The grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one is crippling. In Feeling Left Behind, author Kim Murdock relates and empathizes with that pain because she’s been there. She knows what it feels like to be woefully blindsided by music or at the grocery store, to reconsider the future alone, and to connect with a person who is no longer alive. You will relate to her chapters as she describes: ● The crushing desire to freeze time and isolate yourself ● The unstable phase of “firsts”― first holidays, birthdays, anniversaries ● The anger and sadness at seeing other couples ● The loss of self, empathy, security, and tolerance ● The heartbreaking sadness of getting rid of their belongings ● And so much more This is not a step-by-step guide on how to grieve. Kim outlines every detail of her experience as well as the experiences of her widow/widower friends to show you that you are not alone. You are normal. And you deserve as much time as possible to figure out how to survive in your own way.
This week, Bublish encouraged authors to write about a time when we were unprepared. Obviously, I was woefully unprepared for my husband’s death. But rather than talking about that, I decided to focus on a time when I took my nephew hiking up Vail Mountain, with its 2,200-foot elevation gain. He was probably 10 and dependent on me to get him to the top safely. But in typical Colorado fashion, a cold rainstorm came in the afternoon. Not wanting to get caught by lightning, we hunkered down and didn’t move. Although I had a small pack on me, I was unprepared and had no extra clothing. As we waited out the storm, in a shivering voice, my nephew said, “Auntie, what does it feel like to have hypothermia?” Ouch! That broke my heart! The poor kid was freezing! As soon as the rain stopped, we proceeded on the trail. It turns out we were within 10 minutes of the top, where the lodge awaited—with bathrooms, heat, and food. Had I known, we would’ve run the last 10 minutes and gotten inside before the rain started! Now, having learned my lesson, I always carry a larger pack with a raincoat, gloves, hat, and at least one layer of clothing—even when no rain is predicted. This is Colorado after all!
I believe it’s important to celebrate (or at least observe) milestones. I celebrated high school, college, and graduate school graduations. Every year, I celebrate my birthday with a hike and dinner. With my book, however, I’ve been neglectful about honoring the milestones. When I sent the finished manuscript to the editor, I felt I should celebrate. But, I didn’t have the motivation to plan anything. Thankfully, I already had dinner plans with a friend that same day, so she bought dinner. When I sent the final manuscript to the distributor, I wanted to celebrate. But, I had work (day job) projects, so I didn’t even pause to congratulate myself. When the book launched, I definitely felt I should celebrate. Book experts say authors should have a launch party and a launch team. I didn’t have time to put together a party and team, and no one volunteered. In truth, I was afraid to ask anyone to be on my launch team and was nervous people wouldn’t come to my party. Plus, I already had plans the night my book launched. So, I never had a party; instead, I had a quick dinner with my mom. A friend launched her book with a fabulous party, so I felt anxious that I didn’t. Now, it’s probably too late. I missed my milestones.
My book has one theme: grief. I wrote the book to help grieving people, especially widows and widowers. Grief, however, is obviously not the entire theme of my life. Some of my life’s themes include fighting for and enjoying animals and the environment (e.g., being vegan), and exploring and pondering the afterlife. For example, what happens after we die? How much of life is free will versus predestiny? For instance, I talk about my friend Lawrence throughout my book. Three years after his wife died, he died of a heart attack (enlarged heart). But earlier in the year, he’d almost drowned while getting sucked into an undertow in Mexico. He told me that as he sank down, he thought, “This isn’t how I thought I’d die, but okay.” He then let go assuming he’d die, and he bounced to the surface and survived. A couple months later, he almost crashed on his motorcycle while going 65+ MPH. He was amazed he survived. A few months later, he died. An autopsy showed he also had kidney cancer, which he hadn’t known. So, that could’ve killed him. It makes me wonder if he was just destined to die that year one way or another—as if his body and soul had a predetermined exit point. Perhaps it was destiny. Or was it?
