no matter how you look at it, Jay died…passed away and is no longer with us. And any way you say it, it will always be unfair and really really suck.
That is a question a friend of mine asked me when we first met. Her husband died from cancer. Jay died of a heart attack. Being asked the question, “What was worse…losing a husband to a sudden heart attack or a battle with cancer?” was a pretty loaded question. The question alone was an eye opener…the fact that it was asked the first time I met her made it even more unique. My answer and her reaction play in my mind often as it helps remind me to keep perspective.
My answer was “The outcome was the same so I say they both suck equally.” She looked at me and said, “Great answer and hold on to that because people will try to compare.”
The title of this post is “What’s worse?” but the topic is really about comparison and responsibility for one’s grief. One of the first things my counselor told me was that I was not responsible for anyone’s grief but my own. My other responsibility was to take care of Aaron. During one of our sessions I had told her that I visited Jay’s co-workers at Wells Fargo and her question to me was…”Are you doing that for them or for you?”. My answer was “I am visiting them because it helps me, they calm me and I want Aaron to know them.” This is true to this day as I try to visit them often and have friendships with many of them. My counselor also said that there was no comparison in people’s grief. So Cancer vs. heart attack…husband vs. son…old friend vs. recent friend…there is no comparison of grief. I shouldn’t say there isn’t because there is, you just shouldn’t, it’s not healthy.
Everyone’s journey in grief is different. Until you have walked a mile in someone’s shoes you cannot begin to understand what they feel or what they are going through. It wasn’t until we lost Jay that I truly understood that phrase.
The first moments
I decided to challenge myself tonight and see if I could write about the first couple days after Jay died. So, here goes nothing.
I remember the morning of May 9th like it was yesterday. I remember hearing my phone ring around noon, not recognizing the phone number, answering the phone and hearing Jay’s personal trainer telling me to get to the hospital as soon as possible. I remember the gut wrenching feeling when all she would say is that I needed to get to the hospital as soon possible. I remember the drive to the hospital feeling like it took forever. I remember that Jay was in room #9. I couldn’t find it at first when I walked back into the ER. I remember finding it, walking in and seeing him. There is no way to describe the image I have in my mind but I can tell you it exists and it is vivid. I remember asking the nurses in the room if he was OK…but I already knew the answer. I walked back out to the hallway and fell to the floor. A doctor and nurse walked up to me and took me to the consultation room to talk about what happened. I remember the doctor being a jerk but in his defense I wasn’t really being nice either. I remember calling Jay’s dad and telling him his son had died. He said they would be at the hospital a soon as possible. It felt like eternity for them to get to the hospital. I remember one of Jay’s co-workers sitting with me in the consultation room as I tried to digest what had just happened.
I remember picking up Aaron from daycare and the embrace with his teacher as I told her Jay had died.
I remember once we got all of the details of funeral home, Iowa donor Network, etc taken care of and getting back to our house, walking over to my neighbors who were standing in between our yards watiting for me as I fell into their arms. I remember Jay’s dad and brother driving back to Wells Fargo to get Jay’s vehicle. And while they were gone having my parents get to the house and I again fell into their arms. I didn’t sleep at all that night. From the conversations that next day it showed. May 10th was planning day. Finalizing the visitation/funeral days, songs, poems, coffins, urns, writing the announcement for the paper and picking out flowers. There were many times that day that my dad had to hold me up. One specifically was when we went to look at the coffins. May 11th was meeting the pastor and the visitation. The visitation was from 4-8 and there were so many people that showed up in the first hour I remember asking one of the Hamilton’s staff what time it was, expecting him to say 6:30/7:00 and looking at me and saying…it’s 5:00. I remember seeing many of Jay’s friends come up to me with tears in their eyes. It was so difficult to see peope’s reaction to the situation. I stayed strong for most of the visitation but as one of the staff members said to me, there were definitely certain people that I broke down too. There are two of my very close girlfriends that when I saw them I lost it.
The day of the funeral started off OK. Everyone was nervous because I was going to speak. Many told me not to do it but I did it and there are many that have asked me to tell them someday how I pulled it off. My answer is simple…Jay was there. The hardest part of those first 3 days was the final good bye. My dad had to pull me away from the casket. It was then that I was truly numb.
