We’ve all had the experience where something hits you like a ton of bricks. Out of the blue. From out of left field. Whacks you upside the head. I was blind but now I can see. The abundance of clichés verifies that this is not an uncommon experience.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you already know what mine has been: Brené Brown:

From her book, The Gifts of Imperfection

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

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Bless me blogosphere, for I have sinned.

OK, so I don’t actually believe in “sin.” I believe that there are some things that are bad and some things that are good, with most things somewhere in between.

But this feels like a confession. In my head I know I’m not really “bad” and that probably many (most?) have gone through this “stage.” But the feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when I realized I felt this way told me I had crossed a line. So, thank you, blogosphere, for hearing my confession.

It hit me like a ton of bricks, as I was walking today. Having tried running for the first time three days before at a friend’s encouragement (and survived), I was eager to exert myself more than I usually do on my lunchtime outings. So, armed with the trusty psycho-mind-reading ipod, I charted a new route, and it wasn’t long before I was huffing and puffing up the quiet, winding, narrow streets of Portland’s West Hills. Sure enough, as I began to twist and turn my way downhill, a song about grief triggered a flash of realization:

I no longer miss Julie as an individual as much as I miss the roles she filled in my life.

The details of her as a person have started to fade, to lose focus in the haze of memory. How she spoke, how she would act, what she would or wouldn’t do in a given situation—these are becoming less and less clear. What looms larger now are all the things she is no longer here to be—wife, mother, partner, companion, someone to talk to and share all the joys and burdens and tasks and events of life.

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I don’t dance, generally, in the conventional sense, but lately I really feel like that’s what I’ve been doing; a few steps this way, a few steps that way, moving closer, then farther way, first one direction, then another.

I’ve recently moved closer/towards the world in one way, and pulled back, withdrawing in another. I can’t say I feel unambiguously positive about either move, but I am glad I’m doing them. The harder question for me is, now what?

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I recently found myself pulled into a discussion that focused on the challenges faced by women who become romantically involved with or marry widowers. You can read it in its raw glory here.

My widow friends on Facebook were extremely supportive, in private and in public, and praised my writing and declared their support for my point of view. Regular readers of the blog in question generally supported the blog author and each other, but many were also kind and supportive to me, even though many were not.

In and of itself, it’s not really a big deal. We all take our lumps out here on the interwebs, and if we don’t want to risk a run-in with someone who thinks we’re full of shit, it’s easy enough to avoid.

But after my last post on that blog, I was curious: what else were people saying about widowERs (I noted the gender-specificity right away) and their relationships? What I found frankly blew my mind.

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winter sky

Grief and exhaustion, the yin and yang of loss, the Bonnie and Clyde of surviving. It’s the biggest un-kept secret in the world of the widowed. People far more eloquent than I have blogged about it to death (Ha, ha. Get it?), most recently Kim at Widow’s Voice: Exhausting Part 1.5.

But it still surprises me. More than surprises, it whacks me upside the head, knocks me on my ass and kicks me in the ribs a few times for good measure. It square dances with depression who doe-see-doe to tunes of loneliness and futility.

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