January 23rd, 2020

Snoopy

Post-Convention: Back to Real Life

ConFusion was a strange experience this year, in some ways. I didn’t bring my camera. I only did one panel, along with a reading and the group autographing. I didn’t even wear the fancy author jacket. I just showed up in my T-shirt and jeans and mostly just hung out.

This was also the first time I’d brought my son along. It was fun getting to spend the weekend with him. I know he got a bit bored when I’d get caught up talking to all of my grown-up friends, but I think he had a good time. He attended a few panels on his own, went swimming, did some art stuff, played Pokemon Go with me and Suzanne Church … and at the end, he said he wanted to come back again next year.

One of the best parts for me — really, the primary reason I wanted to go — was seeing people again. This was my first convention in more than a year.

One of the most frustrating parts — as it always is — was not having enough time with everyone.

Lots of people asked how I was doing, or expressed condolences, or said they didn’t know what to say, or gave me a hug… and it all helped. It all made me feel cared about and less alone with everything I’ve been through in the past year and a half. Thank you all for that.

And then I came back home and spent an hour shoveling snow and ice so I could get my car into the garage.

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Back home, and back to the routine. It’s almost five months now since Amy died. Fourteen months since she started getting sick. The sadness and the loneliness and the emptiness are all still very much there, but I’ve been feeling more functional. I’m continuing to do what I can to take care of myself and the kids. And to paraphrase my therapist, there’s a bit of confidence that I can do this. I don’t like it, and it’s a hell of a lot harder, but I’m managing.

I was even able to break through the last part of the outline on Terminal Peace and get back to writing the ending this week.

I’ve done a fair amount of reading about grief and being a widower and single parent, trying to be proactive about self-care and caring for the kids. Some of the changes I’ve made in the past months…

  • Exercise – I’ve been doing this pretty much since Amy got sick. I think it’s a coping mechanism. But as long as I don’t get obsessive about it, it’s a healthy one. (Side note: No less than three people last week commented that I looked (or felt) like I’d been working out. That was unexpected, but nice.)
  • Game night – I’ve got a group of gaming friends, and we never manage to get together to do stuff. Well, I herded those cats into a monthly get-together, because I need more social interaction and escape. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep that going.
  • Therapy – I started back with my therapist, and have also been attending a weekly support group for parents who’ve lost a partner. It helps me to stay in touch with the grief and keep working through it, and to make sure I’m continuing to take active steps to manage everything the best I can.
  • Asking for Help – I recruited my father to take my son to one of his weekly things. It’s only one night a week, but it frees up a couple hours of my time, and it’s a little less stress on my shoulders. (I need to keep working on this one…)
  • Saying Yes to Social Stuff – As much as I can, if someone invites me to lunch or a movie or whatever, I’m trying to say yes. Even if I’m not always feeling super-social. It helps me to get out and stay connected with other people. (I need to get more proactive about initiating this stuff.)
  • Letting Myself Grieve – Sometimes the grief just hits. It happened at work a couple weeks back, triggered by a conversation about hospitals. It happened Saturday afternoon at the con, and I have no idea what cause it that time. Rather than trying to keep the pain locked away, I try to let it just happen. Let myself be sad. Let myself miss her. Let myself cry, if it happens. It hurts, but there’s a sense of release to it, and I’m more functional afterward.

So to answer the most frequently asked question of the weekend, I’m doing okay. Not great — it’s probably going to take a while to reach great — but okay. It hurts, but I feel like I’m getting closer to acceptance of what my life looks like now.

I think Amy would be proud of how her husband and kids are holding up and working through things.