Category Archives: Following Nick’s passing

Nick in healthier times

8 years on…

Isn’t time weird??? I felt like I just wrote this post a few months ago and yet its been 12 whole months since I wrote this kind of post and also 8 years since Nick left this world. Crazy????

So, again if you’ve just stumbled across this, i’m Michela and I lost my first husband to pancreatic cancer 8 years ago today. You can read from the beginning if you like by clicking here.

Or if you’d like to read my previous posts and how the years have rolled by, you can click on any of the below you fancy:

7 years on

6 years on

5 years on

But back to the current year at hand, I still struggle to believe so much time has passed. But yet, I look around and so much has changed since 2011, so who am I fooling?

Nothing stays the same, we change, we evolve, we learn to live another day, month, year and before we know it, the time is passing. And just when you thought you couldn’t feel any better, you survey your life and realise it really is ok. The worst has passed and you didn’t even notice.

This has been my experience and I hope if you’re reading this, having just lost someone close to you, that you will feel the same way soon. And truthfully, the waves of emotion still come for me, but they are further apart and shorter in time. While i’ll never forget Nick (who could!) i’m just better at remembering the best of him and our memories instead now.

But, it’s taken time and recently we lost Nick’s mum and I felt like I went a little backwards. It’s still very raw and recent, and we have always stayed close since Nick passed, especially as i’ve been apart of his family for nearly 20 years. I do take comfort in knowing she is with her son and i’m sure making up for the past 8 years they lost together. They were so close, though she was never the same after he died, but she managed through life and soldiered on to the end, she had the same bravery I saw in Nick, the same determination and the same fight in her.

Nick and his mum
Nick and his mum

But, it inadvertently bought back so many emotions in me, that I had pushed to the far back of my memory. I started to re-live so much of Nick’s being sick and how difficult it was, including the day he passed and how my get it done attitude was really the disguise for my grief.

And while I’ve experienced people passing since Nick died, including my grandmother last year, this one hit a nerve, one that I thought was healed. I found myself crying both for my mother in law and Nick. Being in the same church, with the same priest and many of the same people was a trigger to my emotions. One I wasn’t prepared for, but completely understood where it came from. I just had to be patient with myself and allow the feelings to come and pass. Ones I probably didn’t allow myself 8 years ago. I was also emotional at seeing how far i’d come since sitting in that church all those years earlier. I was so scared of what the future held, not knowing what I was ‘meant’ to do next.

My husband John, has been my sounding board, he’s heard so many stories I had ‘forgotten’, as the memories came flooding back. Things I thought I forgot, flashed back in such clear detail, it was as though it happened the day before. I remembered conversations, what I’d wore and who was there etc. And shout out to John, for letting me talk it out and being by my side, as I started to feel like a ‘widow’ all over again. I don’t know too many partners that are content to be with their wives first family and to listen to all the stories from their past.

In my mother in law’s final days, I would sit and chat with her, she knew it was the end. I asked her to send some messages to Nick for me, mostly that I loved him and that I knew he was still around, and that i’d catch him on the other side. We spent time laughing and crying together. I kept my daughter home from school to spend one last day with her. I felt extra emotional knowing she was going to be with Nick soon and maybe even a little jealous, but I know it’s not my time, not for a long while yet.

And so on Nick’s 8 year anniversary, I know he’s happy. I know he’s still watching over us and keeping tabs on what we do. I still talk to him daily and ask his advice, I subtlety hear his responses. And I know he would be so happy with the way my life has panned out since he left. And through the trials that life has thrown at us, I know he’d be so proud of my ability to get it done and go about life.

I miss you Nick…. yesterday, today and all the years left in my life. And say hi to mum for me, I know she’s reading this along with you! xxx

Michela xx

Nick in healthier times

Are you over it yet?

Hi again, I hope everyone is having a good week so far and to those of you who have stumbled across my blog, hi, you might want to read a little about me here or at the beginning of my story here.

Today i’ve decided to write a little about my experience with how people react post my loss and the question i’m often asked, ‘are you over it yet?’ Yep, people are actually that direct.

I’ve written previously about how difficult it was immediately after the loss and also a bit about moving forward, which you can read here but this takes a different turn again, about how people react 6 years later.

