The Feeling of Change is Strong

So, it has been a moment since I last posted. A long moment actually. A while back I looked over my draft posts and the first thought I had was, “how sad”.

How sad! You see, if you have been following my story you know I lost the love of my life three years ago. I cannot change the past three years. I cannot change what lead me and my children to this moment. I cannot continue to live a life where I constantly thought, “I wonder what we would be doing today if Eric was here?”, because that is exactly what I was doing. I was struggling, my kids continued to struggle, and the struggle was drowning me.

I wasn’t living and because I wasn’t living my kids weren’t either. I was going through the motions doing the same routine. Wake up. Get the kids up for school/daycare. Go to work. Get lunch. Get off work. Pick the kids up. Feed the kids whatever they wanted for dinner (usually fast-food), and wait for bedtime. If we were invited somewhere we very rarely went. I was becoming a hermit and forcing my kids to be hermits too. Someone who is walking this same journey completely understands. When you lose the love of your life you have no idea how to function, breathe, or simply live.

So, what is the feeling of change I am speaking about. Well, for me. It is a feeling of wanting to get up and go. Get up and do something! I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I had an energy stirring inside of me I couldn’t be still. Now, for some this feeling may not be strong but for me it was POWERFUL!

The next change I noticed were the trigger dates. Now, by trigger dates I mean dates like Eric’s passing date, our anniversary, or any date that passed (or was approaching) that a couple marks as a celebration those, for me, are trigger dates. I realized that I wasn’t sitting on the couch praying my kids didn’t need me for anything so I could cry. I recognized the date for what it was and my day went on. WHOA! This feeling was new and I was not sure what was going on. Then I noticed that when memories would surface or special songs would play on the radio I didn’t avoid them. I allowed the memory to play out and I listened to the entire song. Was this me taking another step and now accepting this life I am now living?

Some may think, “oh, she has moved on and is over it”. Well, first and foremost – you never move on and you never get over it. But, what you do is learn to live differently. I have learned that yes, the world did continue to spin when I thought it had stopped. I learned that life did go on for others – and it went on for me to – I just needed to catch up to it.

So, does this mean I am now living in perfect harmony? Do I now live without days of grief, sadness, or not worry about triggers? Are the days of fighting with my children over? NO, not at all.

But, what it does mean is I confirmed that I am human. I feel, I cry, I laugh, I remember, and most importantly my kids and I are living.

I’m still sad and grieving – and it is not due to a lack of faith

Grieve – to feel grief or great sorrow to distress mentally. 

Grief and I are not strangers. As a matter of fact, no one I know is a stranger to grief. We all experience grief differently, and the duration of grief is also different for everyone.
I am 22 months into grieving for my husband, and honestly, I have not seen the light at the end of the tunnel. But I have been told it is there. Others may not understand, especially if you have not experienced a loss of a spouse/partner. I am grieving my husband’s loss, and I am also grieving the future that will never be.
Some, in their attempt to help me move on, tell me, “Just pray about it” or “you need to read your bible” or my favorite, “just choose to be happy.”
Well, I have been praying about it for 22 months. I do read my bible to receive comfort and hope. And if I could flip a switch from sad to happy, I would.

Eric coaching Olivia

It’s not that I am not happy because I am. I am now seeing, as each rite of passage goes by, the love of my life will not be there. Eric was always there even if he was in uniform.

Eric and I had so many plans and talked about the future often. He talked about the day he would teach Kaleb to play baseball. He would think out loud about the day that our daughter would have a boyfriend and how, like most fathers, he would be on the porch cleaning his rifle. He couldn’t wait to teach them to drive or shoot a gun (Eric was a Marine, and he loved his firearms collection). We had so many plans. Living life without the other was not a part of that plan.

I am here to tell you that grief is a monster and cannot be controlled. Triggers are everywhere all the time.
Triggers like seeing a couple walking hand in hand – Eric and I use to do that. Triggers like shopping for groceries together, playing with the kids at the park, well I could go on. This is why grief stays around for so long. I’m now grieving for my husband and everything I, or the kids, will not get to share with him. It is not only scary; it is painful to think ahead, knowing that Eric will not be here. Grief is an entirely different level of fear.

When I lost Eric, I lost the person I spent every day with, and we talked about what the next 40 years would be like. I use to tell Eric, “when the kids get into high school, they will have it made. We will be too old to hear them sneak out.” He would reply with, “and too old and slow to run after them.”

Many widows/widowers mistakenly think losing their spouse is the only loss they will experience. I am sorry to inform you– there is more. So much more.

I struggle with:
The loss of who I am. I gave my heart to Eric; therefore, he was also a part of me. When he passed, he took a part of me with him. In a sense, I lost the feeling of wholeness. I was a wife. I was Eric’s wife. When I left that emergency room on May 16th, I left a different person. I will never be the person I was on May 15th. Now, it is just me.

Loss of the lifestyle we lived. Eric’s passing has forced me to change my way of living. Living without him. Living as a single mom. Wow, I am now single. I am not part of a couple. This is the first time I have seen that written. It put a knot in my gut just now because I do not feel single.

I have lost the sense of security or feeling safe. My routine and life have changed; therefore, my anxiety and insecurity have increased. The feeling of loss of security and feeling safe has nothing to do with feeling physically safe and secure. It has everything to do with not knowing what to do when issues come up. What do I do? How do I act? What do I say? Eric’s passing instantly changed the family structure, and it forced me to make a new, or another, level of adjustment. How do I do that or this? I tell people, “I could do this new life if Eric were here.”

