Operation Self love (or how to hate myself less) part one

So apparently, I’ve been avoiding some stuff. There’s been some ginormous pink polka dotted elephant has been following me everywhere that everyone could see, yet no one dare mention. My daily life has been facing all of the tasks head-on, conquering single parenthood, multitasking and juggling life with the precision of a octopus clown while singing “this is me” on key from the Greatest Showman” soundtrack, showing the world what a “strong widow” I can be. Fooled you!

Truth is this dumb ass polka dotted elephant is very apparent to me as well, but I have consciously chosen to ignore it. Because facing it, the pink elephant, known to me as my life’s troubles, has got me scared to death. Avoiding my grief and my past and the abuse I suffered as an adolescent, the stresses of my marriage and parenthood and now being single, the eating disorders, the depression and self loathing sounds so much easier. Facing it seems so daunting and exhausting it’s just easier to put on a brave face and dress up the elephant in something pretty and call it a day. However, it was starting to interfere in my everyday- so I decided to start therapy. And therapy has been torture because this nice lady has decided that I HAVE to deal with my past, I have to talk about Andre, I have to open Pandora’s box, and holy shit is there a lot in there. Years and years of smiling through the tears, accepting everyone’s judgement as truth, not sticking up for myself in order to keep the peace or out of fear of losing people has taken its toll and this box where I have been putting everything is busting at the seams- and my therapist sits across from me weekly telling me that I need to deal with it, and the sooner I do, the happier I’ll be. And she will accept nothing less. She drags out of me the anger and the tears. The resentment and the fear. She makes me face the small girl who never really felt loved as a child but like more of a burden, and god dammit it hurts like hell.

Feeling things hurts.

It hurts in a way that it takes me a few days to recover from each session. It hurts in a way that I have begun to see things in a harsh new light. It hurts because I have begun to see people for who they are as a whole and not the parts they have chosen to present to me. It hurts because I truly wanted to believe in the goodness of people and the reality is that not everyone is a good person.

Don’t get me wrong, along the way I have collected the most incredible, strong, amazingly supportive and patient people I could ask for, but I have also had to let quite a few go. I had to chose my happiness over keeping the peace, and for some people it was so out of character for me to stand up for myself that they told me how much I’ve changed or how they don’t agree with my life, and as much as I know I have to rid myself of the toxic people, it’s heartbreaking to let them go.

So, this was the hardest step for me so far- they always say the first step is the hardest and admitting that I cannot sort through almost forty years of damage on my own was a huge step for me in the journey to self love or self appreciation or whatever nonsense you want to call it. There is such an uphill battle ahead but this step will hopefully help me to begin to heal and allow me to be the parent, the friend, the employee and the partner I want to be.

So, yea, therapy. And I also started a consistent skin care regimen, so there’s that.

Solitary Confinement

There’s tons of stories about what happens after the tide rolls out and widowhood settles in. How all the people who were so attentive and claimed to “be there for you” aren’t anymore, how the more time that passes the less people feel you should be mourning and how with each small widow victory, you must be hurting less. And to be honest, some of it is correct: there are days that go by that I don’t think about the fact that I am a widow at all . I go about my day as a part of my new life without wallowing in the sudden death of my husband. Days where I’m not constantly reminded that my life is still upside down and those are the days I consider a win.

However that being said, there is one constant that I have noticed in this whole widow thing that will turn any day dark and make any win dissipate into the oblivion like it never existed. That thing is loneliness. And of course EVERYONE assumes that loneliness comes with the widow territory, but it’s more paralyzing than I ever could have imagined.

After the girls are in bed, after the work is done, after the texts have ceased and all of your friends and family have joined their spouses in bed, the silence creeps in like a dense fog. It covers the floors of my entire house and the quiet of no one talking, no breaths coming from the other side of the bed or footsteps ascending up the stairs.. my God, the silence is deafening. The heaviness that loneliness brings to your chest is inexplicable, and i get it. Until you’ve walked a mile you can’t possibly get it, so more than likely you don’t know how miserable i really am. You may have been divorced or through awful break ups but the sudden onset of loneliness is more than unbearable at times.

So for me, I do things to distract from the loneliness; I binge watch tv to distract my mind, I surf the Internet to occupy my time, I swipe in various directions on dating apps to possibly quell the loneliness, (even if briefly) and I drink to numb the pain.

