Just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should.

Alternate Title: Why the Media is trash.

There was a saying that my late husband used to say- just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should do it.

I tried explaining that to my daughter when she was two when she told me that she can eat play doh.  She didn’t agree with that statement.

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Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I have been noticed a disturbing trend on media.

I have noticed that certain media outlets (I am looking at you @newscentermaine and @WCVB ) have been publishing people’s recovery stories (which is great) but they are showing photos of the people intubated as the featured image.

Now, one of those stories was a grown man and I would assume that he gave consent to use his photo.  But…then I come back to…just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should.

The second story featured a child, too young to consent.  I usually don’t judge other parents, but I side-eye that.  Just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should.

My  late-husband was hooked up to a ventilator for 5 months.

That is not a writing mistake.

Not 5 days.  Not 5 weeks.

5 months.

So before anyone gets all Karen on me, accusing me of being a Karen, I am going to kindly point out that I am sure there is only a very small portion of the population that can fathom what it is like to have a loved one on a ventilator for 5 months.

If you have had a loved one on a ventilator for 5 months and you think I am whining, then feel free to call me out.

I have no pictures of Bryon in that situation.  He was a proud man and I know he would have never wanted a picture of himself in that situation, broadcasted on social media.

The only picture I took in the hospital room was this.  One of Bryon’s best friends and his girlfriend sent this for his room.

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I do wonder about people who do that with their loved ones.  What is the purpose of doing that?  The only thing I can come up with is for attention?  I hope I am wrong because that makes me sad.  Maybe education but you can educate without showing your loved one hooked up to a ventilator.  Maybe they just want to torture themselves in the years to come?  (Seriously, if you took a picture of a loved one hooked up to machines, I’d love to know why.  Because I don’t understand.)

I also didn’t take a picture Bryon like that because I was tormented enough with seeing him like that in real time.  The image will forever be etched in my memory.  So much so that when he was actively dying, I was scared that that was how I was going to remember him.

In the past four years, I have never once thought “I really wish I got a picture of him attached to the ventilator….”

What would I even do with a picture like that?  Put it in my blog for shock value and attention?

I will always feel that putting a picture of someone hooked up to a ventilator on a platform that everyone sees to be in poor taste.

Again…just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should.

It is very insensitive to those who have had to witness a loved one in that situation.

I know that the media’s primary job is sensationlize anything that can to instill fear but to post pictures of people in their most vulnerable state for clicks on Facebook just shows a lack of decency.

I did take a moment to tweet both @newscentermaine and @WCVB letting them know it was in poor taste and insensitive to those who may have PTSD from seeing a loved one in that situation.

I got no response.  Not even a canned “Thanks for bringing it to our attention.”

Classy.

What are we so afraid of?

What is with all the fear?

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There is a lot of be afraid of.

As we all know, there this virus going around.  And that virus has the potential to kill you.

And it seems like every day the news changing it’s story about the virus.  And as each day passes, the headlines become scarier.  And the messages are mixed.  Can anyone keep any of it straight anymore?

We fear for our health and we fear for our livelihoods.

And now it looks like 2020 is going to be the worst hurricane season ever.

And just when things couldn’t get any worse, we now have “Murder Hornets”.

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No wonder why we are scared.  Hurricanes are scary.  Any kind of flying insect with a stinger is scary, even those without the word “murder” in their name.

But have we stopped and asked us why we are so scared.

My daughter is scared of bugs.  It doesn’t matter what kind of bug.  She’s even afraid of ants.

I am not going to lie.  I don’t love bugs.  They make me uncomfortable.  But I deal with them.

My daughter is also afraid of various Disney villains and she is afraid of the dark.

I fear oompa loompas.  They make me extremely uncomfortable and totally give me the heebie jeebies.   Bryon enjoyed scaring me with that one.  One time when I was in the bathroom, he took my phone and changed my wallpaper to a picture of an oompa loompa.  So poor, unsuspecting me picked up my phone and saw that. I screamed.  I then put a lock on my screen.

