Just because I am a widow…

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that I can’t make my own decisions.  Please stop second guessing my choices.  

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean I am helpless.  I am actually the opposite of helplessness.  I watched my spouse die.  I survived something that most people can’t even imagine.  I might need help with some tasks, but don’t misconstrue that as helpless.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that you can ignore my feelings and dismiss them as part of grief.  Trust me, I have don’t more thinking in the past year than I did my previous 37 years.  My feelings are very well thought out.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that I need to defend my feelings, especially those about God.  A widow is allowed to be mad at God.  It is not your place to scold her or re-educate her.  It’s up to the non-grieving to be supportive and understanding.  

Just because I am a widow, it doesn’t mean I need to put up with poor treatment.  I have been through something so horrendous that you probably can’t even comprehend.  I miss my spouse and I can be lonely.  But I am used to being lonely and I would choose that over being around people who treat me poorly.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that I don’t have responsibilities.  I have a full and busy life.  I am not just sitting around my house.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean you can tell me how to raise my child.  I am capable, thank you.  My child is happy and well taken care of thank you.

Just because I am widow doesn’t mean I am desperate for love.  (This one is directed to all the scam Twitter accounts that started following me.  The ones that when you look at who they follow and they are all widows).  Trust me, I had the love of my life and I lost it.  When I decide to date again, it isn’t going to be with some random, bogus Twitter account.

 

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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.

Without Daddy

I knew this moment was going to come.

Over the weekend I got invited to a special Facebook group that consists of all my classmates from the Class of 1997 from Ellsworth High School. And guess what? It is time for our 20th reunion.

When did I get so old? Where did the time go? High school feels like it just yesterday and it also feels like a whole lifetime ago. Maybe that’s because my wardrobe has cycled back to my 1990’s style which consisted of running clothes, Red Sox T-shirts (which are timeless, really) and flannel. Both the 1997 and 2017 versions of Kerry have it going on!

I don’t know what I would tell my high school self if given the chance. That will be a blog post for another time, specifically after I visit my parents in Maine this summer and find my old photo albums because I came of age before the digital age. (I am like a relic from another era.) I feel like a blog post of that nature should have photos of teenage Kerry from the 1990s.

I remember that my high school self had big plans and I think 38-year-old Kerry would greatly disappoint 18-year-old Kerry. 18-year-old Kerry was an ambitious idealist and she wanted to be married with many children, successful (no clue how) and she would have a passport full of stamps because she would have traveled the world. 18-year-old Kerry would have never predicted the heartache she would go through, but I would be happy to tell her that she would know what true love felt like and even though she may never have the brood of children she had wanted, the one child she will have will be so awesome that she won’t need to have any other children.

When I was pregnant, we were watching the episode of Blossom when she gets her period for the first time and Bryon started to freak out. (We did not find out if we were having a girl or a boy, but we were convinced our baby was a girl.) Bryon started freaking out and said that if I died, he didn’t know how he was going to explain periods to our daughter. I assured him that it would be okay and that the baby’s Godmother would most likely step up and help.

It never dawned on me that Bryon would not be here during our daughter’s teen years.

Someday my daughter will be 14 years old and will embark on her high school journey. I always thought that Bryon and I would be parenting as a unit. I would deal with all that girly stuff, take her clothes shopping (where Bryon would enjoy pretending to be outraged that we were spending money) and teach her how to wear makeup (or take her to the counter because I am clueless). Bryon would help her with her math homework and be her biggest fan in whatever sport or activity she chose to do. I used to tease him that he was going to be a cheer dad. Bryon came from a family of all boys and they all played hockey. Bryon was very competitive and passionate for whatever team he was cheering for and I told him that I could see him becoming a cheer dad and screaming “YOU CALL THAT A PYRAMID!!!!” He would have embraced it and played it up around his guy friends.

I have no clue on how I am to guide my daughter. I was not a cool teenager and my daughter is already much cooler at 2 and a half than I was at 16. She is not awkward around her peers and I am still socially awkward at times. I did not discover Bath and Body Works until I was in college and my daughter is already obsessed with the various body lotions and body sprays at age 2. She loves to shop for shoes and clothes already. I have no idea what I am in store for when she becomes a teenager. And I am convinced she already knows how to flirt at age 2 and I still have no clue how to do that at age 38.

But it isn’t just about helping her with fashion and relationships. Someday my daughter will be 18 years old. She will have dreams. She will go to college. She will need guidance on obtaining those dreams.

Every night she wants me to read this book to her.

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It’s an adorable book with a positive message. But there is one page that when I read it to her, I can feel Bryon say “I am not be paying for her to go to college to live in a *expletive* tree. And that part about being a poet, she and I would have a discussion on the average salary of a poet and the cost of living in Upstate New York…”

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But Bryon was successful in so many areas of his life. He was smart, driven and ambitious. He isn’t going to be here to guide our daughter. He isn’t to be here to give her advice. He isn’t going to be here to help her with her math homework or cheer her on in sports. I am the one that’s left to guide her and I don’t have the mental tools that Bryon had. Bryon was an extrovert that understood people and relationships and I am an introvert and relating to people doesn’t come easy to me.

It doesn’t matter what age my daughter is. Without her father, she misses out on so much.