I write it so bluntly because this is how we open our support group circle when we are new to The Healing Center. This ritual helped me in at least two ways: the most practical being, it helped me practice and get good at saying it out loud without breaking down, just in case someone met me in the grocery store and asked. Secondly, it helped me wrap my head around my new and tragic reality.
It is hard to imagine it has been eight years. We were together eight years. I was 29 years old when he died.
It is hard to imagine it has been eight years because it feels like a lifetime ago, even when I can tap into those feelings as if it were yesterday. This duality can make one think they are crazy, but as I have witnessed in many others suffering and transitioning through all types of loss and love, our lifetime is made up of lots of conflicting and balanced emotions. (see Buddhist Offering below).
My life is very full now (otherwise known as my gratitude list):
- a funny, smart, and kind eleven year old son who calls me, “mom”;
- a wonderfully loving and generous husband, who buys me beautiful white flowers with which to celebrate this horrible day, and Mike, and bring me peace;
- ailing parents, for which I am grateful to be a part of their journey in such a sacred and intimate way;
- loyal and supportive friends who start checking in with me around March and April, and who build beautiful, sturdy monuments to Mike (and always have a drink and Mike story ready when I need it!);
- an amazing job helping to bring hope to young widows and widowers who don’t yet know the gifts that will come from their grief and healing.
I hate this day. It will never be an okay day.
So here is where I need your help with today (otherwise known as my “help me universe” (and friends) list:
- Because it has been eight years and many, many of us are busy creating new stories, I need some help remembering Mike.
- Please send me your Mike story – or give me a call to share.
- Here’s my story for you: The best night of our lives was the night we went to Forks, WA, to celebrate Mike’s negative test result for HD. First, we sat stunned at Alki Beach looking out at the mountains and the Puget Sound for a good hour. Then I asked him, “where would you like to go?” “West, as far as we can go.” We took the ferry to the Olympic Peninsula, and drove 4 hours west to an Indian reservation in Forks, WA. It was grey and stormy with great white capped waves – it was the most beautiful May day. We were the only customers in the only restaurant on the reservation. We ordered salmon and beers and watched the seals in the waves from our window. Mike called his dad, waiting until the very end of the conversation to share his life changing news. With stuffed bellies, we walked the beach to our deluxe cabin, started the hot tub and lit the fire. The day after, I could not have told you what we talked about – so much! Mike started talking and never stopped, it was as if a dam had been broken. Now, I know it is not important what we talked about, it is the feelings we had in that moment; life is about creating those moments. It is about taking risks to live fully whenever we can. Getting tested was the scariest thing Mike ever did, HD was Mikeʼs Everest.
- Help me help the next me. I was surprised to learn 6 months after Mike died, that the grieving and healing process takes a lot longer than our society imagines or allows.
- After reading one of the many great grief books out there – “7 Choices: when loss shatters your world,” I read that all death losses are different, the journey is very individualistic, and you can expect about three years before you feel some enlightenment. THREE YEARS!!!????!!??!?!??!? I was angry when I read this – furious really. Red hot tears streamed down my face as I quickly did the math and realized I wouldn’t feel better till I was also graduating from law school. It didn’t seem fair that I would have to devote those years (without him!) to healing. Wasn’t it enough of a punishment that he wasn’t here?! I wanted to throw the book through the window. And then I heard Mike, very gently and softly laugh in my ear. He said, “Really? Did you really feel it would only take 8 months for the grief, when it was eight years of our life together?” He was right. That wasn’t fair. When you love someone deeply, it should never be okay that they are not here. And you should not be expected to “move on” after the funeral; or the first anniversary of their death; or your first “test date.”
- The Healing Center is a grief support community for young widows/widowers and their children. People come to us for as long as they need (because this is a very personal journey, that takes a very long time.) We have children’s groups that are specific to their developmental levels of understanding, ages 3 – 18. People come to The Healing Center to laugh, cry, play, light candles, find solace, and feel normal in their grief and healing. They do this so they can go back out into the world and function. They do this so they can remember and tap into their relationship with someone who has died too soon and often times, unexpectedly. We help them because we get it, and we know they will go back out into the world, a supported and compassionate person, able to help the next aching soul.
- Would you please help me help the next young widow who will walk through The Healing Center wondering how she (or he) will ever survive this terrible loss and the rebuilding of their new life? This is the fifth year we have organized a May Day Walk-a-thon to remember our loved ones; honor our healing; and support the next family at The Healing Center. This is the link to my page http://maydaywalk2013.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1056263&lis=1&kntae1056263=EE698DA4CD494C4188BD35BAC23FF2BE&supId=375392597
With gratitude and love,
Rebecca (Stodola) Soukakos = Red
Executive Director of The Healing Center
Buddhist Offering for Today – May 1
Life is expressed in a perpetual sequence of changes.
The birth of the child is the death of the baby,
just as the birth of the adolescent is the death of the child.