Alternate title: Slowly erasing my husbands presence on Earth.
Like when I had his name removed from our bank account.
I thought about the irony. I had opened that bank account when I first moved to New York. I was a single gal but when we got married, I added Bryon to the account. We were a “one pot” kind of couple when it came to our finances. We argued about money a lot less that way. That account was our everyday account.
And now I am back to having the account to myself. With a different last name though.
There is a good chance I will hang onto this account forever.
Because I am oddly sentimental like that.
Like the fact that I have lived in the 518 area code for almost a decade and I still have my Maine 207 number. I have had my number since 2001. I graduated from college that year and had a large Nokia phone that I used to play snake on. It’s how we wasted time before Facebook.
Those were the days.
Anyway, after I left the bank the day I removed him from our bank account, I sat in my car and cried. Because it felt like his presence on Earth was being erased little by little. Sure, his name is still on the checks. The man at the bank told me it was okay to use them. But those will run out. It may take awhile because I pay most things electronically but it will eventually happen.
It is a cruel quandary of widowhood.
After a certain amount of time- time frame custom tailored for each widow- a widow realizes that she can’t keep living in the past.
She must move forward.
She knows she must do it.
But even thought she knows that she full-filled her wedding vows and that she deserves a chance to be happy again, it doesn’t make letting go of her deceased spouse any easier.
Yes, you might be groaning but I was a freshman in college when Titanic was in the theaters. It’s one of the few movies my broke self saw in the theater that year. (I already dated myself when I said I graduated from college in 2001 and played snake on a Nokia phone.)
And I am emotional right now, so we are just okay to go with it, okay?
Obviously I will never completely let go of Bryon. I couldn’t even if I tried. He is in my heart. But there comes a time that you realize you can’t hold on to every item he owned. Especially since he was a pack-rat.
Sure some items I will save for sentimental and utilitarian purposes and some will go live with friends for sentimental and utilitarian purposes.
But some items need to go because they serve no use.
Like Bryon’s clothes.
Shortly after Bryon died, I did clear out his side of the closet. Our Master closet is small and I needed the precious real estate. I bagged up about seven trash bags of clothes and put them in the garage where they sat for about a year before I brought them to Goodwill.
Apparently I put a bunch of his clothes in an upstairs closet and forgot about them.
So I got to relive the whole experience.
I saw the shirt he was wearing when he proposed to me.
Because as I held the shirt, for a brief couple of seconds, I felt like he was right there.
For a brief couple of seconds, I felt like I was still married.
And then…it was gone.
Back to reality.
And then for a brief couple of seconds, it was like the initial denial of his death came over me.
How did this happen? How is this my life? Why did he have to die?
I did put his button down shirts into a box to be saved to make a quilt for my daughter someday.
I do have Bryon’s hoodie sweatshirts. Yes, they are rather large on me but I live in a cold climate.
And some days I wear them because I know it’s the closest thing I am going to get to getting a hug from him.
And I still managed to fill nine trash bags.
Granted, some of it was old suits and gala dresses of mine from my political days.
I decided that was ten years ago and if I were to be that size again, I deserve new suits and dresses.
I mean, we are constantly evolving, right? New self, new dress.
(Though I hardly go to any events these days that require suits or gala dresses.)
I also bagged up some maternity clothes.
Widowed and 40…yeah…I am pretty sure that ship has sailed.
I saw his white suit jacket that he wore at the Young Republican National Convention Gala at the Indy Speedway in 2009. I remember him telling me that he liked it because he was dressed up but still looked different and made a statement.
I looked at his suit jackets and thought about the times I wore them as a coat when I got cold.
Now I better remember to bring a shawl in case I get cold.
There are couple of pieces I couldn’t part with.
The first was his seer sucker. He loved that.
The second item I couldn’t part with was his Albany Law School Rugby windbreaker.
The funny thing was, he rarely wore a winter coat. He either wore his ALS Rugby windbreaker or his green fleece. (He wore the green fleece to the hospital the last time so I donated it in the first round because I immediately associated it with the hospital).
For a man who rarely wore a winter coat, he sure had a lot of them. Even a few I didn’t recognize.
The third item I couldn’t part with was his navy 1950’s Dad cardigan.
He almost didn’t buy it. We were at DestinationXL and he saw it and liked it. I told him to get it but he was concerned that people would mistake him for being a hipster. I told him there was no way he could be mistaken for a hipster. Then he expressed hesitation because he didn’t know what to wear with it. So I ask the salesman on the floor and he and I have a 5 minute detailed discussion about options while Bryon looked a little dazed.
