My Kimmy Gibbler

Yesterday Facebook let me know that Kimmy Gibbler and I became friends 8 years ago.

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We actually became friends earlier than that.  In September 2008.  Bryon and I had been dating for 6 weeks.  I came out to Albany and it was the weekend of LarkFest.  I was impressed (and intimidated) by her Chanel eyeliner and her fancy sunglasses.  Bryon and I had not had that awkward “what are we” conversation yet and she referred to me as Bryon’s girlfriend.  From that point on, Bryon referred to me as his girlfriend.  She saved us from having to have that conversation.  

Through the years, we were friendly.  We’d see each other at various parties and sporting events.  But she was closer to Bryon, but most people were.

17903440_10155479994597841_7088198661435851561_n We had our kids 18 months apart.  She was at my daughter’s Christening.  

She was at Bryon’s 30th birthday party.  It was a fun night with hibachi.  We did not know that it would end up being his last.

Then Bryon got sick.  She came by the hospital.  She made Bryon laugh and she brought me coffee.

Then Bryon died.  I forgot to wear my pearls that Bryon got me on our honeymoon in St. Thomas.  She offered me hers.  I didn’t take them, but I told her that she reminded me of Robin Scherbatsky and how she was Vice-Girl at Marshall’s father’s funeral.

She was there for me through those rough early weeks.  She stayed with me when I started crying after having too much wine.  She never once told me how to grieve or how to feel.  She just listened.  And she listens to hear what you have to say, not just to respond.

The Sunday before Christmas I woke up feeling sick.  I couldn’t get myself off the couch.  Not the best position to be in when you have a two-year-old.  But she came over and made me drink apple cider vinegar tea.  She swears by apple cider vinegar.  It didn’t taste good, but it made me feel better.  It is now my go-to when sick.  That and coconut oil.  Kimmy Gibbler loves coconut oil. 

People may see our banter back and forth on Facebook, but people don’t realize that that is actually a small amount of our interaction.  One time we had three different conversations at once, one on Facebook, one on Facebook messenger and one via text.  And it wasn’t on purpose.  

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I can message her whenever.  It can be when grief is hitting me hard or if I just want to randomly (but passionately) say that I don’t like the Uncle Jesse/Aunt Becky storyline on Fuller House.  And she will respond thoughtfully in each scenario.

She understands my humor, which is some weird combination of cheesiness, sarcasm, and being wildly inappropriate.  I have never once shocked her.

We know to adult and be good moms.  But at times we act like two teenage girls.  We might be known to giggle and tee-hee at times. Especially when we hear Bryan Adams.

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We work well as a pair.  I am the visionary and come up with the crazy ideas.  She is the planner and executes them.

She is always up for an adventure, even with the kids.  We are both history geeks and we took the kids to Philadelphia (I will write about that trip soon, I promise).  

I found out that there was an Amato’s in Ticonderoga and she was crazy enough to take a road trip with me.  With our two kids.  I was so scared that the Italians were not going to be as good as I remembered them but they were.  We then drove through Washington County (I think) and then over to Vermont to look for a cheese shop and a chocolate museum that I remembered visiting with Bryon.  We found a cheese shop, but it was closed and we couldn’t find the chocolate museum.  Luckily we found a chocolate shop in Bennington.  The kids seemed just as excited.

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Sometimes I curl my hair like DJ on Fuller House.  I don’t do it every day like DJ because I am a real person, not a TV character and I do not have daily access to make up artists and hairstylists.  I told her that I am like DJ because we are both widows, except DJ has amazing hair and a hot boyfriend while I have neither.  I told my friend that would make her my Kimmy Gibbler.  She accepted her new role (as if she had a choice!)

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We sat at Bryon’s grave yesterday.  She brought him a Stewarts Mountain Brew Tall Boy (which still does not have rugby listed as one of the activities you can enjoy while drinking a Mountain Brew).  We talked about how it sometimes it feels like yesterday that he died and other times it feels like a lifetime ago.  We talked about much we miss him, but we know we wouldn’t be close friends If he were still alive.  She also told me how much I have changed since Bryon had died and how she never knew who I was before.

