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Sleeping Giant

*Warning: the following post contains depictions of depression and anxiety.*


When the chaos of sudden death abates, and the focus on survival surrenders itself to normalcy, the sleeping giant stirs and wakes. Widow's Depression. Yep. Capital letters. (I'm making it a thing.) It's unlike anything I've experienced before, and trust me, that's saying something; depression and I have been in a tug-of-war since puberty.

This is taking a leap of faith and breaking both legs.

This is your partner, your very best friend in the world, leaving you with the final words, "Thank you for taking such good care of me." But I didn't, did I? Not according to my grieving daughter. It's my job to keep her safe, and in her mind, that means it was my job to keep her daddy safe. But I couldn't. He fell away from the world when I was sleeping. Dreaming. And I didn't wake. Didn't know he was gone. And though she doesn't truly know why, our daughter is angry with me for failing her.

This is being told one too many times how strong I am. How "surprisingly okay" I am. What a great mother I am. How incredible it is that I'm doing things like painting, running, writing. It's amazing, isn't it? That I get up every day and do laundry, pay bills, make appointments, clean and wash dishes and string words together into sentences. I'm so strong, aren't I? A fucking superhero. All I need is a cape.

This is being transparent with my closest friends even though my instinct is to minimize my trauma. This is offering them my deepest flaws and fears. Lifting up my new-beating heart with a whispered, "See the shape? It's wrong. It will never be worthy again," and them telling me it's perfect. You're perfect. And this is one of those trusted friends stepping back, saying, "It's too much. You're too much." This is the wet tearing of abandonment. Another piece of me gone.

This is talking and laughing with fellow parents while our children play, then having my mind fog over. Blinking silence. Paralysis. This is a muttered, "I'm sorry, I have to go," and stumbling down the street and into my house, crawling up the stairs and into bed. This is forgetting to tell my daughter goodbye. This is oblivion without choice. Waking up three hours later and thinking it's morning. This is saying aloud, "He's dead," because 136 days later I still marvel at it. And it still feels like a punch to my chest.

This is isolation. Rough bedtimes and meltdowns and doctors appointments and kindergarten registrations and questions like, "What did Daddy look like when he was dead?" and, "Will I ever have another daddy?" and when the flash of pain fades, saying, "Maybe someday, little love. But for now you have me, and I remember all of Daddy's cool tricks." This is being mother and father, more and none. The burden of everything.

I'm tired. Like rotting, sticky strawberries that want only to melt away. Too-fullness. Too-muchness. Anger. Love. Bitterness. Determination. Defiance. Hysteria. Hope. This is Widow's Depression - no smooth slide into static, but a manic journey in a pinball machine.

And to myself I say, Soften. Soften. Soften. Over and over. Soften even when a new hammer sends fresh cracks to my heart. Soften. Deepen. Let it all be. Let it fall. Receive with love and release.

But tonight, I'm tired and abandoned and alone.


crazy is a lazy word find something new

or at least true—

call me mayhem and magic

or graceful by accident

call me widow wicked


with more freckles

than tears

anything but crazy

unless tenderly said

because you love love


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