It was the day of my daughter’s first dance recital.
This was her first year of dance. She was in a ballet and tap combination class for and 4-year-olds.
I know as a dance mom, I found the whole experience a little overwhelming but my daughter handled it like a pro. On top of skipping her nap.
She played the role of “Little Miss Sassy” so well.
This age is still a little unpredictable. Age 3 is young to be on stage. I was worried that she would get scared but she made it on stage.
And she rocked her dance.
I asked her what she thought about being on stage and she told me that she liked it. The stage was a big stage at The Egg Performing Arts Center in downtown Albany. I asked her if she saw lights or people and she said she saw both.
This day was very emotional for me because it was her first recital and Bryon wasn’t here to see it. When she was a baby, Bryon and I talked about how we were going to put her in dance class and that she would be in a recital. It is bittersweet to see her grow and reach milestones and not have Bryon there. We may be coming up on two years since he died but his absence is still profound. But she is going to have a lifetime of firsts and milestones and I am just going to have to get used to the emptiness that accompanies those events.
It didn’t help that it was also Father’s Day weekend. I was in a bad mood (with my daughter’s father being dead and all) but my parents made it for the recital. My daughter loves her grandparents so much and we were lucky they got to see her.
A few weeks ago I said that I started writing a book and that that would not be affecting this blog. I meant it when I wrote it. So maybe it wasn’t actually a lie.
But I found that by keeping up this blog, I am too drained to write my book.
I also have felt uninspired when writing this blog. It has become routine and it has felt like a chore. Not that writing isn’t work but I feel like I haven’t been putting my heart into my posts. And it has shown because my blog hasn’t been growing. A big problem is that I stopped writing for me.
I feel like my writing and it’s creativity on this blog has plateaued. And the frustration has been draining my energy.
I have several projects in the works this summer and I need my energy for these projects. I will still be writing in this blog but it is only going to be when I feel inspired, whether it is once a week or four times a week.
I also need this summer to decide what direction I want my writing to go. My grief isn’t as turbulent anymore. Moving forward with my life doesn’t seem to interest people as much a roller coaster emotions. But I have had enough drama in my life. I am not going to manufacture it to create an interesting blog.
So this isn’t a breakup. Just an “I need space” moment combined with a “It’s not you, it’s me” moment. I look forward to being back when I am inspired and I will be checking in.
I realize that I probably oversold the topic. You probably read that and got very excited.
But I have nothing life changing to report.
I am still living in the same house with no plans to move.
I am still working my same “day ” job. (I have day in quotes because I work many of my hours after my daughter goes to bed.)
And no, I am not dating. Not even close. And that is okay. I am focused on myself and my daughter at the moment anyway.
So I didn’t mean to get your hopes up on anything you could possibly gossip about me. Well, I did have a little bit of a wardrobe malfunction this weekend. Nothing scandalous, just annoying. But that happens a lot when you are…well…shaped like me. Whatever. Though I am a little pissy because I spent close to $100 bucks on alterations at David’s Bridal. Luckily Kimmy Gibbler had double sided tape. She’s amazing. She thinks of everything.
So nothing major. Same house. Same job. Same relationship status. Just taking a little time to re-center going from Spring (though really it has been more of a Sprinter this year) to Summer.
It has been a crazy 6 or 7 weeks. I would count but I am too lazy to at the moment.
Needless to say that I am tired and hopefully things will be slowing down here. I don’t mean that in a manner that I don’t appreciate the busyness of the past 7 weeks. It has been a fun and happy time. But it has been tiring.
As we enter into summer, I need to recenter and re-focus. I have a lot of housekeeping to do, literally and figuratively.
Around my house, I have been slowly cleaning out and donating items. Usually one or two bags or boxes a week. It still hasn’t made a dent but I refuse to let anything new enter the house. My new rule is, if it comes in a box, the box then has to be filled with items to donate. Even if the box came from Amazon with a birthday present for someone else’s kid and the original contents of the box won’t be staying in the house. The rule in the McKim house is that if something comes in, something has to go out.
I plan to stay closer to home this summer but I do have some traveling happening including a trip coming up on Memorial Day weekend as well as a trip to Boston in June for a Red Sox game. A college friend of mine has expressed interest in meeting up in Boston and I would love to see her so that may be happening. But my travel will be more spread out and casual in nature.
Staying close to home doesn’t mean boring. My daughters dance recital is coming up and I am keeping her in dance and gymnastics over the summer because she enjoys it so why not? I also have a few concerts to go to that I am really excited about.
