On living and dying

I received some very sad news this morning.  A friend of mine back home had been battling Stage IV cancer for a couple of years now and there isn’t anymore that can be done.  He will be going to Hospice.

My heart is heavy knowing what is in store for his wife and children.  While no two situations are exactly alike, I have a better understanding than most.

So if you are reading this and you are healthy, please be grateful.  Be grateful for the health of those around you.

Because life is temporary.  

And so are we.  

Someday you are going to die.
I am going to die.

Everyone close to us is going to die.  

Please take time to appreciate those in your life.  

Hold on tight to those who matter.

Don’t waste time on those who are toxic.

Please, please, please don’t live with regrets.

We always think we have more time.  

Except we don’t always have more time.

If there is something you want to do, do it.  If you don’t have the means, find a way to make the means.  If you don’t have the time, find the time.  But do it.  Or at least do something that is a step in that direction.  They say that you don’t regret the things you do, you are more likely to regret the things you didn’t do.

You are here.  

You are breathing.

You need to live.  To do.  To think.  To create.  To love.

Be passionate.

So while you are here, please, please, please make today count.

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Don’t know where I am going

I have no idea where I am going.

I am still trying to figure out the person I want to reinvent myself to be.

I have no idea what the future entails.  I am not sure what I want from the future.  Bryon’s death has given me the opportunity to really think about how I want to spend the remainder of my days.

Because life is temporary after all.

If it were just me, I probably would have sold my house and would have had plans to go somewhere new.  Where I have never been before.  On my own.  But I probably would have wound up in Chicago or Florida because that is where one of my best friends and my cousin live, respectively.

But I have my daughter and it is important for her to have roots where her father and I had our lives.  And to be around those who loved her father and love her.

During my widowhood, I feel like I live in two different time dimensions.  The first dimension is the same dimension that we all live in where time moves forward in minutes, weeks, months, years, etc.  The second dimension of time is where the past is in the present.  The times that I try to cling to a memory for as long as I can because for that brief period of time, I can pretend that I am still in that moment and that Bryon is alive.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I live in this first dimension of time.  I am still here on Earth for an undetermined amount of time.  I want to make the best of my years here and do as much good in the world as I can.  I want to be the best version of myself I can be.

Because I can’t go back and be the older versions of myself.  And I don’t really want to either.

Even though my soul feels broken without Bryon, I don’t want to be the person I was before he got sick.  I didn’t know what was important.  I was selfish.  I worried about things that were insignificant.   I did not appreciate all that I had and I did not appreciate Bryon.  I let my fears rule my life.  And sometimes I just went along with things Bryon wanted because I didn’t want to risk an argument.  But in the process of not rocking the boat, I wasn’t always true to myself.

Going forward, I must always be true to myself.

Even if it means rocking every boat in the marina.

Death changes everything.  The timeline of my life has been broken into two very distinct pieces- the before and the after.

I can never go back to who I was when Bryon was alive or who I was before Bryon came into my life.

I can never go back and be the lonely shy child who grew up in the outskirts of the Boston suburbs.

I can never go back and be the restless teenager in rural Downeast Maine.  The girl who knew there was an exciting world out there and felt trapped in her small town.

I can never go back and be the girl who went to college but had no idea what she wanted to do.  The girl who had no confidence and was equally afraid of success and fear.

I can never go back and be the 21 year old who was spending a semester “studying” abroad in Winchester, UK.

I can never go back and be the 25 year old girl who had just broken up with her college boyfriend and who was working three jobs to get by.

I can never go back to the 27 year old girl who was involved in politics.

I can never go back to any of these versions of myself.  But I still carry something from each version.

The child version of myself represents my Boston Irish roots and my inner child who isn’t afraid to get creative.

The high school version of me represents my restless spirit that I will probably never outgrow and also reminds me that I love to run.

The college version of myself reminds me that I need to be more confident and not be afraid of my dreams like she was.

The 21 year old version of me was proud of herself that she went to England and got to visit London, Paris and Dublin.   She got to see places she had dreamed about for years and she got to experience a different culture.  Most importantly, she learned that “pants” don’t mean the same thing in the UK as they do in the US.

The 24 year old version of myself taught me that sometimes it is better to let go of something instead of chasing it.  You can’t make anyone love you.  It is best to wait for real love.

The 27 year old version of myself taught me ambition and how to get over my shyness.  This girl also represents who I was before I learned how to love.

And I think about everything I learned from Bryon.  He taught me how to love.  He taught me to believe to in myself and that I was worth nice things.  He taught me how to live like to the fullest.  He taught be to not be afraid.

It was because of him I got to be a wife and a mother.

 

I know that he is a part of me now.  But I still wish I could live in my memories with him and not in the present and future.

