I begin this post 45 minutes before my 40th birthday. I am also typing on my phone as I lay in the guest bedroom of my brothers house in New Hampshire with my little cuddle bug lightly snoring next to me. This is not how I usually write so I am not sure how this will affect my writing process.
This evening on my birthday eve, I had an amazing dinner with my parents, my daughter, and my brother at Hawaiian Isle in Plaistow, NH.
After dinner, my brother treated us for ice cream at Moo’s in Salem, NH.
Tomorrow I head off on an adventure with some of my besties and my daughter will spend the weekend with her grandparents.
As I write this, I have two major thoughts.
The first is that I am so happy to be done with my thirties. It had been the happiest and the most tragic decade of my life.
I started my 30s one month into my relationship with Bryon. We fell in love. I moved to New York. We adopted a cat. We got engaged and married and had a baby.
5 jobs through 3 employers
5 countries. 8 if you count overseas territories….
3 Canadian provinces.
4 cars (Mean Green, the Silver Bullet, the Bronze Bomber…and the Subaru).
I could go on but while this decade had a lot of happiness, but it still ended tragically.
Life was good and then Bryon died and I spent the last two years in deep, profound grief.
I am so ready for a new decade. I am ready for the next chapter of my story.
The second thought is that I can no longerf dread getting older. Afterf seeing Bryon die so young, I truly know each year is a gift.
Bryon will never be middle aged. If you are middle aged, you are lucky.
Bryon always joked that he was an old man in a young man’s body. He looked forward to being an old masn and he never will be.
One time when my daughter was an infant, the three of us went to have dinner at a local diner. We were seated near two grumpy old men. Bryon was amused by them and said that was going to be him and his best friend when they got old.
But know only one of them will become an old man. *knock on wood* because I am superstitious AF.
So I go into my 40th year embracing my age. My wisdom. My scars. My blessings.
Today’s post will be a quick post. I just wanted to share a few photos on how we celebrated Bryon’s birthday.
His birthday is exactly one week after his deathaversary but I try not to dwell too much on his deathaversary. I prefer to celebrate the fact that he had lived.
My daughter and some friends released balloons at the cemetery.
“Table Top” in the grass. Nice to see gymnastics class pay off.
I am sure he enjoyed them. Especially when I got in the car and one of his favorite songs came on. He saves this one for birthdays and happy occasions.
After the cemetery, we had dinner at one of Bryon’s favorite restaurants, Swifty’s.
I enjoyed my first Sam oktoberfest.
I don’t care if it’s still August. It’s been a hot summer and the humidity has been wicked. I am so over it.
I love these people. They have stayed with me through thick and thin. Of course, a few were unable to attend and we missed them.
I feel like I should write something more profound but between the fact that last week was Bryon’s deathaversary and this week is his birthday and my birthday tomorrow, my head kind of feels like it is going to explode. I have been emotional and cried a lot but I am okay.
The good news is that I am leaving on a birthday girls trip tomorrow but I have a lot of things to do between now and then.
I was watching news coverage on Hurricane Irene which was heading directly to New York City.
For the first 31 years of my life (minus three months in Indiana), I have lived within 20 miles of the ocean, with 15 of those years living in a Coastal Maine town.
If there is one thing I have learned, it is that you don’t underestimate an ocean storm.
Seriously, we have all seen The Perfect Storm, right?
I went to Wal-Mart and stocked up some supplies. Items such as candles and batteries and non-perishable food.
I came home and Bryon mocked me.
Our conversation went something like this.
Kerry: Hey, we should make sure our floor in the basement is clear in case the basement floods.
Bryon: Um…we live 200 miles inland.
Kerry: And this storm is 400 miles wide and heading straight for New York City.
Bryon: This isn’t the Maine Coast. You are worrying about nothing.
Worrying about nothing was a common grievance Bryon had about my personality. It’s ironic that I wouldn’t learn to worry less until he died.
