And it’s been 596 days since I have become a widow.
596 days since my daughter lost her father.
596 days since the world I knew ended and my future was taken away from me.
596 days where I have felt lost and broken.
596 days of wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
596 days of guilt. Even though my head knows I have nothing to feel guilty about, I still feel it.
596 days of wondering “what if…?”
596 days of guarding my emotions because other people can’t handle them. Because making sure someone doesn’t feel discomfort for a short period of time is more important than the emotions of a person who deals with or had to deal with this hell every day.
596 days of rolling my eyes when people make insensitive comments knowing that they mean well. I envy their naivety.
596 days of missing what I had and wondering if I will ever be loved again. Though my love for Bryon was unique (as every love is) I wonder if I will ever feel that way again.
596 days of feeling like I am on a deserted island. I know people try to understand but sometimes I really wish I could just be “normal” like everyone else.
596 days of having to work at being happy. I will avoid anyone that makes me feel worse about my current state of life.
596 days since I have changed but people don’t see the real you. They want you to be whatever version of you that they previously knew. Or thought they had. Or they just see you as a broken widow, not the stronger person that you are really are. The old me is dead or on sabbatical until I decide where those old versions of myself fit into my new life.
596 days of protecting my boundaries. People will try to manipulate you. Even people who you thought were friends. People will pretend they are helping you in a public forum but never pick up the phone or text. There are people who think that your private life is their business just because Bryon was popular and I have a blog. But I choose what I write about on my blog and I choose what is private and will continue to enforce that boundary.
596 days of sadness. And while my sadness rarely breaks me down anymore, it still runs in the background, kind of like an app you forget to close on your cell phone. Once in awhile, it builds up and you have to deal with it.
I remember being told that it gets easier. And it has gotten easier. But I still miss him.
Sometimes I wonder if it the grief is subsiding or if I am just getting used to Bryon being gone. When Bryon first died, my whole world was rocked and I was in the “widow fog” for about a year. Now I have gotten some of my footing back and the fog has lifted but I am more likely to miss the little things. I don’t have my fog to protect me from reality anymore.
I recently bought my daughter a Disney Princess CD for the car.
Yeah…they still make CD’s. I was kind of surprised too. This was good news because whatever part of the brain that understands technology…well mine is stuck in the 1990s.
Actually that is only half true. I embrace modern technology.
I just need other people to set it up for me.
And I need for it to work all the time for me.
And if it doesn’t, I need other people to fix it form me.
My daughter and I have been listening to a Disney Princess CD.
Actually we have only been listening to two songs.
The first is Rapunzel and “When will my life begin.”
Poor Rapunzel. I know what it’s like to feel like I am waiting for my life to begin. Except I am trapped in a tower of my own making and that doesn’t compare to her abuse.
The other sing we were listening to was the Little Mermaid.
As we listened to Ariel, my daughter knowingly says “Ariel is sad because of a boy.”
I was shocked at my 3 and a half year old daughters insight.
She already has something figured out that I didn’t figure out until high school.
I said “Yes…boys have a tendency to do that to us…lots of boys will make you sad…then one day you find the one that doesn’t make you sad…and then you will be happy…well as long as he doesn’t die…”
I am pretty sure my daughter stopped listening to me once I said she was correct. But with her you never know. She doesn’t seem to miss anything. She’s smart.
Last week I talked about how Jerry McGuire and the whole “You complete me” thing is a lie but I also decided that I no longer believe in fairy tales.
Life is never what it seems.
Ariel likes a guy. She has to jump through hoops to get him to notice her. I mean, it’s one thing to dress pretty and have open body language but to give your voice to a sea witch seems a bit excessive to me.
Ariel, honey, it’s not supposed to be THAT hard.
And it’s not good enough that she jumps through all these hoops, she has to completely change her life to be with Eric. Eric isn’t putting in any effort.
Seriously Eric. You need to appreciate what this girl has done for you.
