Tuesday, February 26, 2019

48 Things I Learned After I Was Widowed

by Monica Bobbitt

I turned 48 a little over a week ago. Forty-freaking-eight. 

And believe it or not, I am alright with that.


I am so alright with that. I consider myself very lucky to be 48.

So many people don’t even make it to 48, their lives tragically cut short far too soon.

And so many people never truly live while they have the chance. They rush from day to day, so busy making a living they don’t even notice as life passes them by.

I was one of those people until tragedy completely changed my life and me.

After my husband died, I had to rebuild my life and myself.

It took a lot of grief and a lot of hard work for me to get to where I am today.

I’m far from perfect, and I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes. I have more wrinkles and my hair colour is now (a well disguised) natural grey. I’ve been skinnier in my life, but I’ve never been fitter.

In fact, I am emotionally, mentally, and physically healthier than I ever was when Dan was alive.

And I can honestly say, I’m the happiest I’ve been in years.

Ironically, the best version of me was born from my husband’s death. It took a long time for me to reconcile that with myself.

Death truly is life’s greatest teacher.

Death challenged me in every way possible. It took away everything I believed in and forced me to confront my worst fears.

And yet, it also made me appreciate each and every moment. It has shown me the power of vulnerability and the importance of gratitude.

And it has made me love more fiercely than I ever thought possible.

Death has made me more resilient, and stronger than I ever thought I could be.

And it has made me wiser.

I have learned so many valuable life lessons in the five years since Dan died.

You may say they are clichés, but there’s a reason why clichés are

I learned the truth of these 48 life lessons the hardest way possible.

1. You don’t know what you don’t know. Nobody has all the answers.

2. Nobody can rescue you but you. Get up and be your own damn hero.

3. You have to let go of the life you thought you’d have and make happiness in the life you do have.

4. No one else can make you happy. Only you can do that.

5. Happiness is a choice and you have to work at it every day.

6. Be kind, you don’t know what someone else is going through. But remember: going through a hard time does not give you a license to treat people poorly.

7. You can’t change the past. Learn from it, then let it go. Before it destroys your present.

8. Only parenting is the hardest job you will ever do, but the most rewarding.

9. You have to keep laughing, it really is the best medicine.

10. You are more than enough. When you realize your worth, it will change everything.

11. Coffee won’t fix it. But it will help. Be kind to the baristas of the world.

12. You can’t numb the pain, and it just makes it worse when you try. Sadly, gin is not always your friend.

13. Grief demands to be heard, so don’t even try to bury it. Until you lean into it, acknowledge it, and process it, you will never heal.

14. Your grief is your grief, only you truly know what you are feeling. And you are not obligated to share it with anyone.

15. Stop caring what other people think. Seriously. There will always be people who judge you. Their opinion doesn’t matter.

16. Not everyone will be there to support you. Let them go. They aren’t your people.

17. Sometimes people show up in your life just when you need them the most. Serendipity is a beautiful thing.

18. Everyone needs a tribe to support them, in good times and in bad.

19. It’s okay to ask for help, it doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong.

20. Self-care is not indulgent, it’s necessary.

21. Material objects are just that— objects. What you own is not who you are.

22. Less really is more, except when it comes to coffee, of course.

23. Exercise is just as important for your emotional health as it is for your physical health.

24. Put down your phone and go for a walk. Even 15 minutes will have a positive impact on your attitude.

25. And while you’re out there, stop and smell the roses. They only bloom for such a short period of time.

26. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.