Loss of how to relate to family and friends. When a loved one passes, family and friends do not know how to respond to someone who is grieving. When family and friends see their loved one grieving, they do not know how to react to the sadness, anger, fear, or other emotions that surface. Friends and family may feel awkward and avoid being around.

2013 Christmas

A moment that is burned into my memory the day my husband passed took place after telling the doctors and nurses to stop lifesaving measures. I somehow walked to my husband’s side and held his hand. While I was sitting there, my mother-in-law came up to me and said, “no matter what, we are family, ” she hugged me. I needed to hear that.

There is even a loss of how to communicate with my children. Now I struggle with jealousy between my children. Before, if one of our kids showed jealousy, two of us were there to handle the situation. Two of us to kiss the owes away, two of us to tuck the kids in bed, two laps to sit in for story time – now there is one. Dealing with jealousy as a single parent is challenging, exhausting –but most of all paralyzing because my kids, in a way, are screaming for their daddy.

Other grief moments will come soon, and my heart will ache again. When our kids turn 16 and then 18, when they get their drivers licenses, vote for the first time, go on their first date and sadly have their first break-up, graduating from high school and then college, when they get married, have their first baby he will miss all these moments, and I will miss sharing them with him.

So, yes, I still have moments of waves of sadness and grief that have nothing to do with my faith or whether I am happy. It has everything to do with what I no longer have: my husband or our future.

Eric has missed the first day of school, birthdays, snow days, Halloween, Christmas, and the list goes on and on…..

Their first and last Daddy Daughter Dance

The Tracks of my Tears

As July 11th approaches I find myself having one emotional moment after another.  Why?  July 11th would have been mine and Eric’s sixth wedding anniversary.  These are the hard dates to get through – the dates that belong to you.  Wedding anniversary, birthdays, kids’ birthdays – these are the dates we celebrated in a big way.  Now, for me, these dates do bring up happy memories with lots of tears. 

Right now, as I try to hide my tears from my kids, I cry everywhere – in secret, in public, outside and inside. I have found myself crying in some of the craziest places as well as some common places. 

When grieving the waves of emotion cannot be stopped or slowed down.  When the moment hits I am crying rivers, sometimes creeks or streams and on the hard days oceans.  I learned quickly to keep tissues close by: in my purse, desk drawer, next to the bed, on the end tables both in the living room and on the front porch, the closets, my She Shed, the car, my bathroom….if there is a spot and I can fit a box of tissues in it I will.

Tears will come when I am waiting on a train, stop light, stop sign, on a waitress to take my order, movie theater or in the parent pickup line.  I have found myself sitting on the floor in the laundry room, my closet, a whisper room (where no one can hear you), my office, the bathroom and while taking a shower. When the moments hits, when a trigger is pulled or when a memory comes out of nowhere the tears fall. 

When my husband passed, I had ugly crying moments where I screamed for God to wake me up from this nightmare.  I would pull the covers over my head or bury my face into my pillow – and just scream “NOOOOOO.  How am I supposed to do this alone!” or “I can’t do this alone”.  Those days were the tough days. I felt completely alone, ignored, and broken.

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me:  Why are you so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning.” Psalm 22:1

I mentioned in a prior post where my husband visited me in a dream to let me know he was okay.  I remember a time I was sitting on my bed and my kids were at school.  It was just me in the house. I started crying and screaming asking “why him”.  I buried my face into the pillow and continued to scream and cry.  I do not know how long I was there on the bed crying but as I sat there with my face still buried into the pillow, I felt this calm come over me and I stopped crying.  I did not make myself stop crying it was as if I did not have any tears left.  The entire house went silent. This calmness continued to come over me and then it felt as if something was being wrapped around me or I was being covered up with something. I was experiencing a warm feeling and a heaviness like being gently hugged.  Even though my face was still buried into my pillow I felt a sense of peace.  I did not fight this feeling I embraced it.  I did not think it was Eric with me; I knew it was God.  Scripture tells us two things in grieving:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they would be comforted.” Matthew 5:4


“He heals the broken hearted and bandages their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Right after Eric passed, I questioned whether God heard me pray or heard me when I was lamenting.  But, this day and this time, I knew He did because He was with me comforting me and bandaging my broken heart.  He heard me the entire time. I am not alone.  As a matter of fact, scripture also tells us that,

“you must not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, they will not doubt cry to me, and I will certainly hear their cry.  My anger will burn, and I will kill you with the sword; then your wives will be widows and your children fatherless.” Exodus 22:22-24

Scripture continues to tell us,

“God in his holy dwelling is a father of the fatherless and a champion of widows.” Psalm 68:5.