Upon speaking to other widows and counselors and the general public who all know someone whose been through what I am going through, everyone has advice and insight of how to handle what i am going to need to handle. But no one, not one person warned me about the isolation. And how the isolation brings jealousy and bitterness, and how the jealousy and bitterness bring distance. Because to be totally open, as much as the quiet and the loneliness hurt, no widow wants to sit in a room full of happy families and couples while feeling this way. What I’m really saying is that I don’t mind going out and being around people, but only if they are nearly or more miserable than me. Tell me about your failing marriages and your work problems. Tell me that your life as it is now was never what you wanted or expected it to be, tell me you’re sad and depressed and feeling just Fucking awful because hearing that gives me hope that I am not totally alone in my misery, and goddamnit, misery really does love company.

I’m sorry if this seems like I am being unappreciative of all of the love and kindness that people have shown me. I’m sorry that the bitterness in my heart has created a divide between us that makes me want to chew ground glass over the thought of having to endure third-wheeling it with you and the love of your life to any function or gathering. I’m sorry if my answers are too short or too long when we text, because sometimes I can’t stand anyone and one word responses are all i can handle and yet sometimes I’m clamoring so desperately for someone to talk to that a simple “hi” on your end leads to my dissertation on life and love as a widow and how all of it sucks. I’m sorry for trying to suck you in. I’m sorry for rejoicing in any of your misery and I’m sorry if I suck the joy out of good times. Please bear with me.

Not another sad post!

I’ve been toying for a while about revamping what I want to do with my blog.

And while some of it will be filled with sadness and the heartache I feel everyday, not everyday-all day is miserable. That’s a lie, some days just plain suck ass. But not always.

Some days I’m so busy working and rushing and bringing kids from here to there that I hardly have time to notice.

So what is this going to be about? Simply everything; from dating as widow and dating in general (which is terrible by the way!), to raising my kids alone, to taking care of myself, and in a world of self discovery I had never expected.

So, before I leave,  I will tell you a story about where it all started. No, not the beginning beginning with Andre. The beginning when I had my first “widow moment”.

You’d  assume that these moments would take place while I was lying in my bed, crying and clutching one of Andre’s shirts. Look, I did, and still do plenty of that, but this moment came unexpectedly in the basement of the funeral parlor.

My mom, my sister and I were looking at urns. The funeral director is gently guiding us through a room full of caskets to the place where they display the urns. And he’s talking in a clear, gentle voice as you would expect someone with many years of experience dealing with people at their worst moments would, and I started to think.

Side bar: I was drugged with Xanax, incredibly tired and pretty damn distraught. That being said, it’s also a very awkward and uncomfortable situation. And when these things combine inside of me  in the basement of a funeral parlor looking at urns for my now dead husband, I become very funny. I say basically whatever comes to my mind in a comedic style rivaling Tina Fey.

So I was standing back, in deep thought. I was running a few things through my mind, and the three of them (my mom, sister and funeral director) noticed my lagging behind  with a quizzical look on my face. The funeral director asked me a question I am sure he will very quickly come to regret, “Mrs. Bermudez, did you have a question?” and as if it written for a sitcom, I blurt out, “Yes. How are the urns secured? Do they screw on or is there like a cork? Because to be honest, I have a 75 pound husky and two kids and the last thing I want to do is have him knocked over and I end up having to vacuum up my husband”.

Cue silence.

The sheer look of horror and, well, surprise that was displayed on my sister and mothers faces in combination with the stuttering of the funeral director trying to come up with an appropriate answer to a pretty inappropriately worded question made me realize at that moment that this was it. This was a moment that would be burned into my memory forever as my first “widow moment”. Here I am in a funeral home picking out the urn my husband will likely be in for the rest of… well forever, and I can’t help but think of how I would handle his urn being knocked over accidentally by one of my kids.

What followed after that was my sister bursting into laughter, then my mom, and then when he realized that it was a really funny moment, so did the funeral director.

The rest of the arrangements were made and we went to the car to head back home. As I stared out the window watching the trees and stores and road go by, I couldn’t help but think how my life would never again be the same.

 

 

Dear God

Dear God,

The last year of my life has been filled with platitudes about your intentions, your plans, your bigger picture. Since I understand that you have many loyal followers and supposedly lots of people to listen to, I think that you need to refocus for a second and take a moment to review my life as I am going to lay it out for you.

The last 38 years of my life have been  filled with challenges. And while I am fully aware that there are so many more people who have lives far worse than mine, mine is the only one I am trying to navigate, so it’s the only perspective I have.

 

Dear God,

You brought a little girl into a house already filled with so much strife and ruin. A house that thrived on abuse and mental illness. A home that inevitably ended up with broken hearts, shattered dreams and fragile children. Each of these children would grow up and move on to fuck up in each of their own special way, but they have kept moving despite the incredible rough start to their lives– some thriving more than others.