Bryon and I both liked being right and we were both stubborn. I dropped this issue because I knew I wasn’t going to convince Bryon. But I didn’t forget…
Sunday Morning, August 28, 2011 Bryon’s Birthday
Our basement is flooding. We were unprepared for that.
As we are wet-vaccing our basement floor, I decided at that point that it would be a good time to point out to Bryon that I was right.
Bryon did not appreciate being told that he was wrong.
An argument ensues.
I get pissed and decide since Bryon knew all the answers, he can deal with the flooding basement.
I storm upstairs and sit angrily on the couch.
A period of time passes. It felt long but it was probably 5 or 10 minutes, Bryon comes upstairs and says that being pissed at each wasn’t going to help the situation.
I knew at that point he was right so I head back down to the basement.
We continue to wet vac until we notice that the water was seeping in through microscopic cracks in the cement. So Bryon took my Jeep Compass to Lowe’s…in the middle of a hurricane to buy some hydraulic cement. Luckily we patch up enough of the cracks and the flooding is controlled. (Though it took a month and a strongly worded letter for our rental company to address the issue).
We were lucky. Hurricane Irene caused so much damage in Upstate New York but Albany was pretty much spared.
The storm let up in the afternoon and we met our friends at Mahar’s. The woman who would become our future daughters Godmother posted this picture of Bryon on Facebook. She was going to call him Hurricane Clifford. (Clifford was Bryon’s middle name and it was a hit among his friends). Bryon requested she call him Tropical Depression Clifford.
Bryon and I would later laugh about this day. I just look back and I see what two stubborn people we were.
Luckily we forgave each other. We got engaged at Mahar’s a week and a half later.
I decided to do a blog post summing up my thoughts.
Kind of a sampler of random thoughts.
Before I delve into my experiences, I want to mention that everyone’s experience with grief is different. This post is based on my experience. Your mileage may vary.
Secondly, I use the term widow and “she” because I am writing from my perspective. But this also applies to widowers as well. I just thought my writing flowed better saying “widow” instead of “widow or widower”.
And third, this is no way a complete list of things I could say about widowhood. But this is a blog and it will be ready for those words when I write them.
Widowhood is hard to reconcile. And accept.
I thought I was going to grow old with Bryon.
Then he died and I had no say in the matter.
Survivors guilt is a real thing. I tormented myself for months, wondering what I could have done for a different outcome. It took me many months to come to the realization that there was nothing I couldn’t have done.
I don’t know why this had to happen. I probably never will.
But it did happen. Whether it is for a specific reason or as the result of the butterfly effect or a combination of the two, I don’t know.
Sometimes shitty things happen to good people.
Our society doesn’t know how to handle grief.
After Bryon died, I was barraged with cliches.
Everything happens for a reason…
You just need to find your new normal…
It was all part of God’s plan…
He will always be with you in spirit…
God doesn’t give you more than you can handle…
He will be watching over you and your daughter…
He’s not hurting anymore…
People mean well. They feel like they need to say something to make you feel better but they don’t know what to say. So they revert back to these cliches.
The problem is that these cliches rarely make people feel better. They usually make people feel worse. The best case scenario is that the grieving person just ignores it or rolls their eyes.
This is usually the opposite effect than was intended.
If you know someone grieving, ask how the grieving person is doing. Take them to lunch. Share a story about the deceased. But please, please, please, try not to use a cliche.
People will disappear
It doesn’t matter how popular your deceased spouse was. People disappear.
It starts with the funeral. You won’t hear from 70% of those people again.
And as time goes by, the amount of people who check up on you continues to goes down.
If you make it to two years out, the people that are still here are your nearest and dearest. Hold on to them.
People will kick you when you are down.
My late husband was a popular person. In fact, he is way more popular posthumously than I am alive.
I have had people use me and my situation to latch onto my husband’s popularity. You know, offer to help on social media where everyone can see but they never call after a snow storm. Or people who try to take pictures with my daughter treating her like a photo op instead of a real person.