I will always grieve for my husband.  He is forever my always.  I am still learning how to live this life without him and learning how to be both mommy and daddy to my kids.  I still have days of uncontrollable tears; I still miss him to the point that my heart hurts and I continue to ask why.  I must accept that God does not have to tell me why.  But what I must do is trust Him and have faith in His plan for me,

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you home and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

He will not leave me or forsake me.  What a powerful sentence.  To know that He is constantly by my side especially in my moments of grief this is what gets me through my moments.  I am still taking it one moment at a time and I continue to do the next right thing, but I am not doing it alone.  He takes each step with me

The Hardest Conversation You Must Have: How and what to expect when planning a loved ones funeral Part 1

He didn’t believe there was such a thing as an M&M store. He loved his sweets

After you meet the love of your life and you discover life without them is just not possible you begin to talk about the future. How many kids will be born to this union, the dream home, the careers, vacations and the list goes on. The conversation that must be had most likely never comes to mind until it happens…..I know my husband and I did not think to have this conversation. No one wants to have the conversation where the topic is how to plan your funeral, how to fulfill last wishes, and to move on without your best friend.

Planning a funeral for your husband (spouse or partner) will be one of the hardest times in your life. It is a time where you will go through the motions while trying to maneuver through a fog – it is damn near impossible. When I was planning my husbands funeral I wished there was a list I could go down and check things off as I had completed them. Most likely I would have forgotten to carry a pen or pencil with me to mark such things off the list.

There are a number of things that will take place after your loved one passes that you may not realize and there are additional stressors that take place in the days, weeks, and even months after your loved one passes that will make you feel and believe you are going crazy. I have approached post many times and pushed it away because I just was not sure how to write it. What do I write, what do I cover first, what if I leave something out or the opposite what if I put too much in? What I do know is if you are reading this because you are faced with planning a funeral I am sorry. Your life has been turned upside down and inside out. You are numb and hurting at the same time. You feel like you are in a nightmare and you want out of it. You feel any moment you will wake up and life will be as it should be. Now, if you came across this blog by chance I hope you have many years with your loved ones before you need this post.

This post is going to be in parts because there is so much I want to say. I will break this up in what to expect after your loved one passes, how to plan the funeral and what will help you get through, links to help figure out the Veterans funeral benefits application and where to find grief support.

Here is what I know:

Shock Shock can sometimes be your best friend. It keeps you from feeling all the pain when faced with trauma. Shock can also be your enemy because you will not be able to remember a lot if anything at all. I just passed the one year anniversary of the husbands passing and I am just now remembering only tiny bits and pieces of the day he passed. I remember everything around me was in slow motion and when people spoke to me it sounded like I was trying to hear them while under water. I also remember when I was escorted to the Trauma room before my husband was taken away I felt like I was floating – not walking. It was by the grace of God that I was able to walk for the rest of that day.

Organ Donation Within the hour of your loved one passing you will receive a phone call from a tissue/organ donor organization (in Oklahoma it is LifeShare of Oklahoma). You will be taken off guard, even though I am telling you right now this will happen, because why in the world would this happen right after your loved one passed! Well, it happens because they are in the business of saving lives (of all ages) and they have a short window of time to do this and get things in place. I am not making light of what they do. Just know the representative on the other end of the phone is kind, patient, and willing to explain everything. You will have to answer personal questions about your loved one so when you get this call if you need a few hours to try and pull yourself together they are more than happy to do this. I did this. Be prepared to answer questions such as: did your spouse do recreational drugs (oral or IV), had same sex relationships, test positive for any STD or other illness, did you loved one travel to other countries where they came into contact and etc. Finally, the tissue/organ donor organization arranges everything and there is not additional cost. So, part of your conversation must be – does your loved on want to be an organ donor?

Anger: This is in addition to the different stages of grief. This anger comes from seeing that people around you a living life link normal when your life stopped. The anger is coming from not being able to control what has happened and what you are feeling. You could also have a feeling of being left especially if your loved one died due to an accident or self-neglect or self-destructive behavior. It is important to not keep feelings in. It is normal to aske someone going through grief how they are doing and we are brought up to not bother others with our problems therefore we replay that we are okay. When honestly we are broken, hurting, and lost. Long periods of stress can be detrimental to your mental health. Please seek help if this happens to you.

During this time it is easy to not take care of yourself especially if you have children (mine were 2 and 6 at the time their daddy passed). It is critical you take care of yourself by staying hydrated, eating, exercising, and resting every chance you get. In addition allow others to help with wherever you need help and have a “buffer”. The buffer can be your best friend, sibling, sibling-in-law or other family member. This individual mostly likely will be by your side for the most part of the day. They will answer your phone, door, accept food baskets or plants that are dropped off. Mostly, and this is important, they will keep the toxic family members from you.

Pain is mental, spiritual and even physical Not only is the heart broken and your faith possibly on the fence but you could experience physical pain that was not felt before. Grief can impact you in so many physical ways and if you ignore them the pain can only increase and eventually cause more harm. The GoodTherapy website states that a study in 2014 found that older adults experiencing grief, especially due to the loss of a spouse, could not maintain a stress hormone balance. Because of this they experienced reduced neutrophil function. This translates to few white blood cells being produced leaving them prone to infections. Most grief suffers have complaints of body aches and pains, digestive issues, unhealthy coping mechanism, lowered immunity, headache, fatigue, and sleeplessness.

Image from WebMD

Widow’s Fog I am more familiar with this type of memory loss than I want to be. It’s no pregnancy brain, nor is it the loss of memory due to age or multitasking. Widow’s Fog is an entirely different monster that interferes with the prefrontal cortex (Executive Brain (EB)) of the brain. Simply put your EB is connected to the other parts of your brain and can be labeled as the “command center”, receiving, processing and sending information throughout the rest of your brain. Now add the stress of losing your loved one and basically this part of your brain is overloaded and exhausted. A brief definition for widow fog is a disconnected, autopilot state of mindless motion. The duration and intensity varies from person to person. Symptoms of widow fog are:

  • Disconnected
  • Not able to focus on a single thought
  • Inability to organize
  • Compromised ability to recall, reason, or plan
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Exhaust easily
  • Not able to think rationally There is so much to understand about widows fog that it cannot all be explained here in one post. I will continue to include widows fog in the parts to follow.

