March 28, 2018

The Math of Grief

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:41 am by letterstoelias

It’s been so, SO very long since I’ve been to this space.  I never felt finished here, and there were many times I’ve come close to writing in the past few years.  I’d open the page, only to leave, wondering what more I really had to say… though I always wanted to try and at least ‘close’ it in some way, if I was done.  So it has sat as life has rolled along.

So, what brought me here tonight?  Math.  Of all things.

I know I’ve written about the numbers related to grief before.  This is not a new topic or idea.  But, this latest number I’ve hit, has been hitting me.  Hard enough, I suppose, to write it out.  And, it hasn’t even been a crying-over-it kind of thing (though, maybe the extra amount of tears I had over his birthday this year were in a way related and I just hadn’t connected the dots yet? that definitely hit me harder than usual), but I can feel the weight of it on my heart as I’ve been walking around the last couple of days.  And now, as I sit and write.  I can feel it’s compression within my chest.

Eight years, eleven months and a day.  That’s how long I was lucky enough to be married to Elias.  3258 days.  As I am writing this, I have been widowed for eight years, 11 months and 5 days.

Seeing as she was only 18mos old, it unfortunately didn’t take long for C to have lived longer without her dad than she did with him.  E of course took a few more years, which then also marked the point at which I had been parenting alone longer (I wrote about that here too).  Reaching the point where I had lived with Cali longer than I had with Elias was one that caught me off guard.  This current ‘milestone’ was one I thought of often, early on, though I had never pegged the date and it always seemed impossibly far.  It wasn’t regularly on my mind by any means… but, I suppose where we can turn our brain off at times, our heart remembers.

I was having a hard time falling asleep.  My mind was running through various things between selling my store, year end choreography, some struggles one of the girls is facing, friends passing the 10yr mark since their loved ones died, the 9yr mark coming up shortly… and then there it was.  Practically at the moment it occurred, the realization hit me.  I’ve been widowed longer.

And that sucks.  Really.

In the (almost) 4yrs since I’ve written here, we’ve had countless ups and downs.  I surprised the girls with a road trip not long after my last post (for the 5yr anniversary that Elias died).  We drove down the Oregon coast, all the way to Big Sur in California.  Just the three of us, camping most of the way, even though I had never taken them camping before at all.  The following year (also on the anniversary) we added a new member to our family, our beautiful dog Phoebe, who is an absolute joy in this house.  The girls have both performed dances in honour of their dad (E two years ago and C last year).  Teaching dance has pulled me away from the store quite a bit, and with how much the girls are dancing now, the future of the store (or at least my connection to it) is uncertain.  I have a daughter who, is now a teenager, and has dated (only one boy, at least!) more than I have in the past… well… many years.  Oh, and we now have a cat.  I’ve had to deal with a leaking roof, flooding garage, and falling down fence. I’ve painted almost the entire interior of the house.  I took the girls out of school and homeschooled them for a year (which was seriously wonderful).  And we are now coming up on all the 10ths.

I think this is the other bit of math that brought me here.  In just a few weeks, we will mark 9yrs since Elias died.  I’m hoping to take the girls for a horseback ride (to make up for the one we never managed to get on the aforementioned road trip 4yrs ago, though that is quite a story).  And after that day, the 10ths will begin.  Each important date.  Every annual event.  Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays.  Each one, will be the 10th one we’ve passed without Elias there.

And, that sucks. Really.


P.S.  I Love You



March 6, 2013

4 – 8

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:42 pm by letterstoelias

Grief can do such funny things to your brain.

In some ways, it feels like it’s changed the wiring around in there.  Things you once wouldn’t imagine worrying about, wouldn’t even have thought about in the past, all of a sudden mean the world.  Things that used to drive you crazy, you now miss and crave.  And, some things that used to worry you, no longer do.

Of course, much of this is linked to the person you lost.  Along with realizations of what is important in life.

Numbers, and in particular time, can take on a whole new meaning as well.

Tomorrow, my oldest ‘baby’ will be turning 8.  She is a marvel to me.  Wicked smart, precocious, would read ALL day if you let her.  She loves to laugh, is caring, loving, compassionate, silly.  She can be quite shy at times (though not when it comes to performing on stage!), too hard on herself at times, easily unnerved, but she is filled with more courage and strength than she knows.  She has so many of the wonderful qualities and features her Daddy had, and she loves to try and smile like him.  She’s graceful and kind.  She’s been through so, very much in her short life.  I could go on – even though there just aren’t enough words.

I feel SO lucky to be her Mama, and I try to tell her so every day.  Along with how loved she is – by both her Mama AND her Daddy…

March 2009

March 2009

Last Day of 7

Eight is a big number – she wants to get her ears pierced! – and it also holds a great deal of meaning to me, and as I found out recently, to her as well.