He loved the sweater. I wish I had a better picture but the only one I could find was from Thanksgiving.
And he is wearing a dirty apron. (Though the things is permanently stained. It’s hanging up. I need to toss it.)
And a turkey hat (which my daughter now loves and calls “Hey-Hey Chicken”).
And the fourth item I couldn’t part with was his Red Sox shirt.
As I put the clothes on the bed in the spare room, this little guy laid on them. I believe that animals are intelligent creatures and I think he sensed that they were his clothes. I don’t think there would be any scent but I have no idea about a cat’s sense of smell.
And then the final step to erasing my husbands presence on Earth…or my house at least was dropping the bags off.
I dropped them off at some drop boxes at a local church in my town. I prefer to drop them at a local church as opposed to Goodwill because the CEO at Goodwill makes a sh*it ton of money. I also prefer to drop off where there are bins because I am an introvert and prefer not to talk to people.
Especially when I might cry.
I have heard that clutter is stagnant energy. I have also heard that clutter is a form of depression. I just know that as difficult as this task was, it had to be done. I don’t think Bryon would want me to stay stuck in the past.
Today’s post will be a quick post. I just wanted to share a few photos on how we celebrated Bryon’s birthday.
His birthday is exactly one week after his deathaversary but I try not to dwell too much on his deathaversary. I prefer to celebrate the fact that he had lived.
My daughter and some friends released balloons at the cemetery.
“Table Top” in the grass. Nice to see gymnastics class pay off.
I am sure he enjoyed them. Especially when I got in the car and one of his favorite songs came on. He saves this one for birthdays and happy occasions.
After the cemetery, we had dinner at one of Bryon’s favorite restaurants, Swifty’s.
I enjoyed my first Sam oktoberfest.
I don’t care if it’s still August. It’s been a hot summer and the humidity has been wicked. I am so over it.
I love these people. They have stayed with me through thick and thin. Of course, a few were unable to attend and we missed them.
I feel like I should write something more profound but between the fact that last week was Bryon’s deathaversary and this week is his birthday and my birthday tomorrow, my head kind of feels like it is going to explode. I have been emotional and cried a lot but I am okay.
The good news is that I am leaving on a birthday girls trip tomorrow but I have a lot of things to do between now and then.
I decided to do a blog post summing up my thoughts.
Kind of a sampler of random thoughts.
Before I delve into my experiences, I want to mention that everyone’s experience with grief is different. This post is based on my experience. Your mileage may vary.
Secondly, I use the term widow and “she” because I am writing from my perspective. But this also applies to widowers as well. I just thought my writing flowed better saying “widow” instead of “widow or widower”.
And third, this is no way a complete list of things I could say about widowhood. But this is a blog and it will be ready for those words when I write them.
Widowhood is hard to reconcile. And accept.
I thought I was going to grow old with Bryon.
Then he died and I had no say in the matter.
Survivors guilt is a real thing. I tormented myself for months, wondering what I could have done for a different outcome. It took me many months to come to the realization that there was nothing I couldn’t have done.
I don’t know why this had to happen. I probably never will.
But it did happen. Whether it is for a specific reason or as the result of the butterfly effect or a combination of the two, I don’t know.
Sometimes shitty things happen to good people.
Our society doesn’t know how to handle grief.
After Bryon died, I was barraged with cliches.
Everything happens for a reason…
You just need to find your new normal…
It was all part of God’s plan…
He will always be with you in spirit…
God doesn’t give you more than you can handle…
He will be watching over you and your daughter…
He’s not hurting anymore…
People mean well. They feel like they need to say something to make you feel better but they don’t know what to say. So they revert back to these cliches.
The problem is that these cliches rarely make people feel better. They usually make people feel worse. The best case scenario is that the grieving person just ignores it or rolls their eyes.
This is usually the opposite effect than was intended.
If you know someone grieving, ask how the grieving person is doing. Take them to lunch. Share a story about the deceased. But please, please, please, try not to use a cliche.
People will disappear
It doesn’t matter how popular your deceased spouse was. People disappear.
It starts with the funeral. You won’t hear from 70% of those people again.
And as time goes by, the amount of people who check up on you continues to goes down.
If you make it to two years out, the people that are still here are your nearest and dearest. Hold on to them.
People will kick you when you are down.