What you need: I discovered the day my husband passed that I needed to make sure I had items in hand, or close by, at all times. I also discovered the following days and even weeks I would be adding to this list.

  • Notebook and pen: This notebook needs to be with you at all times to write down everything you need to remember. I wrote in every notebook I could find wishing I had kept just one with me. It was not until later that I started carrying a notebook with me and a designated pen.
  • Binder with sleeve protectors: A binder will make carrying all certified documents easier for you instead of several ripped envelops. You will find you will need to carry with you: certified copy of death certificate (get several the funeral home you choose can assist you with this), birth certificate, marriage license, cause of death (typically not needed but there will be that one time), loved ones social security care, drivers license, military ID, tribal ID (military and tribal ID does not apply to everyone), military active or discharge papers (if your loved was currently in the military or a veteran), and children’s birth certificate.
  • Tissue: Make sure to have a box in your car, home, and your purse. The tears will come unexpectedly and fast (I call this my ugly cry).

I’m Okay

Growing up knowing my Chickasaw ways [beliefs and superstitions] my Granny taught me to pay careful attention to my dreams.  When I had a dream I was not sure about what I would tell her and she would ask me questions like, when the person was speaking was their mouth moving, or did you feel anything for example if I was hit with something in the dream did I feel it.  After my Granny passed I continued to study with my elders about dreams and what my dreams were telling or even showing me.  I was taught to pay attention to the vivid dreams, and if the lips of the person speaking were moving that meant they were simply there in the dream.  But, if the lips were not moving but I could hear them talk then that is the message I need to pay attention to.  Eric would always give me a hard time when I talked about my dreams.  His theory was they are just dreams nothing more nothing less.  Eventually came around when his dreams were getting vivid.

When my husband passed I worried so much wondering if he was okay.  I didn’t know and it was gut-wrenching.  You see, growing up whenever I went somewhere I always told my parents where I was going, what time  I would be home, who I was going to be with, and if I was going to be late I called. This, of course, was before cell phones.  That practice continued into my adult life as well.  In my previous job, I traveled a lot so  I would call or text when I left town, boarded the plane, arrived at my hotel and when I was returning I provided bread crumbs to my mom, sister, and Eric until got home.  

When Eric and I got together he started telling me when he left for work, when he was headed home or if he was going to be late coming home.  I needed those messages because at that time he was a police officer so I welcomed a text message at 2 a.m. letting me know his shift was running long or he was headed home. 

This is just something we did.  It would be strange or suspicious if we did not get a message or a phone call from one another when going to work or on travel.  So, when he passed that is all I could think about, “when will he let me know he is okay” or “when will he let me know he made it”.  Not knowing drove me crazy for days. 

There were so many days I felt Eric’s presence around especially on the days that I was so emotional with pain and grief I felt like I was not going to make it through the day.  So when he finally came to me in a dream you can believe I did not want it to end.

Here is my visit:

I was in an oddly shaped living room it was more rectangle than square and more narrow than wide.  There was a couch, an end table with a lamp and a chair.  Opposite the couch was a large picture window and the light coming in was bright.

I was sitting at the end of the couch and Eric comes in and plops down next to me and just smiles his big amazing smile.  I look at him because even in the dream I know he is gone.  He looked so good and happy. 

I asked him, “what are you doing here?” He replied, “I came to see you.”

I was still in shock and asked, “how are you here we buried you?” He replied still smiling, “that’s not me.  I’m okay

I continued to ask questions because I was still confused, “if it wasn’t you then who did we bury?” He replied, “I don’t know.  It wasn’t me.  I’m okay.

Finally, I had to know, “how did you get here?”.  He told me, “I drove my car?”.  I looked around and said, “what car?” and he pointed out the picture window. 

I stood up to walk to the picture window and there was this black shiny two-seater car.  It was shaped like a futuristic sports car with straight lines. There were not any curves on this car at all.  The front of the car came to a point and got wider going towards the end of the car.

I complimented how nice the car looked and how I wanted to drive it.  I even asked, “Can I drive it?  I want to try it out.”  He told me with his big smile, “you can’t drive the car.”

I looked back at the car and turned to look back at him and he was gone.  I was alone in this oddly shaped living room.  The dream was short and sweet.

My take-away from this dream I did receive his message that I have been waiting for.  Eric is okay and he made it home safely.  And the last take-away – it is not my time to drive the car yet. 

The next morning I walked with a little bounce in my step. I smiled and was happy because I knew Eric was okay.  I could not wait to tell others about my dream and they came to the same conclusion I did – it was not time for me to drive the car yet.  Just knowing he was okay made my heart happy.

I have not had a visit like that since then.  He has been in some of my dreams telling me a message that “it will be okay” or “you’re alright” but nothing as vivid as my first dream.  I do not pray or ask for him to come to me I figure he will come back when he needs to.  But, I would welcome a visit anytime.  He is Forever My Always.