‘Almost’ four years ago, I couldn’t imagine even getting to this point.  In those early days of grief, my newly wired brain did a lot of computing.  Numbers, dates, time.  Along with tracking the days that had passed since Elias died, I thought about dates in the future that I couldn’t imagine even getting to, let alone surviving.

The date C lived longer without her Daddy than with him has long since passed.  The date I’d lived in the house longer without Elias than with him now too, among many others.  And, though I’ve survived more than I thought I ever would, though I stopped counting in days some time ago, and will even stretch to give it to you in months, there are still some dates and ‘milestones’ that take my breath away.

In those early days of grief, I remember thinking of the point where E would have lived longer without her Daddy than with him – and with it, the date I’d have parented longer alone than with him.  It seemed impossibly far away.  I seriously questioned whether I’d ever even make it that far.  Though, as her eighth birthday approaches, so does that date.  I guess the impossible, wasn’t.

Unfortunately, though I haven’t voiced out loud to her how tough this one is for me, it seems she’s taken note as well.  As I mentioned before, the girls have been hit by their own grief more in the past couple of months, and one night recently, as E was in tears, she said to me, “I’m almost 8, and I was only 4 when Daddy died!”  Not hard math, even for an 8yr old, but I guess I hadn’t realized she would look at it that way as well.  She has spent half her life without her Daddy.

Of course, the actual date won’t be until just after the 4th ‘anniversary’ of his death in April, but the birthday still hits home (though, any birthday for either girl without their Daddy here still just doesn’t seem right . . . )

I don’t want to go too ‘over the top’ to compensate, but I think her ears will get pierced (and I just may get my nose pierced along with her!), and though I generally stay away from anything too ‘commercial’ for my girls, we will have a fun Harry Potter themed birthday party (her new favourite book series), complete with ButterBeer, wand making, and more (and, perhaps I ‘did’ go a little crazy on the invites, especially considering we only sent out 6!)

And, most of all, I will celebrate this amazing, beautiful little girl of mine (who is growing up so very fast).

Me and my Girl

Just the thought of how much I love her brings tears of joy to my eyes….


P.S.  I Love You

May 25, 2012


Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 9:33 pm by letterstoelias

“We honor the place that is not light,

the forest in winter, the cold and night.

Yet know that spring and summer will come,

and with the dawn will rise the sun.”

In some ways I think of life as a series of passing through seasons.  In some ways I wish it was.  There would be a little more predictability.  When you start to grow weary of one (or not like it in the first place), you know it will end and soon a new one will begin.  At times it feels too far off, but still – you know it will change.

Even though there are some aspects of certain seasons that aren’t always loved – be it allergies that come with spring, intense heat with summer (of course not usually around here!), dark in the winter – there are usually enough benefits and beauty in each to help us get through.

I feel like I had a greater point to all this and am now just rambling (my neighbours loud music and drumming likely isn’t helping much at the moment . . . .) but I was reading a book to the girls last night that ends with the above little poem I love so much and it got me thinking (as it has each time I’ve read it).

I feel as though I’ve passed through countless seasons in the past number of years – with no predictability whatsoever – and a predominant amount of darkness.

When Elias’ tumour started to take over once again, I started the Caringbridge blog.  I had heard of blogging, but had never followed any and never even considered it a blog initially.  It was the easiest way to get the word out to those interested on how things were going.  We were staying as positive as possible, hoping to motivate people to do the same without death knocking on the door.  We were uplifted and inspired by how many people were following and cheering us on.

After Elias died, it became incredibly difficult to write there, in that space.  A space that had once been filled with so much hope and positive energy.  People had a harder time reading it (and bothered to mention it) because of the change in tone, but of course how exactly was I supposed to keep that going when my life had just ended?  A change in seasons.  Which, led me here.

This was the new place I came.  One where I could let out (most of) my pain and the darkness I felt.  I longed to continue talking to Elias and sharing with him, which is why I started writing as if to him, regardless of who else read it.  I didn’t really think I cared if any one did – but once again I was happy to find a readership to help me through . . . though this time it was from a less expected ‘group’.  Other widow/ers.  I found their blogs, and they found mine – and new hope was formed in the midst of the darkness.

Early on, it was just comforting to know that someone else understood that pain.  The pain that I felt so terribly alone and isolated in.  I hated knowing someone else felt it – but part of the pain was the isolation.  I was not alone.  I met others, months, weeks, years ahead of me and some behind – and I could look to them and see that it was possible to survive.

