Lessons learned: 17 months into widowhood

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.

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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.

Then in an instant everything changed.

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.

Until his body started to shut down.

On August 20, 2016 I was told that Bryon’s heart was going to stop beating.

He died the next morning.

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.
Tacos.
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?
My relationships.

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.

They say you are supposed to do things that scare you…

They say you are supposed to do things that scare you…
 
My intuition has been telling me try making a YouTube video. This is my first attempt. I have a lot of learn. Please watch it and tell me what you think.

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 life 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.

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.

Why I think being a widow sucks

  1.  I have no one to kill bugs anymore. 

    When everything happened with Bryon, people kept telling me that I was so strong and that was because I had to be.  That applies in this scenario, albeit on a lesser scale.

  2. Car maintenance becomes my responsibility.

    Car maintenance is not my strong point.  One time when Bryon and I were dating, I half-jokingly said that whenever I heard my car make a noise, I would turn the radio up and hope it would go away.  Bryon was appalled by that answer and said that he was going to take care of the car maintenance.  I was glad to be relieved of that responsibility and I happily obliged.

  3. Actually everything is now my responsibility.  

    I have learned that Bryon did everything.  The car maintenance, killed the bugs, took care of the yard and the finances.  I pretty much changed diapers, made sure there was milk in the fridge and did a half assessed attempt to keep up with the laundry.

  4. The empty bed.

    Some nights I just hope my daughter crawls in just so I won’t be alone.

    Or the cat.

  5. No date nights with my love.

    No more romantic dinner.  No more dances at weddings.  While I have learned to be a more independent person, I do miss these nights with Bryon.  And sure, I could date but I am very “meh” at the thought of dating.

  6. Being the third/fifth/seventh/ninth wheel.

    While I am so happy that my friends still choose to keep me in their lives, I always feel like the odd person out.  It could not be any clearer that Bryon is missing.

  7. Lack of sex.

    I supposed I could fix that problem but the thought of some strange guy touching me just isn’t my style.

  8. Having to troubleshoot any electronic problem by myself. 

    My cell phone was possessed.  I ended up just buying a new one because it was easier.  (To be fair, it was overheating too which I took as a bad sign).

  9. Being an only parent is exhausting.

    I know every situation with a single parent is different and some non widowed single parents are only parents and can relate.  But when you are a widowed parent, you are the only parent.  You have your kids 24/7.  They don’t go to their other parent on the weekends.  Between parenting, full time work, blogging,  fitness, housework, and dealing with grief, I am exhausted.  Then you have to throw in the new responsibilities like killing bugs and car maintenance on top of it.  I am lucky to get more than 5 hours of sleep in a night.  It’s a good thing I don’t want to have sex.  I wouldn’t have time for it.

  10. Single parent judgement. 

    It doesn’t matter how many stories I read to her, how many places I take her to, how many cute outfits I put her in or the fact that I am able to have her in dance classes and gymnastics.  People begin to judge every parenting decision you make and talk to you like you are ignorant and uneducated.  It’s like one day I was like all the other parents- married, educated and successful and now I am viewed as “white trash”.

    Just to be clear, I didn’t ask nor plan to become a widowed mother.  I wish I could have Bryon back.  He would put all those Judgey McJudedgersons in their place.  (Bryon always did that.  If I was being grumpy, he would say “Someone is being a Grumpy McGrumperson”.)  Actually he probably wouldn’t have cared what they thought.

  11. PTSD

    I generally process everything okay, but I know that if I ever date or marry again, I will always worry that that man was going to die.  It happened once, it can happen again.  Will I ever get to be carefree again?

    And while I generally stay calm in situations and get ice or ibuprofen or whatever, I worry about cuts.  Bryon had one infection after another and went into septic shock many times.  So even though it’s unlikely, anytime my daughter or I gets a cut, I bring out the neosporin and the Frozen band-aids because I am paranoid about sepsis.

 

Daily Prompt: Identity

Daily Prompt  https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/identity/

                                                                        * * *

She was a wife.