She was the one of the first people to help me embrace my new self and grow as a person.  We will never know why Bryon had to die, but I truly think that my friendship with Kimmy Gibbler is one of the biggest gifts that Bryon gave me.   I can’t imagine my life without my Kimmy Gibbler.

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A better version of myself

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.

All that remains

I am going to preface this post by stating that Bryon and I did meet through politics so politics plays a role in our story and it may come up from time to time.  However, this is not a political blog.  It’s a blog about grief, life, love and resilience.  There will be no political commentary from me.

* * *

A seer sucker suit hanging in the closet.

A vintage briefcase bought at an estate sale.

A shelf of books.

A pair of size 13 Aldens in the closet.

A whole bunch of Brooks Brothers bow ties.

Bryon’s Albany Law Rugby sweatshirt with “Shrek” embroidered on the sleeve.

Several copies of Smithsonian Magazine and The Economist.

A lot of political memorabilia.

His coat hanging off the back of a dining room chair.

A six pack of beer in the back of the fridge, untouched after 14 months.

His laptop bag filled with a folder of travel documents from our last cruise 15 months before.

One voicemail I found in the deleted files on my phone.

This is a list of items that remain from Bryon.  This is certainly not an exhaustive list. These items are reminders of who he was and the life he lived.  The capture aspects of his personality and his passions.  These very reminders sting whenever I look at them, but at the same time, I can’t get rid of them because they are all that remain.  Every time I get rid of an item that belonged to Bryon, I feel like I am getting rid of a piece of him.

But so much more remains of Bryon’s memory than the items that clutter up my house.

This weekend I had the honor of co-presenting the first ever New York State Young Republican Bryon McKim Alumni Award.  I was touched, but I wasn’t expecting to get as emotional as I did.  Bryon and I hadn’t been actively involved in this organization for a couple of leadership cycles.  There were several old friends but most of the faces in the crowd were new to me though they welcomed my daughter and I as if we were old friends. This organization had played a large role in our life for several years, both at the state and national level.  I was reminded that this was our beginning.  Our love story started at a New York State Young Republican Event.  If it wasn’t for the Young Republicans, Bryon and I would never have met, fallen in love, gotten married or had our daughter.  It was almost as if I was in the part and present at the same time.   Being at that meeting brought up all those emotions because even though it had been years, once I was sitting down at that dinner, it almost felt like I was reliving those memories.

I just think about all the ways the people who knew Bryon have chosen to honor him. The Bryon C. McKim Memorial Derby Party.  The Bryon “Shrek” McKim Albany Law School Memorial Alumni Match and the Shrek award.  The New York State Young Republican Bryon McKim alumni award.  People don’t choose to honor your memory if you hadn’t made some sort of difference in their lives.  Bryon touched so many lives and I appreciate that his memory being honored.  So many people die and ultimately become forgotten and it is comforting to know that Bryon won’t be forgotten.

It means so much when the recipients of these awards say wonderful things about Bryon in their acceptance speeches, though as time passes, I expect that the recipients of these awards will remember Bryon decreases.  Eventually they will only know about Bryon through his legacy that is passed down by others in the respective organization.

Everytime I go to an event that honors Bryon, it still hits me like the proverbial ton of bricks that I am attending a memorial event.  Memorial events are to remember dead people.  Bryon is dead.  Gone.  He is a memory.  But I will show up because it is important for me to honor Bryon’s memory and honor those who choose to keep his memory alive.

Bryon has left behind a legacy of friendships.  Bryon had built relationships with so many people from so many different areas of his life.  But his legacy of friendships isn’t just with those he had relationships with, but also with all the people that have been brought together because of Bryon.  Bryon was a really good mediator which was a talent that could be a headache for him at times, but he took the responsibility of this talent seriously.  Many of my friendships are the result of the bridges that Bryon built between others.