I will be spending more time on my writing. I started writing a book and I hope to finish it before the end of summer. It isn’t the book I envisioned I would be writing first but I felt the inspiration to start it and went with that. I don’t think this will affect the frequency as to when I post on the blog. I will update you all when it is close to being finished.
I also have a few other ideas for projects but they are in the baby stages so I am going to refrain from sharing them. I want to see if they will take off before I share them.
It’s a scenario that is very common to those in the widow world.
Our beloved spouse dies. Whether your spouse died after a long illness or if your spouse died suddenly and unexpectedly, you are in shock.
Then we have a funeral or a memorial service. Friends, family, co-workers and even acquaintances may attend. People tell stories about the deceased and assure the widow that they will never forget the deceased and that they are there for her if she needs anything.
A good portion of those people disappear forever. They mean well but to tell a widow that they are always there for her. What did that mean? Was it a lie? The funeral is not the hardest day for the widow. It’s the weeks and months that follow.
The pessimistic side of my personality feels that these people only told the widow that because it made them feel better.
The optimistic side of my personality reminds me that that time period is a big jumble in my mind and it remains blurry in my memory, a lot like a dream sequence in a 1980s sitcom. But without the cheesy transition music. So does it really matter if all those people who said they would never forget my husband have forgotten my husband?
For the first few weeks after the funeral, there may be people to check up on the widow. They may see if these needs anything around the house. They may have made her dinner and played board games. They let her cry in her dinner. They may have kept her company as she drinks wine and binge watches the Gilmore Girls.
But gradually the amount of people checking in on the widow gradually drops off until one day she begins to wonder what happened to all the people who said that they would never forget their spouse.
It happens to every widow. On some level. And it stings.
I was shocked when I came to the realized that very few people talk about Bryon now. It’s pretty much just my inner circle. Even though I still feel like I am getting my feet steadily on the ground, it is like Bryon never existed to anyone outside my core group of friends.
And what happened to all those people who said they were going to share stories of my late husband with my young daughter? She was a month shy of her second birthday when my husband passed so she won’t have any memories of her own. I was counting on those stories for her to know her father.
I do have a core group of friends who are very present in my life and my daughters life. I am one of the lucky ones. Widowhood is lonely. Some widows don’t even have a core group of friends or family to lean on.
So how is a widow supposed to handle it when they are struggling to move forward and the rest of world has already moved on? And while I have moved forward, it doesn’t mean that I want Bryon to be forgotten.
Here are the five things I remind myself to feel better when it feels like everyone has forgotten my late husband.
Remember that this is what normally happens. Many people were affected by Bryon’s death. I think of their grief as a hole and depending on their relationship with Bryon would determine the size of the hole. On one end there are some people had small hole that might trip them if they weren’t looking. But they can just look up and keep walking. On the other end (where our close friends and family are) is a hole that is the size of the hole that was next to Anne Perkins house on the pilot episode of Parks and Recreation. This hole is impossible to avoid and it caused drama in Anne Perkins life. Her boyfriend even broke his leg. It is much harder to function with this kind of hole.
But I am the widow. But I wasn’t dealing with a hole that needed to avoided or filled. I was dealing with the fact the whole foundation my life was built on was destroyed. Everyone else had their distractions and they had their homes to go back to with their spouses and significant others. It is hard to find distractions when your whole life is destroyed. My husbands death affected every area of my life.
Give yourself a pat on the back
Because you have done such an awesome job at surviving and existing that people don’t feel like you don’t need to hear stories about your deceased spouse. As far as they are concerned, you have moved on. Why shouldn’t they? We live in a society that has a twisted sense of grief. You are either completely beside yourself with grief or you are completely over it and there is little room in between.
Accept it This is your life and you can’t make people understand. Unfortunately I feel like you can’t truly understand widowhood until you have been there. No one can understand the pain and emptiness that fills up most of our life. It is what it is. And really, that is a good thing that they are blissfully unaware. The world doesn’t need more hurt.
Realize that maybe people are actually thinking about your spouse and you just don’t know it.Maybe people are remembering your spouse and you are just not aware of it. We make assumptions based on what we see and maybe people don’t want to bring up your deceased spouse because they are worried that they are going to hurt you if they do. They don’t realize that we are not delicate flowers.
Take that upset energy and turn it into gratitude.
This one is the most important step. It is best not to waste your energy dwelling on negative feelings and instead, use that energy to be grateful for all the people who remain a positive force in your life. Even if that positive person is you.
I will hold onto those friends who have been by my side through the past two years. They aren’t getting rid of me.You can also take some of that energy and focus on yourself. Give yourself some self-love. You deserve it.
