Turning a new page

I feel like I have just come off some sort of grief bender.

I thought I was in a good spot when I was coming up to Bryon’s deathaversary.  (My widow blog friend Lisa says it perfectly when she refused to call it an angelversary.  She said that even if you sugar coat a turd, it’s still a turd.)

But August 21st came and I was pulled into the strongest period of grief I had felt.  Sure, a year had passed but the fog had lifted. So the deathaversary made me relive those memories of Bryon’s death without having to fog to soften the pain.

The grief cycle was further exacerbated by the fact that his birthday was a week later, my birthday two days after that and our daughter’s birthday a month later.  

There also was our engagaversary and the excitement of my daughter starting her preschool year and a new year of gymnastics and dance. 
I tried hard to stay positive during these events because they are happy occasions. But it’s exhausting.  Grief is exhausting, period.  Especially raw grief.  It takes a lot of effort just to focus on life in front of you and not think about what happened.

For five weeks I have been in this deep form of grief. I haven’t written much in this blog because I didn’t know how to articulate this grief.  

September 29 would have been our fifth wedding anniversary.  It would have been our first milestone anniversary.  

I figured it was my anniversary and I still deserved steak.  So I took Kimmy Gibbler out for lunch.

Crab and Lobster Fondue
7 oz filet mignon. Side of Red Bliss Mashed Potatoes. Not pictured: Orzo Mac and Cheese and Haricot Verts
Molten Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Bean ice cream

The meal still looked pretty good in leftover toddler dinner form.

Now I want to spend the rest of year two focusing on myself and healing.  Not just healing from Bryon’s death but healing all of me. I have always suffered from low self esteem and have always hated myself. Bryon used to tell me that it hurt him to listen to me talk about myself the way I did.  But it was more important for me to keep hating myself than it was to stop talking about how much I hate myself in front of Bryon.

So it is going to stop.  I need to do this for me. For Bryon’s memory. For my daughter. I am her primary influence and I don’t want her to pick this up.

I do think I am off to a good start.   I have been surrounding myself with positive people who make me (and each other) feel good.  There is no law stating that if you have a negative person in your life that you need to keep those people in your life. If someone tears you apart- set them lose.  If you spend more time fuming about something a friend did than having positive experiences, then they may not be a friend after all.  Focus on your real friends. There is no room for toxicity in your life.

I am spending the rest of year two focusing on healing, gratitude and positivity.

I am also embarking on some physical goals.  I recently joined an amazing new gym.  Running was stressing me out so I am on sabbatical but will restart after I lose some weight and become stronger.  I also signed up for Macro (macronutrient) coaching.  I decided that in order to love myself, I need to take care of myself.  

So if you see annoying fitness posts here and on my Instagram and Facebook, I am sorry.  Actually I am not sorry. I need to be holding myself accountable.
I also need to do the things that I need to do to be happy. I need to learn new things, try new recipes, be creative, spend time with my friends and family and travel to at least one new place a year.

I need to do this.

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Five years

5 years ago I woke up from a sleepless night.  I think I slept from 4:00 until 5:30.  I was too excited to sleep.  This day was going to be the first day of our happily ever after.

This was one of the happiest days of my life.  The other being when our daughter was born.  However, I think it is worth noting that I looked a lot better and felt a lot better on the day we got married as opposed to the day we became parents.

The weather was cool and a little dreary.  Father Mullen, the priest who had married us, had referred to it as a “soft Irish morning.”

I spent the morning in our bridal suite getting ready with my bridesmaids. My hairstylist said I was the calmest bride that she ever had.  The nerves didn’t hit me until it was time to board the trolley to the church.  It wasn’t nerves about getting married, just nerves that everything was going to go perfectly.

You spent the morning watching soccer at the Biergarten with some of the groomsman. You drank “das boot” even though I told you not to.

You always did what you wanted to do.

We had our whole lives together.

We bought our starter house.  Our daughter was born.  We bought a family car.  We made progress in our careers (you more than me).  We went on 5 cruises.

But our happily ever after only lasted 1422 days.  

151 of those days I was upholding my vow “to be true to you in sickness and in health.”