The second year is a b*tch

During my first year of widowhood, I learned what coping mechanisms did not work.

I tried to outrun grief, literally.  I ran a half marathon 6 weeks after Bryon died.  It was one of my biggest accomplishments in my life.  I hope to do it again.  But with only 6 weeks of training, my knees were not happy with me.

I tried to eat my emotions.  I gained back all the weight I lost when Bryon was sick and then some.  My knees continued to be unhappy.

I tried to keep busy and outsocialize my grief.  But now I am exhausted and nothing is getting crossed of my to-do list.  Being with friends is important but I have ignored spending time with myself.

There was one night I had some Spanish red wine.  That night I watched Jinger Duggar’s wedding and I bawled my eyes out.  But the next morning I had a headache and I was too old to be waking up with headaches.

I would go to Target whenever I was sad.  Nothing could cheer me up more than buying my two year old daughter a pair of pink cowgirl boots.  However, that cheerfulness would never last long.  My daughter had a great wardrobe that year.  A wardrobe she promptly outgrew and I gave away.

Writing helped my grief.  It helped me sort out my feelings.  But it also caused me to intellectualize my feelings which can prevent a person from feeling those feelings.  It is a mechanism I have used my whole life.

While I participated in some questionable grief practices, I have never denied my grief.  I have always acknowledged it.

But maybe I did something wrong because now I feel a flood of anger consuming me.

Let’s say grief is like an ocean.  Grief, like the ocean, can make a person feels small and insignificant.  Both grief and the ocean can be peaceful and serene at times and stormy and dangerous at other times.  Well I am standing in an island in the middle of this grief ocean and my anger is like a large wave crashing down over me.

Anger for all that happened to Bryon and for all his physical, mental and emotional pain.

Anger at how the events transpired.

Anger that Bryon and I never got to discuss what was happening nor did we get to discuss “what if”.

Anger that Bryon isn’t here to help me raise my daughter.

Anger that Bryon didn’t get to accomplish all his dreams and that we didn’t get to accomplish our dreams together.

Anger at the isolation I feel.  Everyone else gets to live normal lives  and not the “new normal” that I was told I needed to find when Bryon died.  I want the old normal.

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The second year is isolating.  Just as the reality of Bryon’s death is hitting me, people think I should be “over it”.

The second year is a b*tch and I still have nine months of it.

50 long years

50 years.

That is how long I can potentially be on this Earth.  That is if I live to my 90’s like both of my grandmothers.

50 long years.

I don’t know how I am going to do it.

To fill up all those years.

I went from being a person with her life planned out to being a person who is merely existing.

I am obviously still here for a reason.

And I want to see my daughter grow up and meet my grandchildren and maybe even my great-grandchildren.

My daughter (age 3) told me that she is going to be a mother when she grows up and that she is going to have four children.

So I guess that means for every theatrical temper tantrum I have to deal with, she will get it back times four.

Karma can be a beautiful thing.

But it is all going to be delightful as long as my daughter gets an education first.

People used to ask me why I was bothering with a second degree because I was married to a lawyer.  I always said that if something should- God forbid- happen to Bryon, I need to be able to support myself and my family.

I used to say that but I never thought it would actually be my reality.

But here I am.  Surviving?  Existing? Keeping my head above water?  Waiting to live again?

Without direction.  Lost.  Anxious.

Bryon is not here to solve all my problems.  He is not here to tell me that everything is going to be okay.

No idea what the future holds.

I have lost my faith.  In God.  In the Universe.

The future feels bleak and empty.

Scared to be lonely.

Scared to let someone else in.

Scared that I will be unhappy.

Scared that I won’t be able enough for my daughter.

Scared that I will always be sad.

Scared that I won’t make the best of my remaining years.

This is my life now.

For the next 50 long years.

 

Late night ramblings of a widow #3

I haven’t rambled for awhile so here goes.

I want my old life back.  My old life was so easy.  Bryon took care of everything.  And not just for me.  He took care of everything for so many people.

My old life was so much easier.  And I never appreciated.  Now when something goes wrong, I am the only one here to deal with it.  Luckily I can usually get help but I hate asking for it.  I hate being a burden on people. 

I never appreciated my old life.  I never appreciated all that Bryon did for me.  

I miss my old life even though it feels like a lifetime ago.  I feel so removed from my old life even though I live in the same house and have the same friends.  I still have my daughter and my cat.  

I am a different person.  The old Kerry is only a shadow inside of the New Kerry.

I want my old life back because in my old life, I didn’t know this kind of pain.

Some days I like my new life.  I like myself better now.

But some days my new life completely sucks.

My new life is lonely.  I know what I am missing.