Because things change from sympathy (i’m so sorry, are you ok?) to now 6 years later I get (really? but you married again, so you’re good) No lie, i’ve actually been told this!! Like apparently it just erases the pain and memories, like some magic pill.

And yes, don’t get me wrong, I am great, I am married again to an amazing guy, who didn’t bat an eyelid at me being a widow with a kid, he has been a constant stream of support and love. It did help that we dated as teens, so he was no stranger to me or my family, but still, he took on more than most men would. And he has never once asked me to stop writing about Nick or my time as a widow, in fact he has come to me with suggestions for posts.

He is very secure in our marriage and my love for him.

But back to my point of this post and this blog in general because when I first started writing over 3 years ago (yes, it’s been that long!!!) I was constantly told, I must be doing this for the therapy, to get things off my chest.

(Because I definitely wasn’t writing for all the free PR stuff you see bloggers getting, though OPI if you’re reading this, i’d love the Fiji or the new California Dreaming  Collection, thanks!)
In reality, I felt an urge to write about what had happened to us, Nick encouraged it before he passed. I did originally think it would only ever be for my daughters to read one day, but off it took on Facebook one day when a friend posted it, and the rest is well, you know, history.

I didn’t particularly feel like I was being freed of any feelings, but I did re-discover my love of writing and yes, there were days I cried while writing remembering all the times and Nick, but I was always happy to do it.

Then came the beautiful messages, as it took off around the world from other young widows, feeling like they weren’t alone. And not just widows, but anyone who had been through a loss or hard time, who were reading along and writing me such beautiful emails.

By sharing my time and feelings, like my widow humour and my life since, it gave them hope, that they too could get through this and live their next chapters. And also the emails from people who’d not suffered a loss but how reading along made them appreciate their own lives even more. Kind of like, ‘well, my husband does piss me off, but I love him and he’s still here, so guess I should appreciate that’.

These letters alone are enough validation for me to keep writing, and believe me there are so many. But, please keep writing me though, I love hearing from you!

But, i’m always asked, ‘so now that you’ve written your story, are you going to keep writing, like, what else can you say?’ or ‘you’ve written about Nick enough now, don’t you want to get on with your life?’, and my favourite, ‘are you over it yet?’

I get this, I really do, but writing these posts, does not mean I’m living in the past or that I don’t appreciate my future, I seriously look forward to growing old(er) with my husband and in all honestly, I have so much more I want to write (maybe even a book one day, like you all keep suggesting!)

It’s as though I’m really being asked, ‘aren’t you over your loss yet, it was 6 years ago?’ and the quick answer is no, i’ll never be completely over losing Nick, while I have this amazing new life, it doesn’t replace my previous one.

Would you ever forget a grandparent who passed away? Just never mention them again and act they never existed, well of course not, then why should I do the same? Nick was and is a huge part of my life, he shaped me into the person I am today. I refuse to stop mentioning him because it might make other people uncomfortable and trust me it does. I see how people don’t know what to say once I mention him, even something as simple as ‘oh yeah, Nick and I went there once…’ becomes a conversation killer, they don’t know where to go from there, they change the topic real quick!

But honestly for me it’s fine, just keep talking, I won’t break down in tears, unless we’re talking about my 2 year old not wanting to sleep at night, because that’s painful.

When my loss first occurred everyone was walking on eggshells around me, not sure what to do or say, 6 years later, I find that the sensitivity of losing my first husband has almost completely gone, and that’s fine, I get it. Time has healed the shock of losing Nick, and though he’s left a void, people have moved forward and worked around it. Like knowing someone with a massive wart on their nose, you know it’s there, you just don’t mention it all the time.

I guess in that analogy i’m the wart or am I the nose, umm ok then, moving right on…

Recently I was told I was too young to understand life, by someone much older than me, I was offended and replied that i’d lost my husband to cancer when I was just 30, I waited for the penny to drop for her, like she’d agree I’d already been through so much, but instead she replied, ‘yeah, but you were young, wait til you get to my age, then you’ll know life.’

I took a moment to check myself, was I being too cocky about this life and death business, I did feel as though she washed over the fact i’d already been deeply touched by it, but that by no means makes me an expert in life, right?

But she had reacted as though, because I’d been widowed young and re-married, that it didn’t matter and unfortunately i’ve had this reaction so many times before, I shouldn’t let it bother me.

