My Blog

I do not start this journey lightly. The idea of writing and sharing my thoughts and experiences is a powerful one. I'm doing this for several reasons, the first has to be for my own therapy. With such an immense loss in my life, I need to give myself every chance to feel a purpose.

Last summer I told Kirsten that, despite her ongoing fight with refractory Hodgkin's lymphoma, I was happy. I was deeply sad, depressed, and struggled with the meaning of it all. But, I was happy. Being with Kirsten made me content. Not having her with me leaves me with a void of true happiness. As I've mentioned to many, I can laugh, have fun, enjoy the moment, even look forward to something, however, that satisfaction of inner happiness is not there.

I am so grateful for the people and dogs in my life. My son, mother, family, Kirsten's family (including the four-legged variety), our friends, and, of course, our Lab Finnegan. Many of you will hear your own voices echoed in my writing. I needed and will continue to need the tremendous support that has been offered to me. Thank you.

I also write for Kirsten. In life, Kirsten, let's say, guided me. She still does and always will. Having said that, I can not guarantee that any future clothing purchases will be entirely fashionable.

As Kirsten was a champion of the healing power of writing, I hope to pay tribute to her. Kirsten has a tremendous legacy because of who she was and how she lived. I wouldn't speak for her, although if I tried, there would be a strong chance of a visitation, but I hope to add to her story.

If my sharing helps anyone who may relate to some of what I'm going through, that would be the best tribute to Kirsten I could give.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Back To School

Heading back to school is always an adjustment from the sweet freedom of the summer. This year I was looking forward to getting back to more structure in my day, the incredibly supportive staff (more like an extended family), and the necessity of being in the moment with the students. A paycheque would be nice too. However, just as I was anxious about starting summer holidays without Kirsten, I have also been anxious about this change. 

Entering September seems to have brought the pain and sense of loss to the surface. It probably has to do with going back into routines that I'm so used to sharing with Kirsten. The mornings before work, coming back to the house and talking about our days, and looking forward to all of our plans. Difficult. 

What also brings a heavy feeling is thinking back to this time last year. We had decided that I would only work three days a week for the dual purposes of taking off some of the pressure I felt and for us to spend more time together. 

Over the five years, I have had periods of time away from work and have had great flexibility to be with Kirsten when I needed to. Again, so much appreciation for my friends at work. Despite the flexibility, five years with the trauma that Kirsten, and those around her, had to go through took a toll. Also, one of the great challenges of supporting Kirsten was trying to find a balance between being there for her and dealing with “normal” life, such as making money to pay the mortgage. I was never able to find that balance to my own satisfaction. There were periods of time when I felt removed from Kirsten's health care.

Last year, it felt right, despite the added financial burden, to have more time at home. We had such amazing plans to take advantage of our extended weekends. Taking our laptops and books to coffee shops around town, small getaways, adventures in Suzy Spitfire, dog-friendly walks, kayaking, finishing touches on the house, photography jaunts, and so on. So, I feel deeply sad that we didn't get to do those things. In September, with the exception of getting her to appointments, Kirsten's health pretty much prevented her from leaving the house. 

I certainly have a feeling of being cosmically ripped-off from having a long life with Kirsten. I know that we only scratched the surface as far as our experiences together. Not to mention that the plan was for her to be wheeling me around in my twilight years. I feel specifically gypped that we didn't get those days together last fall as we planned. 

At this point, I'm really struggling not to feel crushed by the grief and somehow get enough strength to get through the fall. I'm overwhelmed with the sense of being alone. It's daunting to think I have birthdays, Christmas holidays, and a year of not having Kirsten all ahead of me.

My next blog will be about puppy dogs and cotton candy.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cates Park/Ode to the Dog

There is no better setting to write about my grieving process than Cates Park. Of course, this is the place where Kirsten envisioned having all of us meet to remember her and to support each other. Her very thorough list of how she saw that day unfolded perfectly. So much love and such incredible tributes.

To be honest, as it approached, I just wanted that day to be over. I was barely able to function, let alone be somewhat responsible for such a monumental day. (I still don't know what to call it. Not a funeral. A celebration? a gathering? Cates for Kirsten? They all suck.) However, that day of love and support became an important part of the healing process.

Kirsten's previously mentioned list was a real gift. No guess work needed. You may read in to this that, no, Kirsten did not trust me to plan this thing. So what if I would have played a RUSH soundtrack? Of course, Kirsten did trust the right people for putting together her farewell (that's not right, either). In particular, Janie from the Callanish Society, the amazing writers and friends from Callanish, our friends and family were all phenomenal. Kirsten didn't actually have “sunshine in the middle of winter” on her list, but it made me wonder.

This park, which is only steps away from our house, is where I asked Kirsten to marry me. I know that there are more spectacular ways of going about it, but, on that day when we had the park to ourselves and the tide was higher than I've ever seen it before or since, it was magical. However, it has been a struggle to find comfort and happiness in such memories. It feels like I'm living in two worlds. One is where I feel so grateful to have known, loved, and been loved by Kirsten. Where there is hope that I can channel Kirsten to help me live my life to the fullest. The other, that co-exists, but often overshadows, is one of deep despair and emptiness.

Taking the dog for a walk in Cates was something I did on the day Kirsten died. I sobbed uncontrollably. As I walked on the beach that Kirsten and I walked on so many times, I wasn't sure if I would be able to keep moving. 742 walks later, I guess I kept moving. I give much of the credit to Finn for giving me a focus, a purpose for doing something healthy, and for being a presence in an otherwise empty home.

I assured Kirsten that, if she passed, I would not become an alcoholic or a degenerate gambler (define “degenerate”). Part of what helps me to keep moving is thinking about making Kirsten happy. Certainly, the mutual benefits of taking the Finn out would be one of the things that would make her the happiest.

I can't walk on the beach without having Kirsten with me, looking for the next meaningful rock to present itself to her. This is the most painful and the most beautiful place.

The ocean at Cates Park is where, when I was 10, my family and I spread the ashes of my dad. When we are ready, this will be one of the two places that we spread Kirsten's ashes. This was also on her list.
this rock travelled to the stone circle of Callanish, Scotland
The Dog

Thank you so much, Nic