The movie ends with Eric and Ariel having a wedding cruise and Ariel is wearing the dress that she said yes too. Interestingly enough, she did not go with a mermaid style dress. Her family is swimming in the ocean which is probably the etiquette equivalent of putting your family at Table 22 or something.
So Ariel is almost completely isolated from her family. I don’t remember seeing Eric’s parents but what if they aren’t nice? Not all people have loving and supportive in-laws. (I plead the fifth!) Needless to say, this could be problematic for Ariel.
So isolated from family…unknown in law situation…what if Ariel pops out a kid or two or twelve and then Eric has a simple elective surgery that gives him sepsis and he dies? And Ariel’s family can’t help because they are mermaids and live in the water.
I don’t think Ariel has thought this through.
Even though she wants to “part of Eric’s world” (whatever that means) she clearly showed signs of confusion when I saw her at Disney on Ice last year.
Is that a mermaid tail or legs? I am so confused…
Ariel is clearly having some identity crisis. She wants to be human but she still wants her mermaid tail?
Looks like she wants to have her cake and eat it too.
Maybe she needs to take a cue from Elsa and leave the past in the past.
I just hope Prince Eric doesn’t die on Ariel and shatter that whole world she wanted to be a part of.
Last Friday I went to go see Les Miserables at Proctors Theater in Schenectady with some friends. Les Miserables was the first Broadway show I had ever seen.
It was 1996 and I was a senior in high school. My cross country team traveled from Ellsworth, ME to NYC to run in the Foot Locker Regional race. Our coach, Mr Beardsley, was also the sophomore English teacher and taught a unit on theater. We learned about Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon.
Because of Mr. Beardsley, there is probably a whole generation of Ellsworth graduates who love the theater, or at the very least, appreciate it.
So I saw Les Miserables at the Imperial Theater on Broadway with my cross country team. I was very moved by the play. I laughed. I cried. I got laughed at because I cried. The experience left an impression on me.
Three years later in 1999, I was studying in England and I saw Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theater in London.
I started dating Bryon in 2008 and I learned that he came from a family that was involved in community theater. I shared with Bryon how much I loved Les Miserables and Bryon told me hated it. In fact his whole family hated it. I got mocked for it through the years. I think it was too pedestrian for them or something. Whatever.
Eventually Bryon did give me his reason which was simply that it was too f*ucking depressing. Fair enough.
We only saw two Broadway plays in our years together. One was Pippen (Music Box Theater) and the other was Cats (technically West End, which is the London version and it was on a cruise ship.)
We meant to see more but it was one of those things that we figured we’d always have more time.
Bryon loved Cats. It was the first and last musical he ever saw.
Personally, I thought it was only okay.
Before the show started last Friday, my friends and I had grabbed some dinner, dessert and drinks and we were chatting. I recalled how much I loved Les Miserables and how much Bryon hated it.
And then I told my friends about my list.
Before I started dating Bryon, I had written a list of ten attributes I wanted in a future mate. I guess it was to keep me focused. I kept getting into “pseudo relationships” with men who didn’t appreciate me so at this point, I was focused on myself and what I wanted.
The top three things on the list were Republican, Catholic and had to be a Red Sox fan. I was told by many that that combination was not going to happen. It surprised them that I found it in a New Yorker.
Number 4 was that I wanted my mate to be Irish. Bryon was only 1/8 Irish so that was stretching it.
And I can’t really remember what the other items on this important list were. I mean, probably something about being drug-free, employed and with no criminal record.
But I do remember one thing. I wanted a man who had varied interests. Someone who could go to wine tasting and to the symphony one night and eat hot dogs and drink beers at Fenway the next.
We never did make it to the symphony but Bryon was completely comfortable in a tux. And a kilt too. He loved formal nights on the cruise and didn’t understand why others would not dress up.
We did catch a few evening concerts at Tanglewood. We picnicked on the lawn with our infant daughter.
We went wine tasting and we were those people who would taste our wine and say things like “It’s light and crisp and I can taste the touch of citrus. Very refreshing.”