A couple of times it has surprised me because this behavior came from people who I thought were my true friends.
I am going to clear something up.
Widowhood is lonely, even with amazing friends and family.
But just because a widow is lonely does not mean that she must accept all friendship, even if she is being used and treated poorly.
It is insulting.
For me, the opposite is true. Life is short and I need to spend my time with those who care about my daughter and me.
If I cut someone out of my life, there is a very good reason for it.
At first these realizations upset me but now I am appreciative of them because they taught me important lessons. And I can make room for true friends.
Your tolerance for bullsh*t goes way down.
When Bryon and I got married, I thought my tolerance for bullshit went down.
And it did.
When Bryon and I became parents, I thought my tolerance for bullshit went down.
And it did.
But it was when Bryon died that my tolerance for bullshit plummeted. When you watch one of the two people you love most slowly die, you quickly learn what is important and you lose any tolerance for people who try to make your life miserable.
It does get better.
It take time but eventually the pain lessens.
Though I haven’t figured out if it is actually getting easier or if you just get used to their absence.
But the pain never goes away entirely. You will still have bad days. There will still be things that trigger you.
But there is hope.
Where does this leave me now?
As I said in my blog post on Tuesday, I feel like am stuck between two worlds. I am looking forward to the next chapter but I am struggling to let go of the past.
The first year of widowhood was about survival for me. Getting out of bed was enough of a challenge.
The second year was about getting used to Bryon being gone and getting used to envisioning a future without him.
The second year was also the year I learned to love myself.
And now I am about to embark on the third year.
What does that even mean? What does that mean for this blog?
While I miss Bryon every single day and I will still have sad days and moments where I cry. But I can’t stay in deep sadness forever. Grief is exhausting and I have been grieving for two years.
Do you know how exhausting it is to work full time, write a blog, raise a daughter by yourself and experience and process deep and profound grief at the same time?
I know Bryon doesn’t want me to be this sad forever.
Bryon gave me so much in our years together and the best way to honor him is to start living again. He made the most of his 30 years. He accomplished more in those years than most people do in 80.
But it is hard for me to listen to people complain about becoming older. Bryon didn’t even make it to middle age. I need to make the most of the years I have left.
So the third year is going to be the year I start to live again.
Two years ago I was sitting next to you during the last hours of your life.
We were both clinging on in a way.
It was what I imagine Purgatory to be like.
As much as I wanted the agony to be over, I had no choice to but to cling and wait out our last hours and minutes together. Because once Purgatory was over, you were going to be dead.
(There was no way, at that time, to foresee the agony that would follow during the months after).
I don’t know why you were clinging on but you did. I am sure it was because of some deep spiritual meaning that I can’t understand in this human form.
Or maybe you were waiting for Chelsea to score even though we weren’t watching a game. Besides, your heart stopped beating at 6:47 am which is probably still too early, even for English Premier League Soccer.
I am in a much better place now than I was last year.
Your first deathaversary really kicked me on my ass. It put me in a funk that I couldn’t seem to shake off until Christmas.
Last year I would have said that your death made a big impact in my life.
Which it did.
But now I realize that your life had an even bigger impact than your death.
I will probably never understand why our years together were so short but I am grateful that I had you for as long as I did.
I am grateful for the memories and all I learned from you.
You loved me at my worst.
Sadly, you never got to experience me at my best.
I’d like to think that you would be proud of me.
I am better person because of your love.
You always believed in me.
You were right. I am a lot smarter than I ever gave myself credit for. Though I am sure you roll your eyes a lot every time I mess something up or forget to do something.
I remember how appalled you were when we were in our dating days when I half-joked that whenever I hear a noise in my car, I would turn the music up and hope that the noise went away. You told me that you were going to take care of the car and I happily obliged.