Jealousy and Grief

 I never thought I would experience jealousy while grieving for my husband.  But, I am…..and doing very poorly at it.  The last thing I want to do is be jealous!

This part of grief is challenging to explain to others.  I have to remember that I cannot explain the impact of this loss to someone who has not experienced first hand, and even then, my grief is different from another. I do not even understand the “traps” until I have stepped in it.  I cannot explain the questioning, disorientation, the helplessness that comes from facing the world without that piece of myself that died with my husband.  (I wasn’t ready to say Goodbye. 2000)

This time in the world is scary…..and lonely.   It has brought up a strong jealous feeling when I get on social media, go to the store, working on a hobby, or watching my kids play.  The jealous monster makes its appearance, and it is not pretty.

Some may wonder, “what am I jealous of.”

  1. Couples walking hand in hand
  2. Date night
  3. Couples shopping together
  4. Seeing daddy’s play with his kids
  5. Seeing a daddy and daughter bond, pushing her in a swing at the local park, or working in the yard panting sunflowers
  6. Seeing a daddy teaching his son to play catch, how to mow the lawn, how to fix something.
  7. Family pictures
  8. Partnership parents have when dealing with kids
  9. Partnership couples have when doing housework
  10. Seeing families have dinner together
  11. Seeing photos of father-daughter dances

Jealousy revolves around everything my kids or I no longer get to experience or never will experience.  I am already grieving the day my daughter gets married – who will walk her down the aisle?  The day my son hits his first home run or makes his first touchdown or has his first broken heart.

Oh my gosh!  I just thought of this!  Who is going to talk to my son about the birds and bees?  Dang! (Mental note:  search for a book, Explaining the Birds and the Bees to boys for Dummies).

Jealousy is real, and it comes when least expected.  I miss the bantering my husband and I did with each other.  We filled the room with laughter, even with our silly arguments talking about conspiracy theories.

I remember the time our daughter was taking a nap, and we were watching TV.  Eric started asking me questions about what was going on and what was happening, and I answered.  A few beats later, I looked at him and said, “you know you are asking me questions about PJ Mask, right?”  We did crazy stuff like that all the time.

I am jealous of celebrations, whether it be a birthday, anniversaries, or family reunions.  I find myself making excuses not to accept invitations.  I would rather be home with my kids than go to a party and see all the “family happiness” taking place when I am still so broken.

Jealousy is not a place I want to stay in and live, but it is something I have to go through.  You have to walk through the yuck and the pain to get past it. 

What gets me through is knowing that God is with those who are hurting and grieving.  He meets us where we are – not where we act like we need to be.

He has sent me Jesus….to comfort all who mourn

Isaiah 61:1b-2

We have to be true to ourselves as to where we truly are. 

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crush in spirit”

Psalm 34:18 CSB

I have to trust I am not walking on this road alone, and neither will my children.  

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding

Proverbs 3:5

“Your love means more than life to me, and I praise you. As long as I live, I will pray to you.

Psalm 63:3-4

Jealousy will be a; I pray, a small part of this journey.  It is part of this journey I know I can conquer – in time.

Coming up on I’m That Mom; I will be posting a series of blogs listing what helped me or what I wished I had known when my husband passed.  I will talk about the hard conversations that must be had between spouses, especially when children are involved. 

The series will include;

  1. How to plan while in a brain fog
  2. What has to be done now; what can wait till a later time
  3. “Checklist of what to do when planning the funeral of your loved one



Triggers – The Struggle is Real

Let’s talk about triggers.  Triggers are real, and they are everywhere, and they slap you in the face when you least expect it. There have even been moments I faced a trigger, and it caught me by complete surprise.

Even living with anxiety and PTSD, I never really experienced too many triggers until after Eric passed.   

Triggers are defined as flashbacks that take us back to a specific place, usually to when the original trauma took place.  There is no safe place away from triggers unless I stay home and never go out in public again.  Experiencing a trigger can be paralyzing and emotionally draining.

As hours, days, weeks, and the months past I had to learn tricks to help me go to the movies shop for groceries, listen to the radio, or listen to a truck with loud mufflers go down the road.  Everything was a reminder This is the last month of my first year of firsts. During the fist year a few triggers can be identified; the first birthday, wedding anniversary and holidays. It’s the unknown triggers that knock the breathe out of you.

When Eric and I first reconnected, we enjoyed going to the movies.  The one vice Eric had I disliked and always tried to get him to quit.  He loved to dip Copenhagen.  When we would get our snacks at the movie, the theater provided “spit cups” they were the small dixie cups. There was one date he asked me to grab a cup for him, and I looked at him and said, “no, I would be supporting your habit.” We chuckled, and he did get his cup.  Years later, I gave in and always grabbed a spit cup for him.  Recently I went to the movies and standing in line getting ready to pay for my popcorn I looked down and there they were.  Neatly stacked, ready to be picked up.  This time, I would pass it up like this little cup had never been a part of my life.  I cried through most of the movie that afternoon.

I knew the first year without Eric would be a difficult time for my children and me, especially around the holidays.  Eric loved the holidays, especially the part where he got to eat!  I knew the holidays were going to be full of triggers.  My anxiety increased even before the holidays hit.  I believe I started to look at the calendar daily in October and counting down the days till Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

The other triggers I found that affected me were hearing the heart monitors on TV shows, participating in a CPR class, the song on Disney’s Frozen Two “The Next Right Thing,” and the movie Onward brought me to tears.  Don’t get me wrong; both films were and are great, but these are examples of triggers coming out of nowhere.  I’m sure I will come face-to-face with more triggers on this journey as there are days this journey has no end. 