Dear God,

That same little girl would never really know her place in the world. She tried and tried to see the beauty in it, but never really felt like much more than a burden, a mistake, a problem. At the age of 12, right when her life should be filled with an active social life, after school activities and hope, you saw it fit to have her sexually assaulted by a family member. This set in motion many, many years of untreated mental illness, bad decisions, a lack of respect and hatred for her own body. These things would haunt her for many years to come as she was given no choice but to suffer in silence and let insides rot as her smile shined bright on the outside. All of this finally coming to a head over 20 years later when the only way she could take back any power was to walk away from almost all of the only family she ever knew.

Dear God,

Andre came into my life when I needed him most. He showed me what loyalty and compassion looked like. He loved me in the best way he knew how, and although we hardly ever saw eye-to-eye, we chose to stand by each other, hand in hand through it all. Together we lost jobs, fought, had two beautiful children, bought houses, took trips, cried, screamed, made a home, made memories and loved each other endlessly despite often times  not knowing why.

Dear God,

In some ruthless inexplicable act, you took him away. No notice, no clues, no warning. No chance to say goodbye or utter any last I love you’s. You ripped him out of my life when our lives together should have just been beginning. My girls deserve a father, and I deserve a husband and yet in some vengeful, mean, and heartless way, this was how you chose to show me your love?!

Dear God,

People keep telling me that you will not give me more than I can handle.  My heart and my spirit are broken and I am exhausted. I am empty.

So, Dear God,

I beg of you, please leave me alone. I have had enough. 

 

 

Stop.

I won’t ask for much this Christmas
I don’t even wish for snow
I’m just gonna keep on waiting
Underneath the mistletoe

At this time a year ago I was worried about having enough time and money to buy everyone presents.

Stop.

I was worried that Andre would forget to order the Duck that he insisted I cook every year for Christmas Eve Dinner.

Stop.

I was so overwhelmed by the thought that I had to clean and cook and decorate and wrap.

Stop.

I was waking up in the middle of the night because I forgot to move the stupid elf.

Stop.

I was juggling all of the above on top of trying not to disappoint my children by failing to attend all of their holiday parties and concerts at school which are conveniently scheduled in the middle of the work day.

Stop.

I was wishing to add just two more hours to the day to be able to squeeze in baking cookies and driving to see lights and watching Christmas movies with my little family of four.

Stop.

And less than 365 days later I wish I had all of that back. I wish to have someone who would help me put up the Christmas tree while making his special homemade hot chocolate and forcing me to listen to Robert Goulet’s awful Christmas album.

I wish I had someone to tell me when I’ve bought enough for everyone and that I’m doing a good job.

I wish I had my other half for holiday parties and to torture with Christmas music in the car while I sing as loudly as possible while he announces once more how many more days until Christmas is over so he won’t have to listen to it anymore for another year.

I miss turning up Paul McCartney’s “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time” a little louder because we all know it’s his favorite Christmas song.

I miss kissing him under the fake mistletoe.

I miss my yearly meltdown about not being able to find the recipe for the perfect blueberry sauce to go with the duck, that I will inevitably find exactly where it always is.

I had no idea that amongst all of the stress and craziness of Christmas last year that it would be our last as a family of four and what I would give to have just one more.

How I wish he could see the joy on the girls faces in Christmas Day. How he would drink coquito In is coffee Christmas morning and remind me that this was his most brilliant idea ever- and why hasn’t anyone been adding coquito to coffee all of this time?

So next time you’re caught up in all holiday stuff; the stress, the commercialism, the anxiety, the overwhelming feelings…

… just stop.

Take a second to enjoy what is around you. Sit with person/people you love in front of the Christmas tree or the menorah or whatever you use and take a second to stop.

Let it all sink in; the sounds, the smells, the sights. Because you have no idea when this one will be the last one.

God knows I wish I knew.

Hallo-widow

There have been few victories since Andre passed away. Little ones, yes; remembering when the garbage goes out, scheduling lawn cutting, feeding the girls on a somewhat normal schedule, getting out of bed, being mostly pleasant, smiling. I even got a shot a an actual relationship (laughable). I said a shot. It, like most other things got shot right to hell, but my dating and all the joy that comes along with it is fodder for another post.

This is about this week.

My favorite question of late:

What are you being for Halloween?

Miserable.

How about when someone asks me my plans for Halloween, can I say, “I plan on getting drunk?” No? Awesome.

I’m going to do the same thing I’ve done for each milestone or holiday that has preceded the last, fake it. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, my birthday, and so on. I’ve faked being happy or excited. I’ve half-assed the decorations, the goody bags, the parties, the gifts. I do it because I can’t not.