I’ve also had people tell me we weren’t married long enough for it to impact me enough, because I still have so much of my life left to live. I understand that, but i’ve also been through something so heartbreaking, so i’d say I know a little about life and perspective and Nick and his illness unfortunately taught me that and of course, I have a heap more to experience as I continue on in my life without him.

But, i’ve rambled long enough again, so I’ll end with some advice, never ask someone who’s grieving or been through a loss, whether it’s been 6 days, 6 months or even 6 years if they’re over it, because chances are, like me, they’ll always have a piece of their hearts missing. Like my Instagram post (@the_polished_widow) says, ‘You are near, even if I don’t see you. You are with me, even if you’re far away. You are in my thoughts, in my heart, in my life. Always.’

Til next time, Michela xx

p.s if there’s something you’d like to ask me or you’ve had a similar experience, i’d love to hear from you,  just write to me via the form below!

Once you bury your husband

I read a quote this week, it went along the lines of ‘Once you bury your husband, you realise you can do anything’.

Once you bury your husband
Our Wedding 22nd Jan, 2005

As I celebrated my 34th birthday this week, being already 2 years older than Nick was when he died, it got me thinking about my own life since burying Nick, and how much i’ve changed as a person.

Somehow not a lot worries me now. I’ve taken on a ‘let life happen’ approach. Because as i’ve discovered even the best laid out plans, don’t always turn out as you’d expect.

I never in my wildest nightmares, expected to be a 30 year old widow and single mum, but I was.

I’m sure if you look hard enough at your life so far, there will have been events that happened out of the blue, that threw you off your feet.

Whether a death, a redundancy at work or even a sudden break up.

We don’t always have control over situations.

Burying my husband showed me that, and gave me a new perspective on life.

I felt like once Nick died, once that unimaginable event happened, and I can honestly say now, that I am proud of the way I handled it, that it did make me feel almost invincible.

If that’s what life had for me, then everything else would be a piece of cake.

I had got through the worst possible life situation at my age, and I survived.

My friends and family, sometimes say I am too relaxed about things. They say they wish they were more like me.

A friend recently joked that if I was to have another baby, she’d be coming around a lot more, just to check I was the doing the right things, because i’m too relaxed as a mum.

Of course, we all laughed, but i’m sure there was a little truth to her comment.

Some people would think, since Nick’s death, i’d be all over my daughter, helicopter mum style. But, i’m not.

Of course I love her to pieces but, she also needs to know if she walks along the top of the couch, she might fall and hurt herself.

She’ll never know this, if i’m always behind her, ready to catch her when she tumbles. A metaphor for life really…

She needs to learn the consequences of her actions.

Since burying Nick, I don’t stress about the future, I only wonder where we’ll be in the next year, not the next ten.

If something is out of my control, then I definitely don’t stress about it.

What is the use in worrying about something, that hasn’t even happened yet.

If I spent the time when Nick was sick, worrying about when his end would come, then I would not have enjoyed our last months together.

It was beyond our control when he would die, there was no point concerning ourselves too much with it, we still had 7 months of life left together and that was far more important.

This belief of living in the moment has stuck with me ever since. I don’t like to plan things too far into the future, preferring to live in the present instead.

Because we all know life is short and our babies grow up too quickly. I want to spend as much time with my daughter now, before I blink and she’s all grown up and finishing high school.

Ok, might take more than a few blinks, but you get the point.

I have minimal time in my life for controversy, stupidity or trivial matters. One of my friends reminded me of my bluntness following Nick’s death, when she came over to vent about a boy she was seeing, lots of blah, blah, blah, I don’t know if I want to be with him stuff.

I told her to get over herself, if she didn’t want to be with him, to break it off. Her happiness was more important than spending her time crying about it on my couch.

I was blunt and direct, something I was incapable of before Nick died.

It’s like I inherited a part of Nick’s confidence when he passed.

Losing Nick, who was my rock, made me need to be more assertive myself.

There was no longer anyone else to fall back on, and though I have happily remarried, i’m still fiercely independent. I will never go back to relying on anyone else to be my backbone.

I want my daughter to know her mother is a strong, capable woman, who doesn’t need a man in her life, but instead chooses to share her life with one.

That together, John and I, are a team that makes decisions, that no one is the boss.

That she too, can be strong and independent and make her own life decisions one day, that women can be anything they choose. (Though something mum might need is always useful!)