My first public trigger not only took my breath away; it made my heart stop (at least that is what it felt like).  I felt a sharp “thud” in my chest, and I just stood there staring at the chocolate covered cherries.  Eric loved chocolate-covered cherries.  I would always get a box for him once the stores started selling them.  The smile on his face would go ear to ear.  He would recline in his chair with the box of chocolate-covered cherries watching whatever conspiracy show he could find.  From that day on, I would do whatever I could do to avoid walking past the chocolate covered cherries.

One of our many last minutes outings to the movies 2018

Triggers are very personal.  Not every widow or widower has the same triggers.  Knowing that a trigger may present itself can reduce the effect it has.  American Psychological Association state that triggers can be more stressful if they are revealed as a surprise, like seeing the chocolate covered cherries being sold be Thanksgiving.  It is important to remember that after the loss of a loved one, triggers are going to happen, so be prepared, recognize what the triggers are, and breathe, when a trigger is experienced journal about it.  Record what it was, how it made you feel, and the memory it brought back. Writing about it gets it out and helps with healing and allow for the next right step to be taken.

In the article “Dealing with Grief Triggers after a Loss,” the author, Louis E. LaGrand, Ph.D., created a list of what to know when you are faced with triggers:

  1.  Remember, the experience is normal.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. 
  2. To help reduce the impact of the sudden onset of grief, tell yourself that what you are experiencing is normal.  IT’S NORMAL.
  3. Triggers that lead to grief episodes also can have physical and emotional components such as headache, upset stomach, sleeplessness, fatigue, body aches, short temper, or endless crying.
  4. Let the experience happen and the pain you feel in your chest to move out of you.  My therapist shared this statement with me, and I share it with other every chance I get, ” You have to walk and be in the yuck to get through it.  Only you can do this, and no one can do it for you.” 

On the 16th of every month, I recognize how many months Eric has been gone, and in May, I will face my biggest trigger – the first anniversary of his death.  On May 16th at 3:24 p.m., it will have been one year since I heard his voice, his laugh, seen his big smile, or held his hand.  On this date, I am already feeling the anxiety of this anniversary.  The best way for me to face it head-on is to have a plan.  I did this for the holidays, and it helped tremendously.  Having a plan does not mean to hold a party or massive celebration (you could if you wanted), I am referring to be mindful of the day and know that emotions are going to be raw. 

I broke my daughter’s heart

As parents, more than anything, we want to protect our children. I know I would go to the ends of the earth to ensure my children were safe – especially their little tender hearts.
On May 16th, I broke that promise and broke my baby girl’s heart. Her Daddy had just passed hours before. The day started so wonderful and ended in tragedy.
May 16th was the first day of summer break for Olivia. She and her Daddy slept in while I took our son to daycare. The plan for the day was to do yard work, some crafts, and errands before picking up Kaleb at the daycare.

When I arrived home, Eric was up watching TV while Olivia still slept. That morning it was just the two of us talking and laughing while playing Trivia Crack with each other (yes, we were in the same room). When Olivia got up, the day started. She loved working in the yard with her Daddy if it meant she got to ride the lawnmower with him. On this day, it was different because the riding lawn mower was not working as it should, so Eric began to work on it, and Olivia stayed inside with me folding towels. During his breaks from working on the lawnmower, he would come inside for a bit. I remember one of the times we met in the hallway in front of Olivia’s bedroom door. Together we watched her play while we embraced, and he kissed my head and rubbed my back and just said softly, “she is growing up. I’m so happy.” Interestingly enough, knowing now how this day ended, I recalled many days prior, weeks even, that he expressed how happy he was, how everything was the way it should be, and he wouldn’t change anything. We kissed again, and he went back to work on the lawnmower.

May 15, 2019. Olivia holding the wild flowers he picked for her. When she heard he was going to mow she told him not to mow the wild flowers. He said he had to so she asked him to pick some for her. He did.

It was a few hours later (I think – parts of the day are a blur) that we heard the lawnmower going and backfiring, so I could only assume Eric fixed the mower. I would see him pass be the living room window a few times, and then he came busting through the door yelling for a fire extinguisher. He went directly to it and ran back out. I, course, ran after him to see what on earth was on fire.

I found him putting a small flame out on the riding lawn mower and waving his hand back and forth to redirect the smoke. He then returned to the house, sounding out of breath but talking about how that scared him and then chuckling about it. A few minutes later, he kept saying he couldn’t catch his breath. Eric did have asthma, so he used his inhaler a few times, and it wasn’t helping him, at least not fast enough for me, so we laid on the floor to “cool” off, he said.

Shortly after that, our daughter came to me and said she was worried about her Daddy because he can’t breathe. I told her everything was going to be okay and to tell Daddy to get in the car if he could. Then she said something that I thought was silly at the time, and she was so serious when she said it. “Mommy, is daddy going to die?” I said, “no, Olivia, his asthma is flaring up, so we are going to go to the ER so he can get some help,” and she ran to the living room yelling at her Daddy to go to the car.