If you are widow, how did you cope when it felt like a loved one was being forgotten?
The dress came into my life on October 28, 2011. Bryon and I had been engaged since Sept 6, 2011, and had set our wedding date for Sept 29, 2012. We had our venue and wedding planning was in full swing. I needed a dress.
I can’t say that I was looking forward to picking out a wedding dress. 5 out of 6 of my bridesmaids lived out of state so I was pretty much alone in the process. I wasn’t going to be sitting with a group telling Randy that I was saying yes to the dress. (Yes, that is a TLC reference) I have also struggled with my weight throughout my life so that also left me apprehensive about the whole wedding dress shopping process.
I had looked through some wedding magazines and I had an idea what I wanted. I wanted a princess gown with sparkle but I didn’t want anything too crazy. At that point in my life, I was working in a clerical position at a local emergency room and my schedule ran from Sunday to Thursday. Bryon and I decided that we would go to Boston because Filene’s was going one of their “Running of the Brides” events on Friday, October 28, 2011. It ended up being the last time Filene’s did the “Running of the Brides.”
These events were known to open at 4 am and be full of brides and their teams running around grabbing whatever they could find. Bryon and I decided that we would aim for a ten a.m. shopping time after things settled down and we left Albany for Boston around 6 am. Bryon was not going to go shopping with me. We were old-fashioned about many things and seeing my wedding dress was one of them. Luckily, one of my bridesmaids who lived in Maine made the trip down to Boston to help me shop. Bryon decided that he was going to take a tour of Fenway Park while we were dress shopping. I told my friend my vision and my size range. I looked at a few racks and found exactly what I was looking for but it was a size too small. Yes, I planned to exercise and lose weight and all that but I didn’t feel comfortable relying on my plans. I knew it was safer to err on a larger sized dress and have it altered own. Luckily this dress was a mass-produced Alfred Angelo dress and I quickly located the same dress in my size. I quickly located my friend who has a few dresses she found for me to try on. Then I stripped down in a busy store and put on the dress. Normally that might seem bizarre, but that morning, everyone was doing it.
I knew the moment I put on that dress that this was it. This was my dress. It was love at first sight. It was a princess gown but not too poofy and just the right amount of sparkle. There was what looked like a few black grease stains on the bottom but I figured they would come out with dry cleaning. (Spoiler alert- they did!) I didn’t even try on the dresses my friend picked out. We both knew there was no point. I called Bryon to tell him the news. He couldn’t believe that I picked out a dress so quickly as his tour of Fenway Park hadn’t started yet. I told him how much the dress cost ($500) so he could input the data into his Google spreadsheet. He loved Google spreadsheets. While Bryon took his Fenway tour, my friend and I took the subway out to where Bryon and I had parked our car and I locked my dress in the car. We went back into the city and we met Bryon for lunch at Boston Beer Works right outside of Fenway Park.
Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography
Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography
Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography
I don’t remember much more from that afternoon. I had my dress and I was happy. Bryon was happy that I was happy. We walked around the city. We went to Cheers (it will always be the Bull ‘n Finch to me) and Bryon got annoyed by some tourists that were blocking the door. We had dinner at an Italian Restaurant in the North End that Bryon had seen featured in Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Bryon had a bit of a man-crush on Gordon Ramsay and gushed after a trip to the men’s room saying he went in the same urinal that Gordon Ramsay must have used.
Our wedding came and went. It was my day. It was everything I dreamed it would be and I felt like a real princess. Now it is five and a half years later. My husband is dead and I have no use for this dress. I am never going to wear the dress again. I mean, even if I get married again, I am not going to wear it again. For one, it’s the dress I wore to marry my first husband who is now dead. Secondly, even if it wouldn’t be weird to wear the dress again, my tastes have changed. It was the perfect dress for me in 2011-2012 but now it wouldn’t suit my style in 2018.
The dress has sat in the back of the closet in my spare bedroom. I never had it cleaned after the wedding and the bottom of the dress is dirty from being dragged on the floor all night. When Bryon was alive, he encouraged me to get the dress cleaned and then sell the dress but I just couldn’t bring myself to part with the dress I wore on one of the happiest days of my life. Now, this dress, which is a symbol of my happiness is also a symbol of my sadness. And I began to wonder what I should do with this dress. The first thing people usually suggest to me is that I should save the dress for my daughter. While I think it is touching when someone wears their mothers’ wedding dress, I felt like I would be burdening my daughter. I didn’t want her to feel like she had to wear my dress. Styles change. Yes, she could change the style but the dress was strapless, to begin with. Also, the dress was made out of polyester, not some fancy fabric. Lastly, I hope my daughter doesn’t struggle with her weight like I do and the dress size may not be easy to work with.
