Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Van Keulen Update!

Well it has been about 3 months again since I posted a blog.  I often think I should sit down and write but don’t really know what to say that isn’t redundant from something I already posted.  Through this entire process I’ve tried to be so transparent so people knew what this is truly like.  At some level there was still safety for me in this because literally I was just giving factual updates on Jonathan’s physical condition.  Or our Physical experience.  I would share how we were coping and things Jonathan and I would share together.  Now, there isn’t any of that.  This is simply just talking about my emotional state and what it is like to live after you loose your spouse.  This is a much more vulnerable position for me to be in I feel like, but here goes.

To start, I should admit I have probably consumed more alcohol in the last 3 months than I have ever before.  (Yes, even college… But I was married in college so I wasn’t the typical 20 year old)  I don’t think by any means I have a problem, but I have a completely different social life now than I have ever experienced before.  Girl friends want to go out for dinner and a glass of wine.  Or come over for a hot tub and a glass of wine.  I try to get out and be social, it seems to help most of the time!  Typically, in adult social settings, there is alcohol.  I’m not drinking at home by myself, but I would need to change my medical questionnaire from “consumes alcohol 2-4 per month” to “consumes alcohol 2-4 per week.”  I know I’m not having a glass of wine when I’m sad and I’m not doing it because it is going to make me feel better.  I’m just recognizing this is something that has changed in my life in the last few months.

Now with that being said, I’m so grateful for the friends I have in my life.  I loved having so many people when Jon was sick, and I still I have a huge network of amazing friends.  I have a wonderful neighbor friend that comes over almost every Tuesday night to hang out and girl talk.  I have friends that run with me now.  I have friends that I now text all the time, some times very late.  I’ve connected with old friends from high school who I get together with more than I have in years.  Then I still have my usual friends that I see everyday at the gym or for BBQ’s.  I have new “Cancer Friends” who understand things no one else does.  I so appreciate these relationships because without them, the loneliness would be so much worse. 

I have learned that I struggle with certain dates that are going to inevitably come and go.  Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays or events that we would be at together.  I hate being alone when these things happen.  The anticipation often ends up being worse then the actual day or event.  I over think it, or dwell on it and make myself sad.  So my tactic has been to make sure I’m not alone when I know something is coming.  In august, I was with family and friends camping for our anniversary.  Then to the Lake with cousins.  I was so busy and with so many people that sitting and crying wasn’t really an option for me… mostly because we were having fun and I didn’t need to!  But then there are events like weddings, showers etc.  Normally I would have fun and loved being happy for my friends.  I have found I don’t do well in these settings at times now.  Often leave early and cry in the car on the way home.  I think people just want me to get out and do normal things that I would normally love.  But being reminded that others are so happy and are experiencing the most wonderful parts of life, feels more like a reminder that those parts of my life have ended.  This last month I have made progress with this though I think. I had a friend tell me she feels like I’m faking it less and she sees parts of the old me again.  But she hit the nail on the head… acting happy for someone (Because you are happy for them) but when you aren’t happy in general is a very hard place to be.  I just hope my friends know I’m trying very hard, even if I’m faking it.

Now that school has started and the auction has finished, I’m getting back to a normal routine.  At the gym every week day morning and have nearly lost all of my pity party pounds I gained 3 months ago.  Dinner time is really hard for me.  I would cook for Jonathan.  Now I eat tuna out of the can with a pickle, maybe a salad or something equally as pathetic and just make the boys chicken nuggets or French toast.  The boys don’t eat what I eat and so why would I cook for just me?  I’m trying to be healthy so eating out isn’t going to work either.  So evenings are often a reminder of big changes in my life.  Typically I would have a huge taco feast and have the football game on.  (I truthfully haven’t really watched one sporting event since Jonathan died.  I think I’m avoiding it a little bit…)  Now, No dinner and No sports!  My poor boys…

This last weekend I met a girl my age who lost her husband in a car accident.  We talked about our difference in experiences.  The sudden shock or the drawn out process.  I also was talking to my friend Harmony (Who lost her husband to cancer) about the loss we have experienced with cancer.  It is almost as if you start grieving the day of diagnosis.  Each day it felt like we lost something.  The ability to walk, the ability to get on the floor with your kids, intimate things, appearance… The list is long.  By the time our spouses died, we had begun the process of loss months ago.