There is a lot of things in this world to be afraid of.  And quarantine and the news and all the certainty is exacerbating our fears.

To be clear- I am not telling you to not to be concerned about the virus.  Your level of concern is up to you to assess and decide what your level of fear is.  Especially since I can’t write a post that is perfectly tailored to be perfectly applicable to everyone.  If you live in a place that is a COVID-19 hotspot, then you are going to be more fearful of catching it than someone who is not in a COVID-19 hotspot.

As the writer of this blog post, I have to trust you, the reader, to make your own decision about your feelings.  And that is how it should be.  As the reader, you need to take from this blog post what resonates with you and leave what doesn’t resonate.  Partially resonating is cool too.

One thing I do not talk about on this blog much is the fact that I am more into New Age thinking.  I don’t talk about it because I fear what people may think of me.  It’s not what Catholics do.  But I have issues with Catholicism and all organized religion at the moment.  But I will be clear, while I may roll my eyes at some of the hypocrisy I see, I am not an Atheist.  But this is all for another post at another time.

So try to follow me.  I am more New Agey now.  I do believe we are all energy.  The cool thing is that since we are all energy, we never truly die, which I know because I feel Bryon’s energy at time.  I keep my beliefs to myself because I am fearful of what people will think of them. Which is stupid.

Most of us have probably felt or been recipients to positive energy and negative energy.

The emotions we feel have energy.

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The energy we have affects ourselves and those around us.  Our energy can also be affected by those around us.  Raising your energy is your responsibility but it will help out those around you as well.

At the very least, people won’t be saying you are a bitch when you leave the room.

I kid.  I am sure if you are great and those people were blaming you and resorting to name calling.  I got your back.

If you notice on the bottom, there are contracted energy.  Emotions like Shame, Guilt, Apathy, Grief and Fear are all contracted energy.  We are not living to our fullest potential when we are in those emotions.

Let’s quickly go up the scale.

Shame.  The lowest energy.

I did a lot of soul searching after Bryon died.  I stumbled on this Ted Talk with Brene Brown and it changed my life.

 

Watch it.  It may change your life.

I then wanted to read every book Brene Brown wrote.  I started with The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.  The link is an Amazon Affiliate link.  I read alot and I have always been afraid to make money with book recommendations.  It’s silly.  Why should I be afraid of that?

I have since read everything that Brene Brown has written.  I have watched her special on Netflix.  I hope I can see her talk in person.

But after I watched that initial Ted Talk, I felt free to feel vulnerable. The biggest piece I got was that you can’t be vulnerable without courage.

I have felt shame in life.  I have never felt good enough.  I was never smart enough, pretty enough, or thin enough.  Shame caused me to build walls and Brene has helped me tear some down.  I am still working on others though.

Guilt and apathy are definitely emotions I have dealt with.  Survivors guilt is real.

Grief…more than half this blog is about grief.  I don’t think I need to prove it’s real.

Then we get to fear.

While one can cause a person to feel shame or guilt, I feel like fear is easily manipulated by other people.  People can incite fear in you.

Heck, some of your fears may not actually be your fears.  You may have learned those fears.

Another question to ask is if someone wants you to be fearful, especially if they gain from you being fearful.  Maybe you have a friend who tears you down to lower your self confidence and that makes you fearful to take chances in your life.  Your friend may want to keep you down because they are afraid you will make other friends or that you may outshine them.  I don’t know.  Really, if your friend does that, you probably need a new friend.

It’s okay to feel fear from time to time but is fear taking over your life?

So if you feel like you are playing into the feeling of fear, it might be a good idea (just a suggestion) to try to understand why you are afraid and see if it’s something that can be addressed and rectified.   Especially, because fear is keeping you from being the best version of you.  We all deserve to at our best.

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Defining moments

I can remember many dates.

Some are easy for me to remember because they relate to events that happened in my life.

I can remember the date I moved to Maine as a teenager.

I can remember the date of my first date with Bryon.

I can remember the date I got married.

I can remember the date my daughter was born.

I can remember the date when Bryon died.

But there are many events in my life where I can’t remember the date.