And now it is our fifth wedding anniversary and you are dead.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.  We were supposed to grow old together.  We were supposed to have at least two kids.  We were going to buy a bigger house and take many more cruises. We were supposed to go to San Diego.  And Scotland.  And London.   And Branson, Missouri.  (I still don’t understand that one.  But I will make it there someday).

You were supposed to walk our daughter down the aisle.  You were supposed to hold your grandchildren.

You wanted to be an adjunct college professor and write a book on election law.

You weren’t ready to die.  You were taken too soon.

And I am here, still reeling from everything that happened.  The other morning, I drove to the cemetery and I wept.  My whole body was shaking and I was gasping for air.  I have never cried so hard where it affected me physically.  I just kept saying “Why?  Why?  Why?”   

404 days later and I am still asking why you have to die?

Maybe I will never know.

For the past 404 days I have thought about the 151 days you spent in the hospital, 149 of them in the ICU.

Every one of those 404 days, I have thought about what happened, how the events unfolded.

For 404 days, I have beat myself up which is ridiculous because I had no control over the situation.  That was up to God and the medical staff, both of which failed you.

For 404 days, I have felt empty.  An emptiness that felt like a deafening silence that echoed through my body.  The emptiness is both physical and emotional.  Your side of the bed is empty and you are not there to hear my stories.  

You were aware the whole time you were in hospital and I have no idea what was going through your mind.  The other morning I was driving and listening to some morning talk show.  The hosts were discussing the song “Seasons in the Sun” and of course I lost it when I heard “It’s so hard to die, when all the birds are singing in the sky”. Because you weren’t able to talk, I have no idea what was going through your mind before you died.  Or even if you knew you were dying.

One of the hardest parts about your death was that we didn’t get to talk about it.  You went from having back pain to being intubated in a matter of hours.  For the following 149 days, you could not speak.  You were my best friend and we talked about everything but we couldn’t talk about how sick you were or that you may be dying.  

We didn’t get any closure.  

Wherever you are right now and in whatever form you are, I am sure you understand what happened.  But for me, on Earth and in human form, I struggle to make sense of it.

You left me with amazing friends.  They are now my family, but unfortunately it took your illness and death for us to realize what we meant to each other.

I am so much stronger than I ever thought I could be.  When you were sick, I looked forward to when you were better.  I was hoping that you would be proud of me.  But you died before you got to see that.

At your funeral, your best friend gave your eulogy.  He said we were the lucky ones because we got to know you.  In some ways, I must have been the luckiest one of all.  You chose me to be by my side.  

You made such a big difference in my life.  You taught me so much.  You taught me my worth.  You believed in me and gave me confidence.  You told me I was beautiful.  One of my biggest regrets is not believing you.  I couldn’t just let you think I was beautiful.  I made it hard for you to love me.  I didn’t appreciate you. These things will always haunt me.

Our daughter was robbed because she was only 18 months when you went into the ICU and you left us a month before she turned 2.  But I am grateful that you left so many friends who love her. It makes my heart hurt to know what you won’t be taking her to any Father-Daughter dances, but you left many friends who would step up and take her.  I hesitate to use this analogy because I know how you feel about Hillary Clinton, but our daughter truly has a village.  That is one of your legacies to her.

I was talking to a friend of ours the other day.  I said that I wished you were here to weigh in on a problem one of us was having.  Because you would know how to handle it.  You knew how to handle everything.  I still need your advice.  Our friend said that while you were not here, at least you gave us a lot of advice when you were here that we can use.

But it is not the same.

Grieving your death has been exhausting.  Even though 404 days have passed, I still miss you so much that I literally feel physical pain.  I miss you so much that it literally takes my breath away.  I still go through the motions of life and I still feel dead inside.  

I still have moments where I curl up in the fetal position and I cry my eyes out.

I am in a weird place because sometimes I wonder when it won’t hurt so much.  But then I get scared.  I know that in order to get to the point where it doesn’t hurt so bad means that I have to let go to a certain extent.  The thought of letting go brings on those feelings of pain.  

Sheryl Sandberg says there is a one line Jewish prayer that states “Let me not die while I am still living.”  

I am trying.  Some days I do okay.  Other days I feel like I can barely stay afloat.  Some days I feel like I am drowning.