I still get asked “how are you doing?”  My answer “I’m doing really pretty good actually.”  Now if this is a closer friend, after conversing for a while, I get the question “So did you and Jonathan ever talk about you dating?”  (If this is a really close friend, Jonathan actually talked to some of them personally about it, or so I’m finding out now)  I must be getting closer to that time frame in society where it would start to become more socially acceptable for me to start dating now.  But then again, I have people who tell me not to even entertain the thought until after 1 year.  Like that is a magic number… But maybe they know something I don’t!  And at 3 months I was also asked why I wasn’t dating yet…  So truthfully I don’t actually really know where I’m at with this.  Yes, Jonathan and I talked about this.  Actually in true Jonathan style, he was very clear about what he wanted.  He wanted the boys to grow up with a dad.  He didn’t want me to be alone.  But he wanted me to find a really good one… He was never able to discuss specific details with me, because it was supposed to be him.  So no he didn’t pick my next husband for me.  But he was pretty clear about what he wanted me to do.  I feel so blessed to have a relationship with Jonathan’s mom that she has even openly talked to me about this in the last couple months.  She knew what he wanted too… But I’m not totally there yet.  I really just want that singular best friend that fills all the roles that requires multiple friends to fill.  I loved what I had and I want it back!  I want someone to plan trips with, and enjoy vacations.  I miss having someone to talk to in the car or talk just in general.  I miss fun activities, like biking, golfing, pickle ball (yeah, we have a court and no one plays!)  So maybe the better way to put it is that I want a new best friend… Not really a “boyfriend”.  Is that even possible? 

So if you know me, you know I’m very sarcastic and try to joke a lot. (often unsuccessfully)  Shoot the sarcasm came from Jonathan!  I joke about this being single thing a lot now.  But there is a learning curve for me and an adjustment period for others.  While on a trip with my cousin we were talking about this and he gave me great perspective.  I’m living without Jon every day and it feels like forever that I haven’t had him.  But for others who only see the boys and I every couple of months.  It feels so fresh still to them.  Like he should be with us.  So this isn’t just about me either.  I joke to lighten the mood, but I know it isn’t all funny.  I guess I just thought I should clear the air on this topic… So for now I will just keep praying for God to make this abundantly clear to me what is supposed to happen with this, and that I don’t get so lonely that I do something stupid. 

What else is there to tell about this process… I have noticed I don’t talk to Jonathan anymore at night before I go to bed.  The boys still pray for Jesus to tell Daddy they love him every night though.  I’m getting tired of being the only bad guy in the boy’s life.  I never get to say “When your dad gets home!”  And I’m the only parent to say “NO!”  I think Jude tells me every day that “dad was more fun than you mom.”  I still haven’t programmed my garage door opener to the car because I don’t know how.  I can’t figure out my PayPal password.  And Jonathan’s dress shirts are still on the floor in my closet where they have been sitting for probably 1 year now.  (My goal is to clean the closet this month, I think I’m ready but it is overwhelming)  I finally made the boys go to Children’s church and actually sat by myself at church, without friends.  Like totally alone!  I have something planned every weekend through November… So still obviously trying to keep myself busy.  Although my mom told me I was like this before Jonathan died and she would be more concerned if I didn’t have anything on my calendar.  I have signed up to start going to bible study again on Tuesday nights and Mom’s study once a month in the morning.  (Which means I might have to explain my story and cry in front of people)  I finally got brave enough to schedule family photos without Jonathan, only 2 months behind normal.  Jax lost another tooth and Jude laughs at me when I try to spank him.  It has probably been 2 weeks since I cried last.  I get to go to The Price is Right with the girls and Chris Young concert with a couple friends next month.  I have a HUGE dog now.  I guess that is my life in a nut shell!

I’m hoping 3 months from now my next post will have more positive in it and things will continue to get better.  I feel like things have improved in the last 3 months!  Glass half full right?!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

3 Month Mark

It’s almost been 3 months since Jonathan passed away.  I’ve been having a hard time sleeping for some reason the last few days, so I thought I would write a blog update.  People always ask how things are going so hopefully this will give some insight into what this is like.

I don’t write many blog updates anymore because I feel like there isn’t much to say that you all don’t already know.  I’m Sad!  That pretty much sums it up.  My aunt Shannon has been encouraging me to continue writing as that has been my therapy through these last 2 years.  My friend gave me a journal, so I have been hand writing to the boys about their dad.  I started at the day I first remember meeting him.  What he was like way back then, what he smelled like, his personality, his green car with the squeaky door.  Literally everything I can remember.  I think it is helping me.  Some nights I fall asleep laughing, and some nights I cry.  Some nights I don’t write anything at all. 

Truthfully the boys are really doing very well.  They don’t get sad much anymore.  They talk about daddy every day though.  How he made better pancakes than me, how he would have thought something was funny, how he would brush their teeth, or that he would let them get a slushy and I never do.  We went golfing this week and they had to show me the secret hole dad showed them at Manito.  (I know, it’s almost July and it’s the first time I’ve taken them golfing.  Jonathan would be ashamed of me!)  The boys told me dad always let them have raspberry tea when they golfed, so we got some tea and they had a wonderful time.  Jax is getting stronger and Jude is really picking it up as well.  I feel like Jax is a bit sensitive at times, but he has always been that kid.  So I don’t think it is because of Jonathan anymore.  They are adjusting really well and overall are very happy kids excited to ride bikes and swim.