27. Sometimes you need to go somewhere to discover where you don’t want to be.

28. You can never truly go home because home is not the same and neither are you.

29. Sometimes you accidentally find your purpose, but your purpose is never an accident.

30. Be there for others when they need you. You get what you give.

31. Gratitude completely changes your outlook and your heart.

32. There is always something to be grateful for. Even on the worst of days. You’re still here, aren’t you?

33. Sometimes you have to say no.

34. And sometimes you have to say yes.

35. Some things and some people are totally worth the risk.

36. You’ll never know if you never ask.

37. It’s okay to be scared. Do it anyway. That’s courage.

38. Stop waiting for the perfect time. There is no perfect time, there is only now.

39. Regret is the price you pay for fear. Fear isn’t worth the price.

40. Grief is the price you pay for love. Love is so worth the price.

41. Shattered hearts do heal. You will love again if you are brave enough to let love find you.

42. Time spent with people you love is never wasted time.

43. You never know when it will be the last time you say I Love You, so say it to your people as often as you can.

44. Loss teaches you the true value of time. It really is much shorter than you think.

45. Eat the chocolate. Burn the candles. Wear the perfume. Life is too damn short.

46. The little things that annoy you so much often become the things you miss the most about someone when they are gone.

47. All that truly matters, in the end, is that you loved.

48. Get busy living or get busy dying. The choice is yours.

The choice has always been yours. Just like it was always mine.

Don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t wait until something catastrophic happens to choose to live the best life you possibly can.

Live it now.


To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss, follow Monica Bobbitt on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/agoatrodeo/

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Let's Talk: One Family's Story of Mental Illness

This incredibly moving story of one family's struggle with mental illness was submitted to me by a very courageous lady whom I am privileged to know and call a friend. Their story:

The Bell Let’s Talk annual campaign day is here and once again our social media feeds become full of great posts and articles about the need to talk openly in order to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. Brave people share their stories and struggles.  But there is a group of people who feel they can’t really talk about how mental illness affects them: they are the ones closest to a person with mental illness.

Oh, we do talk! We talk to friends and family for support. We talk in closed online support groups when family or friends don’t really understand.  We talk to our doctors and to counselors and support workers.  We talk in hushed voices in the grocery store aisle when we run into another person we know who is dealing with it in their family. But nobody talks about it out in the open or publicly online on designated Mental Health Awareness Days. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Maybe it’s because it might create stigma for those struggling. But regardless of the reason, there are so many families in anguish and grief because of the severe mental illness of a loved one.

It’s not that the resources aren’t there for families.  We can get counseling and support for all family members through various organizations.  In fact, every article I’ve ever read aimed toward caregivers of someone with mental illness ends with a caring note to take care of one’s self and to seek out support.  This is all well and good, but when the person causing the grief and stress, and in some cases trauma,won’t accept the help that they need, then how long does a family really benefit from support? Honestly, every time I read a line like this in an article, I want to scream,

“A fat lot of good me getting support does!” Sigh.

One of the main causes of someone not getting the help they need is not stigma or shame or even outright stubbornness and denial. It’s actually a symptom of many types of mental illness.  It’s called lack of insight. “The formal medical term for this medical condition is anosognosia, from the Greek meaning “to not know a disease.” When we talk about anosognosia in mental illness, we mean that someone is unaware of their own mental health condition or that they can’t perceive their condition accurately.” (NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness name.org)

If you are interested in learning and understanding more about this condition of mental illness, Dr. Xavier Amador has a great Ted talk that explains the frustration families have because of the condition when trying to help the person experiencing lack of insight.

Our Story: We (my kids and I) talk to one another behind closed doors and in private away from the person with mental Illness. That person is my husband and dad to our three kids.  The problem is he hasn’t been the husband and dad we once knew him to be for a long time now and we are reaching our breaking point. And when a person changes like that and there is nothing that can be done to help them, the effects on a family are devastating.

He has been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with Psychosis/Schizoaffective disorder.

Because diagnosing mental illness is not fine-tuned to a science, the psychologist explained that the two titles differ in when the psychosis takes place (during depression or outside of it). Frankly, I can’t even tell when or if he is ever out of psychosis. It’s that bad now. 