But I know deep down that I need to live again.  When I think about all that you had given me in our short time together, I owe it to you to try to make my remaining days on Earth matter.  

I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.

A third birthday fiesta

We celebrated my daughters third birthday this past weekend.  It was a small celebration with the Albany family, but we are still a pretty crazy bunch.  Celebrations like this are very bittersweet without Bryon, but we still had a good time.  I was tired, but very thankful for those in my daughters life.

 

For my daughter: your birth story

You were supposed to be born on or before September 14, 2014.  But you had other plans.

On Thursday, September 18, 2014 I woke up around 4 am and I was convinced I was in labor.  You father was too and he started to pack his bag.  He said we were having a baby that day.

I called the OB/Gyn.  They told me to come in which we did.

They hooked me up to the machine to measure contractions.

Your father tells me about how someone asked him how many centimeters dilated I was.  Your father said that he thought it was weird, that that person was asking about my vagina- his wife’s vagina.  I said that that person wasn’t asking in that way and it didn’t matter because I had heard that when you are delivering a baby, you don’t care.  Your father then said “Like that time on Saved by the Bell when Zack had to deliver Mr. Belding’s baby in an elevator.”  I said “Now that would have been awkward.”

We sat there for a half an hour and the contractions had stopped.  We weren’t having a baby that day.  But we scheduled an induction for Monday, September 22, 2014.

I was in a bad mood and I didn’t go back into work.  I was tired of people asking me where the baby was.

The next day, Friday, September 19, 2014 and it started out just like the day before except your father didn’t get excited pack a bag.  The morning passed but my contractions were still 10 minutes apart.  I took a nap.  I kept having to stand up.  I had back labor and it hurt.  I told your father that you were going to be an only child.

Your father had refused to take any childbirth classes.  He remembered seeing an episode of Murphy Brown where she took a childbirth class and the other parents were tools.  He didn’t want to be in a class with tools.  For an extremely intelligent man, he sure had times where he had trouble separating fictional TV scenarios and real life.

I was in the middle of a contraction and your father said “Maybe we should have taken that childbirth class…”

I look at him.  He told me that when I looked at him, he couldn’t tell if I was going to laugh or if I wanted to murder him.

Evening came and contractions were still 8-10 minutes apart.  I told your father that I heard walking helped with labor so we went to the mall.  So it was a busy Friday night at the mall and your father and I just slowly walked the perimeter of the mall.  We stopped every 8-10 minutes.

During the overnight, my contractions finally got closer together.  We went to the hospital around 3 am.  I had been in labor for about 24 hours at this point.

I got my epidural and like was good for several hours.  They thought I would be pushing around 3 pm.

Well 3 pm became 4 pm.  And then 5 pm.  And 6 pm.

You could say I was not a happy camper.

I just wanted you out of me.

It was decided that after 42 hours of labor, I was going to have a C-section.

They doctors were getting ready.  Your father put on scrubs.  The anethesiologist asked if anyone had a questions.  Your father said he did.  The anethesiologist is polite and said “okay…” and your father gestures toward the scrubs and asks “Does this make me look fat?”  The anethesiologist burst out laughing.

Your father also used that joke on the nurses and they thought he was hysterical.  Your father was proud.

So I will spare you the details of the c-section.  I do remember that once you were born, they asked your father to announce if you were a boy or girl as we didn’t find out.  He just stood there looking at you.  I couldn’t take the suspense and I said “Well, did we have a Maddy or a William?”  Your father just smiled in awe and said you were a girl.

The second you were out of me, I was given morphine.  I remember that I was suddenly transported from the operating room to a yellow foam fun house and I thought it was awesome.  Your father was there with me in the fun house wearing his scrubs.  And then as quickly as I was transported there, the fun house just melted away and I was back in the operating room.  But your father didn’t move.

I kept talking about the yellow foam fun house.  My obstetrician said that she was starting to get jealous because this yellow foam fun house sounded cool.  I kept alternating between being excited about the foam fun house and being excited about your birth.

Since I was too drugged up, your father held you first.  They placed you in his arms and the first thing he said was “Oh my God.  You are so cute.”