Eric reclined the passenger seat, and Olivia put her hand on his bald, sweaty head telling him over and over again, “daddy, we are taking you to the doctor okay. He will help you.” As I drove, I laid my hand on his chest and rubbed it, and he reached up to hold it. I looked at him and said, “I’m driving as fast as I can, Babe.”

We arrived at the ER, and he got out of the car by himself, walked in with Olivia holding his hand while I parked. I rushed in, and he was sitting in the lobby, waiting to have his vitals checked. At this time, we still think this is a full-blown asthma attack. A nurse called Eric back to check his vitals and then I am drawn into the room. He is talking, smiling, but you can tell he is continuing to have trouble breathing. After several minutes we are lead to a trauma room where he is sitting up talking with the doctor, nurses are connecting wires to him, and Olivia is telling the doctor to take care of him because he can’t breathe.
And then I blinked. My world was forever changed.

Eric started to have a seizure, and it was at that time I took Olivia out of the ER room and returned to the lobby with her. She was talking to me, but I couldn’t tell you what she was saying. I called my sister, who was out doing errands to see if she could come to get Olivia. I couldn’t even tell you what I told my sister when she arrived.
I returned to the ER room to find the curtain closed. A staff member walked by to see if she could help me and led me past the pulled curtain. I saw my husband laying on the gurney with nurses and the doctor rushing around him while a machine was doing compressions on his chest.

They let me talk to him. I remember telling him to fight. After that, they directed me to a room, and the helpful staff member started calling people for me. I know I began texting my family and friends to pray and begging them to pray hard. Then I went to a window in the room and started to pray. I found myself praying out loud. I had never done that before. I was begging and screaming for God to help him; to heal him. And asking, “Please, God, don’t take him.” I had never prayed harder than that moment.

It was at 3:24 pm that I had to tell the doctor and nurses to stop actively working to resuscitate Eric. After that, everything was in slow motion. People were talking to me, but I couldn’t hear them. I couldn’t feel my legs, but I know they were there because I was walking. But again, I didn’t feel like I walked. It was more like floating. And then it looked like everyone was on fast forward, and it was me in slow motion.
My sister drove me home. I walked into the house, and it felt empty. I went into the bedroom to try and get myself together because I knew my sister was going to get my daughter and bring her home. When I walked back down the hallway, my cousin walked around the corner. She had driven from Texas, and I had never been happier to see her. I remember feeling like I ran to her and grabbing her around the neck, just saying, “he’s gone – what am I suppose to do?”

In the meantime, I had a few friends from work show up, and we all sat in the living room, still in disbelief and waiting for my sister to bring my kids home.

When they arrived, I had a knot in the pit of my stomach, and every word I knew disappeared. Olivia came running in and jumped in my lap and said high to everyone, and then she looked at me and asked where Daddy was. She asked me if he was in the bathroom, was he lying down in bed or was he still at the doctor. I said he wasn’t home and she asked when he would be home because she missed him. I pulled her close and told her he wasn’t coming back and that he passed away at the hospital. He wasn’t coming home. She looked at me and pushed me and smiled, “you’re joking momma, don’t tease me.” I looked at her and bit my lip, trying not to cry. I guess when I did that, she knew I wasn’t teasing. She just buried her head in my chest and cried for her Daddy. I broke my daughter’s heart that day, and it destroyed me.

May 31, 2013 The day Eric fell in love with his Lil Uno

Olivia was her Daddy’s ‘Lil Uno. That’s what he called her from the day she was born. Eric was wrapped around her little finger from the second he held her. Right after she was born, he carried her to the next room to be examined, weighed, and cleaned her off. They went everywhere together.

If Olivia wanted something and he knew she didn’t need it. Instead of telling her no (which he could never do), he would say to her, “go ask your momma and see what she says.” I would always tell him, “I know we are getting a pony one day.” He asked me what that meant. I said, “every little girl wants a pony, and they always ask for one. When the day comes, and Olivia asks you for a pony, you won’t be able to tell her no.”

I broke my daughter’s heart for the first time on May 16th. Our lives changed forever.

Eric seeing Olivia crawl for the first time.

My husband helps make the clouds

My daughter and I both noticed these clouds. It stopped us in our tracks.

The first loved one that past that I remember had to be my PaPa.  I remember being close to him and my Mema.  I remember he was this tall thin mad who smiled all the time – even after being diagnosed with cancer.  Ever picture of the two of us was of him smiling.  When he passed away, I was very young, maybe 6 or 7 years old.  The chaos around his funeral I do not remember.  I do remember sitting in my dad’s lap while the funeral service was going on, and everyone crying around me.  I remember seeing my Papa in his casket looking peaceful like he was napping. 

After the funeral and I’m talking months after the funeral, I found myself looking at these beautiful, big, fluffy clouds.  The thought that crossed my mind was that my PaPa was walking above the clouds.   Remember, I was under the age of 10 when I began to believe this.  I guess a part of me still does, especially since my husband is living above the clouds now.

I love looking at the clouds.  I love how magnificent they look.  How grand they appear.  All at the same time, looking soft.  I even enjoy looking at them when the storms are rolling in.  They seem angry, ready to attack.

The first time I flew to California to visit my Mema, I was so excited because I was going to be high up with the clouds.  Then when the plane flew into the clouds and arrived above them, I, even at an older age, was sad that what I believed as a young child wasn’t true at all.  Silly how as a young child, our beliefs are so strong.  Strong enough to carry us to our young adult lives.