Well, I’ve actually kept up on car maintenance. I even checked with my Dad to make sure there wasn’t anything I might have forgotten and he said I was all set.
Though, truth be told, I am too scared to let car maintenance slide since I drive with our daughter in the car. If it were just me…then…eh…
But I have been trying hard to learn these new skills. Because you aren’t hear to take care of the things you used to take care off.
Last year I was still grasping the concept that you died.
This year I am grasping the concept of how much time has passed since you were gone.
I used to marvel at how much has changed since you were here but now I can’t help but notice how much has changed since those early months after you died.
It might seem silly but it started when I noticed that the heels on my boots were wearing out. And then I remembered that I bought those boots after you died. How can it be possible that you have been dead long enough where I can wear out a pair of boots?
Friendships have run their course.
(Do you remember when I used to let people walk all over me and use me? I would get so upset and those offenders and the situations always angered you. At the time, I didn’t realize that it hurt you to see me hurt. You encouraged me to stand up for myself more. Well it is safe to say that I don’t out up with being treated poorly anymore.)
You died a month before our daughter turned two. Now she is almost 4 and she is going to be starting pre-K. And your best friends son who was born after you died is almost 2. I am not going to lie but your absence hurts the most during their milestones, first and achievements. You not here to see them grow up.
At this time last year, I was still struggling with adjusting to life without you.
Now, I feel like I am used to you being gone. Or maybe I am just used to your absence always being present. But I know that nothing is going to bring you back.
I have to accept that this is our story even if it’s not the ending I would have written for us.
I keep hearing that you are supposed to live in the Present. But my Present feels like I am living in limbo between two different worlds.
One of the worlds I live in consists of the past. While I am not in denial about your death, part of me is having a hard time letting go of the past. It just feels like every time I complete a task, your existence on Earth is erased just a little each time.
I took your name off of the bank account. It was time. The process only took about ten minutes and the guy working at the bank was really nice but when I got back to the car, I cried.
People talk about you less. When you first died, everyone was willing to talk to you and share memories. Now it feels like I can only talk about you with a small group of people. I guess most people have moved on. I am not quite ready to move on.
It feels like you have been forgotten.
I don’t want you to be forgotten.
I also live the other life that consists of the future. I hope it’s a happy time.
I live in a world where I am so ready for that next chapter. Whatever it might have in store for me.
Though I get overwhelmed when I think of all I need to do physically and emotionally to get to the next chapter.
I have been in a deep sadness for two years but I know I can’t stay this sad forever.
I am tired of feeling sad.
This type of sadness takes so much energy out of me.
And I know you don’t want me too. You want me to live my life to the fullest.
But you are one hard Mo-Fo to get over, Bryon McKim.
You changed my life and I will never meet anyone like you. But maybe from here I am supposed to be the one changing people’s lives? I am still trying to figure this out.
I want to be happy again.
I am ready for my next chapter.
No matter what happens, I will love you forever, BCM.
A little late but today is still Friday! You survived the week!
Do you know what this means? It’s time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!
Since I was too busy last week, I did not do a Gratitude post so this is going to cover the past two weeks.
Time with my daughter
Dance class and gymnastics class never get old.
The fact that summer is almost over
This is probably an unpopular opinion but I am ready for summer to be over. I am from Maine and this humidity is killing me. I am not going to rush the end of summer because I know Fall will be here soon but I can’t wait. Bring on the pumpkin spice!
A good concert with a good friend
One of my besties and I got a chance to see REO Speedwagon and Chicago at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). It was a great time. Personally I thought the REO Speedwagon half was better than Chicago. I like Chicago’s music but it was very mellow and almost a let down after rocking to REO Speedwagon. Just my two cents.
Getting by with a little help from my friends.
Some of my friends have stepped up to help me clean out Bryon’s storage unit. When Bryon died, so many people said that they would be there to help in any way needed but whenever I ask for help, it is always the same few people who offer to help.