I stayed in the hospital for several days.  The highlights:

1)  You saw Top Gun with your father when you were a day old.

2) Your father watched the Bills with you on his laptop.

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3) At one point you were crying and he was holding you.  He started to sing to you but it wasn’t helping.  I was half asleep and said “She likes “Let’s Hear It For The Boy'”  (You did in utero).  Your father then sang the whole song, word for word.  I feel like I should be surprised that he knew the words but I am not.  And it worked.  You stopped crying.

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We celebrated your first birthday a day early on Saturday, September 19, 2015.  We didn’t want your party to be overshadowed by the Bills playing.  We had a Minnie Mouse theme and a taco bar.

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When we celebrated your first birthday, we had no idea that it was going to be your last birthday with your father.

As we celebrate your second birthday without him, it still feels unreal.  The only birthday he was at is the one you definitely won’t remember.

It is just so unfair.

At least once a day, I think about how you are going to grow up without him, without remembering him, without every knowing him in his earthly form.

And every time you do something new or funny, I am reminded that he won’t get to see you grow up.  He used to tell me that he couldn’t wait until he could talk because you would probably say the funniest things.

Every time you reach a new milestone, he won’t see that.

Every time you say something funny, he isn’t here to laugh.

He got robbed of that.

You got robbed.

Life can be so cruel.  And I know soon you are going to start asking questions.  I dread that but I won’t hide anything from you.

But I want you to know that your father loved you so much.  You were the center of his world when he was here.  And I know wherever he is, he loves you very much.  His death doesn’t change that.

And many of the people around you loved him too and they love you too.  And we all can’t wait to celebrate your third birthday.

Six dreams about my dead husband

I have had six dreams about Bryon since he passed away.  At least, six dreams that I have remembered.

The first dream was the night of my daughters second birthday party.  He looked normal and not sick.  He was wearing his navy sweater vest and a tie and his hair was combed back, off of his face.  (It always annoyed me when his hair got long, but I never nagged him because that would only strengthen his resolve to keep it long.  But I would tell him that he was no Tom Brady.)  We just stood there, several feet apart from each other, looking at each other.  I said “Hi Handsome” and he said “Hello Beautiful.”

The second dream was within the first couple of months.  He was sick, in the hospital and I was sitting next to him, waiting for him to die.  Then he burst out laughing.

The third dream was also within in those first couple of months.  I was in a dangerous situation.  Luckily, Bryon shows up in a car.  I had been waiting for him and while I was relieved he had showed up, I told him about all the bad things that almost just happened to me.

The fourth dream happened about 9 months after he passed.  I was at a Republican convention that was covering the Northeast.  I was sitting at a table on a patio with a group of  friends, but I only recognized two people.  One of them was my daughters Godmother.  I guess they were having presentations from different states and I hear that Maine’s presentation was about to begin in the auditorium and I begin to make my way over.  I wanted to see Senator Collins.  On my way, I get distracted by a stairwell.  Bryon is standing on a landing half way down the stairs.  He has lost a lot of weight and he is wearing a beige suit with an orange tie.  It was an interesting color combination.  We stop and just look at each other and smile.  We don’t talk.  We don’t get close to each other.

When I woke up, I remembered about the time we met.  It was during the Northeast Caucus of the Fall 2006 Young Republican National Federation Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.   The room was filled with a large New York delegation and I was the lone Maine representative.  I was trying to give my report on Maine and there was a New Yorker who kept interrupting me.  That was my first impression of Bryon.  Bryon always maintained that no one in the room cared about what was going on in Maine.  So after that dream, I just thought something along the lines of “of course he would interrupt me on the way to a Maine presentation.”

The fifth dream was three nights ago.   We were with a group of friends, but we were living separate lives and we were okay with that.  It was bizarre.  There was a lot more to it, but my daughter had woken me up and I didn’t get to think about the dream before I forgot most of it.

The sixth dream happened yesterday.  My daughter and I didn’t go anywhere.  It was one of those days where just existing had been too exhausting.  They still happen.  My daughter goes to take a nap. I knew I should be cleaning since her birthday is this week.  But instead, I sit on the couch and watch Pioneer Woman.  Three different chocolate desserts and cheesy corn chowder.  I fell asleep.  What can I say?  I caught onto the “sleep when the baby sleeps” about three years too late.