Bryon was full of life and leaves behind so many stories, most of them hilarious.  At Saturday’s event, I was talking to a good friend.  Her father died when she was little and that she heard a lot of stories about her father through his friends and that she feels like she knew her father from these stories.  She assured me that my daughter will know Bryon from all these stories.  Many people have said this to me, but honestly, it was a sentiment that always felt hollow to me.  One of those comments that is well-intentioned but feels like it was just said to me to try to comfort me.  It meant so much more coming from someone who grew up in the same situation that my daughter will grow up in.  But my friend is absolutely correct.  Bryon has left behind a legacy filled with stories  and those stories will ultimately be passed down to our daughter through his friends.  And even though it’s painful to think that my daughter will not remember Bryon, I am thankful that Bryon left a legacy that includes all these stories and friends.  Not every child who loses a parent has that legacy.

On my two hour drive home, I just kept thinking about Bryon and our early years.  So I decided to end this post with pictures taken at various Young Republican events.  We weren’t good about remembering to take photos so please remember to take photos! Someday they will be what remains of you.

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Young Republican National Federation Fall 2008 Board Meeting in Nasvhille. Bryon called this our High School Prom Picture because of the way we were posed.
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New York City Young Republican Club Holiday Party, 2008.
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New York State Young Republican Convention in Staten Island, 2009
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New York State Young Republican Day at the races, 2010
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Young Republican National Convention in Indianapolis, 2009
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Young Republican National Convention in Indianapolis, 2009.  Doing one of the things he did best.
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New York State Young Republican Convention in the Finger Lakes (wine country), 2011

My friend Stephanie

I have never met Stephanie in person but we both belong to a Facebook group which was formed in 2011.  It consisted of a bunch of ladies planning their September 2012 weddings.  We discussed many things in that group such as floral arrangements, wedding hairstyles and seating charts.  After our wedding, many of us stayed in that group and since then we have bought houses, gotten job promotions and welcomed babies into the world.  We also give each other fashion advice, share recipes and we talk about a LOT of things that, like Vegas, will stay in that group.

I am the first widow of the group.

Well, sort of.

My friend Stephanie really is the first widow of our group.

Stephanie and I had a lot in common.  We are both New England girls and we love the ocean.  We both root for the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots.  We have both run for public office.  Despite the fact that she is a Democrat and I was a Republican, we understood each other and we always refer to each other as our “sister from another party.”  However, I never thought we would share the bond of being widows.  At least not this soon.

While the members of our online group come from a variety of backgrounds and each had our own love story, Stephanie’s story was a bit different.  Like the rest of us, Stephanie was marrying her soulmate, Chris.  But unlike the rest of us, Stephanie had a heart breaking story that preceded her happily ever after.  Chris is Stephanie’s second soul-mate.  Her first soul mate was her fiancé Stephen and he drowned in a lake in New Hampshire in 2010.

Now, I am just going to stop here and state that just because Stephanie and Stephen were engaged and not married does not disqualify Stephanie from widow status.  As far as I am concerned, she lost the man she was planning to spend the rest of her life with and it doesn’t  matter if they had made it legal yet.  If anything, engaged widows have to deal with some major challenges, especially if they did not legally have their affairs sorted out beforehand.  And to be clear, I have no idea if Stephanie had those challenges.  I didn’t ask her because it is none of my (or your) business.

Stephanie was about my age when Stephen died.  And she had to face the dilemma that every widow must face- do you move forward or do you let this destroy you?

Stephanie chose to move forward.  She met her next soul mate Chris shortly thereafter.  Stephanie says that falling in love again was scary because you know that love can be ripped away.  Stephanie was so happy with Stephen and she never thought she would experience that kind of love again.  When she started to have those feelings again, she realized that she could let this new love pass her by or she can see where it goes.  I am sure Stephanie is glad that she decided to see where this love would go.

Chris was extremely supportive of Stephanie during her time of grief.  Chris also let her incorporate Stephen’s memory into their life.  Stephanie states that she and Chris were comfortable creating a bridge between the relationships.  It makes sense since there was not breakup.  It was more like a transition.  When Chris and Stephanie got engaged, the center stone of her engagement ring came from the solitaire from her engagement ring from Stephen.  And on their wedding day, Stephen’s dad walked Stephanie down the aisle.

