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Year Two.

Updated: Aug 29

People tell you that grief is like a wave, it comes and goes, ebbs and flows. It doesn’t feel like that in the beginning, it feels like you’re lying in the sand, the over-zealous surf just constantly washing over you. You’re unable to stand, climb or find your way out. But you know you have two options, the first being to just let it happen. Let those waves consume you, pull you out into the ocean and slip away, the fight over, grief and sadness winning. OR, you can claw, scratch, kick and inch your way back up the beach, taking shallow breaths as you’re able. Trying to sustain yourself, in hopes those breaths will become more full as you continue forward – and soon you notice the waves aren’t toppling over your head anymore. They’re still coming at you, you still feel the pull of the ocean, it would be easier to stop fighting and let the waves claim you, but you recognize it’s not as strong as it once was before you made the decision to fight.

This is an odd analogy given the circumstances which brought me to this place of grief, but I can honestly say, two years after that first wave toppled over me, I’m not in a place of fighting for my breath anymore. I still feel the ocean at my feet, I still feel those waves sneaking up on me from time to time, but overall, I can see how hard I’ve fought, how hard I’ve climbed, kicked and scratched my way out of there.. and I know I’m going to find my way.

I’m going to change gears here for a moment and now compare my current emotional status to that of a roller coaster. The ups and downs, highs and lows of this past month have been nothing short of that experienced on any prized roller coaster at Disneyworld, or Six Flags (or whatever amusement park has a really wild roller coaster – I’m scared of them and we don’t really do Disney as family, so maybe this is a terrible analogy) but all of that to say, my emotions have been all over the place. I look at Adeline, my little Aloha baby, at one year old who is still in diapers, who can’t form sentences, with a mop of curly blonde hair, and dimple on the left side of her cheek just like her dad, and I simply CAN’T BELIEVE this is how old Hudson was when Brian died. The exact same age – minus one month as Addy’s birthday is in July. I look at Hudson who is figuring out what he likes (and doesn’t), who is funny, and inquisitive and incredibly self-aware, who tells me he misses his dadda and still asks if he can meet us back at the Hawaii house, and I CAN’T BELIEVE this is exactly how old Izzy was when he died. They were so young. So insanely young. I look at Izzy and wish Brian could see how funny and clever she is, I wish he could tell her how beautiful she’s becoming, and how smart she is.

It’s been two years and I’ve occupied just about every spare moment of my life with projects; two memoirs and a childrens book now written and about to be published, a documentary completed and released, countless podcasts, news articles, press interviews, hours spent visualizing what I want my life to look like as an individual and as a mom, how I want to raise my kids, putting those thoughts and ambitions into practice, connecting with people around the globe on various thoughts, ideas, platforms and enterprises. It’s been a wild two years, but things are starting to settle down now. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, of the person I’m pushing myself to be, of the mom I am to my three young children, of the way I continue to honor and promote the legacy of my late husband, of the impact I know I’m making. I’ve worked my ass off to get to this place, and I will continue to work, but I will also now have to be ok with not using these projects as a method of distraction, but rather one of motivation. I have a clear vision in my head of what I’m doing, where I’m going, where I want to be, and now I need to make the shift to use these lessons I’ve learned over the past two years to help and motivate others to do the same.

As for the kids, I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I’d say they’re adjusting to our new life as well as can be expected. Izzy’s memories of her dad continue to fade, though she holds tight to a select few, which I hope stay with her forever. It catches me off guard when I bring up a memory I’m sure she remembers (her and Brian going on ice skating dates, or rinsing off dive gear in the garage) and she looks back at me with a blank face. I try to pull up photos of each of these memories on my phone to refresh her memory – sometimes successfully – but most times, not. Hudson doesn’t have any memories with his dad, but he knows he loves him, and he’ll ask to see photos and watch videos at least a few times a week. He’ll tell me “I miss dadda. I love dadda.” And the night before his fourth birthday (just a few days ago) we stayed up late in my bed and Hudson cried in my arms because I had to tell him “No, dadda can’t come to your birthday party.” He’s still struggling with what ‘forever’ means and that dadda won’t be able to come to any important milestones in his life, but I try my hardest to reassure him that dadda loves him and wishes he could be there. Talk about heartbreaking conversations. That was a rough night. Adeline recognizes photos of Brian now, so she’ll walk around the house pointing to photos of him, and say “DADDA!” She looks SO much like him, it’s uncanny. She’ll flare her nostrils, the dimple on her left cheek shining and it’s impossible to not see him. I don’t know that there is any ‘right’ way to do any of this, but we’re doing our best to make the most of it, together.

It’s been two years and I’m still sad, I still mourn the loss of Brian, the loss of my marriage, our family as we knew it, him as a person and all that he brought to this world. I still feel those waves of grief at my feet, beckoning me, but at this point, I know I’m going to make it. Izzy, Hudson, Addy and I are now forging our own path in the sand, we’re doing things our way, and I’m incredibly proud of us.

For those of you interested in some of these projects we’ve been working on:

My debut memoir, Always Coming Back Home, is now available on e-book or for pre-order here:

E-book: https://amzn.to/2YgGMdC

Physical book pre-order: https://amzn.to/30sHQ0K

The kids’ book, A Hui Hou: Until We Meet Again, is no available for pre-order here: https://amzn.to/2Qz2YfF

If Only… a documentary detailing the events leading up to Brian’s diving accident can be watched here: https://www.thehumandiver.com/ifonly

This is a bit late, but some of you have asked about the short film I had made about our two month trip across Europe last summer. It’s been hosted on my website, but I recently added it to Youtube if you haven’t had a chance to watch if yet, you can do so here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=O28FTzQMxCw&feature=emb_logo

Alright that’s it for now!

A Hui Hou,

Ash xo

And I’ll have more to update you on as the year progresses.




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Lessons of turning tragedy into triumph 

from a military widow

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