I still love looking at the clouds, and part of me still believes that my loved ones, our loved ones walk on top of the clouds.  Some even make those unique clouds that catch only our attention.

I remember a time a few months back.  I was returning from a grief support group, and right in front of me were three large clouds, and the one in the middle had lightning flashing in it just the middle cloud.  It was a fantastic sight to see. Of course, I did not stop and get my phone out to take a photo.  I did, however, describe it to a friend who is an amazing artist.  I traded with her to paint these clouds on my bible.  

My daughter now notices the clouds.  She believes that her daddy helps God make them.  I like that thought.  Thoughts like that help my kids and me heal through this journey of grief.  The heartache of not seeing my husband can get overwhelming.  But when I go outside and look at the clouds, I feel a peace come over me.  It’s how I keep my husband close.

Have you ever noticed clouds that no one else did?  If you did just, maybe it was made for you to see and only you.

photo by lil’ Uno 2020

Forever My Alway

My life with Eric was an adventure; he kept me in stitches every day of our lives together. He would never think of himself as an artist, creative, or patient, but he was. He loved to create things with his hands. When Olivia was in pre-K, she has an assignment to make a pumpkin into a book character. By no means was this a contest between the students. However, Eric did not work that way. His Uno (this is what he called Olivia) was going to have the best pumpkin in her class, grade, and, if possible, the school. He made legs from wire and pipe cleaners and made that pumpkin into a spider. It was my job to figure out the book this character came from.

Since Eric was in the Marines he loved his firearms. He loved researching about them, trading them, taking them apart and putting them back together. But what Eric loved most was cleaning and repairing them. He was oblivious to the world around him when he did that. He loved molding, shaping, and creating with his hands. I miss that the house smells like gun cleaning products. I never thought I would say that, but I have never been “here” before.

Eric was also the kind of person to help another at the drop of a hat. He had a close friend in desperate need of a friend. The time was late in the evening. I only heard one part of the conversation, his. I saw the worry and concern in his eyes; he couldn’t hide that no matter how he tried. The next thing I knew, he was putting his shoes on, and he was kissing me a good evening and promised he would text me when he was on his way home, and he did just that. Several hours later, he texted that he was on his way home. He saved his friend’s life that night. Eric saved the lives of many people during his career as a police officer. There were many times when we would be out to dinner, and someone would come up to us telling him that they had turned their life around because Eric had saved them. I was and still am so proud of him.

When it came to family, Eric did not hesitate to provide and protect. I felt safe, and so did our kids. Now that he is not here, there is sometimes a feeling of uneasiness. I try to make the kids feel safe, but they are quick to remind me that I am not daddy and daddy knew how to fight. Kids can be so honest! Below is the eulogy that my brother-in-law wrote and read at Eric’s funeral. He molded everything in the following paragraphs that described Eric perfectly.

Don Carmichael, a father of four left this world in 2001 to be with the Lord and on Thursday, May 16, 2019 after 18 years, he welcomed his son Eric Ray Carmichael into the gates of Heaven never to say goodbye again.

Eric was born September 10, 1974 in Lawton to Donald Ray Carmichael and  Brenda Sue Benson Carmichael. Don later married  Renee Harvey Carmichael in 1983 who four years laer adopted Eric and his sister Kim.

Eric graduated from Byng High School in 1992 with his high school diploma and a State Championship ring in Class A Baseball.  Following high school Eric enlisted and served the next 4 years honorably in the United States Marine Corp during which time he was also a proud member of the Chickasaw Warrior Society, a group of the Chickasaw veterans who reach out and attempt to build relationships between them and the young Chickasaw Warriors like Eric, who were serving in active duty through their shared experiences as Chickasaw Warriors serving in The United States Military.

In 2014 Eric earned his Bachelors Degree from East Central University in General Studies with a concentration in business management.  During his final year at ECU in God’s perfect time, Eric married the girl he had fallen for in the 5th grade, Lorie Robins on July 11, 2014 in Eureka Springs, AR in front family, friends and their new precious baby girl, Miss Olivia Grace.

Eric worked as a law enforcement officer for several different police departments in cities all throughout Pontotoc, Seminole and Hughes Counties including two years as the Chief of Police in Stonewall. He was a member of the Fraternal Order of Police and Trinity Baptist Church.

The way Eric talked about the time served his country as a United States Marine., or his city as its Chief of Police,  made the greatness of their impact on his life quite clear, but to hear him talk about becoming a father and how much he loved his family made it clear that they did not have a similar impact on his life , they were his life.  The University educated him, the Marines trained him, CLEET certified him, but it was Lori who completed him and helped him become the husband and father God had called him to be.

In the Marines, he served because he was ordered to, in law enforcement , he served because he was paid to,  but he served his family not because he had to or because he needed to, he served simply because wanted to.

Eric was faithful to the fight, faithful to the faith, and he was faithful to the finish. Well done, thy good and faithful servant.

Eric is preceded in death by his father, Donald Ray Carmichael.

He is survived by his wife, Lorie, of the home and their two children, Olivia Carmichael and Kaleb Carmichael of the home; mother, Renee Burkhardt and husband Karl of Ada; three sisters, Kim Cheatwood and husband Don of Bristow, Kayla Carmichael of Ada; Laura Robinson and husband Dane of Holdenville; nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles too numerous to name and friends too numerous to count.