I will also add, I like the new me, I prefer the woman i’ve become to the one I was. It’s why i’m so grateful for having had Nick in my life, who taught me the importance of independence, though at the time I was unwilling to listen.

He was right, I needed to step up once he was gone, to fill the void he left and I think i’ve done a fine job of it.

In short, you don’t need to lose your husband at 30 to gain a new perspective on life.

Don’t sweat the small stuff, enjoy time with your kids and family, know how fleeting life can be, surround yourself with positive people.

Because life doesn’t have to be hard, it’s what you make it, you can get through anything if you don’t have a ‘woe is me‘ mentality.

And on another note for this coming Sunday, a very Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there, whether here or hanging with Nick, biological or not.

On that, I hate the words stepdad or stepfather, Claudia knows she is so lucky to have two Dads that love her so much, and there is nothing step about the way John loves and cares for her. We love you John, thank you! xx

Thanks so much for reading, sharing and writing me, I love hearing from you!!

I will eventually be bringing this blog to an end sometime soon, but in the meantime, thank you for your ongoing support.

Til next time, Michela xx

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The Shrink and Me

Welcome back to today’s post, The Shrink and Me but firstly, if you’re new to my blog, you’ll probably want to start here, and spoiler alert, if you haven’t guessed already, he passes away and you can read about his last day in this post.

Moving along….

So, 6 months after Nick had died, I was still in the whirl of getting used to the idea of being alone and being a single, independent mum, whilst dealing with solicitors, probate and the bank sorting stuff, when I got a call from an old work friend. He was asking if i’d be interested in coming back a couple of days a week to assist on a short term project.

Well, I was more than happy at home and my days were filled with all the running around that’s necessary when someone dies (honestly, I was not prepared for that!!) while still sorting through my own thoughts and taking care of our then 1 year old, but I felt a little obligated to my workplace, as they’d been so amazing during Nick’s illness and time thereafter, so I said yes.

It was decided, I would return to work two days a week, flexible days and hours, depending on mine and Claudia’s needs.

Sure, it was a little soon maybe, but I was coping so well anyway, that I didn’t think anything of it really. Besides I had more than enough babysitters so that was never a deterrent to returning.

I’ve written previously about my work place and how supportive they were, even inviting me to an awards night after Nick’s death, that you can read about here, which didn’t exactly go to plan as i’d imagined it would. So, I guess getting the call wasn’t completely strange!

And so I started, just a few weeks before what was my first birthday as a widow, but I digress, back to the story…

Obviously everyone was happy to see me back, lots of sympathetic glances, quick flag down chats in corridors and strangely enough, the bathroom wasn’t out of bounds either. But, it was all well meaning and ‘good to see you back’ type conversations.

My general manager, had remained in contact throughout Nick’s illness and phoned often for updates. He was so supportive when Nick actually passed away, catching up with me a couple of times for coffee chats to see how I was going, so he was happy to see me back at work again, apparently, it was his suggestion that they call me.

But, his one gripe that came up every time I saw him, was that he wanted me to have a session with a counsellor.  Just to check in and make sure I was functioning right. He couldn’t quite believe that I was OK with what had happened, suggesting that maybe I was putting up a front.

I don’t know how I could possibly be putting up a fake side for so long, but as i’ve said previously, I just wasn’t handling my loss, the way people expected, so therefore, I must be on the verge of cracking! Right!

We were fortunate enough at our workplace to be offered free confidential counselling sessions if needed, which I guess is why he keep pushing and so at his insistence, I finally booked an appointment.

I remember in the lead up to my appointment, telling friends and family that I had one and they all seemed so happy for me, like it was just what I needed.

They’d set me right, they’d get all my emotions out!

And I do want to begin this by saying, I totally believe in getting help and having someone to talk things out with, I also think we’ve come a long way in removing the stigma attached to seeing a cousellor, therapist etc.

I just felt at the time, I was doing such a swell job of getting through it alone, that I didn’t feel the need to see anyone about it.

The day of the appointment arrived and I nervously made my way there. I was seated in the waiting room and was asked to fill in my personal information form. As I begun writing all my details down, I remember the receptionist telling me the counsellor was running a little late with a previous client, being all flustered, I remember telling her (like she cared!) that it was fine, I wasn’t an emergency or anything, I was just sent by my work.

Not sounding crazy at all, i’m sure.