This last month has gotten hard for me.  I think I’m making progress and trying to do things to push myself forward.  I took my wedding ring off at Christmas because Jonathan bought me a new ring that isn’t a wedding ring but something he thought I could wear forever.  I had been wearing it as a wedding ring, but I went to have it resized to move to my other hand.  That was where he intended it to be.  He wanted me to be ok, and move forward.  He wanted me to be happy.  So I’m really trying.  I packed my first box this month of his golf hats and clothes and moved them to storage for the boys.  As I went through all his hats (he bought a hat at each new course he would play) I thought how cool it would be for the boys to go through those later in life and try to go play some of those courses their dad played. 

I went to a grief seminar this month with my friend Harmony who is just a couple month ahead of me on this not so fun path.  We weren’t very impressed with the seminar, but we had a good time together afterward at dinner.  I guess I just already knew that I’m trying to keep myself super busy so I don’t have to think about things.  The scale has told me I’m eating as a coping mechanism.  Yeah so how do I fix it?  Oh and I don’t think about dying so I could be with Jonathan, I’m not walking the slippery slope of suicide talk.  (That was like 45 minutes of the seminar… it is normal but a slippery slope LOL)  Since I didn’t get any great advice on how to fix me, I decided I guess I just have to do it myself.  I’ve tried to check out a little bit from Cancer Can’t at night time to just be, and I’ve lost 5 pounds.  Only 10 more to go… then I’ll be back to where I started 2 years ago.

Dad has moved back out and went home.  So I’ve been alone for about a month now with just the boys.  I think he has discovered he enjoys retirement and sitting down to a cup of coffee that hasn’t been microwaved 4 times is much more enjoyable.  When he is here, he is totally checked in and the kids know it.  Papa is on duty and they take full advantage.  So we miss papa, but it is probably good that we start doing this alone.  Or at least that is what we are being told… I would be fine with dad living here.  Judge me all you want!

Now that it’s just me and the boys, I’m realizing how lonely I actually am.  The days are usually ok because I keep myself busy, but nights are really hard.  My friends go home to their husbands and kids, and hanging out until 10 isn’t super appealing when you have to work the next day and they want to be with your own family.  I get it.  When Jonathan and I did marriage counseling, we read this book called the 5 love languages by Gary Chapman.  (Highly recommend)  In my loneliness I have been thinking about this concept.  Maybe I’m having a pity party here, but my love language happens to be physical touch.  Could there be a worse love language to have when you loose your spouse?  I love getting flowers (gifts), and I love spending time with friends (quality time), I appreciate kinds words (words of affirmation), and people have done so many things for me (acts of service).  But what I really want is a real hug.  Not like the hello/goodbye hug that I get every day, but to be held.  I miss just snuggling up on the couch to watch tv, or even when he would smack my butt in the kitchen while I’m cooking.  I’m pretty sure I could talk one of my friends into smacking my butt now and again, but I just don’t think it will be the same gesture.  It’s kind of weird to think about anyone other than your companion fulfilling the love language of physical touch.  I mean I can think of 2 times since Jonathan died that I had someone show me love in this way.  I snuggled with my dad on the couch one night while watching tv, and my cousin Ryan put his arm around me on a tee box while golfing and just rubbed my arm for a few moments.  So not that any wife wouldn’t miss the touch of their spouse, but maybe the need is just greater when that is your love language.  When it is anyone other than your companion, the gesture could seem weird.  (So no need for anyone to attempt to smack me on the butt)

The other night Jude put on Jonathan’s deodorant after his bath.  It wasn’t just a little bit under his pits, I watched him do his neck, and pull his waist band out and put it just below is belly button. (Not sure where he saw this, I don’t think Jonathan put deodorant there… but maybe if he was trying to get lucky or something)  Anyway, when I went to check on Jude before going to sleep when I gave him a kiss he smelled like Jonathan.  So I picked him up and brought him to bed with me.  I snuggled him until I fell asleep, mostly because I just wanted to smell him and feel like I was snuggling Jonathan. 

Many of you may not know that Jonathan wanted to donate his body so that they could study his cancer.  He felt very strongly about his body being an empty vessel and that it wasn’t him anymore.  So we didn’t bury him, or put him in a wall somewhere.  BUT when you donate your body, when they are done, they send you cremated remains.  I got those in the mail last week.  Yep, they mailed him to me!  My dad had no idea what he was signing for when he was visiting that day.  He set Jonathan on the counter and Jude colored all over the box.  Haha  Life is right back to normal for him I guess.  So now I need to plan a few trips to scatter ashes I guess.  The boys keep asking about Maui!  Sounds like a good plan to me.

Overall though I think I’m doing ok.  I think being lonely is just what I’m going to have to go through.  I still laugh everyday and try to live how Jon would want me to.  He showed Christ in the way he lived by always being so positive, and caring of others while in the midst of fighting a battle he never deserved.  I’m trying to honor both Jon and Christ by being ok, moving forward, do what he told me to do, laugh, and see the good and beautiful things around me.  I know many of you are still praying for me and the boys.  We appreciate that very much.