One of those events happened four years ago today.

I had been anticipating this anniversary, but I needed help from Facebook memories to know exactly what day it was.  Because all I can tell you is that this happened on a Tuesday, two days after Easter.

Truth be told, I don’t look at Facebook Memories very often.  There is a lot of pain in my past.  Even the happy memories bring me pain. Eventually you reach a point where you decide you have had enough of pain and you just have to start staying in the present and move forward.

Kind of like that scene in Love Actually when Mark pretends to be carol singers and holds the cards up to Kiera Knightly, professing his love to her because you have to be honest at Christmas and then she kisses him and he walks off saying “Enough”.

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It kind of like that.

But sometimes you can’t escape thinking about those memories because they are defining moments in our lives.

On this day four years ago, Bryon was in septic shock and his body was beginning to shut down.

He was rushed off to a surgery that the doctors said he may not survive.

He had been in the ICU for 5 days at that point and I had been quiet on social media about his illness.  He was a proud man and I wanted to respect his privacy.  I have questioned that decision.

But in that moment, I only had hope and faith.  So I posted a prayer request on Facebook.

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My life changed that day.

It was the day when I realized that in a matter of moments, everything you had can be taken away from you.

Even if Bryon had survived, I know I never would have been the same.

I think it’s safe to make the assumption that Bryon would not have been the same.  We just don’t know to what extent.

Miraculously, Bryon survived the surgery.  I was hopeful that we were beginning the long road to recovery.

But that moment was really the beginning of the end.  It was the beginning of Bryon’s final chapter. A chapter where he would be hooked up to machines in an ICU.  A chapter where he couldn’t speak and would be too weak to even press the buttons on his TV remote.

Eventually Bryon was moved to another ICU at another hospital in New York City.  I bet he never would have imagined that he’d exit this world in New York City.  Though he was never one to ponder death, aside from showing his concern as to how I would manage if he were to die.  He was always the one to think about long term logistics.  I was the one who made sure milk was in the fridge and that there were enough clean clothes to get us through the following day.

Spoiler alert: I survived and I managed and I am okay.

He was not comfortable with death.  Part of that was the culture of his family of origin.  But sometimes I wonder if he knew on some deep soul level that he wasn’t going to be on Earth for a long time and he didn’t want to think about it.

I was the morbid one in our relationship.  I had no problem talking about death.  Pluto is in my first house.  The darkest planet in the most personal house.

I also come from a Boston Irish family. All of the grandparents came from large Catholic families and I attended many wakes and funerals growing up.  I joke that I grew up at the local funeral home.  Death was never shielded from me.

Four years ago today Bryon started his final chapter, a very painful chapter.  Though we will never know how painful it was to him.

I just know he fought to live.  He fought harder than most people.  I would have given up a lot sooner than he did.  He wanted to live.

He was hooked up to a ventilator and he couldn’t speak.  We never got to discuss what was going on, the what-ifs.  We never got to talk about the possibility of his eventual exit from this world.

If he had any words of wisdom he wanted to share with me and my daughter for our following chapters, he didn’t get to share them.

It’s a piece of closure that I never got and I really needed.  I still need that that closure.  I still struggle to move forward because I never got that closure.

While Bryon entered his final chapter, I also began a chapter that interwined with his chapter.

Our chapters had a lot of the same elements.  The same two main characters, the same minor characters, the same setting, the same medical staff and parade of visitors.  Both chapters had a lot of beeping from machines in the background.

I have no idea how the passage of time felt for Bryon.  I am sure when he was lucid, it went painfully slow.  But there were many days he was out of it due to many episodes of sepsis.

For me time went really slow.  Day by day, sometimes hour by hour.  Just sitting in my own thoughts, unable to focus on much.  I read a few fluffy novels and I did organize all my pinterest boards. I organized all those recipes that I never got to cook for Bryon.

I have tried to explain to people what those 5 months were like.

It’s impossible.

I made the mistake of assuming that friends who visited a lot understand.  Most didn’t. Very few people from that period actually understood the true impact of Bryon’s final chapter.  Those people who do understand will always be held close to my heart.