It was a role that she was proud of.

She and her husband had eight wonderful years together.

They had a wonderful wedding, a little starter home and went on adventures.

They became parents together.

They full-filled their vows to each other.  Till death do they part.

Now she is a widow.

Though she is among friends, she is alone.

She has been open about her grief but few people know the real her.

Her true self.

They just see her as a widow and a mother.

Most people aren’t interested in knowing the real her.  It’s easier to just keep seeing her as the person they once knew.

She is too boring.  Too ordinary.

She misses her husband.  Every cell in her body aches for him.

But sometimes she is tired of just being a widow.

She is no longer the person she once was but she can’t go back.

Too much has changed.

She isn’t sure who she is becoming or where she is going.

All she knows is that she doesn’t want to stay where she currently is and that it is impossible to go back.

A rainy fall morning

It’s a rainy fall day and I usually love rainy days, especially rainy fall days.  The dreariness reminds me of when I lived in England. I like the contrast of the brightly covered leaves against the gray sky.

This weather is totally indicitive of my feelings as of late.

The sky represents my losses.

My loss of faith in God.

My loss of faith in the healthcare system.

My loss of identity.

My loss of my future that I planned and the life I was living.

The loss of belonging where I was supposed to be.  I was supposed to be a wife, not the odd widow in a group of married friends.  My daughter wasn’t supposed to be the kid with a dead father in a class full of kids with two living parents.

But underneath the dreariness is some beauty brought on by all the pain.

I appreciate things more. I am less likely to take things for granted.

I am better able to recieve the love from others.

Underneath all this sadness, there is still hope.

I so wanted him to be a motivational speaker

 

Written on my Facebook wall one year ago.

Names have been edited out.

Last night when I went to sleep on the little couch in Bryon’s room, I wasn’t sure he was going to make it through the night. He did but he was in rough shape. Then I wasn’t sure he was going to make it through the day. But Bryon is a fighter. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be but we all know that Bryon isn’t going down without a fight and he is going to give his all. This morning I told him that if he still had fight in him to please keep fighting. I want our daughter to grow up knowing firsthand how amazing her father is. But I told Bryon that I would love him no matter what even if he couldn’t win this fight. And thank God he is still fighting.

Bryon’s current health status is very critical at this point and we are pretty much back where we started. It was a miracle that kept him alive back in March and I don’t know if double miracles happen. However his labs and blood pressure have improved since this morning. But my friend says if the double miracle does happen it will be awesome because Bryon can become a motivational speaker and he would be funny.

 

*  *  *

The minutes crept at an unnaturally slow pace.

I will never forget how I felt as he clung onto his life.

Desperation.  Exhaustion. Frustration.  Helplessness.  Hopefulness.  Anger.  Betrayal. Gratitude.

And love.

 

 

The last 30 hours

Saturday, August 20, 2016
New York City

I was sleeping in the recliner that the nursing staff had found.  I think they took pity on me because I was sleeping on two chairs put together.  The resident woke me up just after midnight and told me that Bryon’s numbers were looking much, much worse.  I called my daughter’s Godmother.  I was hysterical and I know I yelled at her after she asked some questions.  

I barely slept the rest of the night.

The following morning the resident came in.  She came in to tell me what I had been fearing: that Bryon’s heart was going to stop beating that day.  I remember staring straight ahead with tears in my eyes.  The resident asked me if I wanted to know what was going to happen.  Through my tears, I just nodded.  She explained to me the there was going to be a lot of yelling and everyone was going to come into the room and work on resuscitating him.  She explained that I would need to leave the unit should that happen.  I just nodded.  

I called my daughter’s Godmother who said she would be at the hospital as soon as possible. I truly don’t know how I would have gotten through the day (or really the past 15 months) without her and her fiance.