We’ve been together since we were teens. From his early twenties, he has had a handful of episodes. They always occurred around an event or life change (stress related probably): A surgery followed by what was called steroid-induced psychosis shortly after we were married. The birth of each of the kids. These episodes were labeled acute temporary psychosis. There was also a lot of drinking in the early years of our marriage (realizing now it was likely self-medicating for the mental health issues we didn’t realize he was having). The drinking came to an abrupt end when he came out of a couple of months long binge that resulted in some very hurtful actions. Ones we worked through and put behind us for the sake of the family and our love for each other. But unbeknownst to me the depression was probably always there lurking and I had no idea what was in store after a few happy years together.

I just have to say that though there are lots of conversations about depression, it appears in many different forms for different individuals. I didn’t know this until I joined a support group wondering if my husband was bipolar. I questioned it because he didn’t seem depressed! He gets up like clockwork every day without an alarm. Meanwhile, I’m desperately pressing my snooze button before I get up. He exercises and doesn’t look like the typical image of depression. But someone in the online support group told me that in men, depression can look different. It often appears as anger.  Aah! That fit.

Just more than four years ago, we decided to move. It was a big change! I was closing down my home daycare that I had run for eight years, allowing me time at home with our kids when they were young and heading back out into the world to look for a job outside the home. During the time waiting for the house to sell, he had a couple of panic attacks in the middle of the night. Looking back, I remember hints of paranoia but nothing that couldn’t be explained away.

It was also a stressful time due to my daycare closing down as we made plans to move but the house not selling as quickly as we’d hoped. When I got a job, I expected some happiness and relief, but the response I got from my husband was kind of blank. This puzzled me, but I carried on.

Then came moving day, and we had all of the family out to help us. And he just stopped talking. If someone spoke to him, we got a goofy kind of grin and that was it. We lived for a few months in a new home, new schools for the kids, new community and a new zombie-like dad/husband. Needless to say, this was hard on the kids.

One evening I became frustrated and asked him to please speak and explain what was going on. What came next was an outpouring of all the paranoid thoughts he’d been having: there were cameras in the house, someone was controlling his muscles and zapping them and making them weak. He talked until I couldn’t listen anymore. I was shocked and scared. In days and weeks to come, we just watched this person we knew and loved turn into someone we didn’t know. It was his body, but he wasn’t there.

About a year in came random rage episodes. Thankfully these were enough to elicit a trip to the doctor after he became violent and smashed some closet doors. He was given an antipsychotic medication and it worked wonders! I naively thought we were out of the woods! I was so relieved and ready and happy to carry on with a back to normal life.

And then he stopped taking the pills.

Things began to decline again. He became more withdrawn and weird in his mannerisms. At this point, he was talking more to me though (maybe as a result of the medication for a few months). He shared with me incidents he was concerned about at work and told me how these feelings of rage would come up out of nowhere and they didn’t make any sense. He said that usually, something happens to trigger feelings of anger, but for him, it could be as simple as a coworker saying good morning. He’d feel like they were all up in his face and had to walk away or not respond in order to keep the rage suppressed. Eventually, that rage released. 

We had just arrived back home from having dinner at his parents. I could see that he was in an episode of psychosis so I drove the car home instead of letting him drive us. When we got inside the house he smashed some things in the kitchen and then grabbed my phone out of my hand and smashed it on the table. I calmly told the kids to get in the car, grabbed the keys and his phone and left. We stayed overnight at a friend’s house. Once again, that was enough for him to see he was out of control and needed help. So we went together to talk to our family doctor. He prescribed an anti-depressant/anti-psychotic drug this time. The doctor also was obligated to put in a report to children’s aid. They came for an in-home visit the following week. 

We discussed a family safety plan. I think it was all enough to make him feel obligated to take the medication. And once again, it was almost miraculous how this tiny white pill brought him back. I felt my whole being give a huge sigh of relief. But for some reason, he didn’t see it that way. 

We had a good three months, and then he started into complaints about the side effects. I honestly think they were excuses. I noticed that the pill number count stopped going down one day, and I asked him about it. He felt he was fine now and didn’t need it. I cautiously said, “Okay . . . will you go back on if you start to feel bad again”. 