I should have realized early one that my chapter is just that.  My chapter.  Pain meant to be shouldered by myself.

When you think about it, most people were just there for many key, pivotal moments.  But they weren’t there for the day by day.  That was me.

I try not to think about that chapter.  Yes, I was there for him through sickness and in health, but I’d rather remember him as healthy Bryon.

No one really asks about those days and can we blame them.  If they did ask me, they’d probably quickly regret it.  It’s probably for the best because I usually cry and that’s awkward.

And here we are now.

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And we are in the middle of a pandemic.

I feel like I am living in some sort of parallel surrealistic universe to the life I lived in 2016.

There is a medical crisis.

A Presidential Election Season is going on, albeit in the background.

There is a lot of talk about ventilators.

We are desperately seeking a cure or at least a solution.

Hand sanitizer and hand-washing are very important.  In 2016, I didn’t want to spread ICU germs to my toddler and I did not want to spread daycare germs to my critically ill husband in the ICU so everything was sanitized.  In 2020, I am careful to wipe down everything I bring into the house from Wal-Mart with a Clorox wipe.

In 2016, it was a treat to grab a coffee at the on-site Dunkin or Starbucks.  In 2020, it is a treat to grab Dunkin from the drive-thru, (paid via app, no cash or card touched by hands and my cup is immediately wiped with a Clorox wipe.  I keep a canister in my car.)

In some ways, 2020 feels just like 2016.  I am living day by day.

But this time I am not alone.

We are all living day by day, sometimes hour by hour.  The whole world.

This event is going to change us all.  Whether we want to admit or not.  We will never be the same.

2020 is a bizarre chapter with the plot twist you never saw coming.

I want to tell everyone that everyone is going to be okay.  But that is a lie.

So many people are going to become critically ill.  But their families won’t be with them because they will likely be quarantined.  That is painful for me to think about.

As I type this, 33,966 people have exited this world and this pandemic is still in the early stages.  The number will be higher by the time you read this.

I can’t help but think of the magnitude of Bryon’s death and then multiply that magnitude by 33,966.

33,966 families and social circles are grieving.

If you are reading this and have lost someone to COVID-19, please accept my heartfelt condolences.

And even if no one close to you dies, it is still okay to grieve.  The world you knew is gone.  It is okay to be scared.  A disease that we don’t have a cure yet is a scary thing.

But my message isn’t all doom and gloom.

For those of us that survive, I can tell you that we will be okay.  Everything has changed and everything seems so different.  You will adapt.

We are all so much stronger than we think we are.

Don’t be afraid of the growth you are going to experience.  We are humans,  we are meant to grown and evolve.

Bryon’s death forced me to grow and evolve.  I am still growing and evolving.  And now we get an opportunity to grow and evolve as a community.

In some ways, it like a gift.  A painful gift, but still a gift.

This is our defining moment.

Why I don’t play the “what if” game (4-minute read)

My husband, Bryon passed away in 2016.

His illness had come as a shock.  His body went into shock and he almost died at the beginning but he survived.

He did have an uphill battle ahead of him.  He spent 5 months in the ICU fighting for his life.

I knew death was a potential outcome but I really thought he was going to make it through.  But it didn’t work out that way.

After Bryon died, my mind tried to make sense of what had just happened.

I was trying to figure out what my “new normal” was.

As I was trying to figure out my new life, I kept comparing it to my old life.  My old life was the only point of reference I knew.

And every time I would have to make any sort of decision, I would imagine what Bryon would think of the situation.  After all, we spent almost every day together for the past 8 years and he wasn’t only my spouse.  He was my best friend.  We talked about everything.

Bryon was on my mind a lot.

 

While one is never free of grief, the emotions usually ease up over time.  Some say time heals all wounds.  I don’t discount that theory but I think that the easing of emotions over time can be attributed to the fact that you begin to get used to them being gone.

But in those early days, I was wondering what the *bleep* had just happened to my life.

I found myself wondering what if Bryon were still alive.  What would he say?  What would he do?  What would our life be like?