There is no way I could I ever payback these friends for the kindness they have for me. I could not get by without these friends. No mentions, they know who they are.
The little memories that make me smile.
Bryon and I had a good 8 years. And every day, I am usually reminded of something funny he did.
I was driving my daughter to dance class and Orleans “Still the One” came on the radio.
Now, if you are a longtime reader of this blog, you may remember that Bryon and I met while participating in politics. (Don’t worry, this is not a political blog. A story may pop up here and there but there will not being any preaching. Grief and death don’t know political parties. I love you all!)
Anyway, John Hall went one to become a Congressman in New York State and in 2010, Bryon and I, along with some of our Young Republican friends worked on a campaign weekend and we dropped literature for his opponent, Dr. Nan Hayworth.
And I remember Bryon writing this tweet and thinking it was so funny.
He could have been tweeting in this picture.
And even though he is gone, I am grateful for those little memories that make me smile.
Your life is the aftereffect of all the choices you have made.
The first major decision in my life was in the Spring of 1993.
It was a period of high fashion consisting of blazers, floral dresses, choker necklaces, boots and scrunchies.
side ponytail 80s Correspond to People Who Have Colored Hair – Right HS
(Okay, that kind of sounds like right now.)
An era was ending as Cheers had their last call.
And Zack and the gang graduated from Bayside High.
I was finishing up my eight grade year at Cyril D. Locke Middle School in Billerica, MA and I was preparing to begin my freshman year at Billerica Memorial High School.
My father had worked for the U.S. Postal Service since 1977, the year before I was born. He had worked in Suburban Boston and he had been promoted to the position of Postmaster.
But there was a catch.
He would be the Postmaster of Little Deer Isle, ME.
So we were going to be moving five hours away to coastal Maine.
I would not be going to high school at Billerica Memorial High School.
I had been bullied in middle school so I wasn’t particularly sad about leaving. But it was still a period of uncertainty.
The population of Billerica, MA in 1990 was 37,609 and the population of Little Deer Isle, ME in 2000 (couldn’t locate the number for 1990) was 251.
My father had to start his new position immediately so he would work in Maine during the week and come back to Massachusetts on the weekends to see us and to pack up and sell our house.
My father went to the local high school which was on the larger neighboring island of Deer Isle (connected to Little Deer Isle by a causeway) and the school was grades 7-12 with a school population of about 150. The guidance counselor of the school was up front with my father and said that there was a high chance that the students wouldn’t accept me because I was not a native of this island. The guidance counselor recommended that he send me to a larger high school on the mainland because I would have a better chance of fitting in. She gave my father the course catalogs for her high school as well as the three closest high schools on the mainland.
My father took my guidance counselors concerns seriously. He brought home those course catalogs and told me to look them over which I did. Then I made my decision. I told my father I wanted to go to Ellsworth High School.
My decision was based partly on intuition and partly because Ellsworth High School had the better catalog. (Take away- listen to your gut and marketing matters).
The high school I chose was the furthest away geographically from Little Deer Isle but my mother also wanted to live closer to Ellsworth because there were more stores (i.e. civilization).
As my high school years passed, it was clear that I had made the right decision. Each school had a reputation and I knew I wouldn’t have fit into schools labeled “crunchy” and “granola”. (Not that there is anything wrong with that. It just wasn’t me.) I fit in the best at my high school, which had the reputation of being a “jock” school. I fit in, even though my classmates teased me (good-naturedly) for having a Boston accent.
My choice of high school affected the friends I made, some of which I am still friends with to this day. My choice in high school affected my studies because I had some great teachers who exposed me to Broadway musicals, the French language and the concept that the world was a very large and fascinating place. I also had some not so great teachers that turned me off to math and science. (I don’t know what high school Kerry would think if she knew that in her 30s, she would go back to school for a degree that required Anatomy and Physiology. I wish I could tell my younger self that she was smarter than she thought she was and capable of much more than she thought).
