The language of grief

Me and my new husband, Steve :)

Ever since Jeremy's death, I've noticed how much more careful I am with my words.

The months after he died, I couldn't muster up the energy to write anything with feeling (unless it was deep and utter sadness). Even my texts were void of expression. I remember posting something about not wanting to misguide people into believing I was better than I was. No exclamation marks. No smiley faces. When good things happened, and a lot did, I expressed my gratitude but never joy. Never happiness.

All my widowed friends understand what I mean. Everyone giving you the head tilt and asking how you are....I could no longer give a general "good" - I was far from good. I shrugged my shoulders and said 'ok' or more commonly 'I'm still here.' To me, that was the worst I could possibly be.

I have since continually felt like I couldn't really breathe in pure joy ever again. Sure, good things happen and I smile easier and I can say I'm good again most of the time....but every good thing in my life stems from one horrible worst-moment-of-my-life event.

Yesterday, I came home from a 9 day honeymoon in Jamaica. It was fabulous. Beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, beautiful company. It was a trip I will remember for the rest of my life. In fact, because of grief, I take moments in so much deeper than I used to, writing things down, taking more pictures...I just know how priceless life is now. And even though the trip was wonderful, I still grieved. One night, I grieved heavily and it came at me without warning. The truth is, I can only enjoy this amazing trip with Steve because Jeremy isn't here anymore. I can't think about the depths of that for too long or it'll drive me insane, but every once in awhile, the heaviness of it sits on my chest and threatens to suffocate me. You can only imagine the type of man it takes to sit beside his wife who's shaking and sobbing uncontrollably while grieving her dead husband.

Steve and I talked in depth about the trip and our favorite pieces and how much we enjoyed it, but I expressed how awkward it is to feel like grief has stripped away innocence from me. I will never again use the phrase "best day of my life" or "the happiest I've ever been" or "worst day of my life" without feeling like I would betray my life and love with Jeremy. Even though these phrases can be over dramatized or loose within context, I'm very careful to use other language.

The smilies and exclamation marks have long been back in my texts and writing. When people ask me how I'm doing or how my trip was, I can say without lying, "great." I don't know if the day will ever come, though, where I won't use a different language than everyone else when I carefully compare and contrast life. I call it the language of grief.

I guess that makes me bilingual.


What's in a name?

This post was written last week, as I am blissfully unaware of the real world this week enjoying a Jamaican honeymoon with my wonderful new husband!

Ever since the moment I knew I would marry Steve, I have felt so much peace about where God was taking us. Even in the way He brought us together; all the things I thought would worry me about getting married after losing someone I love so much turned out to be bearable issues that we worked out so seamlessly. Even the peace I felt against other's insecurities...it just all came together in the way only God can pull it off.

The only thing I ever felt unsettled about has been my name. Veronica King. It's who I am, who I have become, and who I want to be. When Jeremy and I got married, I couldn't wait to change my last name. I was proud to belong to Jeremy and take his name, I was proud to be a King and had waited my whole life to become a "Mrs." And I feel the same way about Steve: I am proud to be his and be a part of his family and take his name. The difference this time though, is that my name is also my connection to Jeremy. It's what keeps us connected, it's how people find him through me and visa versa. I am part of his legacy and he is a part of mine. It birthed my blog, Everyday Kings. I jokingly used to tell Jeremy that the only way I'd ever change my last name from King was if it were to become Queen instead.

When this issue arose, I felt so unsettled about it, like I had to choose who I loved more, and tried to find other people who had remarried after being widowed to see what they did with their last name and why. I didn't really have any luck figuring out what to do. I didn't know how to bring it up to Steve, even though I knew he would be understanding, because I didn't want in any way to make it seem like I didn't want to take his last name or that he is less important.

We finally talked it through and Steve, being the incredible guy that he is, was very understanding and let me take my time deciding what I wanted to do. The only solution that gave me any sort of settlement was to have my cake and eat it too.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce myself: I am now Mrs. Veronica King-Cunningham! :) It's a mouth-full and a lot to write down, but it incorporates the two things I love most and puts a smile on my face and peace in my heart.

For any of those reading who have been remarried, what did you do with your last name and why did you make that decision?


Catch 22

This will be my last blog post as a single woman....Saturday, I will be becoming Mrs. Steve Cunningham! The reality is sinking in, and I am getting so excited! It's really been a crazy ride, and a quick one, so I haven't had much time to really let it process that this is MY wedding I'm planning, not someone else's - that and I haven't really let myself get too giddy about it.

It's weird that in the midst of all the craziness and planning my wedding with Steve how much it has made me miss Jeremy. Not because I'm not excited or because I'm not in a good place, but because he has always been the person I share everything with and I have been desperately aching to just share the ins and outs of life with him, the way I always used to. But, I recognize the irony in that and know that both of those things - my life circumstance and sharing it with Jer - could never happen at the same time.

While I'm experiencing the very weird mix of excitement and grief, I realize what a unique and frustrating place it has put me in. I find myself holding back happiness so I don't appear too excited about my wedding, because people then think it means I'm over Jeremy, that I'm done grieving, or I'm being disrespectful in some way. On the flip side, I worry that if I show my grief too strongly or talk about it too much, people accuse me of not being ready to get married or not being in a good place. It's my catch 22.

