Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I have been slowly going thru the process of going thru Donnie’s things. Hell it was 7 months before I could throw out just his toothbrush. It’s a lot harder with everything else. I know that it is part of the grieving process. I know letting go of Donnie’s “things” is a part of acceptance. Accepting that he isn’t coming home. There is that Damn word acceptance again. It’s been haunting me for a while now.

There is something about knowing and “knowing”. It sounds crazy to most but it’s true. Letting go of Donnie’s stuff is me knowing and accepting that he won’t be back. Most of his stuff has been in the same place for the last 40 weeks. Hasn’t moved. Clothes in his closet and in his dresser. I don’t go in there, but I knew that it was there. I did take a good bit out of his closet for the kids blankets but for the most part, it stayed the same. I still have the same box sitting there from when my brother cleaned out his work truck. Everything that was his that was in that truck, still sits in that box, untouched. I still have the box of personal items that came from his office too. It still sits in the same place that it was since I brought it home. Maybe I haven’t had the desire to go thru those things because that was a different part of Donnie that I really didn’t know.
I seemed to have really reached a turning point since the holidays of wanting to be happy again. Finding a way to move on with my life. Maybe that is why I have decided that it was time to start going thru his things.
I had already changed the house so much. I had to. Although it was “our house” . I had to make it “mine”. If I didn’t, I don’t think I could live there. It wasn’t that I was trying to take Donnie out of the house. I just knew that it hurt too much to leave it the same. I had to make it “mine.” So I did. I painted and then I painted some more and changed a lot. There are still memories of Donnie there but the house is “mine” now. It has to be.

Going thru his things is another step in making the house mine. I started with his dresser last week. I couldn’t bear to part with his LSU socks. I gave them to Justin. Then came his shorts. Anyone who knew Donnie knew that he rarely wore pants. The shorts were going to be tough to get rid of. I stood there with the bag in my hands, I took the shorts out of the dresser. As I took each pair out, I could picture Donnie standing there in front of me. Putting them in the bag was hard. Harder than I could have ever imagined. I think the only way I can describe it is this,, they are only “things” but these “things” are all that is physical that you have left of the person that you lost. They are the only things that you can actually put your hands on and touch. They are your last physical contact to that person. And getting rid of those things is like getting rid of a part of the person that you lost and you are losing a connection to them. I know it sounds stupid and completely crazy but I guess that is the only way I can make sense of it. I kept telling myself as I put each pair of shorts in the bag, they are only shorts, but my mind kept saying “ but they are Donnie’s shorts”. Silly as it is as the last pair went into the bag and I tied it up, I cried. I cried for all of it, for loving him, for losing him and now for feeling like I was saying goodbye to him all over again. Getting rid of his clothes is the final step in letting him go.

Then came the kicker. In the top of Donnie’s dresser was a stack full of greeting cards. Birthday cards, anniversary cards, just because cards, Valentines cards. I think it was every card I had given Donnie over the last 4 or 5 years. He had all of them right there at his fingertips. I knew that we had some older ones but I didn’t realize that he had kept so many of them and thought so much of them to keep them so close to him.

When I finished his dresser I had 2 large garbage bags there, full. Now what? Now what do I do with them? They sat in the same spot in front of that dresser for 2 days.

Shantel came in the room and asked me, What is that? I told her. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said in shock “you are getting rid of them?!?” Wow, dagger to the heart. I told her yes, that I had to. I had to so I could move on with my life. He can’t use them anymore . She said “I know”. I told her I was sorry . It can’t stay the same . Tears in her eyes she looks at me and says “ I just miss him’ Yeah baby, I know. I just miss him too. But all in all, she knew, she understood. We all miss him. But they want me to be happy again.

2 days later when I got off of work, I went to see him. I talked to him. Like I always have. I told him how much I missed him. But I told him that I was trying. I told him that I know that he wants me to be happy and that I want to be happy and I am taking steps to be happy again and that I know that is what he wanted and that I know that he would understand.