My late husband was a popular person. In fact, he is way more popular posthumously than I am alive.
I have had people use me and my situation to latch onto my husband’s popularity. You know, offer to help on social media where everyone can see but they never call after a snow storm. Or people who try to take pictures with my daughter treating her like a photo op instead of a real person.
A couple of times it has surprised me because this behavior came from people who I thought were my true friends.
I am going to clear something up.
Widowhood is lonely, even with amazing friends and family.
But just because a widow is lonely does not mean that she must accept all friendship, even if she is being used and treated poorly.
It is insulting.
For me, the opposite is true. Life is short and I need to spend my time with those who care about my daughter and me.
If I cut someone out of my life, there is a very good reason for it.
At first these realizations upset me but now I am appreciative of them because they taught me important lessons. And I can make room for true friends.
Your tolerance for bullsh*t goes way down.
When Bryon and I got married, I thought my tolerance for bullshit went down.
And it did.
When Bryon and I became parents, I thought my tolerance for bullshit went down.
And it did.
But it was when Bryon died that my tolerance for bullshit plummeted. When you watch one of the two people you love most slowly die, you quickly learn what is important and you lose any tolerance for people who try to make your life miserable.
It does get better.
It take time but eventually the pain lessens.
Though I haven’t figured out if it is actually getting easier or if you just get used to their absence.
But the pain never goes away entirely. You will still have bad days. There will still be things that trigger you.
But there is hope.
Where does this leave me now?
As I said in my blog post on Tuesday, I feel like am stuck between two worlds. I am looking forward to the next chapter but I am struggling to let go of the past.
The first year of widowhood was about survival for me. Getting out of bed was enough of a challenge.
The second year was about getting used to Bryon being gone and getting used to envisioning a future without him.
The second year was also the year I learned to love myself.
And now I am about to embark on the third year.
What does that even mean? What does that mean for this blog?
While I miss Bryon every single day and I will still have sad days and moments where I cry. But I can’t stay in deep sadness forever. Grief is exhausting and I have been grieving for two years.
Do you know how exhausting it is to work full time, write a blog, raise a daughter by yourself and experience and process deep and profound grief at the same time?
I know Bryon doesn’t want me to be this sad forever.
Bryon gave me so much in our years together and the best way to honor him is to start living again. He made the most of his 30 years. He accomplished more in those years than most people do in 80.
But it is hard for me to listen to people complain about becoming older. Bryon didn’t even make it to middle age. I need to make the most of the years I have left.
So the third year is going to be the year I start to live again.
Two years ago I was sitting next to you during the last hours of your life.
We were both clinging on in a way.
It was what I imagine Purgatory to be like.
As much as I wanted the agony to be over, I had no choice to but to cling and wait out our last hours and minutes together. Because once Purgatory was over, you were going to be dead.
(There was no way, at that time, to foresee the agony that would follow during the months after).
I don’t know why you were clinging on but you did. I am sure it was because of some deep spiritual meaning that I can’t understand in this human form.
Or maybe you were waiting for Chelsea to score even though we weren’t watching a game. Besides, your heart stopped beating at 6:47 am which is probably still too early, even for English Premier League Soccer.
I am in a much better place now than I was last year.
Your first deathaversary really kicked me on my ass. It put me in a funk that I couldn’t seem to shake off until Christmas.
Last year I would have said that your death made a big impact in my life.
Which it did.
But now I realize that your life had an even bigger impact than your death.
I will probably never understand why our years together were so short but I am grateful that I had you for as long as I did.
I am grateful for the memories and all I learned from you.
You loved me at my worst.
Sadly, you never got to experience me at my best.
I’d like to think that you would be proud of me.
I am better person because of your love.
You always believed in me.
You were right. I am a lot smarter than I ever gave myself credit for. Though I am sure you roll your eyes a lot every time I mess something up or forget to do something.
I remember how appalled you were when we were in our dating days when I half-joked that whenever I hear a noise in my car, I would turn the music up and hope that the noise went away. You told me that you were going to take care of the car and I happily obliged.
Well, I’ve actually kept up on car maintenance. I even checked with my Dad to make sure there wasn’t anything I might have forgotten and he said I was all set.
Though, truth be told, I am too scared to let car maintenance slide since I drive with our daughter in the car. If it were just me…then…eh…
But I have been trying hard to learn these new skills. Because you aren’t hear to take care of the things you used to take care off.
Last year I was still grasping the concept that you died.