I made phone calls.  My parents were in Albany with my daughter.  I didn’t think it made sense for them to bring her down because Bryon was no longer aware and my daughter would be too young to remember.  Plus my parents are from Maine and my father hadn’t been to New York City since 1964 and it didn’t make sense for him to be driving in a city that was unfamiliar when Bryon wouldn’t even be aware.

I called Bryon’s parents and they told me they weren’t coming.  As a parent myself, I will never understand their decision.  If my daughter were in New Zealand and I heard she was dying, I would be on the first flight I could get across the world.  But we all make our own choices in life and we have to live with those choices.

I called some of my friends.  Some of them were able to make the trip down to the city that day to say their good-byes.

Specialists came in and out all day.  Each one gave me the news that there was nothing they could do.  Exploratory surgery would be the only option and he wouldn’t survive a trip to the operating room.  I overheard one of the doctors say they were looking for a Hail Mary.  I just appreciated that the doctors hadn’t given up on him, even though his death was imminent.

Saturday turned into Sunday.  Bryon was still alive.  It was my Dad’s birthday.  I wrote Happy Birthday on his Facebook wall because I knew my first call to him on his birthday was going to be telling him that Bryon had died.  

My daughter’s Godmother stayed with me all night.  Neither of us could sleep.  I was too afraid that if I were to fall asleep that that would be the moment his heart would stop beating.  I didn’t want my last moments with him to consist of me being awoken by commotion.  So my daughter’s Godmother and I stayed up all night, taking turns talking to Bryon. Obviously we didn’t know how much he could hear us or understand us or if he could hear us at all.

His vitals were falling.  His heart rate and blood pressure dropped to levels that I hadn’t seen in the five months of staring at the monitor.  His hand felt cold when I held it.  

I was talking to him.  I was probably rambling.  I remember telling him that our daughter and I were going to be okay.  Then I started rambling about shower hooks. Then, at 6:47 am, Bryon’s heart stopped beating.

Nine months

Today I had the honor to write a guest post on Mohamad’s Around the World series. It was a lot of fun to write about New York’s Capital District.  You can check it out here.  

And if you are visiting here from Mohamad’s blog, I just want to say welcome and I hope you stay awhile!

*  *  *

Bryon has been gone for nine months. The world is moving on without him and each day the world moves on, I feel a little bit more alone in my grief.  Widowhood is emotionally lonely even if you aren’t physically lonely.

I barely noticed Spring and Summer last year because I was sitting in the ICU with him. This year I am determined to enjoy Spring and Summer but when I sit on the front deck with our daughter, his absence is pronounced.

I miss him when I see other couples.  I am no longer whole. He was my other half and he has been ripped away along with my dreams and my future.  I don’t know why everyone else gets to be happy except me.

I work so hard at trying to stay positive and strong.  I know it’s what he would have wanted.  But sometimes I have to pretend I am positive and strong.  It’s what people have come to expect and I feel like they don’t want to know the truth.  And it can be exhausting.

No matter how much people try to understand, there is always some level of disconnect. People don’t understand how something as simple as a song can trigger sadness.

Sometimes I get tired of having to explain why certain things make me sad.

Sometimes I wish people would let me just be sad without making suggestions on how to fix my sad mood.  My husband is dead.  Why can’t I just be sad?  I’ve accepted that my sadness is now a part of who I am and why can’t people just accept that it is a part of me now?

I get tired of having to listen to platitudes and insensitive remarks.  I know people mean well but sometimes I get tired of the fact that it gets put on me that I have to accept that this is just how people are.  Why can’t it be other peoples responsibility to think before they speak and be a little bit more sensitive?  Is it really that hard?  Or am I really just expecting too much?

People seem to only like to hear about my grief when it’s empowering and inspiring.  The negative emotions of my grief make people uncomfortable and I get tired of feeling like I have to apologize for my emotions.  I envy those people because I wish I lived in a world where talk about grief makes me uncomfortable and I can avoid it.  I can’t avoid grief.  It’s my life.

I hate the fact that some days, I am almost used to Bryon being gone.  Each day that passes, he slips a little further away.