My choice in high school affected my social life. I had to chose between staying busy with sports and work or hanging out in the Burger King parking lot. Or partying in a gravel pit. Though I wasn’t cool enough to party in a gravel pit. I made the choice to run cross country and track, tutor students and participate in French Club. I also made the choice to participate in class activities like prom committee and I raised money for the Chem-Free party on graduation night. I also made the choice to work part-time at Shop N Save (now Hannaford).
I definitely left high school with a certain set of experiences that my eight grade self would never have foreseen me having.
My next major decision was college. I actually felt like I had less of a choice in choosing a college due to financial constraints. My older brother had attended college at University of Maine at Orono (UMO) which was a little over an hour away. I knew if I attended UMO that I would live there for a semester or two and then move home to save money. I did not want that.
I wanted to be in the city. Any city. And if I couldn’t be in Boston, Portland was going to do. That is how I wound up at the University of Southern Maine. (USM)
High school had been a learning experience and a culture shock as I adjusted from Suburban Boston to Rural Maine. But college was definitely more of a shock as I was exposed to so many different ideologies and lifestyles that I had not been used to. Like high school, I made friends. Some of which I am still friends with.
I made the choice to study abroad in England the Fall of my junior year. I almost didn’t apply because I had had a rough year my sophomore year. I remember telling my father that I couldn’t keep it together here so going to England was probably a bad idea. My father said that he thought that three months away from USM might be exactly what I needed. I chose to listen to him and listening to him was one of the best decisions of my life.
My life had became a series of choices, even if they didn’t feel like choices at the time.
The choice to finish college.
The choice to enter a romantic relationship.
The choice to not return to England after graduation because I had a new boyfriend. (Stupid, stupid, stupid!)
The choice of employment.
The choice of friends and associations.
The choice of my living situations and roommates.
The choice to end my romantic relationships.
The choice to move back home.
The choice to pursue a new career.
The choice to go back to college.
The choice to get involved in politics.
The choice to join the Young Republicans.
The choice to start dating that younger guy in New York even if it didn’t make sense.
The choice to move to New York.
The choice to accept a marriage proposal.
The choice to buy a house.
The choice to start a family.
Where we are in life is based on the results of choices we have made.
Everything in your life is based on a decision you have made or haven’t made.
However, these decisions have no guarantees. Good decisions don’t always yield good results. A good decision may have catastrophic results while a bad decision may surprisingly yield a very positive result.
Sometimes shitty things happen to good people. We can’t control external factors.
But you always have to make the choice as to how you react to the shitty situation.
This realization is overwhelming to me. I used to view life as a series of events that happened to me and that everything was left to chance.
(So I guess Green Day was wrong in Good Riddance when they say that time grabs you by the wrist and directs you where to go…)
I did not realize how much of a role I played in my own life.
This realization comes to be at a time when my life in a crossroads.
In some ways, this scares the shit out of me.
The stable life that I knew is gone. I have spent the last two years of my life reeling from what happened and I have been struggling to make sense of it. I have been trying to figure out this “new normal” even though I yearned for the “old normal”.
I had always been one of those people who always had a “two-year plan”, a “five-year plan”, a “ten year plan” and a “twenty-five year plan.” Now I barely have a “two-week” plan.
My need to have plans was because I didn’t like living in the present so escaped to the future. But when the future became the present, I would escape further into the future. I learned the hard lesson that the I need to be in the present because the future that you look forward to may not be there.
I do notice a change in how I choose to live in my life. I choose to spent less time worrying. I choose to surround myself with good people and let go of those who treat me poorly.
I choose to try to experience as much as a I can because we aren’t all guaranteed to make it to old age. Bryon didn’t even make it to middle age.
But I have spent the last two years existing, trying to live even if, at times, I was just going through the motions. I can’t stay in this state forever. I am going to need to choose how I am going to live the remainder of my years.
And I have no clue what the future is going to bring.