This year I am grasping the concept of how much time has passed since you were gone.
I used to marvel at how much has changed since you were here but now I can’t help but notice how much has changed since those early months after you died.
It might seem silly but it started when I noticed that the heels on my boots were wearing out. And then I remembered that I bought those boots after you died. How can it be possible that you have been dead long enough where I can wear out a pair of boots?
Friendships have run their course.
(Do you remember when I used to let people walk all over me and use me? I would get so upset and those offenders and the situations always angered you. At the time, I didn’t realize that it hurt you to see me hurt. You encouraged me to stand up for myself more. Well it is safe to say that I don’t out up with being treated poorly anymore.)
You died a month before our daughter turned two. Now she is almost 4 and she is going to be starting pre-K. And your best friends son who was born after you died is almost 2. I am not going to lie but your absence hurts the most during their milestones, first and achievements. You not here to see them grow up.
At this time last year, I was still struggling with adjusting to life without you.
Now, I feel like I am used to you being gone. Or maybe I am just used to your absence always being present. But I know that nothing is going to bring you back.
I have to accept that this is our story even if it’s not the ending I would have written for us.
I keep hearing that you are supposed to live in the Present. But my Present feels like I am living in limbo between two different worlds.
One of the worlds I live in consists of the past. While I am not in denial about your death, part of me is having a hard time letting go of the past. It just feels like every time I complete a task, your existence on Earth is erased just a little each time.
I took your name off of the bank account. It was time. The process only took about ten minutes and the guy working at the bank was really nice but when I got back to the car, I cried.
People talk about you less. When you first died, everyone was willing to talk to you and share memories. Now it feels like I can only talk about you with a small group of people. I guess most people have moved on. I am not quite ready to move on.
It feels like you have been forgotten.
I don’t want you to be forgotten.
I also live the other life that consists of the future. I hope it’s a happy time.
I live in a world where I am so ready for that next chapter. Whatever it might have in store for me.
Though I get overwhelmed when I think of all I need to do physically and emotionally to get to the next chapter.
I have been in a deep sadness for two years but I know I can’t stay this sad forever.
I am tired of feeling sad.
This type of sadness takes so much energy out of me.
And I know you don’t want me too. You want me to live my life to the fullest.
But you are one hard Mo-Fo to get over, Bryon McKim.
You changed my life and I will never meet anyone like you. But maybe from here I am supposed to be the one changing people’s lives? I am still trying to figure this out.
I want to be happy again.
I am ready for my next chapter.
No matter what happens, I will love you forever, BCM.
It’s Friday and it is time for some Good Vibrations Gratitudes. And usually, this is a fun post giving thanks to all the good things that happened to me during the week.
But this weeks post is going to be a little different. I hope you “bear” with me. (See what I did there?)
The truth is that my heart has been pretty heavy this week.
On Monday morning I heard the song Fire and Rain by James Taylor. Obviously, I had heard the song many times before but for some reason, the song stuck out to me.
I had arrived home and saw that I had a message from my friend Charlotte.
(You met her here). Charlotte is an old friend from high and Charlotte is not her real name. I try not to use the names of the living in my blog so my friends get blog names. Her name is Charlotte because that was her French Class name and we sat next to each other in French class and she got stuck with me as a friend.
The text from Charlotte had devastating news. She had heard that a high school friend Allison had passed away. Being the detectives that we are, we looked for clues on social media. We had nothing definite but I felt it in the pit of my stomach.
Finally, in the evening, we saw a post from her brother confirming the news we were fearing, that she had passed away.
Allison and I were friends in high school. I always wondered why a girl who was so cool would want to be friends with the socially awkward, hyperverbal girl with a Boston accent (I had moved from the Boston area to Maine the summer before high school).
Obviously, we graduated from high school and lost touch in college. It was an era before Facebook.
I saw her once in the mid 2000’s. I was at Mass at our towns Catholic Church, St. Joe’s and she was there with her father. We ran up to each other after Mass and hugged.
And I hadn’t seen her since. We lost contact again.
I reconnected with her on Facebook shortly after Bryon died. She came back into my life during my darkest days and she was my biggest cheerleaders when I was trying to pick up the pieces of my life. I could always count on her to like all my lame pictures on Instagram. I don’t know if she realized how much her kindness affected me.
I know I was just a drop in a bucket of all the people she touched and helped but I am really going to miss her.