Today millions of people around the world are protesting against climate change. In Australia alone, an estimated 300,000 people have taken to the streets. These protests have been organized by the youth—the people who’ll face the largest consequences of climate change during their lives. I admire the youth who’ve started this movement. Their determination, perseverance, and spirit inspire and astound me. I hope world leaders will listen to them because the planet doesn’t care about political parties and divisions. As I discuss in my book, my husband was an environmentalist; I felt the planet lost when he died because Reg was such an advocate, and people listened to him. I also discuss how I used to actively participate in trying to save the environment and particularly animals. But after he died, I couldn’t engage in the world. I just didn’t have the energy or emotional capacity. I felt I would be consumed by sadness if I focused on animals and the environment. However, I’ve now reengaged. I even met one-on-one with my councilman last month to discuss his proposal for Denver’s climate initiatives. I’ve shown up at many protests and called my representatives on issues I care about (which I was unable to do in my grief). I’ll try to make the Denver climate change march today.
What if . . . I’ve wondered this often since my husband’s death (which is what my book is about). What if we’d removed his thyroid sooner—before cancer could take over? Would he still be alive? What if we’d not gone the traditional route with chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery and instead done everything possible to boost his body’s immune system? Would he still be alive? What if I’d done everything possible to make his life stress-free? Would he still be alive? Or my favorite what if question . . . what if he could find another body and return? When I was young, I enjoyed a movie called Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty. Beatty’s character had an overanxious guardian angel who accidentally took Beatty away from his body and took him to heaven before he was supposed to die. His angel had to correct this mistake, so Beatty returned to life in another body. What if my husband could do that? Theoretically, he’d still have the same personality, but would I recognize him? Would I know—truly know—him if he weren’t the blonde, blue-eyed man I’d known? I would love the chance to find out!
In my book, I discuss how important nature was—and still is—in my journey. In fact, I just returned from a short vacation in Ouray in southwestern Colorado, where nature is center stage. The town sits at 7,700 feet surrounded by 13,000-foot, snowcapped peaks that make it seem as if the mountains jet up from the town. Massive volcanic eruptions, glacial erosion, water, and wind over millions of years carved out these majestic and magnificent mountains. Each year, the force of the melting snowpack creates stunning and roaring waterfalls that take your breath away. While there, I hiked these mountains daily. I paused to listen to the streams and thundering falls. I climbed high and exerted myself to feel isolated in the mountains. My husband and I had visited this town many years ago when he surprised me with a birthday trip to a neighboring town. I remember being stunned at the beauty of these mountains, despite having visited or lived in the Rocky Mountains my whole life. On my vacation this week, I was once again astounded at the beauty. I made sure to spread some of Reg’s ashes in flower beds around town and remember our time there. I wish he’d been able to visit with me this time, but I brought him in spirit.
I never thought I’d write a book. But Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” After my husband died, I could only find books that discussed how I could thrive again, how everything happens for a reason, how I should take care of myself to “get through” the experience, or how when one door closes, open a new one. I couldn’t find a book that simply acknowledged how painful the loss is. I couldn’t find a book to tell me it’s ok to grieve and that I can grieve in my own time and my own way. Thankfully, I had widow friends who validated my feelings and made me realize I was normal. I had an amazing grief counselor who also let me know everything I felt was common. I recognize, however, that most widows, especially young widows, don’t have other widows or a grief counselor to validate them and give them permission to grieve; this is especially true as friends and society push for them to move forward. So, I did what Toni Morrison suggested—I wrote the book! I don’t know that I’d write another book. It took tremendous amounts of time and stress, but I felt compelled to write this one.
I always dread when summer turns to fall. I used to drive my husband crazy fearing the end of summer, even in July when I still had plenty of summer to enjoy. I can’t help it. I love summer’s freedom and long days, along with the fun vacations, a slower pace of life, beautiful hikes, and the chance to sit on my patio and read. On the other hand, fall signals death to me—death of the leaves, longer nights, colder days, and a faster pace of life. My husband died in November, so that’s even more true now. Therefore, I cherish summer. I launched my book on August 1, so a good portion of my summer has revolved around coordinating the final details of the book (final proofreading, final design elements, registering for a copyright, and more). Since the launch, I’ve had quite a bit of work (my book is not my job) plus marketing the book. Therefore, I’ve spent more time inside on my computer than outside, where I crave being in summer. At least I've hiked to a few alpine lakes, which were stunning and quiet. I’m still hoping to take a quick summer vacation and spend at least a day outside reading. But it feels like I’m starting to run out of time. . .