“Yes”, was the curt reply I got. Somehow I knew it wouldn’t happen. 

Funnily enough, the rage didn’t appear again. Or he was doing a really good job of suppressing it. That was the one issue that got him to agree to get help.  If that was no longer an issue then all other symptoms were fine in his book. It’s ok that he doesn’t talk to anyone (like not even respond when spoken to). He says he’s changed.  So we carried on and it was kind of like that analogy of a frog in water . . . The boiling frog is a fable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.
That’s what it has felt like for our family the past two years. Eventually, I began to realize we were boiling and I needed to find help.

Help was there. But getting help for someone who doesn’t realize they are sick is next to impossible. Short of talking to him, writing, having his parents come and do a group intervention, nothing has gotten through to him. We even did couples counseling because his interpretation of the family problems was that we were having marriage issues. She persuaded him to get a proper assessment done which is how he has a diagnosis now from a neuro psychologist. But his answer to everyone who tries to get him to get help is, “I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t need medication”. Even discussing separation is not enough for him to get help. It’s like he has lost all normal social and emotional connections.

So here I am trying to wrap my head around the fact that my marriage is most likely over.  I need to do what is best for the kids and me. There is the vow “in sickness and in health” to consider, but when does someone else’s health come before the health of a family. I have spent time feeling depressed myself (though nothing a good Netflix binge, some chocolate and red wine and a good time of rest can’t get me through thankfully).  But I know that many spouses of someone with mental illness end up seeking help for their own mental health, and for the kids also.

I have grieved over the loss of the person I love. There is nothing like having him physically before you but gone at the same time. It’s devastating. It’s grief mixed with hope that then gets dashed because of the system. 

Even our family doctor agreed that the laws have swayed too far in giving individuals full rights over themselves in this condition.  It doesn’t take into
He may lose his job. He is probably going to lose his family (we will always be there for him but we can’t continue to live with him like this).

And nothing can be done. Because he is not a threat to himself or to others. That’s because he has become so good at suppressing emotions that he doesn’t really seem to have any. Not mad, not sad, not anything.

Monica writes about grief and I have gained so much comfort from many of her posts.  I’ve asked her to share my story so that people like me can become part of the “Let’s talk” initiative. I know people don’t have a clue because I certainly didn’t. Until you experience someone with this level of mental illness, you really can’t understand it. It’s grief. It’s loss. It’s painful and frustrating. It’s not really okay to talk about when you’re on this side of the mental illness fence.  That’s why I’m signing this anonymously.

Here is a drawing that our 12-year-old son drew because sometimes a picture tells a thousand words. 

He said, “This is dad. He thinks he is strong but he is really falling apart.” 
This is mental illness.

Let’s talk.



Sunday, January 20, 2019

Please Stop Calling Yourself A Football Widow

Please stop calling yourself a football widow. Or a hockey widow or golf widow or hunting widow or a widow of any form.

Just don’t.

As an actual real-life widow (of the military variety), I can’t even fathom why anyone would refer to themselves, jokingly or otherwise, as a widow when they are not.

When you joke about it or use the expression to complain about your husband’s hobbies, you diminish what thousands and thousands of women (and men) go through every day. Widowhood is no joking matter, although it does have it’s darkly humorous moments. It’s tragic and devastating, and lifelong. 

It doesn’t just last one sports season, it lasts all of them. Forever.

Widowhood is excruciatingly painful, a pain that rocks the very fiber of your being. It’s overwhelmingly sad. It’s profoundly quiet and empty. And the loneliest thing you could ever experience. 

Trust me on this— you do not want to ever call yourself a widow. 

And I hope you never have to.

I do know how annoying it can be when your husband is consumed by football or hockey or any other hobby. Or by their job. My husband was in the army for our entire married lives. Lord knows I get the challenges of being alone for extended periods. Of running a household. And of single parenting. 