I went home and laid in my bed and I cried. And I cried some more. And then I dried my eyes and got up, grabbed the bags and across the street into the goodwill dumpster they went. It was bittersweet. It was sad to let go of them but it was a release at the same time. I don’t know if that even makes any sense. I need a clean slate to start over in my life. I guess this is just part of me wiping the slate clean. All of his things don’t connect me to him. My heart does. I don’t need those things anymore. I have accepted that he is in my heart and will always be. Holding onto material things doesn’t keep him there. My love for him does.

Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see Life with a clearer view again.

So one major step for me. I still have those work boxes to go thru and I need to finish going thru his closet. I know it won’t be easy but I know it is what I need to do. It is my way of letting go.

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

finding my smile

I find lately I have found my smile again. Not that I haven’t smiled in the last 40 weeks but my TRUE smiles were few and far between at times and when I did I would feel guilty for it. I am smiling again like I haven’t since I don’t even remember when. It feels good to smile.

Maybe it’s because I finally decided that I needed to quit beating myself up for enjoying myself and for trying to move on with my life. A friend of mine told me it was time to “cut yourself some slack”. I knew that. But maybe I just needed someone else to point it out to me.

I have hung on tightly to my grief like a warm blanket. I felt that it kept me close to Donnie and if I tried to let it go it was like letting him go and losing him all over again. I felt if I let go that it would mean that I was forgetting him and what we had. Now, I know that these are not rational thoughts, but who ever said grief was rational anyway? I know now that Donnie will always be with me. I can’t hold onto that grief that way any longer.

I have decided that I deserve to be happy again. It’s what I want. And I know it’s what Donnie wanted for me as well. He didn’t want me to feel guilty for still living when he couldn’t. But feeling guilty is what I have been doing and I think it is about time that I stop. Me feeling guilty or standing still in my life won’t bring him back. I have come to the realization that I still matter. I have spent so much time taking care of everyone else my whole life that I didn’t know how to take care of myself or do for myself. But it’s time now. It’s time for me to be happy. I’m getting there.

Monday, January 18, 2010

In his memory

I can’t help but think about all the people who have gone before me on this path and those that are traveling the same path as I write this and the sad fact that there will be so many more that will face the same challenges. What a sad thing that this cancer is. Any cancer. I am saddened by the thought of so many people being afflicted with this disease. My heart breaks for the children, parents, brothers, sisters, for the husbands and wives and friends and family who this disease has affected.

I have met so many wonderful people thru Donnie’s illness that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Honestly I wish I would have never met any of them. Because it means they are facing cancer. Most of them share the same common bond of a spouse who has cancer or that has passed away from cancer. I have corresponded with so many wives and even other cancer patients who have told me that my writing has helped them to see how their spouse may feel. It is amazing to me the feedback that I get about what I write. I write for me. I write to release the emotions and thoughts and feelings that are pent up inside my head and heart. And as hard as it is to, I continue to post them and put them out there. These writings are my most intimate thoughts and fears. Yet, I display them for the whole world to see. I am sharing with everyone and anyone who wants to read my joy, my pains and my sufferings and my journey through this whole process.

It’s not always easy posting for the world to see what I am feeling. The ups and downs and the highs and lows of this journey aren’t always pretty. My thoughts and fears aren’t always rational. There are times that I am ashamed of the way that I am feeling or thinking. But yet, I still continue to put this out there. I was asked by someone why I do this? Why do I put myself thru reliving what most people would want to forget? It’s a good question. So I ask myself, why do I do this? Why do I expose myself this way? There are those who may judge me for those feelings or not understand. But honestly, those people don’t matter. It took me a while to come to terms with that. I am ok with the person that I am and the choices that I make. Do I always make the right choices or the best decision at the time? No I don’t, I’m human, we all are. But I am still ok with who I am. I know why I do this. I do this for those wives and husbands who have the same thoughts and fears that I had and still have. I do this so they don’t think that they are crazy for feeling the way that they do. I do it so they know that there is someone else out there that knows how they feel. I would have given anything to have had the support of someone who could have told me that I wasn’t crazy for feeling the way that I did. Unless you have walked this path, you can’t imagine feeling some of the things that I have experienced and felt. I never felt so alone in my life. I know what it’s like to feel alone in a room full of people. I can only hope that I can ease that feeling for someone else.