I would watch our TV shows and wonder what he’d think of the plotline.  Or how hard he’d laugh at one of the jokes.

As the Election of 2016 unfolded, I wondered what he would have thought of it all.

In the beginning, it was easy to bridge the gap from “new life” to “old life”.  I was in our house with our daughter (who was still a toddler) and our cat and I was among all our belongings.  Our friends were around.  I was essentially living our life…without him.

It was very easy to slip back into the past, even if it was only in my mind.

But over time, things began to change.

My daughter got older.  Even though my role as a mother changed when I went from co-parent to solo parent, my role as a mother changed as I observed my toddler turning into a pre-schooler.

I started to give away and donate items of his that I didn’t need or want.  Though this was a lengthy process as Bryon saved everything and there was a lot of sentiment attached to his possessions.

I got a new job where I could work from home.  If he was still alive, I couldn’t work from home.  He sometimes worked from home and he joked that we couldn’t both work from home.

Many friends drifted away.  I also learned that many of “our friends” were really just his friends and those friendships crumbled.

Over time, my home stopped feeling like home.  I began to feel as alien in New York then as I did when I moved there in 2009.

I realized “our life” no longer existed and that I was fooling myself thinking I could reconstruct a life out of the remnants of “our old life”.

I changed.  I grew.  I am not the same person I was.

My life has been a revolving door of change.

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Change has been the only constant.

I had to grieve the life I once knew.

But now my life path has meandered.  It is a lot harder to think “If Bryon was here…” because if Bryon were alive, I wouldn’t be where I was.

I know Bryon is always with me in that esoteric kind of way but I am very removed from the life we had.

I can’t wonder “what if” anymore.

The only thing wondering “what if” will accomplish is denying me happiness in my current life.

I can’t move forward if I am constantly looking back.

It doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate our memories.

It doesn’t mean that I can’t cry when I miss him or that I can’t laugh when I think of a funny memory.

It doesn’t mean that I have to stop loving him.

I know that wherever Bryon is, he would want me to be happy.

After everything I have been through, the least I can do is let myself be happy.

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Weekly Gratitude #10: Three Years

Today is my blog’s birthday.

I started this blog as a way to process and cope with all the emotions I was feelings 5 months post-loss.  I was starting to “wake up” from the grief fog and I felt the need to share my emotions as I have noticed a dearth of information to help young widows.  I wanted my information out there so if another widow stumbled across it, they would know that they were not alone.

I also felt the need to share my story because I wanted others to understand the emotions that a widowed person felt, at least from my perspective.  After all, that is the only perspective I can honestly offer.

So much has changed since that time.

At that time I was somewhere between existing and surviving.

Now I am a survivor and on some days, I might even consider myself to be thriving.

Some locations in my story have changed.

Some characters in my story are the same, but some characters are different. I don’t doubt that all the characters in my life are there (or have been there) for a reason.

When I started this blog, my daughter was a toddler.  Now she is a kindergartener.

As I reread some of my earlier blog posts, I feel that strange dichotomy that widows feel.  The dichotomy where my old life and my old self feel current and they exist alongside my new life and new self.

My last two sentences of my first blog post really hit me hard.

“A part of me died with him that morning.  This is the story of the part of me that is still living.”

At that point in time, my soul was completely fractured.  I felt like an empty shell of who I was and I had no clue how I was going to move forward.

Now it is three years later.  I have survived.  I have grown.

Yes, a part of me may have died the same morning Bryon did but the part of me that is still living has forged ahead.

She has grown back into a whole, albeit different, person.

I want to thank all of you who have been a part of this ride.  As I said the other day, nothing ever lasts forever.  But I appreciate all of you who continue to travel this journey with me.

Hope

New Years Eve has always been one of my favorite holidays.

It isn’t because of the booze. Though booze certainly can make the night more interesting and add to the excitement.

I am not against a boozy New Years Eve. But if chose to drink… please drink responsibly.

The real reason I Iove New Years Eve is that the feeling of hope and optimism that the next year will be better than the last.