This sixth dream was really weird.  I am aware that Bryon is dead.  And then Bryon is there and he is alive and he tells me we need to do drop campaign literature in the next town over. Now if Bryon were to return from the dead, I really hope he doesn’t want our first date post resurrection to be dropping campaign literature but in the dream, I am okay with it.

So in the dream, we are on our way to meet up with the campaign and it dawns on me-  how can I be with Bryon right now?  He’s dead.  I was then confused, not knowing if Bryon was dead or not.  But I didn’t get to sort it out in the dream because my daughter woke me up.

 

 

Six years ago

He asked my best friend for help with choosing my ring.  I had my suspicions when she suddenly wanted to discuss.  I mentioned it to a coworker, but I was afraid that if I mentioned it to anyone else that I would somehow jinx it.

We were at the bar where we went on our first date, Mahars Public Bar.  The bar sadly closed years ago.  They had beer from all over the world and a computer that kept track of your total.  At 50 beers, you got a T-shirt.  At 200 you got a mug.  At 500 you got your name on the wall.

Bryon and I had been drinking there for years.  I was one beer away from 200 and he was one beer away from 500.  It was going to be a night of milestones.

Bryon was antsy to go.  Almost nervous which is not like his character.

We get to the bar and sit at a small table.  Bryon is acting sappy.  Again, not his character.  Then he is on one knee and proposing.

It was the exact ring that I told my best friend I liked.

I said yes.

Then his friends seem to come out of the woodwork to celebrate with us.  Apparently Bryon told a bunch of them that he was going to propose that evening.

No picture of the proposal exits.  A good friend said he was going to get a picture but his blackberry was acting up.  But we did a staged photo.  Of which I took off of Facebook.  I hope he doesn’t mind.  If he does, I will make him a funfetti cheesecake.  Or maybe Poblano mac and cheese.  Depends on how pissed he may be.

September 6, 2011 was one of the happiest days of my life.

So this is year two

Year Two-  1-2/52

I am two weeks into my second year of this thing called widowhood.

And I am tired.  Physically.  Mentally.  Emotionally.

I am tired of the pity.

I am tired of being patronized.

I am tired of being told I am strong.  As if I really had a choice.

I am tired of being a sole parent.

I am tired of being told how to grieve.

I am tired of trying to stay positive.

I am tired of looking into my future and seeing nothingness.  I miss having long term plans, goals and dreams.  I have none of that now.

I am tired of pretending that I am somewhat okay with what happened.

I am tired of people not understanding that I just need to be sad.  There is nothing wrong with me.  If you lost your spouse, you would feel sad too.

I am tired of being sad and lonely.  Because as much as I love my Albany Family and my biological family, there is a loneliness that no one can remedy.  No one knew me like Bryon did.  There is that stuff that only someone intimate with you would know.  I think back to my frustrated days as a single before meeting Bryon, but I wasn’t as lonely as I was now because I didn’t know that closeness even existed.

I miss being married.  But I don’t want to date.  At all.  In fact, I am angry that I am this position.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.  We were happy.  Now I am the third, fifth, seventh, ninth, eleventh, etc wheel.  It sucks.  But I don’t want to date.  I want Bryon back. I want to be living the life I was supposed to be living.   But the reality is that someday I will have to because I have long life genes.  My Grandma Sullivan lived to be 90 and my Nana Crowley is still alive at the age of 95.  It is not unreasonable to think I may live that long and I know I don’t want to be alone for another 60+ years.  Being alone and dating are equally dreadful to me.

I also truly doubt I will ever find anyone who captivates me the way Bryon did.  Or even if I found someone who captivates me, I doubt I would captivate them.  As each day goes on, I am convinced more and more that you only get one and I had mine.  And it’s over.  

During year one I bounced between feeling raw grief and an almost Zen-like state.  But now I just feel blah.  Grief is no longer raw and being Zen is just too much work.  I am too drained to do anything.  I know that this is supposed to be the year that I put myself first, but even that seems like too much work.  

They say year two is the year we are supposed to leave again, but currently I feel so uninspired.