So in answer to my question to myself and anyone else who may want to know, I do this in memory of Donnie. The things that I post and the conversations that I have privately with some of the people I have come into contact with aren’t always easy conversations. But I am an open book and will share with them anything that they would like to know about my experience and of Donnie’s life and death. It is my tribute to an amazing man that I was lucky enough to have been loved by and call my husband. If I can help others to travel this difficult road that is before us then maybe Donnie’s death wasn’t in vain. If I can inspire others, then I will continue what I am doing. I would like to think that I have helped others, even those not traveling the cancer path, to see that sometimes the little things in life are the most precious and not to take them for granted. Maybe all of this is part of my healing process.

I hope as I continue on this journey that I find my way again. I hope that I give others hope that even as hard as it is, somehow you can find yourself again and learn to smile and be happy again. My wish is to give people HOPE!

Donnie touched so many lives. He affected everyone that he came into contact with. I know the impact the he had on my life and that of my children. I still miss him terribly. I am a better person for knowing and being loved by him. So as I continue with my outreach, I think to myself of the lives that Donnie is still touching thru me and it doesn’t surprise me, that’s the kind of person that he was. I think he would be proud.

Monday, January 11, 2010

living again

It’s been 27 months since I started grieving the loss of Donnie. 27 months ago we heard those 5 words that changed everything. “It’s not good, it’s cancer”. It’s been over 2 years since we heard those words. Even then, I didn’t know what today would hold, but we knew that our time was limited. Initially it was projected that Donnie would have 4-6 months to live. We were very fortunate to have had 18 months together after that fateful day.

I guess my point in all of this is realizing that I have been grieving for over 2 years. After Donnie was diagnosed, I was grieving the loss of our life as we knew it. I was grieving his health as I watched it decline. I was grieving the entire time for something that I knew was coming and could not change

I was grieving the loss of our carefree life. I was grieving the loss of innocence in my children. Their innocence that believed that Daddy would always be here with us. I was grieving for our future plans and shared dreams that we had that we knew could never be.

I have never felt so helpless as I did in those 18 months after his diagnosis.

I have been grieving the physical loss of him for the last 39 weeks. Part of me will grieve for him the rest of my life. I will always miss him and love him. He is such a part of me. I can’t change that.

I guess the reason that I am writing this is because of everything that I have heard about the grieving process. All the stages of grief. How time heals and numerous other things. I think most people think 1 year is the magic number. After a year, it will be all better. How can you put a time table on this? How can any one person tell another how they are supposed to mourn their loss or for how long? Each person grieves differently. Some in silent, some openly. Who are we to say which way is right? Just because one person grieves openly doesn’t mean that they hurt any more than the person who is hiding it.

I am working on the “acceptance” stage of my grief. I remember the first time I uttered the words out loud “ I will never see him again”. It was 7 and a half months after he died. Such a truthful statement but I had been so focused on my own grief that I had not truly comprehended that thought. I know that sounds crazy to most people but to others who have been down this road will understand. When I spoke those words out loud, you can’t imagine how it hurt to say it. Even though you know someone is gone, it is still hard to admit to your heart. Even though I had known for 18 months that I was losing him. Admitting he is truly gone is a huge thing for me.

I don’t expect people to understand my grief process. My hope is that what I share with people helps them to understand tolerance and how hurtful it is to judge people in my position. But what I have learned in all of this and have finally accepted is that there will always be people who do judge me because they don’t think that I am grieving “correctly” no matter what I say or do. I have learned not to care what those people think. And I don’t judge them for thinking whatever they think about me. I am thankful that they aren’t in a position to know how they would behave if this happened to them.

I didn’t die when Donnie did. I certainly wanted to for a while. I’ve been grieving for the last 27 months. I want to live again, not just survive. And in my heart I know that Donnie wouldn’t fault me for that.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I am being told by so many people after my last blog how proud they are of me and how proud Donnie would be too.

I won’t lie and say it’s easy. By far it isn’t easy moving on in my life without him. I have been holding onto my grief as my connection to Donnie. I can’t do that anymore. I don’t want to do that anymore. I think part of me felt like if I try to let go of that grief that I am going to forget him or not love him anymore. I know that isn’t the case.

BUT with that being said, actually letting go of my grief isn’t as easy as saying it.