Even better, was the opportunity to meet them face to face.  Hug them.  Cry with them.  Laugh with them.  Dance with them.  To feel the energy in a room of others who have all known that pain of thinking you could never breathe again, let alone stand – yet here we were walking our ‘new’ lives, together.

A while back I made a tough decision to stop writing ‘letters’ to Elias as each one of my posts.  I still often write some of, and at times all of a post in that way – but it was extremely difficult to make that change.  It’s also one that’s never sat completely comfortably with me.

I’ve expressed before that I now struggle somewhat with this ‘place’.  It was once a lifeline for me.  It (along with those who I found through it) helped carry me through the darkest season of my life.  I still feel that pain, but as my body and mind have adjusted to handle it better, I’ve found it more difficult to find ways to write about it.  I don’t know how many different ways to express it.

Missing Elias is still in every breath I take, and always will be.  Every beat of my heart feels the loss of him.  I long to see/hear/touch him again – even if for just a moment.  My love for him is ever present.  But, none of this is new and I know I will always feel it.  Regardless of what happens in my life.  My girls will always miss him.  They will always have tears for their Daddy, and their lives are forever changed by his absence (just tonight, E is having a difficult time sleeping as I mistakenly chose bedtime to bring up the fact that fathers day is coming and to remind her of her choices when it’s time to start making crafts at school . . . . ).

I’m torn about this space.  I don’t want to stop writing here – but I don’t know how else to express these feelings.  I don’t know how much writing the details of yet another ‘death anniversary’, missed wedding anniversary, birthday, christmas, dance recital, etc, etc, etc, will help.  Tracking all the crazy numbers and stats of time with vs time without (I’ve now parented C more than twice as long on my own as we did together, etc).

And, life isn’t ‘all’ bad, and I want to write these things too – and I have written some of that here.  I think it’s important to do so for those who may come across it in the midst of their darkest period of grief, to see that there can be light.  And yet . . . .

I like writing.  Even though I have almost NO time for it any more (which is the other struggle I have these days).  I’m considering starting a new blog that is more just daily life and observations (likely still with ‘grief bits’ in there, as it is still part me), but I don’t know.  I just feel as though ‘this’ place has changed for me, yet I don’t feel done here either.

Seasons.  Change.  Rambling.  Who knows (but next time I’ll try not to write on a Friday night when the music is thumping through the walls . . . )

I know what he wanted for me.  For us.  I’m trying, every day, to live it.  It’s so hard without him.  But I feel like we’re doing it.

For now, this is what I submitted as a memoriam for the paper this year

If Love could have cured you, you would still be here with us . . . 

Impossible to believe it’s been three years, and impossible to describe just how loved, and missed you are – with every breath, every heart beat, every day.  How lucky were we to have someone so wonderful to love, that it made saying goodbye so hard.  Your smile, energy and life will be forever missed – thankfully your spirit lives on in all of us.  

Always and Forever ~ CL, E & C

P.S.  I Love You

April 20, 2012

The Tree – Take 2

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:19 pm by letterstoelias

Last year, on the same day, I wrote a post about a tree.

A tree I bought to plant in our front garden in memory of Elias.  A weeping Japanese cheery, filled with symbolism.  My initial hope was to have a group of Elias’ family together to plant it with me – but when it turned out only the one Aunt and her family were going to make the trip over, I decided to plant it on my own in the middle of the night instead.

I’m sure I blogged about the comedy of errors that occurred during that (my dog escaping at 3am and wandering off into the night), but the tree was planted.

I enjoyed looking at it so much over the next weeks – but as time went on, it wasn’t looking so good.  Understandable for it to lose it’s blossoms soon after, but the leaves seemed to go a little too soon.  I just got the feeling I didn’t quite plant it right.  Perhaps I didn’t water it enough?

Sure enough, the tree started to look like it was not going to survive.  I spoke with someone from the garden centre, and on their suggestion, tried to dig it up, break up the root ball more (I don’t believe I did that at all the first time around) and replant it.  This didn’t seem to work, but I wanted to give it time.

I look at it out the window every day, and as we pull out of the driveway.  As spring approached, I’ve been watching it and hoping.  Hoping that I’d see the slightest sign of a bud.  A leaf.  Anything.  But, there’s been nothing.  I can scrape the trunk and find a little green, but the branches are completely brittle and snap off under a tiny amount of pressure.

I finally decided to come to terms that it has died.  Now, looking at the tree just makes me sad.

I needed to go back to the garden store today for dog food.  I went through their trees, hoping -once again – to find the same tree.  No such luck there either.

They have one that is similar, mind you.  Bigger (and therefore a little more $$).  But, another Japanese weeping cherry.  Not the same, delicate white blossoms.  These are pink and much more ‘full’ looking.  Different leaves.  But, it’s still beautiful and has the same meaning, even if not exactly what I was looking for.

