I am always wondering “what if”. What is Bryon hadn’t died? What if Bryon hadn’t gotten sick? What would we be doing? How would the crisis have affected our relationship? I think about Bryon playing with our daughter. I think about Bryon hanging out with our friends. I think about going to political events with Bryon and our daughter.
Usually when I visualize how life would be with Bryon and I, I am imagining life with him at his healthiest. I have no idea what long term effects he would have had if he had survived. I know we wouldn’t have been able to go on a cruise (our favorite way to travel). In fact, I would have been nervous travelling anywhere that was not close to a large medical center, let alone on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Had Bryon survived, our lives would have been drastically different.
But Bryon didn’t survive and our lives are drastically different. And one of the things that is drastically different is me.
As the crisis began to unfold, I had to change. I went from being one half of a two person team who took care of a toddler and I instantly became one person who had to take care of her critically ill husband, our toddler and myself. Everything became my responsibility, plus I had to stay on top of Bryon’s care. Luckily I had help. My parents did take care of my daughter and when they had to go back to Maine periodically, friends would step up and take care of her. Friends prepared meals and did tasks around my house, like mowing my lawn. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to tell Bryon because he was going to be proud of me for rising to the occasion.
I also remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to fill Bryon in on everything that had happened. I filled him on some of it, but I was waiting until he got better to tell him some of the events that had transpired. I vowed to myself that Bryon would have known everyone who helped me and our daughter. There were certain people who should have been supportive and always had high expectations from Bryon who offered little to no support and made my life difficult but I did not tell this to Bryon. I didn’t want to stress him out and I figured I could tell him when he was well again. But of course that never happened.
Before this crisis, I was a very different person. I was innocent and ungrateful. I did not know how good my life was and I never dreamed something like this could have happened. Through this crisis, I learned I was much, much stronger than I ever thought I was. I think everyone has that potential for strength during a crisis, though you have to choose to be strong and not fall apart.
I have much more confidence in my abilities than I did before. I used to care what other people thought, but that changed quickly. When you are a widow, people think they have a say in your decisions and how you live your life and are quick to tell you how to live your life, how to grieve, how to spend your money, how to parent- the list goes on. I survived one of the possible worst case scenarios that could happen in my life. I am sure I can survive anything else, even any consequences for any potential screw up that might be my own doing. (Take away point- if you feel like giving a widow any unsolicited advice, just don’t. We are capable of seeking help and if we wanted your opinion, we would ask for it. No ands, ifs or buts.)
Another effect of going through one of the two possible worst scenarios imaginable is that I don’t live in fear anymore. I survived. It’s not easy, but it’s been 15 months since that day that Bryon went into septic shock and I am still here. I am still in my house. I am working. My bills are paid. I have travelled. My daughter is happy. Fifteen months ago, my life crashed down and I had no clue how I was going to do it without Bryon but I am. I miss him so much that it hurts, but I am surviving. I don’t fear what comes down the road because I realize that things can easily fall into place and am open to opportunities.
I don’t stress on unimportant decisions. I used to be a person that would stress about picking two items on a restaurant menu. Now I realize that there is no need to stress about things like that because that isn’t an important decision. I should just go with the hamburger and if I don’t like it, I will go with the turkey club the next time. I no longer sweat the small stuff.
I am open to friendships now. I am an introvert (though some online tests call me an ambivert which is technically in the middle of the introvert-extrovert scale) and I usually just kept to Bryon and a very few close friends. I had a lot of walls and I never let my guard down. After this crisis, I have learned to let others into my life. It’s okay to need people and it’s okay to lean on them. I have learned to embrace the love that comes with friendships.
While I am more open to friendship, I don’t tolerate being treated poorly anymore. I don’t tolerate B.S. If you can’t be supportive of me or my daughter, then you don’t get to play a role in our lives. Grief is exhausting and I don’t have the energy to deal with people who cause drama and make me feel bad. As one of my closest friends says “less negativity and more high-fives!”
But I used to seek the approval of other people, but now I know that the only people that I have to answer to are myself and my daughter. For the first time in 38 years, I am being true to myself and I have the confidence to work toward my dreams. To live the life I want to live. And even though I am tired and exhausted all the time I feel like I am a better mother. Sure, I seem scattered and forget stuff, but instead of being concerned being a good mother and appearing as such, I just focus on my daughter. Not what others think (though I will use self-deprecating humor from time to time). I also am not concerned about being the perfect family because it’s just my daughter and me. Now I am just concerned about my daughter being happy and I know that (in addition to covering her basic needs-very important), it is my job to make sure she becomes an independent adult and that she becomes of the best version of the person she is supposed to be.
I am a better version of myself. The hard part of that I like myself much better now, but I would not be this person if Bryon were still alive. I don’t like who I was then, but I would give up my new self if it means Bryon could come back. But that is not going to happen. I can only move forward with the life lessons that I have learned by loving Bryon and having him in my life. I am a better person because of him. Everyone that is in my life now knows that I am who I am because of Bryon. In a way, he is a part of who I am now even if he is no longer here.