I know it’s frustrating when all he wants to talk about is his fantasy team when you need to talk about your real life home team. I know you feel like you are doing all the work while he gets to relax and hang with his buddies. I totally understand your frustrations. I really have been there. 

But that all pales in comparison to widowhood.

My late husband wasn’t much for watching sports, in fact, he never watched football at all, unless we were invited to a Grey Cup or Super Bowl party. But he was an avid mountain biker. There were days he would disappear on his bike for hours and hours on end. And there were days, too many days, it would irritate the hell out of me. Sometimes he would return home bloodied and bruised from an argument with a tree, and I’d shake my head and chastise him for not being more careful (a recurring theme in our house). Often I was annoyed because I was left to do all the running around with the kids. And even worse, there were times he’d load his bike into our only vehicle and go for the entire day, leaving me stranded at home, alone, to yet again entertain three kids.

For the last almost five years, his beloved bike has sat in my garage gathering dust. There is a brand new set of never-used winter tires on the floor beside it. How excited he was when he picked those tires up, he couldn’t wait to try them out. He never did. Because he never got another winter.

When I look back now, I wish I hadn’t been so resentful. I wish I hadn’t complained so much when he went mountain biking. I wish I could have seen how important it really was to him. And appreciated how much he loved it. 

But I can’t go back. 

Instead of complaining about your husband’s football obsession, be grateful you still have a husband. 

Relish the yelling and cheering and the smell of chili and nachos. 

Because those little things that drive you crazy? You will miss them so much when they are gone. More than you can possibly know.

Instead of being resentful of whatever hobby your husband has, be thankful that he loves it so much.

And the next time you start to refer to yourself as a widow of any form, stop.

Think of the bike gathering dust in my garage. 

Remember there is a permanent season far worse than any sporting season. 

And be very thankful you are not actually a widow.

To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss, follow Monica on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/agoatrodeo/

Monday, October 15, 2018

What Remembrance Day Should Be About

The days are getting shorter. The leaves have almost reached their peak and have started to gently fall from the trees. 
The fall decorations have been replaced in the stores by Christmas lights and baubles. 
And the whispers of discontent have begun. In another week those whispers will increase to a buzz that will eventually morph into heated arguments. 
How quickly we forget how much we have to be grateful for. How quickly we refocus our attention on criticizing others. 

How quickly we forget what this time should really be about it. 

And who it should be about. 
I’ve come to dread this time of year, this time between Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day. 

A time when my heart becomes heavier. 

While everyone becomes so consumed by their righteousness, however well-intentioned it may be, I have to wonder. 
Because sometimes it seems like I hear more about the rightness and wrongness of Christmas lights and decorations or I hear more anti-Remembrance Day propaganda than I do about the actual people we are supposed to be Remembering and honouring. 
When did all of this stuff become the most important things we focus on in November? 
And I wonder. Do they truly comprehend the enormity of it all? 

But how could they really, how could anyone if they’ve never lived it firsthand. 

You can have glimpses, absolutely. I did on all of those Remembrances Days past. 

But standing at the cenotaph as a wife is nothing like standing there as a widow.  
It’s nothing like being the person who lives with the loss every single day. 

Not just on one dreary day in November. But on all of the days. 
For so many of us, too many of us, every day is Remembrance Day. 
So over the next few weeks, while my newsfeed fills with anti-Remembrance Day and anti-military articles, with debates about the red poppy glorifying war and the white poppy of peace, and with arguments about Christmas lights being disrespectful, and the value of the Legion, those won’t be the things I’m focused on. 
Instead, I’ll be here trying to decide if today is the day I’m actually ready to visit my husband’s grave at the National Military Cemetery. 

I haven’t been there since the day he was buried four years ago. I’ve been to his private grave at home in Nova Scotia. But not here. 