After the Columbine shooting, I started attending a spiritual church to try to make sense of the shooting. At each service, the congregation sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” I haven’t attended a service for at least 10 years, but I’ve been told they still sing that song at the start of each service. One day, I discussed this song with my family members and said how I couldn’t believe that 20 years later they were still singing that song, yet it seems like nothing has changed; we still don’t have peace in the world. My mom attended a similar church when she was a child and said they sang that same song when she was young. It really struck me how people have been singing this song for 70 years, yet peace eludes us. I talk about peace frequently in my book—not world peace but inner peace. After losing my spouse, people wanted me to be “okay” or “better.” I felt that peace was most important to me. I felt broken, and I just needed to feel some degree of inner peace. I found peace by accepting where I was at emotionally, spending time in nature, talking about my husband, and surrounding myself with animals.
As a hard-working and dedicated straight-A student, I never felt excited to go back to school. In fact, I dreaded it. During the summer, I’d read, swim, travel, and enjoy life while only working occasionally. As soon as school returned, my life became stressful, jam-packed, and often overwhelming. Also, I’ve always loved summer’s warm and long days. I’m more productive in summer (as an adult), and my favorite activities take place in summer (i.e., hiking). In winter, the nights are long with cold days, which I despise. Therefore, to this day, when I see back-to-school supplies hit the store shelves, I feel extremely anxious. I’m never ready for summer to end and feel dread wash over me as I see the supplies or hear people mention back to school. I start feeling that I have to pack in as many hikes as I can. Due to my book launch this August and my regular work, I’ve spent even more time inside on my computer than outside doing what I enjoy. So I feel particularly anxious that school’s about to start. I can feel myself frantically trying to figure out when I can hike and when I can take a trip to the mountains for vacation before it’s too late. This year and every year, it’s as if death is coming.
If I look at my life, I’ve taken actions that others thought were bold. They didn’t feel brave to me though; they felt like what I was supposed to do. In my late 20s, I quit my secure, high-paying job to become a life coach. My corporate friends told me I was brave. I felt my life needed meaning, and I knew I was on the planet to do more than sit in a cubicle working tremendous hours to make money for stockholders. Therefore, it didn’t feel brave. Last year, I went to Kenya by myself. My friends thought this was brave. I didn’t think so because I met up with a group of women. They were strangers, but I still wasn’t entirely alone. It was a wonderful trip, so it was worth it. Probably the boldest move I’ve made is publishing this book. It contains my intimate, raw feelings and experiences. It’s a vulnerable book, and strangers (and friends) can now judge me. My widowed friends say there’s no way they would want strangers to know their grief. They call me brave. I feel fearful, so I guess this must be a bold move.
As I discuss in my book, I love animals, especially my cats. They bring me laughter, comfort, unconditional love, and total glee. One quirky—maybe embarrassing—thing I do is sing to them. Do you remember the song “Hey Mickey” from the 80s? I frequently sing it to my cat Rita, but I substitute her name. “Oh Rita you’re so fine; you’re so fine you blow my mind; hey Rita; hey Rita.” I put emphasis on Rita and draw out “Hey Rita” in an excitable voice. Rita, on the other hand, just stares at me in a calm manner as I sing to her (likely thinking I’m batty!). I also sing the Beatles song “Lovely Rita” to her. I change the lyrics slightly to say, “Lovely Rita, Rita Maid” (rather than “meter maid”). Interestingly, when I went to a psychic medium after my husband died, she said, “Why am I singing ‘lovely Rita meter maid?’” I used to sing that song to Rita even when he was alive, but only my husband, my cats, and I knew that. I was thrilled he put the song into the medium’s head to let me know he was there. I know singing to my cats is quirky, but I thoroughly enjoy it.
