My Widow Brain

IMG_0322“I am giving you cupcakes my sweet angel!”
This is a great memory, Jacob and I went to a local cupcake food truck near Thomasville Road in Tallahassee (Fall of 2011) and we went almost every Tuesday. It started as a parking lot and by the time we graduated FSU, it was an entire Lake Ella Food Truck Event, with music, vendors, and artists. We grew with our home, our home was Tallahassee. We were so excited to dive into these delicious treats, but when I started writing this post I imagined what Jacob would say – he would offer these to me, in his gentle and loving way.

Widow Brain – this is a common term among widower’s, but most people my age have no idea what we are talking about. I know I’ve tried to use the line with some of my in-laws and they shrug it off like it is a make-believe thing. I know they love me and I love them, but they couldn’t possibly understand – and I thank the stars they don’t have to. Anyway, It isn’t make believe! It’s real!  Even upon entering year two, my widow brain is still alive and kicking. So if yours is too, don’t worry. Some people are able to “recover” quicker than others. Don’t you hate that word? You never recover. You learn how to live in parallel with the horrible void that can never be filled.  There is no timeline for grief. My memory fades, I throw away my keys, I forget to eat, I barely take care of basic hygiene, I can’t remember what day it is or what even month. I stutter. I cannot read books. My comprehension of the emptiness and loneliness of the world without my spouse is too much to bear.  My comprehension of anything is incredibly low, in fact. I forget easily. Point is: you are so in shock and overwhelmed with grief, you cannot function with day-to-day living. It is impossible. Getting out of bed is a chore and feeling the warmth on your skin is hurtful. I remember I told this to my therapist during one of our first sessions. She asked “why do you cover up your whole body?” let me remind you, I am currently living in Florida. I told her, nervously, “The idea that Jacob cannot feel the sun makes me sick to my stomach – so I don’t want to feel it either.” She nodded, she knew that was the reason, she validated my feelings but she just wanted me to be aware that this was typical and normal behavior for someone facing grief, guilt, and unspeakable trauma.

The worst time of day for me is in the morning – I am reminded that my soulmate is not laying next to me. I used to wake up every morning and kiss him softly behind his hair and whisper “I love you, Jacob.” He would give me the hardest hug and never let me go. That was every morning, for 7 years… so these tortured mornings are a constant punch of grief. It hits me how unfair it all is – I begin to cry and cry for hours. “Why me? Did I do something wrong?” I replay the last day and how I could have done something differently. I feel guilty and I feel anger at the wind blowing. “How can the world go on when Jacob isn’t here?” Then I try to find a way to spend the rest of the day sleeping, unable to face it all.

The night carries its own set of demons. Jacob was a lover of all types of cinema and series – we watched everything together at night. I owe my love of Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, The Cohen Brothers, David Lynch (a story for later on a documentary we saw in May of 2017), John Turturro, Noah Baumbach and Gene Wilder to Jacob (just to name a few). I could go on and on forever. He knew every actor, every director, and he was this way by… age 10. He started making his own films shortly after! I mean, what an artist? A remarkable human being with art oozing from his chest. I remember he was so excited for the new movie “It” to come out – and it was released four days after he died. How cruel. When I saw posters of it, I would break down and cry. “How could you rob him of so much? Why not take me?” Now – I cannot watch anything. It feels wrong and icky. I have no desire to laugh and especially watch things his eyes cannot see. This is what my family (on both sides) does not understand. And I don’t expect them to get it, they weren’t part of our life – it was our little family. For so long. Sometimes I feel only I truly knew him as an adult because I know he only knew me truly as an adult. Does that make me feel sad? Yes – because so many missed out on his wonderful adult soul, but so many benefited from it as well ( I will get into hundreds of stories of his acts of kindness to random strangers including the famous Noam Chomsky!) Does that make me feel happy? Yes. Because I feel special that he chose me. He chose me to be his partner in this life together. When I was in high school I used to wonder what he was doing at night, and when we finally lived together I would say “Now I know! You are laying with me!” I felt so lucky he picked me to share his life with. And now, it has crumbled before me. Jacob used to play a song by Mississippi John Hurt called, “Walk That Lonesome Valley” and part of that song goes “You gotta’ walk that lonesome valley” (naturally), not only would I give anything to hear him play it for me again – with his left foot stomping loud on the wooden floor – the truth of the song weighs on me like all the soil in the earth. I have to walk alone. Without my person. The love of my life. It just isn’t fair.

Back to the widow brain, it is a real thing. You start your car with a banana and you drink milk you thought was water. And beyond that – it has far-reaching effects. As if grief wasn’t enough, you have the constant feeling that you are losing your mind. Listen, I know – it is awful. You are trapped in this life you never asked for. The death of a parent is a natural part of life, we learn this early on – but the death of your spouse? Let alone at 27? That is the most unnatural thing in the world. And it has happened to me (us). People don’t know what to do or say, so they disappear. They give you fortune cookie wisdom and platitudes. None of it helps, and here we are – drowning in aching grief. You are in pain, and the truth is – it can’t be made better. No one can soothe the pain, you have to experience it all alone. And when the love of your life dies? Little things like charging your phone, or social media (which I have completely gotten rid of) become so unimportant and trivial. I cannot even endure a commercial, it makes me feel sick inside. Luckily for me, I have my mother. Without, I would be left on this earth with no one. No one to see my grief, to acknowledge it and stand there in blinking horror. I also have Jacob, his voice in my head all the time- he is just not here in the form that I want. This is why we cry. This is why we burst into sorrow. There is no solution to all this either, Megan Devine said it best “some things cannot be fixed, they can only be carried.” Daniel Johnston also said it wonderfully, “some things last a lifetime…” And that is how I feel about my sweet Jacob. He is my lifetime.

So, carry your grief, your widow brain, and all the ways grief changes you. I know how you feel. Time has stopped. Nothing feels real. Your mind can’t stop replaying the events of the past. Everything is different now. 

I will leave you again, with one of the earliest poems I wrote,



is just like all the rest,

each noonday sun

has blended

with the last.

some more lonesome

than others,

but none of this shit is living.

the sky has swept

away from the clouds,

and the stagnant meat

oozes with the frost

of a sprinkled night.

there is no splendid disguise

for this kind of pain-

every breath is soaked

in your loss.

there is no spellbinding tide

or far-reaching stone.

no drinking

from their eyes.

it is just

endless sorrow.

goddammit this hurts-

laying with the torture

of the abundant murk

like some fading sea,

my eyes

steam up

like a creamy

morning mist.

my mind

feels like honey

bursting from its comb.

my heart

has grown wrinkled

from hours


the river.

and some nights

as the wind swells in,

I think my grief

could make

the day

stand still.

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