We did attend many baseball games. Most were local games. We tried to catch the Tri-City Valley Cats when the Lowell Spinners were in town. We usually went on the 4th of July because never had plans on the actual holiday and we figured nothing was more American than baseball.
Though our daughter’s first baseball game was at Pawtucket watching the Paw Sox.
Bryon thought the clam chowder was wicked good. Okay, that might be my wording. Bryon was not shy at making fun of my New England vernacular.
Our most memorable game was a month after we started dating. Our relationship still a secret from our friends as we were unsure where it was heading and we didn’t want to create gossip within our political circle. We met up for a secret weekend in Boston. It was also the weekend of my 30th birthday and Bryon took me a Red Sox game.
It was his first and last Fenway game.
But I loved that Bryon was content doing a variety of different activities.
He was a Renaissance man. I told him that once and he proudly agreed.
He liked all sports. Well, except Nascar.
He was a lawyer but he was also really good at math and economics.
He knew theater and music.
He knew how to cook.
He liked animals.
He liked history and was always up for seeing landmarks.
He loved fine dining but he also appreciated the McRib.
Generally he wasn’t into Museums but he always wanted to go to the Jello Museum. That dream was left unfulfilled.
Whenever we went on a cruise, we always went a few days early to explore the departure port. (We also did that to create a buffer in case the winter weather didn’t cooperate.)
Our first cruise was out of Miami and we took a side trip to Key West.
We visited the Southernmost Point, drank margaritas and watched the sunset on Mallory Square, visited the cats at the Hemingway House, found the Southernmost Red Sox bar and Bryon indulged my need to see the start of Route 1.
I have two random anecdotes from that Key West trip.
The first was that there was a chicken crossing the road and Bryon decides he wants to catch it. But he aborted the mission halfway through and said he wasn’t drunk enough for that to be a good idea.
The second was at night when we left the Red Sox bar. We were walking back to our motel and we pass a ghost tour that was walking towards us. Bryon tells everyone on the tour that he is alive and he is not a ghost. They all laugh. Then there were some random people walking behind the tour and Bryon goes up to them and says “Oooooh, I’m a ghost. Ooooooh.” Those people laugh too.
And I laugh at the irony because while Bryon isn’t a ghost, he’s dead and could be a ghost if he really wanted to be. He’d find a way to make it happen.
That trip also took us to Miami where we ate Cuban food, tried Cuban coffee, drove by Elian Gonzalez’s uncles house and had dinner at a tapas bar that was in a gas station (and we were surprisingly under dressed for the establishment.)
Bryon had all these interests and this intense zest for life. Whenever we traveled anywhere, Bryon tried to fit in as much as he could. We ate local food, drank local beer, saw as many landmarks as possible and he would try to squeeze in a local sporting event.
How else would I explain that I saw the Ottawa soccer club (Capital City) play Toronto? I think Bryon might have bought the team scarf. If he did, I will find it someday.
Bryon was so good for me because I have always been a restless soul but I never knew how to go out, explore and enjoy my life.
I did not have the confidence to follow my dreams.
Bryon taught me how to really live.
And in some ways, he is still teaching me how to live. Even though he is dead.
I enjoyed all our adventures but I never realized how much they taught me until Bryon was gone. When he was alive, I never had to make choices or plan anything. He did all the vacation planning. He asked for my input, combined it with his wants and came up with an itinerary. He would even plot it all on a google map. Planning always made him happy and I was content to just show up and enjoy the vacation.
But now he is gone. I can’t rely on him pave the way to living anymore.
If I want to continue to live, it’s up to me.
When I booked my airline tickets for my trip to Vegas last year, it was the first time I booked airline tickets since 2009. Because Bryon always did it.
And even though my Chicago best friend was in my Vegas with me, it felt weird to be having adventures without Bryon.
A month after that trip, I drove out to Michigan to visit my Maine best friend and I drove across New York State and Southern Ontario. I couldn’t help but think about Bryon when I drove by the Labatt Brewery. And the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. I know Bryon would have been lobbying to stop- “But Kerry, we have to stop. It’s the CANADIAN Baseball Hall of Fame.”