After my husband died, I stayed off social media for years (as I explain in this excerpt). I only got back on Facebook because it’s a way to reach people who may need my book. I get a little overwhelmed with my responsibility on Facebook though. For example, I posted about the difficulties of Christmas after losing a spouse. As I recall, I had 40-50 comments, many from widows/widowers in deep pain and missing their spouses terribly. It reminded me why I wrote my book; I want to help those people. At the same time, I was overwhelmed and didn’t know if I should respond to every comment. I wanted them to know I saw them; I saw their pain. Most didn’t know me though. Would they care if I responded? Also, I rarely go on Facebook and don’t want to look at it frequently. So if I responded, would they feel hurt the next time they reach out, and I don’t respond for days or weeks? Experts say authors should post daily, but I struggle with even posting weekly. I want to reach people grieving, but my whole life isn’t about grief. So what do I post? And how do I help people—how do I see them—while maintaining my boundaries? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.
When I ponder a champion’s mindset, I think about the riders in the Tour de France, which is taking place now. It’s a 3-week bike race covering over 2,100 miles. It involves grueling mountain stages, including a summit finish with a 22% grade. If the riders get tired, they can’t stop. If they don’t finish a stage (a day of racing) or start a stage, they’re out of the race. They train hard in the off-season, and they ride their bikes in the cold winter. But to me, what demonstrates a champion mindset even more is their willingness to suffer and not give up. Bike crashes during the race happen frequently. I’ve seen guys slide across the road, get serious road rash, and remount their bikes to finish the stage. Last year, a rider flipped over a wall while descending rapidly down a mountain. I held my breath until he climbed back over the wall and remounted his bike. This year, a favorite to win the race crashed on Day 1 and finished the stage with blood streaming down his face. These are champions—whether they win the Tour or come in last place! In my book, I discuss the Tour de France and how I continue to watch it as a way to stay connected to my husband.
Since my husband's passing, I've disliked the 4th of July. Most of my widowed friends also dislike the day. This is a day to be with loved ones. It's a happy, celebratory day with fireworks, BBQs, games, and fun. But with a loss, it can be a day of torment. I included the 4th of July in my book so that people who may be miserable today know they're normal, and they aren't alone.
Working Title: Feeling Left Behind: Permission to Grieve
This Book Is In Development
The grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one is crippling. In Feeling Left Behind, author Kim Murdock relates and empathizes with that pain because she’s been there. She knows what it feels like to be woefully blindsided by music or at the grocery store, to reconsider the future alone, and to connect with a person who is no longer alive. You will relate to each of her chapters as she describes: ● The crushing desire to freeze time and isolate yourself ● The unstable phase of “firsts” ● The anger and sadness at seeing other couples ● The loss of self, empathy, and tolerance ● The heartbreaking sadness of getting rid of their belongings ● And so much more This is not a step-by-step guide on how to grieve. Kim outlines every detail of her experience as well as the experiences of her widow/widower friends to show you that you are not alone. You are normal. And you deserve as much time as possible to figure out how to survive in your own way.
The pain that comes from losing a spouse can often feel unbearable. What helped me was interacting with other widows and widowers. These interactions gave me a break from my pain and helped me feel normal; I felt that others understood me and my grief. I wrote this book to give other widows and widowers a way to connect and to not feel so alone. I want them to know their emotions and thoughts are normal, especially because society and often friends and family try to tell grieving people that their feelings are wrong. By sharing my story and journey, I hope to validate their feelings and experiences.
A challenge in writing this book was finding the language to accurately express the emotions I felt after losing my spouse. Are there any words that can truly capture the emotions? This chapter illustrates how sometimes I just had to say the feelings were "indescribable."
For me, summer means hiking. I enjoy hiking more than pretty much any other activity. In my book, I have a chapter at the end called What Has Helped Me. In it, I list activities or actions that have helped me deal with the loss of my husband. One activity I include is spending time in nature and hiking. This summer, I will once again head to the mountains whenever I can to hike and get away from it all. I plan to launch my book this summer, so I may be busy. But, I'll be sure to hike as much as I can.
I'm new to the publishing world. I wrote my book with the goal of supporting widows and widowers who are grieving the loss of their partners. I'm now trying to navigate the publishing world, which is a whole different mindset. Building a platform, figuring out how to distribute the book, and figuring out how to sell it makes me feel like I've gotten so far away from the original intent of the book. It's a different mindset. I keep having to remind myself why I did this in the first place—to help grieving people.
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