“Hey girls, all celebrations and holidays are canceled for the foreseeable future because mommy isn’t feeling it?” That’ll go over well. Oh, and by the way.. Santa isn’t real.

I realize that my parenting style isn’t really award worthy as of late, but even I’m not that much of an asshole. I need to pull up my big girl panties and make the best of it for my girls, they deserve at least that after the shit they’ve been dealt.

So, like the dutiful mama I am, I wore the teal and purple hooded dragon onsie carefully picked out by my littles and took them trick or treating. And they loved it. They fell happily into sugar comas and I fell into my bed with my feet and my heart aching for sleep and a new beginning. I guess a glass of wine and some crappy TV will have to suffice for now.

in memoriam

Who would have knows that at 37 years old, a girl who dreamt of retirement and holding hands with her husband until she was of a much older age would be gone? Who knew that for many when their lives are just beginning  either in a marriage or as a family, that she would be taken from the world so soon?

She is no longer a wife. She is no longer the person whose name comes after the word “And” in the couple equation. She is no longer someone who will sit back and eat shit to spare others’ feelings, despite how the effect hers. She is no longer afraid to speak her mind or stand up for herself. She is no longer wasting time on mundane things and minor details. She is no longer living (within reason) according to someone else’s schedule of when they think things should be happening in her life.

She is someone who has been clawing her way out of hell and does not deserve your judgements.

She is someone who deserves time to figure out who She is and where she belongs in this new world.

She is someone who deserves to laugh and enjoy her life.

She is someone whose children deserve all the best that the world can offer, and she is the person who will fight fiercely for them to have it.

She is someone worthy of love. Love in every form; family, friendship, romantic and any other ways you can think of.

She is someone who deserves happiness.

So, take this time to read above and see if you agree that she deserves all of the things that have been outlined and more.  If so, she’ll be so glad you are ready to embrace the ‘new her’, and she thanks  you for being here.

If you are not okay with this new version of  her or any of the forms she may take on, she will allow you this time to say goodbye. She hates to see you go, but she will not make exceptions for anyone. She may do things you do not like or agree with, but she is not asking you to. she is asking you to let the Danielle you knew go, and accept and embrace the woman that has emerged from the fire.

What many people do not understand is that when your spouse dies, a significant part of you dies with them. Up until very recently, she didn’t understand it. Only as she has been faced with new situations under new circumstances  and handled them completely differently than she would have prior to December 30th  did it suddenly become clear that she is no longer who she was before.

And with this realization comes so much relief.

32169594_10214948853371610_6819903798232743936_nSo much peace.

And so much love and appreciation for those who choose to stay. 

She had no idea that with the death of her husband she would saying goodbye to so many people. 

She wishes you all the love and peace and happiness in the world, just as she would hope you wish for her.

Six.

“Isn’t it lovely, all alone
Heart made of glass, my mind of stone
Tear me to pieces, skin to bone
Hello, welcome home”
 

I am not really sure how to start this because edging on half a years’ time has me flooded with mixed emotions.

Can it really be six months already? Or, has it only been six months?

Time in inevitable.

Time keeps moving on regardless of how you hurt, regardless of who you’re missing and regardless of how broken your heart is.

Time is an interpretation.

In six months there’s been significant change; I have begun to learn to parent on my own, I have begun to understand that this is my life now, and there is acceptance lack of desire to fight it anymore.

I have welcomed new people into my life. I have reconnected with people who were kind of always there. I have let that many more go.

Did you know that somewhere between 5 and 6 months the smell of a person begins to fade? Somewhere since the last time I buried my face in his clothes and inhaled him deeply to now, the scent of him no longer lingers as it used to.

I had convinced myself that I was doing okay, and right until the moment on Sunday when I found myself buried in a pile of his clothing I had furiously ripped out of his drawers desperately seeking a tiny bit of “his smell”, I had actually believed myself.

The grief comes in waves. Most days I am able to tread the water famously, body surfing the waves with a brave smile and a stiff upper lip. And then…well, and then. Then there is heaviness and suffocation. There is a loneliness so palpable it’s felt on every square inch of my body.

Pre-K graduation. Birthday parties. Soccer tournaments. All of those moments when I get to walk into some function filled with smiling and proud mommies and daddies and I get to sit in the back alone, smiling through the pain counting the seconds until I can get to my car and cry. Honestly, the moments I feel loneliest are the ones where I am often surrounded by people. The ones where pretending to be okay is the hardest. The ones where all I long for is a hand to hold and someone to help me carry the 6 thousand things my girls have inevitably collected along the way. Someone to help me parent and someone to take as much pride in the accomplishments of my children the same way I do.