If I ever fall in love again, I hope my man would be as understanding and supportive as Chris.

I did ask Stephanie if she had any advice for other widows.  Here is what she had to say-

  • Don’t live according to anyone else’s timeline.
  • Everyone grieves differently and no one has the right to judge any of your decisions
  • Lean on people.  Friends and family genuinely want to help you.  Take them up on offers, but don’t be afraid to say no as well.  If you are not ready to go to a movie, have girls night, etc., it’s okay not to force it.
  • People will surprise you.  You will definitely find out who your real friends are.
  • It’s okay to seek professional help.
  • There is also an opportunity to do things you might not have otherwise done that you’ve always wanted to do.  Once the “widow fog” lifts, do what you have always wanted to do whether it is learn to paint, take piano lessons or go to law school.
  • You will be caught off guard by PTSD even years later.  Stephanie states that she was watching a movie a few months ago where the husband died and the wife was in his closet, crying in his clothes.  Stephanie says she lost it.

Whether my great love story has a chapter 2 or not, I will continue to look up to Stephanie.  As I said, she was my age when she lost Stephen and she chose to be resilient.  She went on to finish her bachelors degree and she just completed her first year of law school proving that you can always follow your dreams.  I hope I can be like Stephanie.  Today she and Chris are going on a well-deserved vacation to somewhere that requires passports.  Let’s all wish for them to have a great time.

If you want to read more about Stephanie and Chris’s love story, click here.

If you want to read more about Stephen, you can view his obituary here.

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Stephanie and Stephen
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Stephanie and Chris

Warm and fuzzy

Three of us girls and my daughter went out for breakfast the morning after the Kentucky Derby.  One of us had said that in the past, she felt like she was viewed as “Bryon’s friend” but after this weekend, she felt like she became part of our friends group in her own right. We all felt warm and fuzzy when we realized that.   

My friends observation hit me close to home because for years I felt the same way.  I moved to Albany in 2009 after Bryon and I had been dating for a year and he already has his social network.  Everyone was Bryon’s friend and I felt like I was his shadow.  Over the years, my friendships did start to evolve but I didn’t realize how strong those friendships were until my friends were there for me when I needed them the most.  They continue to be there for me, helping me heal.

Yesterday I wrote about all the love and friendship shared on Derby Day.  Today I feel like celebrating that love and friendship.  

In the past, I have written a lot about my girls.  But most of these girls are attached to guys. Really great guys.  These guys would drop whatever they were doing to help me with anything and I don’t give them enough credit in this blog.  Most of these guys were Bryon’s friends and many of us girls became friends through our significant others.  Now I think it’s safe to say that it is us girls who are the driving force behind the groups social calendar.   

I have realized that I have been looking at these friendships only through my own eyes and not the eyes of my friends.  My grieving process has made me self-absorbed at times.  I know my friends have been there for me and my daughter but I haven’t been able to fully appreciate that my friends have been there for each other too.  I am not the only one who has needed support during this time.  Each one of my friends has been grieving too and they have been there for each other as well as be there for my daughter and me.

So many other friendships have formed before my very eyes.  Older friendships have been strengthened. We have all been friends to varying degrees but Bryon’s death has brought many of us closer.  But we aren’t just friends, we are a family.  And we have been all along.  We just never realized it until after Bryon died. Bryon may not be able to be here for us but he gave us each other.  

We are one big, crazy extended family complete with adults, kids and pets as well as the biological families of our family and friends of friends.  I have noticed that since Bryon has passed, we make more time for each other.  Birthdays get celebrated as well as personal milestones.  We check in with each other more, even if it is just because it’s been a couple of days and we wanted to make sure everything was okay.  The ladies have a monthly brunch.  Everyone seems fully committed to be positive role models and trusted adults for the younger generation to look up to.

I love my family and I am so thankful I have them in my life.