It just doesn’t seem fair. A group of us high school friends started talking about taking a trip to Quebec City to recreate the shenanigans from our French IV trip in 1996. Now when we go, she won’t be there.
I was hoping to meet up with her. I was in her area this spring and I thought about seeing if she was around but it was a bachelorette weekend. It was busy and I was there for my friend who was getting married. I decided I would try to meet up with her next time.
This is a harsh reminder that we don’t always get a next time.
Today is her funeral and I am sad that I won’t be able to attend to say good-bye. I thought about it. It would be doable if I dropped my daughter off at daycare when they open. But being her only parent, I get nervous traveling three hours away. What if something happened?
I thought about taking my daughter out of school that day and bringing her. I asked her if she wanted to go to Pennsylvania for a funeral and or stay here and go to school. She chose to go to school. I can’t blame her. She’s a few months short of 4 and has already been to more than her fair share of wakes and funerals.
I asked again, this time changing the inflection and tone of my voice to be all excited and I asked her if she wanted to go to Pennsylvania for a funeral and then I changed my tone to boring and asked if she wanted to stay here and go to school. She still chose to go to school. I can’t fool that girl. She is so smart.
As one last Hail Mary, I looked at the map to see how close Bethlehem, PA was to Sesame Place. Surely she would want to go to a funeral if we could do a side trip to Sesame Place but it was too far out of the way.
I wanted to go to support her family. They are good people. Her father had been our high school principal and her mother was a nurse. Her siblings are great too. I know they are going to have some dark days ahead. Though I know that my presence wouldn’t lessen their pain. Not at all.
Maybe it’s because I am close to two years out from Bryon’s death and some of that numbness is going away. I am starting to feel again.
Maybe it’s because with Bryon’s death, I was so involved that I didn’t get the opportunity to sit back and reflect about my own mortality at a young age. I was too busy surviving and existing. But with Allison’s death, I am removed enough to reflect on the fact that she is my age and she’s gone and people aren’t supposed to die this young.
I have been lucky that I have been able to lean on Charlotte and another friend. We have all been leaning on each other.
But it leads me to another question- why does it take someone’s death to bring people closer together? Why can’t it just be normal human behavior to appreciate people as a baseline? Why do we need to wait until a death and trauma to realize we care about people?
Then I started to wonder why the people with the brightest lights seem to get extinguished early. Like Allison. And Bryon.
At least I know that Heaven (or the Fifth Dimension, or the other side or wherever spirits go when they leave this world) must be a beautiful place. Because people like Allison and Bryon are there.
(I did ask Bryon to give her a hug. So when a tall, handsome, smart and hysterically funny man from Upstate New York gives her hug, I hope she is not alarmed.)
So why am I writing this in my Gratitude Friday post?
I am writing about this because my heart feels heavy and I just don’t feel like writing and posting pictures of the scrunchies I saw in Wal-Mart even if I am grateful and excited that 90’s fashion has made a comeback.
When someone dies too soon, it is easy to dwell on the loss, but I am choosing to be grateful.
I am writing this post because I am truly grateful that Allison was in my life.
For befriending the socially awkward girl with the Boston accent and making her feel cool.
For the memories.
For sharing all her adventures on Instagram and letting us follow her along.
For being a light.
For filling the world with love.
For being an inspiration.
For sharing the struggles she overcame with honesty and grace.
For being a good example on how to live.
I am also grateful for this reminder to appreciate those in my life.
I am going to end this with the Prayer of St. Francis. It feels fitting because she lived the message. And because she loved animals and St. Francis was the Patron Saint of Animals.
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.
My close friends and I were discussing the role that narcissists have played in our lives.
None of us have a Psych degree but we have all had issues with narcissists whether it was someone in our social circle, someone we dated, someone in our family or if they were in-laws.
Maybe you know a narcissists. Narcissists do not know empathy to others, they think the world revolves around them and they will tell lies to people to turn them against each other. If anyone makes them insecure, they try to change everyone’s opinion of the person that makes them insecure so people see them in a negative manner.
Research states that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is rare but it seems that our group of friends have encountered more than our fair share of narcissists.
I have a few theories.
The first theory consists on our influence of others. I believe that we all vibrate at a certain level of energy. It could be good energy or bad. That energy ripples out and effects those around us. People are affected whether we are spreading love, light and positivity or if we are spreading selfishness, lies and negativity.
Our behavior affects others. And other’s behavior effects us.