I feel that my daughter deserves her own “say yes to the dress moment”. A moment that, God willing, I will be there to witness.
The second reason I don’t want my daughter to wear my wedding dress is a bit selfish. I have attended two weddings since Bryon passed and my daughter and I will be in a party wedding very soon. And at each moment I am always taken aback at the father-daughter moments. Because Bryon won’t be there to walk her down the aisle. He won’t dance with her. (Which he once mentioned he wanted to dance to Sitting at the Dock of the Bay because it was in his favorite movie, Top Gun. I told him it would be our daughter’s decision, not his.) He won’t be beaming with pride. He won’t be making jokes, pretending to be annoyed at how much the wedding cost. Now I don’t know who is going to walk my daughter down the aisle. Maybe she will have a stepfather. I am optimistic that I will fall in love again. And he will be a wonderful man because I wouldn’t settle for anything less.
Or maybe my daughter will have her grandfather walk her down the aisle. Or maybe her Godfather will walk her down the aisle. Or maybe one of the many uncles she has, the men who were Bryon’s closest friends. She has lots of great men in her life to choose from. But the only thing that is certain is that Bryon won’t be walking her down the aisle and that moment is going to take me aback. Even if that moment is brief, that moment will be there. I will feel my breath being taken away. I will feel like I am being punched in the stomach. It will sting. There is a good chance I will tear up. Because even though so many people love my daughter, the man who gave her life and loved her so much won’t be there to walk her down the aisle.
And if she were in my wedding dress, it would be too hard for me. So this brings me to this wedding dress from one of the happiest days in my life that was a symbol of all my sadness. I am in the process of clearing Bryon’s belongings out of the house. Letting go of each item is a process, no matter how small. First I have to decide if an item holds a practical use for me If not, does someone I know have a practical use for the item? Is the item broken? Those questions are usually easy to answer. It’s the sentimental items that are tough. Sometimes I break down and cry. Sometimes I get angry because he is dead and all I have is…stuff. Sometimes I feel empty. Sometimes I feel nothing at all. My wedding dress was definitely a sentimental item. I felt like my wedding dress wasn’t done yet. My dress had done what it was meant to do. It had served its purpose. It made me feel beautiful on one of the happiest days of my life. I felt like my dress wasn’t mean to just sit in my closet and remain a symbol of my sadness. One day I felt like it was time to let go of my dress. I remembered hearing about charities that take donated wedding gowns and making gowns for babies who have passed away. Just like I knew right away that my wedding dress was the one, I knew immediately that this was what I was meant to do with my wedding dress. The families of those babies are in a deep and profound grief and while I don’t know the pain of losing a child, I do know deep and profound grief. I felt like I needed to whatever I could to help. I couldn’t think of a more dignified second life for a dress that made me so happy. That dress didn’t deserve to sit in a closet, avoided. That dress would go on for a deeper purpose. It brings me a sense of healing to donate that dress will, in some form, bring comfort to a grieving family. My wedding dress made me look beautiful at my wedding and lives on in my memories and these angel gowns may be the last (and maybe the only) chance for these grieving parents have to see their child dressed in something beautiful. I went to google and saw that most of the charities that made angel gowns weren’t taking wedding dress donations. I looked through my google results and saw that there were many other worthy organizations that accept weddings dresses for various uses. But I felt drawn to this particular purpose.
After searching, I found the Facebook page of a charity made angel gowns and it was local. I sent the charity a message over Facebook messenger to inquire if they were currently accepting and they responded within the hour. They were accepting wedding dresses and I could drop it off at a Ford dealership on the other side of town.
I also learned that they were looking for shipping sponsors to purchase VISA gift cards as these gowns sometimes have to be overnighted free of charge to the recipients. Gift cards to Wal-Mart and Jo-Ann’s were also appreciated as these seamstresses were volunteers and can always use donations for materials to decorate these gowns. I did decide to be a shipping sponsor and a donated a VISA gift card along with my dress.
It was also requested that the crinoline be removed. Crinoline is that netting-like material that makes up petticoat. My dress had a lot of it. I took the dress out of the closet. Then I took it out of the garment bag. I looked at the dress one last time. I contemplated trying it on the dress on but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. As requested by the charity, I removed the crinoline. Then I removed the sparkly band that sat just under the bust of the dress. I decided that I would set it aside for my daughter. She can incorporate it into her wedding, should she choose to do so. Then I cried. I bawled.