I have been super fortunate for the last 6 months to have been surrounded by the most supportive, incredible group of people I could have asked for. People who have been here before my world came crashing down and have been helping me sort through debris since. People who have come into my life since Andre’s death offering me new perspective and maybe a moments respite from the sadness.  People who have kept me afloat in one way or another, and to them I will forever be grateful.

So as six months comes closer, there is an sadness hanging over me. There are moments of, “how could it be 6 months already?” because the pain still all feels so new and the wounds still seem to be open. And then there’s the part of me that thinks about it closing in on 6 months and says, “it’s only been 6 months?” because honestly each day that passes often feels like an eternity.

The only certainty I can constantly remind myself of is that I am moving forward, because time says so.

I will never move on, but I will move forward.

For my children.

For my family and my friends.

For myself,

and also because it’s what Andre would want.

 

 

 

 

 

Live.

Why do people keep dying? I mean, I get it, it’s life, or a part of it anyway but Jesus, it’s everywhere.

People who feel they have to escape whatever demons they’re being chased by, and they take their own lives.

People dying suddenly and tragically.

People giving up a long fight with whatever disease they’ve been battling.

It. Is. everywhere.

And yes, since Andre died I am way more sensitive to it. I can’t help but to think about those left behind and the tears, so many tears. And the raw noses, the heartbreak, the pain. It’s all consuming and seems endless, and some days it lasts from sunrise to sunset.

And some days, it’s not so bad. Some days it’s paralyzing.

A few days ago, I requested Facebook to memorialize Andre’s account. I just assumed it was a part of the process. And although his toothbrush still sits in the holder in the bathroom and his glasses on the bedside table, this was something I needed to do to see if I could. And I did. And I got a message from Facebook telling me that they received my request. Great. I took one step. And it was okay until it wasn’t. Today, I got a message that they processed my request and they memorialized his page, and then I was hit by overwhelming panic. I debated if it would be weird to contact them back and tell them that I misunderstood and that I really didn’t want that to be done, and what’s worse is that when I clicked on his page, the heartbreak was suddenly so real and raw once again. It was like actively mourning his loss all over again.

It was in full color “Remembering Andre Bermudez”. This is fucking real. And I have made great strides in my handling my grief and now I feel as though I have been ripped off the sand by a tidal wave and am tumbling in the undertow unable to catch my breath.

And yet, if I were to think about what Andre would want me to do, this was it. If I were able to ask him how to handle these things I am 100 percent positive he would say this:

He would tell me to smile and laugh. He would tell me to enjoy my girls every second. He would tell me that, yes someday, I will have the ability to love and be loved again. He would tell me it’s okay to open myself up to people and that the vulnerability that I feel  simply accepting the love people have to offer me is okay.

He would remind me that although it’s inevitable, that not everyone has to die like he did.

He would remind me not to live in fear.

He would tell me to live. He would insist upon it. 

And so I am here to relay that same thing you.

Please live.

Eat delicious food. Take time out for yourself. Play with your children. Reach out to your family members. Make a call instead of texting so you can hear a voice. Blast  music and have a midday dance party. Enjoy a glass of wine. Buy something frivolous. Fall in love over and over again. Allow yourself to feel loved. Feel joy in almost everything you do.

Just live.

And I have promised him that I will.

Live quote

Settle.

It’s been almost five months since my husband died. The world has begun to come into focus,  the fog lifted and everything is beginning to settle.

Five months without my husband.

Five months ago I was thrust into a new life; no choice, no option, and no warning.

I am a widow.

Those words still ricochet around my head like bullets shot into an empty metal storage container.

The girls and I have begun to adjust to this new life. I am not sure if any of us are feeling better, but we are feeling more…adjusted? I have gotten into a routine of single parenting, as much as it sucks. The girls have begun to get used to only having me at school affairs. We talk about “daddy” fondly and often, but we’ve settled into the idea that this is our life now. It’s the three of us against the world.

I’ve begun to settle into my bed at night and accept the dark and lonely hours that follow.

I’ve settled for drinking my coffee alone in the morning, and making dinner for just me after the girls have gone to bed.

I’ve settled for no kiss goodnight or goodbye.

However, I have also learned that just because I have settled, does not mean that I have accepted.

I have not accepted that my life is this life.  I have not accepted that his glasses will go unused, and his clothes unworn.

I have not accepted the loss of my soulmate, but I have settled into the idea that it may be a excruciatingly long time before I get to see him again.

I have not accepted that he is gone but I have chosen to settle for whatever this new life will bring me.

 

 

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