First Annual Bryon C. McKim Memorial Derby Party

I have two words to describe Derby Day 2017.  

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The first word is Epic.

We all came ready to celebrate the two most exciting minutes in sports.

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There were old friends enjoying each others company.  There were new friendships formed.  Lots of laughter, celebration and happiness were in the air.

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There were lovely ladies in dresses, hats and fascinators.  

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There were dapper men in seersucker suits.  

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Delicious food was served- bourbon meatballs, pulled pork sliders, mini Kentucky hot browns, mint julep chicken skewers and chicken and waffle skewers.  Because we all know that food tastes better when it is served on a stick.

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Makers Mark Mint Juleps were consumed in special Bryon McKim souvenir cups.  So many Mint Juleps were consumed that the bar ran out of Makers Mark two hours into the party.  Bryon would be particularly proud of that.  

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There was a silent auction full of amazing items that were generously donated from members of our community.  The silent auction was accompanied by friendly competition to outbid each other.

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The second word is Bittersweet.  

We were having a great time but we all knew that this party would not be happening if Bryon was still alive.  If Bryon were still alive, we would have been having our annual Kentucky Derby party in our backyard.  The backyard party would have been at a smaller scale but just as fun.

Ultimately Bryon had to die to bring us all together to have a good time.

As much fun as I had on Derby Day, I would have given it all back if it meant Bryon would still be here.  But I think I am reaching the point in my grieving process where I am beginning to accept Bryon’s death as it is.  I have days where I still ask “why” but I know that even if I can figure out the “why,” it doesn’t change anything.  Bryon will still be dead.  And there is nothing that can change that.

We can’t change the fact that Bryon is gone but instead we chose to take a horrible situation and make the best of it.  Many people die without leaving their mark (pun not intended) on this world but Bryon made his mark (okay, pun was intended this time) and we made the choice to keep his memory alive.  Derby Day had the potential to be a very sad day but instead, we chose to celebrate Bryon’s favorite day of the year.  And we celebrated in true Bryon McKim fashion.  I am grateful that I had so many amazing people to celebrate Bryon’s life with.  We all remember what a difference he made in this world. He helped so many people when he was alive and we chose to continue his legacy and help others in his memory.

I want to thank the Bryon C. McKim Derby Party Planning Committee: Vince Casale, Lynn Krogh, Danielle Grasso, Joseph Hanson, Jennifer Muthig, Mike Utzig, Nick Wilock, Jennifer Armstrong, Mike and Natalie Kosar, Sara Stein and everyone else who assisted in the planning process.  I am awe of your talent and you ran this event like a well oiled machine.  You could run a small nation.  Bryon would be proud.

I want to thank our sponsors for supporting the event and all the business who generously donated items for our silent auction.  My daughter and I are very lucky to be part of such a supportive community who looks after their own.

I want to thank Wolff’s Biergarten for all your hospitality and help putting on this event.  You were great to work with and made our experience enjoyable.

And I want to thank everyone who came out to support our event to celebrate Bryon’s life and keep his memory alive.  One of the biggest fears that a grieving person has is that their loved one will be forgotten.  Thank you for reminding me that while Bryon may be dead, he did live.

I look forward to celebrating with you again in 2018.

The ugly side of grief

Grief if not pretty.  Grief is actually quite ugly.  Some view me as strong.  Some view me as delicate.   But the truth is I am neither strong or delicate yet I am both strong and delicate at the same time.  I always joke that I am a girl of many contradictions as I am part city girl, part country girl.  The analogy fits here as well.

Grief is hard.  It’s hard to go to bed alone.  It’s hard to deal with the moments of shock where you wonder why all of this had to happen.  It’s been 8 months since Bryon died and over a year (13 months) since Bryon got sick and I am still hit with those moments.  But one of the hardest parts of grief is all the emotions.  Grief makes you feel every emotion there is; sadness, anger, frustration, helplessness, desperation.  It is like each emotion is it’s own bright, vibrant color and I am that cup of disgusting water that you dip your paintbrush into.  All those bright colors have turned my cup of clear water into a disgusting murky shade of greenish brown.