I sent my whole family home that Sunday morning…mother’s day. It wasn’t a popular decision of mine but I made it anyway. I had a friend that stayed with me the first two nights and others were later planned where I had someone with me at night for the first 2 weeks and I had a doctor appointment that next afternoon. I had my first counseling session on the 15th. Jay died on the 9th. I took Aaron to daycare the morning of the 15th. That day forward I established a new routine. Coffee with my neighbor, dropped Aaron off at daycare and hung out at daycare for atleast another hour just writing notes of things I needed to do and talking to the daycare teachers. To this day, the connection I have wth those two teachers is a sisterly bond that I cherish very much. I would run errands, write thank yous and other misc things those next 4 weeks before I would go back to work.
For now…that is all I can write. Good night.
What to expect when you are not expecting anything…
I have had to make many adjustments in our lives since May 9th. There are times I look back and it can make my head want to spin when I think of everything I’ve done.
I remember initially thinking to myself…
I expected to raise Aaron WITH Jay…
I expected to pre-tire and travel with Jay (he always had aggressive goals for retirement)…
I expected to have another child with Jay…
I expected by be ganged up on by my two boys…
I expected him always to come home. And then one day he didn’t.
As you can see there are many “expectations” and all but one was a plan for the future. Knowing those will never happen makes me sad but the last one is the one that stings the most.
So I sit here and think if I don’t expect anything, would it make it easier when things don’t happen or when crappy things do happen? It lessens the disappointment & frustration I guess. But then I try to think if there is a difference between having dreams and having expectations. So to put it into context, I can dream to be happy again but I shouldn’t expect to be happy. Wow…that is rough. In that context alone I probably have many of my friends & family screaming…”ALYSSA!…You WILL be happy again! Don’t think you won’t.” I guess it is human to expect things. To think that you have tomorrow or next year to do things or say things but the reality is you may not. The visual is forever burned into my mind of when I first walked into the trauma room and saw Jay there…already gone…it reminds me EVERY DAY we may not have tomorrow.
Jay expected to raise Aaron with me…to pre-tire somewhere warm…to have another child…to gang up on me with Aaron and to ultimately come home around 4:30 on May 9th but he didn’t.
This is not meant for people to feel bad for me or to tell me not to feel this way because not expecting anything from life…friends…family…it just may be the one mindset that helps me get through the rest of my life. And maybe if I’m lucky…I will be pleasantly surprised.
Survival versus Living
It never really occurred to me the difference of surviving and living until today when I was sitting having lunch.
I went to one of our favorite restaurants but instead of sitting at a table or in a booth I sat at the bar. I ordered my favorite salad, a Diet Pepsi and then pulled out my nook and started to read one of the books I have on it. It was one of the most relaxing lunches I have had in a very long time.
For an hour I wasn’t making conversation with anyone or having to make sure they weren’t choking on food or fussing and disrupting people. I was alone and that was OK. It wasn’t until I was on my way back to work that I completely realized what had just happened.
I was living. Now you may read that and say, “Alyssa, you’ve been living for a long time…almost 34 years now”. I have to disagree with you because I think for the last almost 9 months I have just been surviving and scared as hell to live. The last 9 months have been about continuously moving…continously doing something so people won’t think I’m just sitting at home being sad.
The more I sit here I begin to see that this weekend I started to “live.” Aaron and I were out and about, we saw friends on Friday night, then ran errands Saturday & Sunday morning, napped, played, blogged and were just able to ‘be’. The scary thought I have now is that Saturday and Sunday it really seemed that Aaron was calm, calmer then he has really been in the last 9 months. I sat with him alot and played. I wasn’t trying to continuously move. I didn’t spend every minute with him but when I did I was really “there.” The scary thought is “what have I been doing up to this point?”
Surviving. For 9 months I have been surviving. As I sit here with an overwhelming sense of calm I can tell you…living is MUCH easier then surviving. It is exhausting to always be trying to think “what is next?” To try and be ready for whatever was going to come at me next.
So here is to living. I am sure I will go into survival mode many more times in my life as will others but atleast now I have the understanding that to live is so much easier.