Narcissists are confusing beings because they disguise their true selves and most people are fooled. They pass as perfectly nice people. They are good at fooling people because that is their natural state.
When you are the victim of a narcissist, you feel alone because everyone else thinks that they narcissist is great.
Narcissists can cause a lot of damage in families and social circles.
One theory I have to the inflated perceived narcissistic population is that some people may grow up with a narcissist parent or grandparent and that a child may grow learning that manipulation is simply the natural way you treat people. These people are probably not narcissists in their core but are merely using the “skills” that they learned from their narcissist parent grandparent.
This theory has a positive spin as a person may grow up with a narcissist parent or grandparent and learn that that is not how you treat people.
My second theory is that some social circles, including the one that I am belong to, are very inclusive and since narcissists are good at hiding their true colors which are not beautiful like a rainbow. But my social circle does not want to be closed off so we will take the risk.
Widowhood has made me wiser.
When I became a widow, I began to examine every area of my life. Heck, I am still examining and learning.
I want to make sure I am living my life to it’s fullest potential and that I surround myself with love and not negativity.
I began to truly appreciate those who love me and my daughter.
But I also became really good at noticing people who are toxic, people who are phony and people who had an ulterior motive to our friendship.
Before widowhood, I would have brushed off those feelings and given the offenders the benefit of the doubt.
And on top of that, I would have gone out of my way to make sure they liked me because I was a people pleaser.
I ignored my intuition on so many accounts, despite the fact that my intuition is almost always right.
But now that I am a widow, I can spot a phony person right away. I can tell when a person is trying to manipulate me. I can see all the ulterior motives.
I have learned to listen to and trust my intuition.
I think it is a widow superpower.
So in the beginning of widowhood, I removed toxic people from my life. Part of it was necessity. But mostly because I didn’t have enough bandwidth to handle the drama.
But then it became clear to me that I just didn’t want to deal with the drama. I only have so many hours of the day and our lives only consist of so many days and I do not want to spend them with toxic people.
And while narcissists are toxic, there are other types of toxic people. I just opened with narcissists because they were a clear example and my life had been affected by a narcissist for many years and I hold the greatest empathy for anyone dealing with a narcissist.
Some toxic people manipulate. Some tear others down in order to make others look good. Some argue constantly. Some do whatever it takes to make you feel sh*tty about yourself.
So I took a stand. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Because I was never good at saying no to people.
I decided that I was going to say no to toxicity.
I had to cut some people out of my life. I needed to keep positive people around me and my daughter and I needed to use what energy I had to focus on the important things.
And toxic people don’t like being cut out.
They are persistent.
They will try to manipulate you and when they can’t manipulate you, they will try to manipulate those around you. They will try to change other’s view of you to gain sympathy for themselves.
Simply cutting toxic people out of your life isn’t enough.
I learned that you need to set firm boundaries.
I used to feel that boundaries were purely a physical matter like having people stay out of the master bedroom or deciding who has a spare key to your house. Or when you are a kid and your sibling is annoying you and you say that there is an invisible wall that they can not cross.
But boundaries are also emotional, mental, and social.
How you let people treat you is a boundary. Do you allow people to walk all over you? Do you let people treat you poorly? Do you let people boss you around? Do you let people make you feel small?
I used to have a friend in my younger days who would cancel plans with me on a moments notice because a guy asked her out. I would be upset but I let her do it. And she would do it again…and again…and again. I did not have the self-esteem to realize that this behavior was not acceptable and I did not set any boundaries.
In case you are wondering, I have not spoken to that person since my wedding. It all makes sense to me now. Before I was with Bryon, I was a people pleaser and not only did I let people treat me poorly, I would try to get those people to like me more. But Bryon set the boundary for me. He would tell me when my friendships were one sided and he would advise me not to put any effort into those friendships. And this friend did not like that she could not push me around if Bryon was in the picture.
But Bryon isn’t here to help me set boundaries. It is a skill that I have been learning to implement.
This is my life.
It is okay to stand up for myself. You don’t deserve to be treated like a doormat.
It’s okay to choose not to hang out with someone because they make you feel poorly. Your friendship is a privilege, not a right.
It’s okay to delete someone from social media.
Not everyone deserves an explanation about your life choices.
I write in this blog and will continue to do so. But just because I am open about my grief does not mean that everyone is privy to my personal life. I have had to exercise my boundaries and make it clear that I determine what I share.
Setting boundaries is about taking care of yourself and protecting yourself (and those you love) from negativity.
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.