I hadn’t bawled like that in many months. Sure my eyes tear up a little but I couldn’t remember the last time I bawled like this.
I put the dress back in the garment back and brought the dress downstairs where it hung on a hook on the exterior door of my kitchen. The dress sat there for 4 days because I did not have the time to bring the dress where my daughter would not have been present. I was afraid that I was going to be an emotional mess and I did not want her to see that. Though part of me dragged my feet because this would be final. One morning after I dropped my daughter off at daycare, I decided it was time. I put the dress into my car and drove to Latham Ford. Dropping off the dress was an easy process. The salesman held the door open for me and told me to go over the receptionist. The receptionist took the dress and thanked me. And then I left. At that moment I felt nothing and everything all at once. My dress was gone. I couldn’t ask for it back.
I didn’t cry. I know I made the right choice for me.
* * * All wedding day photos are courtesy of my wedding photographer, Heidi Benjamin. Thank you for being so gracious.
I just want to start this out by saying that I am not taking any pills. Only the occasional Ibuprofen or antacid. I am only using that term metaphorically.
But I decided to write about the hardest things that I have had to accept.
Not having closure
I just want to preface this part that there is no easy way to watch someone you love die.
But I didn’t always think that.
For a long time, I was jealous of almost every other widow. I was jealous of the widows who lost their spouses quickly because they didn’t have to watch them suffer. I was jealous of the spouses who had a diagnosis and a life expectancy because they got to chance to say what needed to be said.
I got neither.
Bryon’s illness was unexpected. And he was put on a breathing machine so he couldn’t talk. And he was so weak that he couldn’t write. He could mouth words but I couldn’t always read them correctly.
I had so many things I wanted to tell him when he got better. And I will never get to.
During those months, I did not know if he was going to live or die. Obviously I was hoping for the better outcome. For five months, I lived day by day, desperately clinging to hope.
A friend of mine referred to it as limbo but it was complete hell.
After I was told there was nothing left that could be done, a part of me was relieved that the nightmare was going to be over soon. It wasn’t going to end the way I wanted it to end, but at least it was going to end.
Never getting to that sweet spot
Anyone who has ever been married knows that marriage isn’t always easy. Bryon and I loved each other fiercely but we both had strong personalities which presented it’s own set of challenges. We both struggled with our own vulnerabilities. We were also competitive.
For many years, I was resentful that I had to leave Maine and relocate to New York. And I made sure Bryon knew it.
But we pushed through. We became parents and we settled into our life as a family. I truly believe our last year was our best. We were just about to get to a really sweet spot in our marriage and it was all taken away.
Letting go of the “what ifs” and the guilt
In the early days of widowhood, I kept wondering what if? I thought about all the “what ifs” that accompanied his illness and his death.
I thought about all the “what ifs” that accompanied our relationship. What if I had been a better wife? What if I hadn’t argued with him about XY and Z?
This has been one of the hardest things to accept. That I did everything I could do to and that it wasn’t my fault. I needed to accept that sometimes horrible things just happen. And this one happened to me.
Even if he survived, things would never have been the same
When Bryon first died, I would always think about how much better my life would be if Bryon hadn’t died. Especially when things would go wrong around the house.
I had a jolt of reality and this was a painful jolt.
During those early months, whenever I would wish Bryon were still alive, I imagined him as he was before he got sick. The strong and healthy Bryon I knew. But over time, I began to admit to myself that had Bryon survived, he would have been a very sick and disabled man.
Our life would have been very different. I wouldn’t be living the comfortable married life I once knew. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed between working full time and being a single mother but had Bryon survived, I would still be working full time, taking care of my daughter and I would have had to take care of a very sick husband.
Don’t get me wrong, I would have done it. You know…in sickness and in health. But I wouldn’t have had the life I knew before. My life would have been much harder.
Reconciling the past and the present
One of the hardest things I have had to accept if that there is no reconciling my past and my present.
During the early months of grief, I would have given anything to get Bryon back.
But the further removed I become to my old life, the more I change. And I have to admit to myself that I don’t want to be the person I was when Bryon was alive.
I have memories that I treasure from our life together but I was such a different person back then. And I don’t want to be that person. She didn’t appreciate what she had. She was ungrateful. But I can’t hold it against my younger self. She didn’t know how good of a life she had and how easily that life could change. And there was no way she could know.
I am a different person now. The trauma of widowhood pushed me to re-examine my life and do some soul searching. For the first time in my life, I actually like myself. As time goes forward, the harder it becomes to imagine my old life. Because if I had my old life, I wouldn’t have my new self. But even if I could bring my new self into my old life, would Bryon even like my new self?