Even though I explore the world with my daughter and friends, I do feel an emptiness because I am not sharing it with Bryon. And a sadness when it hits me that I wouldn’t be recounting the adventure to Bryon because he’s not waiting for me at home.
It’s a fear of mine that I will lose my desire to truly live before I can pass on the desire to learn and see the world to my daughter.
New Years Eve 2016, Bryon and I stayed in. We figured it would have been too hard to get a baby-sitter that night. Bryon made Beef Wellington. I never got my kiss that night because I looked over at him at 11:53pm and he was snoring in his chair.
Life was good. We had our routine. Our jobs were going well and things were going well at home. Our daughter was 16 months old and Bryon loved playing with her.
Bryon was preparing for weight loss surgery. I decided that I was going to get healthy alongside Bryon and I started Couch to 5k and I was going to run a half marathon in the fall.
In Feb 2016, we went on our last cruise with a few days in Florida beforehand. We went to the Tampa Zoo and we spent the day at Epcot with my cousin and her husband and we had dinner with Bryon’s Godmother and her family. On our cruise we visited Bryon’s two favorite ports, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. We had a few fancy dinners on our last cruise and those were probably our last date nights.
In March Bryon had his weight loss surgery and it went well. Bryon’s recovery started off well. He was looking forward to being cleared to re-institute solid food and being cleared to exercise. He wanted to start Couch to 5k and wanted to run a 5k. We were looking forward to the rest of our lives.
Bryon was critically ill in the ICU where he clung to his life for 5 months.
For 5 months I was exhausted and ran on adrenaline and caffeine, desperately pleading to God to heal Bryon. At the beginning of August, I had him transferred to New York City and for two weeks, things were starting to look up.
For the following month, I was in total shock. That shock turned into fog. That heavy fog stayed for six months and then began to lift. I started noticing things about how I felt and how I was treated.
The fog has slowly been lifting.
I was a happily married wife and mother of a one year old and now I am a 39-year-old widowed mother of a three year old. Sometimes it feels like I was living my old life yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago.
I feel that the fog is gone. I feel like my present is a combination of that moment on every episode of Saved by the Bell where the chaos is ensuing and Mr. Belding comes in and says “Hey, hey, hey! What is going on here?” and that episode of How I Met Your Mother when the glass kept shattering.
I have spent the last 22 months thinking. Thinking about so many things.
Things I have thought about over the last 22 months. (Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list)
My Marriage with Bryon.
How does his death affect our daughter? She won’t remember him.
The meaning of life.
My life from beginning to present.
What happens after we die?
My relationship with God.
How do I want to spend my remaining years?
The fact that I need to watch all those episodes of This Is Us on my DVR.
The Fuller House storyline and the fact that John Stamos is still hot after all these years.
What do I want out of life?
Can I ever love again?
What have I learned from all of this?
How can I make this horrible event positive?
I have decided to share with you some of the lessons I have learned so far. These lessons aren’t in any particular order. This is from my current perspective and may change after I spend more time thinking.
1) Grief takes time and can’t be rushed.
2) Only YOU know what’s best for YOU. Most people don’t have a clue what you need.
3) It is up to you to decide when you or if you are ready to live again.
4) You can’t change how people treat you. You can only change how you respond and set boundaries.
5) People will project their feelings onto you. Don’t take it personally. If someone is tearing you down, it is likely that they are the ones who are insecure and they tear you down to make themselves feel better.
6) Be open to others but beware of their intentions. People are not always who they project themselves to be.
7) Love yourself. You deserve it.
8) Surround yourself with loving, supportive people. Life is too short to be around toxic people.
9) There is always beauty in this world. You just need to make sure your blinders aren’t on.
10) People generally mean well. They don’t mean to say painful things. They are just products of a society that doesn’t know how to handle death and grief.
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.
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.