I haven’t been able to go there yet. 
Here is so much heavier. Because It is laden with the grief of an entire regiment. And so many painful memories. 
Do I go today? Do I go alone? 
I could ask my son or my friend who was Dan’s Battery Sergeant Major or any one of my friends to go with me, but I know how hard it would be for them to bear witness to my grief. 
And some journeys, the hardest ones, you have to make on your own. 
Those are the questions I’ll be asking myself. Not, why does my neighbour have Christmas lights up?

When I go to his grave for the first time, I will undoubtedly relive that day.

Some memories are indelibly etched on your soul.

And as I stand in front of that granite headstone, my fingers tracing our name, I will see and feel it all.

I will see my own sadness reflected in my friend’s eyes as he passes me a crisply folded flag, tears flowing freely down his cheeks.

I will fill the dirt slipping through my fingers. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I will hear echoes of the Last Post as soldiers two-by-two salute their commanding officer’s grave, their eyes avoiding mine lest they not be able to contain their own emotions.
I will remember the heat and humidity. My feet were so swollen and sore, my shoes pinched my toes with every step. I just wanted to rip them off but I couldn’t. I had to teeter on through the pain.
Just as I would on so many days in the months and years to come.

And I will remember how exhausted I was and how I just wanted it to be all over. Not knowing that it is never, really over.
Please let it be over now. I can’t do this another day.
I just want to go home. Even though home will never be the same.

The next time you come across a meme or post about Remembrance Day, before you comment or share, or argue with a friend or neighbour I hope you pause for a moment.

Pause for a moment and remember what it’s truly about. Who it’s truly about.

And ask yourself— is what you’re sharing really honouring those who have died and those they left behind?

Remember them.

And remember, somewhere out there, there is a widow trying to work up the courage to visit a cemetery.
Isn’t that what it should really be about?

Read Monica's thoughts on War Memorials in Odes to Our Fallen   

To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss, follow Monica on Facebook at A Goat Rodeo

Sunday, June 17, 2018

My Other Dad

by Monica Bobbitt

Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes they wear combat boots and camouflage (for 40 years). And sometimes they continue to wear those combat boots long after they retire, beret replaced by an old ball cap or a toque perched at a jaunty angle when it is cold. Well, at least my hero does anyway. And he also seems to have a penchant for striped shirts and sweaters.

To say that I am fond of my father-in-law John would be a huge understatement. He is so much more than just my father-in-law, he is my other Dad. He is my friend and confidant, my idol and role model— my own personal hero.

From the minute I started dating his son, John welcomed me with open arms. He was never Major (or Mr.) Bobbitt, he was simply John, until the birth of his first grandchild (my son) and then he became Papa.

John is an incredible father. As a teenager, I was always a bit envious of Dan’s relationship with his dad because his father was so open and affectionate with him, while my dad tended to be more quiet and aloof. My dad was a kids-are-to-be-seen-not-heard kind of Dad, while John was completely the opposite. He was always interacting with his sons, whether it was taking them hunting or fishing, days spent at the lake or a board game around the table. He never missed an opportunity to spend time with his boys. I knew long before I married Dan he would be an incredible father because he had such an amazing role model in his dad.

And Dan really was like John in so many ways. He had his dad’s impish grin, and all of the qualities I so admired in him were inherited from his Dad— generosity, selflessness, humbleness, loyalty, and integrity. Dan also inherited his father’s wild, devil-may-care play hard ways, and though it might have irked me on more than one occasion, I couldn’t ever imagine Dan any other way.

Before Dan deployed to Afghanistan, he told me that if anything ever happened to him, he knew the one person I could always count on, no matter what would be his Dad. He was not wrong.

From the minute John first walked through my door the day after Dan was killed, he has always been there for me and the kids. Because he knew his son would want him to take care of us, and because he loves us that much. He loves me that much.

John has been beside me every step of the way these last four years. Always supporting and guiding, never judging. Sometimes he understood the challenges I faced even before I did. He innately knew how difficult the transition from military wife to widow would be and when I struggled to find my place in the world after Dan, he reassured me that I would always be his family. 

