I call her my suicide widow sister. Actually, most often I call her BITCH. And other choice words that I'll leave to your imagination. I love her more than words can accurately describe. But I also f#*king hate that I know her.
I talk about her a lot, and often refer to her in my posts and here on this blog. So I thought it would be helpful, for those unfamiliar with our awesomeness, to share the story of how we met. And explain our complex relationship.
Redneck and I met in an online fitness group, My1FitLife. It's not exclusive to widows, but there's a lot of widow badge holders there. Mostly because the badass founder is the one and only Michelle Steinke-Baumguard of One Fit Widow. I started on my online journey meeting other badass widows in October of 2016. I was 2.5 years into widowhood, post partum and a complete mess. At that time Redneck wasn't even a widow yet.
I completed my first 12 week challenge group and had amazing success. Mostly because I met Mari, an amazing woman who also was a remarried widow with 4 children and daily I thought - if she can be thriving so can I. Mari kept me going in that first challenge. Once I got rolling there were two other women who's consistency impressed the hell out of me, Joey and Deborah. They were also early morning workout queens and their posts would get me out of bed on the tough days.
When Mari moved on to the big Quest group I decided to stay in the Challenge program with Joey and Deborah. I really felt we needed each other and felt this overwhelming need to be involved in the next challenge. It was January.
When you join these online groups you post a little introduction. I read Kristen's and was drawn to her story because she was another suicide widow. But at the same time I told myself to steer clear - she was a Newbie. Less than a year in. Much less. She scared the shit out of me. I was sure she would be a disaster and I wasn't sure I could handle that when I was still struggling to put myself back together.
And really...WTF was she doing in this group already? I spent the first year drinking on my kitchen floor...too busy falling apart and wallowing in grief to put any thought into self care.
She was a Newbie and I had already lived through the hell of the first two years....I was making good progress in my healing. Best to steer clear. There was a lot of other people to support her.
Ya...little did I know she was not about to let me walk away so easy. And she wasn't a disaster at all. Instead of crawling into the rabbit hole of grief, she was proactive in seeking out the right kind of support. Ok fine. I'll say it. She was WAAAAAY smarter in her first year than I was in mine.
Don't let her in...just don't
She was persistent. I decided it would be harmless to allow an AP (accountability partner) relationship to form. I could do that and still keep a safe distance. And that worked for a while. But we open up a lot on the My1FitLife page. It's a safe place to express your emotions around grief. The people there understand. And they don't go running in the other direction when times get rough.
Problem...I was approaching my 3 year deathaversary and I needed some emotional vomiting sessions. As I started to open up on the page Redneck, as I had started to call Kristen, and I started to chat privately as well. Infrequently at first. Then more often.
Now I was getting worried. Only months after my husband's suicide the woman who I thought I could always rely on walked out of my life. And then a year later, another woman I trusted, gone. BOTH of my closest friends lost in the grieving process. I was just beginning to heal from that pain and I was no where near ready to let someone get close enough to hurt me again so soon.
And there was this crazy Redneck making her own path into my heart. I would toss up road blocks and she would bust them down. I would try and hide and ignore her messages...by this point we were chatting several times a day...and she would totally call me out on my bullshit excuses. It was like she could read my fucking mind.
I was defeated. She won. She was in.
Face to Face
Now that I let her in we started talking more. A lot more. I don't recall when it happened...but I also don't recall the last time I went to sleep without sending her a good night message. Or the last time we didn't check in with each other in the morning. Make sure the day was on track. We are each other's sounding boards, we drink on the kitchen floor together when things are really rough. And we celebrate life's successes, big and small. Together we tackle the daily routine widow shit storm and make sure to frequently report the size of our #widowballs.
Then...she wanted to meet. Not gonna lie. That really scared me. All my life had taught me lately was that I couldn't even keep a walking buddy let alone a real friend. I was truly concerned that meeting in person may end our online friendship and that scared the shit out of me.
It also told me I wasn't done working on my own self-therapy issues. But that's another blog post.
So we made a plan. A Spartan Race. June 2017. We were both like giddy teenagers before a prom date. It was surreal. I'll never forget that first hug. I knew then she wasn't going anywhere. You don't hug someone that tight and then walk away. It was the real deal that hug. And so was she.
The shirts. She had our race shirts made. Mine with a 24 - the day of the month her LH passed. Hers with a 15 - the day my LH passed. Because we have each other's backs. That's what she said. And I could feel her grab hold of a piece of my heart...that I never intended to share with a woman-friend-type again. Fuck. She really was getting in.
Happily Ever After
So that's about it. In 95% of our battles I win. From our epic Fitbit challenges where she text screams at me to SYNC BITCH, to getting to bed on time (yes we battle about that) and crossing more stuff off our lists that we make each other create to keep our widow brains in check. Yep, the Canook typically takes the crown. But I am the wiser widow.
Shiiiiit she's going to make me regret that claim to 95% victory. But if I'm truthful the battle I'm most pleased that I lost was the battle to keep her out of my heart.
Honestly, I learn just as much from her as she does from my years of widow experience. We have a pact to not let ourselves fall apart on the same day. That way when one of us is in need the other is there to support. It doesn't always work...who controls widow fits anyways?!?...but we do our best. And we both know that if there ever a need for an emotional vomitting session, the other is there catcher's mitt ready.
Two things I repeat often: 1) I love this woman, but I hate that I know her. We found each other and are united by the suicide widow badge. Which leads me to 2) I would never wish my reality on anyone, but if you do find yourself carrying this badge I sincerely hope you can find yourself a Redneck to love.
I am Michelle. Above all I am a mother of four incredible little beings. I am a certified Personal Trainer and Healthy Eating Coach, an educator and a real estate investor. I am a coach who also participates fully as a fitness enthusiast, a runner, and a swimmer. I speak from the heart and have no filter left to tolerate bull shit.