I really want to leave this grief behind. I want to move forward in my life. I try every day to count the blessings that I have been given. It can be difficult, that is for sure. But I am working to focus on the now, and what is good in my life. But that grief can still sneak up on me and drag me back to those places that I don’t want to go. And sometimes it is when I least expect it. I will be rolling along thinking that I am getting a handle on things and here it comes jumping out of the shadows and slamming into me again. But I think what is finally starting to happen, is that after it slams me to the ground and knocks the wind out of me, I manage to get back up. Sometimes pretty quick, sometimes longer. But that desire to keep getting back up is being fueled! So I think that is a good thing. It doesn’t mean I am not still sad for losing him. Part of me will always be sad for losing him and there is a fracture in my heart that will never heal. But I’m not broken. And I don’t want to be treated like I am. I have to learn to live with this fracture but it doesn’t mean I need to be fixed. That starts a whole new train of thought.

I can’t be fixed. No one can wave that magic wand or put a band-aid on me and make everything that happened disappear or make me forget Donnie. Because if that is the case , I definitely don’t want to be fixed. Loving Donnie and even losing Donnie helped to shape the person that I am today. I don’t want someone to “fix” me or “make me forget” or “rescue” me or whatever. The only thing that I want is acceptance. I am who I am, scars and all. This is me and I like who I am. No amount of happiness now can change what I have been thru. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t be happy again. My future is only possible because of my past. I will never “get over it”. All I can do is keep moving forward. I am still “flashlight walking” and can only see a couple of steps ahead but I am still looking ahead searching for that brighter light that allows me to see beyond today or tomorrow. Hopefully I will see it soon. Maybe one day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


A New Year. I can’t believe it’s a new year already. But at times, the last year was the longest of my life. 2009 was by far the worst year of my life. I faced challenges that I never wanted to face and had my world shattered.

The New Year is supposed to bring hope and the promise of starting fresh. I am not making any new years resolutions. Not really. I am hoping for the following things this year. These are my “Goals”

My goal is that my genuine smiles will be more frequent.

I hope all of my memories of Donnie are good memories of the times we shared together and not just last year.

I want to find a way to smile thru those memories and not cry quite as much.

I want to continue to help others who are facing the same struggles that I have faced with my writing.

My hope is that people will stop treating me like I am broken or that I need “fixing” and treat me like I am “Robin” again.

I want to find a way to truly move on with my life and find my new normal.

I hope that people will stop judging me for trying to move on with my life. And even if they do, my goal is not to care if they do and to forgive them for being so judgmental. For I am thankful that they haven’t had to walk in my shoes.

My goal is to live everyday to it’s fullest and not take a moment of this life I have been given for granted. I want to make Donnie proud of me. I think he is.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

a new year

Dear Donnie,

Here I face yet another holiday without you. I am remembering last New Years Eve with you. As we danced and your arms were around me, I knew in my heart that it would be our last. I tried to soak up every memory and every moment of what exactly that felt like. I tried to embed the feeling of your arms around me in my memory so I could reach in and revisit that memory whenever I wanted to once you were gone. I remember what it felt like. I never felt more safe in this world than when I was in your arms.

Facing this New Year without you is scary. Some days I don’t know how I will get thru. But it is on those days that I reach into my memory bank and revisit those memories to help get me thru. Still knowing and still believing that you are still with me all I have to do is close my eyes to see you and feel you there.

Thank you for so many wonderful memories to choose from. I miss you everyday.

I love you

Always and Forever


I wrote the following a few months ago but wanted to share it.

When you miss me

When you miss me

Close your eyes

I know you can’t touch me

But can you feel me?

I am there with you

In your heart

holding you close

When you miss me

Close your eyes

Stop for a moment

remember how we met

And how wonderful it was

Falling in love

When you miss me

Close your eyes

Remember that laughter

the tears

the life we had together

And know how blessed we were.

For the love we shared

When you miss me

Close your eyes and listen

I am there

I am the whisper of the wind

Saying I love you

And wrapping my love around you

When you miss me

Close your eyes

And forgive me

know that I didn’t want to leave you

But it was time for me to go

When you miss me

Close your eyes

search for me

I am still there

Helping you to go on

wanting you to go on

Giving you the strength

To find your place in the world without me.

Author: Robin Reynolds