“I’m afraid you’re stuck with me,” he tells me on a regular basis. (I haven’t pointed out that also means he’s stuck with me.)

I know without a doubt, no matter what, I can always turn to John. When I can’t see an issue clearly, he’s always there to provide me a much needed other perspective. And though there have been plenty of times I’ve doubted myself, he has never once lost faith in me.

“Darlin, I know there are times you’ve felt judged, but I’m here to tell you not one of us could have done it any better than you.”

So much of who I am today, I owe to John.

He is my number one fan and cheerleader. He was the one who encouraged me to start writing a blog, and he was the one who convinced me to speak in front of a group of soldiers (infanteers, no less) for the very first time. “They absolutely will find value in what you have to say. And you’re going to do it.” It's been over twenty years since he retired, but he takes a keen interest in the safety and well being of our soldiers and veterans. Once a soldier, always a soldier.

He was right, I did do it. And they did find value in what I said. Every life I have positively touched since that day can be directly attributed to him and his belief in me. He hasn't just impacted my life, he has impacted many. Far more than he will ever know.

John celebrates my successes with me and is as proud of all I have accomplished as my own Dad was. And when I fall down, he is always there to help me back up. 

And more importantly than anything, he has always encouraged me to move forward with my life. Because above all else he wants me to be happy—for real happy, not just on the surface happy.

From moving to dating, he has always been fully supportive. He has even taken to giving me relationship advice, and though he makes an unlikely Ann Landers, he is surprisingly intuitive in this department. He has told me in no uncertain terms that when (not if) I find my other guy, I’d better be just as happy with him as I was with Dan. “Or else. I’ll be kicking you in the bum.” I have absolutely no doubt he means that.

How fortunate am I to have someone who loves me that much? I am so very grateful for this man, my Dad who is not my Dad. 

I recently told him that I told my kids if they ever need to know what their Dad would think about something, ask Papa. That’s as close as they will ever get. He was silent for a minute, cleared his throat, and said,

 “Those are awfully big boots to fill.” 

I don’t know, from where I’m standing those footprints, though not identical, are pretty damn similar. Like father like son; like son like father.

You honor a man by how you treat his widow, and no one has honoured Dan more than his father has. It turns out that his father was an even bigger hero to Dan after he died than he was when Dan was a little boy.

Happy Father’s Day Papa. You are the best Father-in-Law I could have ever gotten stuck with. Although, as you like to tell me quite often, there’s always room for improvement. 

Love always,

You can learn about Monica’s father in See You Later Old Manthe eulogy she wrote for him.

To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss, follow Monica Bobbitt on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/agoatrodeo/


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

What's Gone Is Gone Forever

by Monica Bobbitt

Four years ago today, I got up ridiculously early in the morning to say goodbye to my husband as he was leaving for a six-week training exercise.

"What are you doing up? You didn't have to get up."

"I just wanted to say goodbye."

I gave him a hug and a kiss as he walked out the door.

"I love you. Have a good exercise. I'll see you in six weeks."

I locked the door and as I turned, I tripped over an extra pair of combat boots he had discarded on the floor. Muttering under my breath, I picked them up and threw them in the closet on my way back to bed. Just as I had a thousand times before over the previous twenty-one years.

Later that morning, I followed the trail he’d left behind him.

An unfinished bowl of congealed oatmeal and blueberries on the dining room table beside his laptop that he forgot (or never bothered) to turn off. Half a cup of cold coffee on the counter by the dishwasher. Pajama pants in a heap at the top of the stairs by the living room (where one naturally would leave their pjs). A plastic army clipboard on the desk in the entryway.

As I made my way around the house tidying up after him, I wondered if he would ever learn how to clean up after himself. He was a make-work project in so many ways. Never deliberately. He was just forgetful, and scattered, and a bit of a klutz. He was forever losing or spilling things.

I had absolutely no idea that was the last morning I would ever clean up after him.

Or that he would never come home again.