My problem is this – do I try again?  I’m clearly no expert at gardening.  I haven’t taken any time to prep anything.  Is the same thing going to happen again?

I’d really love to have it there.  Something to look at out the window and smile at – seeing it’s beauty in memory of Elias.  The kind man at the garden store suggested finding another tree that blooms at the same time of year that may be easier/more hardy.  But I’m stuck on the weeping cherry.  I know Elias loved magnolias, and they blossom now – but they planted one of those at the school for him.

My brain is not functioning well these days.  The weight of the weekend is heavy.  Seeing his memoriam in the paper today sent me to tears (even though I know the photo and words well as I submitted both).  But the suffocating pain of losing Elias is palpable.  I try to remind myself how the ‘lead up’ is always worse than the day – but somehow knowing that still doesn’t change how I feel.

Will the tree help?  Even if I do end up killing it again in time?  I wish I knew…


P.S.  I Love You

July 6, 2011

The Power of Vulnerability

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:13 pm by letterstoelias

Why do we come here?  Why do we write, or read what’s written on blogs like this – blogs that deal with pain, death, loss, grief?

I have a few ideas . . .

I had a blog to keep people updated when Elias was sick, and when I started this blog it was also in part to keep people up to date on how the girls and I were doing, but it became so much more.  For me personally, it felt much better to get the thoughts out of my head than just letting them swirl in there alone, driving me mad.  It can’t take away all the pain, but it helps.  I (thankfully) never tried numbing the pain with any form of substance, and as that would just create another world of problems (and not just for me) – so this was my release.

When Elias died, I lost far more than just Elias (though I have another post in mind for this).  Some people took issue with my writing, and let me know it.  Some people found it too painful to read and stopped.  My life represented fear brought to reality for some, and they drifted away.  I lost family and friends when Elias died too (again, perhaps I’ll write more of this one day).

What I didn’t expect, was to gain so many new friends through it.  I didn’t expect to make such strong, valuable connections with complete strangers, when people I had been so close to before Elias died, and turned away.

These new people in my life – even though for the most part they are not people I can see, hear, and hug on a regular basis (if at all) – are connected with me through grief.  We have been connected by death.  And, we are all willing to expose our vulnerability.  Our pain.  Our fears.  Our losses.  Our grief.

Of course I still have a number of family and friends who have stuck by me and still read here – which I am beyond grateful for.  And, it took some time, but I am coming to terms with the fact that those who have left had their own reasons which didn’t really have much of anything to do with me – and though still painful, perhaps it was a sign that I didn’t really need them in my life in the first place (though this is tough, as I valued what we had before . . .).

And, though I would take Elias back in less than an instant if I could, I am thankful for the opportunity to have made some of these life-long friendships since he has been gone.

And, I am beyond excited for the fact that I will be attending Camp Widow once again this year, and will get to connect with some of these beautifully, wonderfully vulnerable, loving people  . . . though hopefully more on that soon too.

I know there are some who read these blogs out of interest (one friend was told that he was actually ‘more interesting’ right after his wife died than in recent posts that were less focussed on grief) – but for the most part I think that it’s the vulnerability that brings connection on some level.  I always appreciate reading comments from people who, though they have not experienced a loss of any kind, let alone one as devastating as a spouse or child, tell me that reading about Elias and I have given them a new appreciation for life and the people they love.  Nothing warms my heart more, as this was one of the reasons why Elias and I shared our story before he died, and I have continued to do so since.  It was important to him that people didn’t have to face death in order to appreciate what they have, and when I read these comments it helps me to feel his death was not strictly in vain.

I watched this amazing video a few months back on the power of vulnerability.  The last half in particular speaks of how important it is to avoid numbing the ‘hard stuff’ in life, for we can’t selectively numb.  If we numb the bad, we don’t fully experience the joy and the good.  I want to experience all the good in life.  All the good my girls bring me.  All the good that life has in store for the future.

When Elias was sick, if I chose to numb and ignore what was happening, I would have numbed the joy and love we shared in our life.  It was not easy to stare death in the face, but it was the only way.  And it hasn’t really changed in his absence.  His death continues to stare me in the face.  It occupies every moment of every day and it still hurts, but I continue to try and use that to ensure that my time here is spent well.  He, too, had the courage to be vulnerable.

If you have 20mins to spare, I promise you it is worth it.  You can also read the transcript here, but if you can, at least read her last few words:

“This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place I believe that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”

I am enough.  And so are you.

* * * * *

My Love,

Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with those who were willing to face it.  You made a difference in the lives of so many.

‎”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life! And, if God choose, I shall love thee better after death.”~Elizabeth Barret Browning


P.S.  I Love You