Before I met Bryon, I felt like I was waiting for my real life to begin. Then I got my real life and was always concerned about the next step.  

I would be running from the past and escaping into the future even if the future scared me.

And then- it was all gone.  

Now I am in a future I never imagined having.   

For the first time in my life I am forced to live in the present because the past makes me sad and thinking about the future makes me uncomfortable. 

I feel stuck.  How do I know the difference between spending enough time grieving versus being afraid of the future?

I am so afraid of being disappointed in the future.  

I started to get excited about the holidays but now I wonder if I am setting myself up to be let down. Because my life isn’t a Hallmark movie. 

And if I ever date again…am I setting myself up for dissappointment.

I had to call IT for work tonight. The IT guy was nice enough. I am so lonely that I didn’t want to hang up. But I did because otherwise it would have been weird and creepy. At least I ended the call with “thank you” and “bye” instead of defaulting to “love you.” That would have been awkward even if I do genuinely appreciate the help.

I feel Bryon’s spirit so close at times. So close that he doesn’t seem dead. At times I feel like if I just reach out and wish harder that I can bring him back and pretend this was just a bad dream.  And then reality smacks me on the face.

Or maybe if I try hard enough, I can move myself to the parallel universe where things played out the way they were supposed to.  Where he continued to be a successful lawyer and we had 2.5 kids (he wanted 2, I wanted 3), our cat and a dog.  

But none of those things will happen. 

Instead, I am alone, awake at 3am and writing a blog post that no one is going to read.

Soulmates

The other morning, I was driving to my gym and I was listening to some talk show and the talk show hosts were discussing the concept of soulmates.  Particularly, they were discussing if every person had just one soulmate or several soulmates.  One of the hosts leaned toward the attitude that we only have one soulmate while the other thought that if everyone only had one soul mate that it would be statistically impossible to meet them.

People were calling in with their opinions.  One lady said she was married to her soulmate and she had spent the last 31 years married to him.

This pissed me off.  Because if we only have one soulmate that means that mine was dead or I haven’t met him yet and Bryon was not my soulmate.

Frankly, I don’t like either option.

Why should all the married, non-widowed people get determine this?  What makes them so special?  Aren’t they special enough because they didn’t have to go through what I did?

But I shouldn’t let these people determine what love is for me.  While I truly respect- and envy- these people who have been married for decades, they don’t know what it is like to watch the one that you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with die.

They also don’t know what it is like to experience soulmate love that transcends death.  Because love doesn’t die.

I was also pissed because I used to believe in this notion that we only had one soulmate.  Until the world as I knew it ended and the foundation of everything I believed was shattered.

And no offense to that caller, or to anyone who ascribes to that theory but it is naive.

I was naive.

Bryon was my Husband.  He was also my best friend, the love of my life, my other half, my partner in crime, my co-pilot and my one and only.

He is my soulmate.

My Grandma Sullivan lived until she was 90 and my Nana Crowley is still alive at age 95.  Both of my grandfathers lived until their 80’s.  Grandma Sullivan had an aunt in Ireland who lived to be 98.  Nana Crowley had an aunt who lived to be 111.  (She was New England’s oldest resident when she passed)

I have the potential to be on this planet for a long time.  I also could be hit by a bus tomorrow but I don’t want that to happen.  My daughter would have to miss her gymnastics class and I am supposed to be going to a concert.

But seriously, I would love to meet my great-grandchildren.

But if we only get one soulmate then I would be lonely for the next 50 or more years.  The thought of that makes me sad.

Also if I were to get married again and my new husband was my soulmate, then what does that make Bryon?  That makes me sad too.

And I still too sad to even think about having a second soulmate right now but I know what when I am ready, I still have a lot of love left to give.

When I was younger, I was not good at dating.  I was told I was intimidating.  I had low self-esteem and could not imaging why I could be perceived as intimidating but now I know that it is because I am smart and I was closed off to people and standoffish.  If any guy was interested, they were going to fail because I was not going to give my heart to anyone.

I convinced myself that I didn’t need anyone.  Truthfully, I was lonely.

But Bryon saw something.  And he was not intimidated.  Or he never let on if he was.  He saw through my tough facade and broke down my walls.

Bryon is my soulmate.

I will never understand why our time had to be so short.  But I know with every fiber of my being that we were meant to be together.  I am who I am now because of Bryon.  He challenged me.  He changed my way of thinking.

He taught me how to live.

He taught me so much that I will carry those lessons until I die.  I hope those lessons live on in our daughter.

And when the day comes that I do leave this Earth,  Bryon will be right there waiting for me.

And I know when it is time to meet my next soulmate, he will be an amazing man.  He won’t be like Bryon.  Bryon was one of a kind.