I have always been someone who has struggled with expressing my negative emotions.  I usually say nothing and I let frustration build until it turns into a completely different emotion and then the volcano erupts and it is usually over something minor and stupid. And once that volcano erupts, there is so stopping and tt is not fair to the people that stand in line of that volcano.  It’s not fair to take your negative emotions out on people.  People shouldn’t have to deal with Mt. McKim.

Grief is exhausting.  I joke with my friends that grief has turned me into an emotionally stunted preteen girl.  While I like to think I have more wisdom than the average preteen girl, there is still some level of truth to that statement.  Emotionally, I can only deal with what is in front of me and that in turn has made me self-absorbed.  I talk about myself too much.  I wonder when enough time has gone by that I don’t feel the need to talk about myself and my grief so much.  When do I begin to act normal again?

Grief is overwhelming.  Not only are we dealing with the absence of our loved one, we have to deal with the secondary losses.  Loss of security, loss of income, loss of future plans.  We have to rebuild and that is overwhelming.  Many widows don’t know how to rebuild.  I know I am relearning skills that I haven’t had to think about in over 6 years.  I know where I want to be but I don’t know how to get there.  I am like the underpants gnomes except I am not collecting underpants.

underpantsgnomes1

I had been working on removing toxicity from my life and I still find that I have too much to deal with emotionally.  It dawns on me that it isn’t enough to remove toxic people, you need to remove toxic thoughts too.  I need to learn how to redirect that energy to something more positive.

I also want to make a point that just because one is widowed does not mean that they are obligated to accept friendship from a person who tears you down.  Just because you are at a low point in your life does not mean that you deserve to be bullied or talked to in a way that is demeaning.  Surround yourself with supportive people.

Grief also can make you anxious and paranoid.  So much bad stuff happened to me this past year and I am constantly worried about what tragedy is coming next.  It’s like I can’t just accept that this storm has passed and I need to enjoy the sunshine until the next storm happens.  (Because widowhood doesn’t give you any immunity from bad things happening.  But let’s hope I don’t have to sit in another ICU room for 5 months watching someone else I care about suffer and die)  In addition to watching my husband die, many people that should have been supportive of my daughter and me were not.  Those people were selfish and self serving.  I was hurt by those people but I need to stop anticipating that I am going to be hurt by the people who have been there for me over and over again.  My friends have proven that they have been there for me and I need to trust that they will continue to be there for me.

Grief is ugly.  I am not looking for pity.  People who are grieving generally don’t want pity.  Or advice unless we specifically ask for it.  We want empathy, love and support.  People who are grieving don’t want to be spoken at or preached at.  We just want to be listened to.  And whatever you do, don’t tell the grieving how to grieve or try to educate them on their own experience.  Trust me, you don’t know.  Even if you think you do, you don’t.

Why am I sharing this?  Most people try to portray themselves in the best light possible, not share their ugly side.  There are many reasons.  The most important is that I believe in being honest and I want to give an honest account of grief, not just the noble parts.  I am not always that strong and stoic widow that many people believe I am.  The second reason is accountability.  I don’t want to act like this but I need to own it when I do.  I have been hurt by too many people who don’t take accountability for their actions.  I think we all know those people, the people that never apologize for anything.  They just blame everyone else .  And as always, I am writing this because I know I can’t be the only grieving person that feels like a hot mess sometimes.  Maybe someone that relates will read this and will get some relief for not being alone.

I have had a rough week.  I tend to write about what’s on my mind and there have been four posts this week.  I think that is a record. That’s a lot of stuff on my mind.  I want to put this week behind me. I have a nearly dead palm tree and a nearly dead oak tree in my kitchen.  They have not looked good for months.  I was convinced I had neglected those poor trees to the point of no return.  Well today I see signs of recovery.  If those trees can recover, there is no reason I can not.  We all can regardless of what pain we are moving forward from. It’s time to put the negativity behind me and enjoy the two birthday parties I am attending this weekend.