When I get down about this predicament, it helps to know that these assumptions generally come from those who don't know me well, have not talked to me about where I am at with things, or people who don't understand grief. I don't know a lot, but there are a few things I am certain of:

1. I miss Jeremy every single day.
2. I will miss Jeremy every single day for the rest of my life.
3. I am head-over-heels in love with Steve.
4. I am excited about my future with Steve and our beautiful family.
5. My happiness and my sadness run side by side. And neither negates the other.

So this week I have tried to intentionally not worry about what everyone else thinks and allow myself both time to grieve what I will no longer have with Jeremy and celebrate what I am going to have with Steve. I am trying to soak up every good moment of the beautiful chaos in my life right now, because Lord willing, I won't ever have to do it again.


beginnings and endings

I am in the midst of reading a wonderful book called "The Color of Rain" by Micheal & Gina Spehn, which tells the story of how each lost their spouse and found hope and healing in each other. I am excited to read something that seems to parallel a lot of my own story, but it's also really neat to read because both of them are from the same town I live in, so it makes it even more personal and close to my heart. I even ran into Gina at Panera a few weeks ago in a weird twist of God's timing through a mutual friend. Very cool.

There is a quote from the book that I read yesterday about 5 times. Then, I underlined it. And re-read it. And made notes in the margins. Then I thought about it all day. Finally, I had to write it down. Gina was talking about the final days of her husband's terminal illness and the love that was developed through it:

"It was not physical or material. This love lacked inhibition and boundary. It was limitless and free of expectation or regret. It was effortless, all-encompassing love; given, received, and understood. I think it's rare in life to experience this kind of love. In any relationship it ebbs and flows, but once you've had it, you crave it like no lustful urge you've ever had. I was filled with it on my wedding day, and when I held my babies in my arms, and again when my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. If only we had the ability to live life as thought it were so new or so close to the end that all we could do is give and show and become love. It seems that beginnings and endings teach us about this kind of love. It is in between that we tend to forget."

Okay, now go back and read it once more. Let it soak into your pours. Breathe it in deeply. Make it truth. Anyone who has had an experience like this knows the power in these words. It is what I have been trying to formulate words for and translate from my heart that I've been unable to do in the same way. But it could not be truer. When you lose something so precious, you crave to fill the space. You crave to feel something genuine, something authentic. Everything seems arbitrary up against something so important that you become frustrated with other people's pettiness. You lap up the moments that matter.

I am about to face another beginning - the beginning of my life with Steve. Facing this new adventure in my life brings me closer to that nostalgia of remembering what life is all about: love. So I'm more sentimental, I try to be more careful with my last words to people, I steal extra moments with people I love. And grief tends to keep you running along with the same theme and keeps it closer to you for longer. But that doesn't mean I don't fall into the 'in between' category every now and again. I catch myself doing it now and at the end of the day, I can recognize it in a way I couldn't before. And I start over every day. It's a pledge I made to myself and to Jeremy that this was the way that I would love from now on. My life is forever changed, so there's no way I can act like it isn't.

I needed to share this thought with the world today: Love fiercely.
Don't get stuck in the in between.



Steve and I just finished reading this book called "Heaven is for Real" - it's a boy's account of his visit to Heaven and back while he almost died from appendicitis at age 3. Whatever your beliefs are about Heaven, it's definitely a great book that will give you a lot to think about.

I went through a phase in my grief where I longed for Heaven constantly. I longed to see Jeremy again with an ache that was so intense, I couldn't think about anything else. I remember writing multiple blog posts about Heaven - it was the first time in my life where I had actually spent any significant amount of time thinking about what Heaven would be like.

One thing that changed when Jer died was that I no longer feared death. No matter how excited I am about the future, no matter how many things left unfinished here, no matter how much my kids need me here...I know that I'm ready to go whenever. But the thing I feared for awhile was wether or not I would get my reunion with Jeremy in Heaven. I've dreamt about it and thought about it so frequently that the idea that I might not get my moment in Heaven with Jeremy was one that made me feel so sick.

As Steve and I were reading this book together, there's a chapter in which Colten (the little boy) asked his parents about his sister that died in his mommy's belly. It is a chilling account since Colten had never been told about the miscarriage his mother had, nor had his parents known the sex of the baby. But Colten tells them he saw her in Heaven and that she was waiting for them and couldn't wait to see them. I was reading the book out loud in the car, and I had to put it down because I couldn't hold my emotions in.

Even though the story was compelling, that's not what got me. It was the idea that Jeremy was waiting for me in Heaven, that his anticipation to see me was as strong as mine to see him. But not just him...my brother popped in my head and the thought of seeing him and giving him a hug also tugged at my heart in a heavy way.

It's weird that something that seems so hopeful and peaceful can be so emotional - that so much pain is tied in with it. But I know the emotion is really just the pain of having to wait. The pain of knowing I can't see them now. It was a painful yet peaceful thought. I'm not a cooky person and up until I experienced it, I would have never believed that Jeremy's presence would be so strong in my life after he died. But I've heard him, I felt him watch over me, I felt his blessing over my relationship with Steve - I feel him protecting me and loving me through my relationships. And in that moment, through the story of someone else, I felt his anticipation to my arrival.

I can't wait for our reunion.


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