When someone we love dies, they leave a vast void in their stead. Where a life once existed, now only memories.

Those memories suddenly become our most precious possessions. We gather them close to our hearts and replay them over and over on a loop; like a movie reel of a life. We cling to them desperately, hoard them even, for they are all we have left of the person we lost.

We can’t help but think of all the memories that will never be made; all the should-have-beens and momentous occasions they will miss— graduations, weddings, grandchildren born.

We think of all the unfilled hopes and dreams; the aspirations and plans for the future that are now all gone.

We think of the things they will never get to do, the trips they won’t get to take, things they won’t get to see.

But gone isn’t just those big momentous events or the things they’ll never do.

Gone is so very much more than that.

Gone is a thousand tiny seemingly insignificant, ordinary things that we took for granted every single day. Things we may have even once complained about.

Gone is no more dirty dishes: no half-eaten bowl of oatmeal, no cold cup of coffee

Gone is no more pajamas abandoned in a pile in the most random spot.

Gone is no more PT gear or uniforms to wash.

Gone is no more blackberry constantly buzzing.

Gone is no combat boots in front of the door to trip over.

As I was leaving for my run this morning, I paused in the entryway by the door. I stopped and I listened to an echo of a memory,

“Seriously Daniel, can’t you just once put your damn boots in the closet?”

I looked down at the floor.

There was nothing there.

Just an empty space.

Sometimes you don’t fully comprehend the significance of something so simple in your life until it is no longer there.

All too often we don’t appreciate how fortunate we are until what we have is gone.

Not that we are purposely ungrateful. We just get so caught up in the chaos of life, so busy hurrying from one day to the next, we forget to stop and be grateful for all that we have.

And sometimes in all of the stress, all of the rushing to and fro, we don’t even see how much we have to be grateful for.

We don’t realize just how meaningful a pair of combat boots by the door really are.

We very rarely stop to think about what gone actually is because, well, we never really think it will happen to us.

Gone isn’t just some throwaway term or trite cliché used to define the absence of someone. Gone is real, and it’s enduring.

And gone, it does happen to us. Randomly; unexpectedly. On a sunny May afternoon.

Four years ago today I didn’t know the true meaning of gone.

I didn’t know just how hard it would be to start over at 43.

I didn’t know about the challenges of only parenting three teenagers.

I didn’t know about the long lonely years ahead of me.

And I certainly didn’t know how profoundly sad an empty entryway can be.

I locked the door behind me and as I turned, I caught one brief, final glance of the empty entryway through the window. I brushed away a tear. Just as I have a thousand times before over the last four years

What’s gone is gone, forever.

As I ran down my street, I couldn’t help but wonder how many wives were muttering under their breath this morning as they tripped over a pair of combat boots.

Or how many husbands were grumbling because their wife bought yet another pair of shoes.

It’s so easy to be annoyed by those things; to roll our eyes and shake our heads.

The inconvenience, the cost, the clutter. And why do your combat boots need to be there? Why can’t you put them away? And really who needs that many pairs of shoes? I don’t even want to know how much they cost.

It is only after they are gone that we realize their true value.


In one heartbreaking instant.

This morning stop for a moment and look around you. Take it all in— the combat boots, the laundry, the dirty dishes, the blackberry that never stops buzzing, the shoe collection.

Stop and think about what it all represents.

Appreciate it.

Savour it.

Now, while you still can, before it becomes but a memory.

And as you do, know just how fortunate you are to have it. Every annoying, ordinary, lovely bit of it.

Because someday you might just find yourself like I was this morning, standing in an empty entryway with nothing but your memories, longing for the musty smell of mud and boot polish on a pair of combat boots that will never be worn again.

Be grateful for those combat boots by your door.

You truly will miss them when they are gone.

More than you could possibly ever imagine. 

With much love,

Click here to read Monica's reflections Three Years after her husband was killed.

To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss follow Monica Bobbitt https://www.facebook.com/agoatrodeo/on Facebook:
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