She told me to just relax and that I should be pleased, I had the head counsellor seeing me today.

I couldn’t relax after knowing that, did it mean they thought I was really that screwed up, that I needed someone with the most experience to talk me off the ledge, that I didn’t even know I was on!

And after what felt like a wait of 1000 years, I was finally called in, and I mustered up my brightest, most sane smile and walked in.

Disappointingly, there was no plush couch to lie on, just two chairs in front of each other.

I took one, and the counsellor sat directly in front of me on the other. He was a middle aged guy, friendly looking with a calm soothing voice you’d expect of someone in his field. I felt at ease instantly.

He’d read my notes, so obviously knew why I was there, but began with, ‘Tell me a bit about you and your story Michela.’

And I started, I told him everything. About Nick, his illness, our relationship, Claudia, his passing, the aftermath.

In the same way i’ve written my posts, I spoke honestly and openly about it all.

I laughed, I cried, I reminisced.

He passed me tissues, but barely said a word. He wrote a few things down on his notepad.

I went on about being positive, knowing I still had a bright future ahead of me, not letting his death define me and our daughter, how I came to accept his passing and not letting it depress or get the better of me.

How we had more love in 10 years than some people can have in 40, and how I will always be thankful for that.

How amazing Nick had been throughout his illness, that it had given me a new perspective on life and no reason to complain about anything petty again.

That I was lucky to have had Nick in my life, that he had changed me for the better and i’d always be grateful for the life we shared together.

Telling him how I didn’t want sympathy for my daughter for having lost her Father, because she will always know how loved she is by him. How I planned on keeping his memory alive etc etc.

I felt like I talk for almost the full hour, it was all from the heart, honest and raw. The words were just spilling out of me.

When I was done, most likely because i’d ran out of breath, the counsellor began talking.

I’ve never forgot his words, he said, ‘Michela, you’re a remarkable woman. You have handled this better than most people handle life.’  

I blushed, it was the highest compliment i’d heard following Nick’s death. He went on, telling me I had a gift, a way of seeing things differently to most. That my way of thinking positively about something so tragic had indeed been what pulled me through the worst of it.

He said I had to do something with it.

Write a book, he suggested, or start a young widow support group, or better still, look into becoming a grief counsellor.

At the time, let me tell you, I was far from ready to write a book, thinking no one would really want to read anything i’d have to write and the thought of having 10 young widows in a room, who didn’t necessarily share my thoughts on their partners death would be difficult and more study, I wasn’t so sure about, it had been years since I left uni.

But still, I was touched that he thought I had the ability to do those things. It was the nicest compliment i’d heard in a long while.

Obviously there was no follow up appointment needed.

I left his office walking on air, he had validated that I was OK, that I had handled Nick’s passing well and wasn’t in need of fixing. That I wasn’t a cold, callous widow, that I was normal and coping in the way I knew how.

Even I had begun to think something was wrong with me and the way I was dealing, after hearing it from others, but after my session, it all clicked, I was doing just fine, in fact, better than expected!

I was exceeding expectations on how to cope with loss and that didn’t make me a bad person and it just took a stranger, to help me see it and stop making excuses for my behaviour.

I made the calls to my doubters, I was fine, the therapist had said so. I wasn’t in danger of cracking or having a breakdown. I was doing a great job, and just because it didn’t fit the ‘norm’ of being a widow, it didn’t make it the wrong way.

When I returned to work the next week, my general manager, pulled me aside and discreetly asked me how it went. I told him, but he didn’t quite believe me. I suggested he call and confirm himself, gave him the name of the head counsellor i’d seen, he couldn’t shake the thought that there was no follow up appointment.

How could I lose my husband and be ok?

Well, I was OK and I knew I’d only go from strength to strength from there on, and I did.

The Shrink And Me
Recent pic of Claudia and me

Thank you so much, as always, for reading, sharing and commenting, I love hearing from you!

And thank you for the love on Facebook, appreciate it so much!

Til next week, Michela x

Also, quick shout out to Poppy from Light of Eva for sending Claudia a beautiful candle from her range, to light in honour of her Dad. Ours is in the beautiful coconut lime punch scent, but check her out on Facebook, she has a beautiful range of hand poured, soy candles with a 35 hour burn time, I highly recommend them!!! Thank you Poppy, we love our candle and burn it daily!

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