My second soulmate will be his own person.

But I am not the same person I once was so it wouldn’t make sense to look for someone like Bryon.

I am more open to people and I hope I am less stand-offish.  But dating a widow or widower is intimidating.  Especially when the widows deceased spouse is such a legendary person.

And my second soulmate will have to accept that I would always have love for another man.  My second soulmate will have to understand that a widows heart expands.

My second soulmate will be amazing because Bryon would not let me settle for anything less.  He would find a way to communicate to me if he thought I was making a poor choice.  He would probably have “Last Christmas” by Wham! playing on every radio station, on repeat, because he knows that that is my personal vision of Hell.

Maybe I am the lucky one because I will the potential to experience “one and only” soulmate love twice?

The second year blues

The early days of my widowhood journey are a blur in my memory.

It is kind of like one of those flashback sequences in your typical late 80’s or early 90’s sitcom like Saved by the Bell where you are surrounded by blurriness.  Except that there is no cheesy transition music and I am not brought back to Bayside.

I know I took my daughter to daycare every day.

I know binged watched the Gilmore Girls and I ran a lot.

I know I was surrounded by friends and family and so many people were texting and facebook messaging me that I could not keep up with them because I was emotionally exhausted.

Over that first year, I kept myself busy.  I traveled a lot.  I ran a half marathon.  I read every widow memoir I could find.  I got a new job.

I have a heard a theory that anyone who has experiences trauma has this fog because it is the only way for our brains to be able to process what had happened.

The initial shock started to wear off for me after 3 months.  At that point, the holiday were in full swing around me.  I was just going through the emotions.

The fog began to slowly lift in March but it didn’t happen overnight.

I was getting to a good place when the one year anniversary of Bryon’s death arrived and knocked me on my ass.  For the first time in about 11 months, I didn’t want to get out of bed.  I wanted to sit on the couch and binge watch TV.  But I didn’t.  I got up.  After all, I had to take care of my daughter.

The one year anniversary was followed by what I now call the “five weeks of hell”.  After Bryon’s deathaversary comes his birthday, then my birthday, then the first day of the school year, then our engagaversary, then our daughters birthday and then our wedding anniversary.

They always say that the first are the worst.  And I got them all right away.  But now I think that I was in such a widow fog that I didn’t really feel them because I was still in shock about Bryon’s illness and death.

But I felt them this second year like it was the first time.  Again.  Except there wasn’t the 80’s and 90’s TV sitcom flashback blurriness.  There was no cheesy Saved By The Bell transition music.  And I am not at Bayside. And Mr. Belding is nowhere to be found.

When I was a brand new widow with raw emotions and a fog to protect me, I would hear more seasoned widows say that the second year was harder than the first.  I remember thinking that that was nuts.

But now I get it.

The second year is more real.

During the first year, I mourned the loss of Bryon.  I mourned the fact that I was only going to carry one child and that our daughter was not going to be a big sister.  I mourned the loss of our future and our dreams.

But during the second year, the mundane memories are flashing back to me.  The memories that my brain could not handle 12 months ago.  These memories are so clear and not glamorous by any means but each one of these memories stabs me in the heart.

The second year feels empty.

At every social event, Bryon is missing.  He was the life of the party and now he’s not there.  He isn’t telling stories.  He’s not making snarky comments.  He is only there if someone brings him up.  He only exists now as a memory.

At every daycare party I get to watch all the perfect intact families with two parents.  I get to see so many kids with their fathers.  Many of these families have a baby sibling that my daughter will never have.  All these perfect intact families represent the life I used to have.  The life that ripped away from me and I didn’t get have any say in the matter.

The second year is much more lonely.

People check up on you less.

In a way, that is okay.  Because most people only want to talk about how I am widow now and I am tired of that.  I am a widow all the time but sometimes I want a break from thinking about my misery and grief.  I only want to talk about my widowhood on my terms.  I generally hate double standards so I know this makes me a hypocrite but I had to be honest.

Though the exception to my hypocrite stance is when people ask my advice on how to help a newly widow person. I am always happy to help.

To be truthful, the loneliness is bearable. I am busy raising my daughter and working on my physical, emotional, mental, professional and spiritual goals.  But to me it just signifies that life moves forward for people and life with a living Bryon is behind us.

Sometimes I feel like grief is only viewed as two phases- the “raw phase” and the “healed phase” where grief waves don’t knock me on my ass for days at a time.   But grief doesn’t come in two phases.  There is a messy middle.  And that is where I am now.  I can talk about my dead husband to people in public and not cry.

But all it takes is one mundane, ordinary memory to hit me when I am alone in my house or car and I begin to cry.