What does it mean to be hopeful?

For me I always hoped for love, wealth, travel and happiness. I think that is natural to hope for those things but did I even know what I was hoping for?

I think back to what I used to hope for and it just seems so innocent.

Sometimes I am ashamed at how simple my emotional worldview was. So black and white. I thought I had everything figured out when really I had about 7-10% of life figured out. (And no one has life 100% figured out.)

But how can hold this against my younger self? She didn’t know. That wasn’t her fault. 

I don’t want to be arrogant towards my younger self but I didn’t understand how powerful hope can be until I experienced true despair.

New Years 2017 I was just hoping that I was going to survive and that maybe “IT” wouldn’t hurt as much.

Since 2017 I have hoped for continued survival, healing and for my daughter to thrive. I have hoped for happiness. I have hoped for a sense of home. I have hoped for stability, security and safety.

I have hoped for answers. Though I know I will never get the answers I need.

I have desires but I struggle to hope for them.

I have come to realize that in order to hope for something, you need to have faith that you can receive it.

It’s hard to hope when you don’t have faith.

Why hope for love and happiness when it can all be taken away, sometimes at a moments notice?

At the eve of a new decade, I find myself at a very strange spot. It’s a place I have never been before.

Parts of my old optimism are starting to come through but it’s hard to reconcile that optimism with the harsh reality that I have lived through.

We live in a society where time is perceived as linear and that it is easy to let go but my experience has proved that both of those perceived truths are not 100% true.

I am struggling to let go of the past partly because I fear I will never experience happiness again.

So that bring me to this point- New Years 2020.

A new decade.

I feel grossly unprepared.

I live to have a plan and set goals, preferably goals that have measurable outcomes.

I always want to better myself. That is a constant.

I used to be a dreamer but I haven’t had a dream in a very long time.

I have spent too much time letter what happened to me define me.

I want to be a dreamer again. I want to hope again and believe that I can be happy again. That it won’t seem ridiculous to hope for love, happiness, wealth and travel.

It’s a tall order.

All I know is after the past 3.5 years, something has got to change.

Weekly Gratitude #7: The Ebbs and Flows of Joy and Grief

This is a bit later in the day than I usually post.

I am sorry about that.

It is that awkward period between Christmas and the New Year.

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So you are getting this post when I get around to finishing it.

I have finished up Round 1 of Christmas and Round 2 will be happening in a couple of days.  I usually prefer when the holidays are spread out.

The first Christmas post-loss was hard.  I spent it with people who loved my daughter and me and I cried myself to sleep.

The second Christmas was a bit easier than the first but the feelings around Christmas were still heavy and sad.

Last Christmas was actually happy and hopeful.

I expected the same this year as last year but this year Christmas felt kind of flat and a bit empty.  I did do a lot of Christmas events for my daughter.  She seemed to enjoy them, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that part of the reason for having a busy schedule was to keep my mind pre-occupied.

You can’t feel sad when you are experiencing Christmas cheer, right?

I didn’t want my daughter to detect my sadness this year.

Christmas (well Round 1) has come and gone.  There were dinners and presents and such.

I went to “Midnight Mass” (at 9pm, which is an abomination if you ask me but that is another discussion for another time) I had the realization even mellowed out grief still ebbs and flows.  My life is busy but at times it still feels empty without Bryon.

It is significant to mention that I am not a religious person anymore (it all feels hollow and pointless to me) but I was at “Midnight Mass” to keep myself distracted.  Last Christmas Eve I took my daughter to the 4 o’clock Mass and remember how long and lonely the late hours of Christmas Eve were.  I was at “Midnight Mass” for a distraction.

Don’t feel bad.  These ebbs and flows of joy and grief are a part of life.

But I am grateful for the following:

  1. The memories I had with Bryon.
  2. The memories I am making with my daughter.
  3. The fact that the sadness I feel right now is nowhere near as raw as the sadness I felt at this time three years ago.
  4. The hope for the future.
  5. Those who continue to give love and support to my daughter and me.

What are you grateful for this week?