Weekly Gratitude #10: Three Years

Today is my blog’s birthday.

I started this blog as a way to process and cope with all the emotions I was feelings 5 months post-loss.  I was starting to “wake up” from the grief fog and I felt the need to share my emotions as I have noticed a dearth of information to help young widows.  I wanted my information out there so if another widow stumbled across it, they would know that they were not alone.

I also felt the need to share my story because I wanted others to understand the emotions that a widowed person felt, at least from my perspective.  After all, that is the only perspective I can honestly offer.

So much has changed since that time.

At that time I was somewhere between existing and surviving.

Now I am a survivor and on some days, I might even consider myself to be thriving.

Some locations in my story have changed.

Some characters in my story are the same, but some characters are different. I don’t doubt that all the characters in my life are there (or have been there) for a reason.

When I started this blog, my daughter was a toddler.  Now she is a kindergartener.

As I reread some of my earlier blog posts, I feel that strange dichotomy that widows feel.  The dichotomy where my old life and my old self feel current and they exist alongside my new life and new self.

My last two sentences of my first blog post really hit me hard.

“A part of me died with him that morning.  This is the story of the part of me that is still living.”

At that point in time, my soul was completely fractured.  I felt like an empty shell of who I was and I had no clue how I was going to move forward.

Now it is three years later.  I have survived.  I have grown.

Yes, a part of me may have died the same morning Bryon did but the part of me that is still living has forged ahead.

She has grown back into a whole, albeit different, person.

I want to thank all of you who have been a part of this ride.  As I said the other day, nothing ever lasts forever.  But I appreciate all of you who continue to travel this journey with me.

Weekly Gratitude #5: When grief turns into joy

The holidays are in full swing around here.

Last week we attended the Christmas Tree lighting in the next town over.  We had missed our towns tree lighting due to it being on the same night as gymnastics and swim.

There were crafts and treats and even a visit with Santa.

 

We saw the Grinch as performed by the Frogtown Puppeteers at our local (and historic) theater.

My daughter was in our local holiday parade with her Girl Scout Troop.

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We went to the Downeast Festival of Trees.  I had never been before.  I learned that the trees all have prizes and you put raffle tickets in the buckets of the trees you wanted.  My daughter took my tickets and put them into the buckets of all the trees with toys.

She also saw Santa again and told him she wanted a Barbie.  Because the 30ish she has now isn’t enough.

On Sunday my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop took part in the Wreaths Across America Ceremony.  My father, Local and District VFW Commander was a part of the ceremony.

This week we also had my daughter’s first school Holiday concert.  I am bummed out the Prime Minister didn’t attend but I guess he’s busy with the elections in UK that are wrapping up as I am typing this.  I am also disappointed that I didn’t get to dress her up as a Christmas Lobster.

(Bonus points if you got the Love Actually Reference)

The excitement isn’t ending any time soon.

But this week it dawned on me.

I spend so much time thinking about Bryon isn’t here to see our daughter grow up.

I don’t think about what a blessing it is that I get to our daughter grow up.

It doesn’t mean that it isn’t sad that Bryon isn’t here.

We will never forget him.  Never.

I will always think about the fact that he is missing whatever milestone we are celebrating or what fun event we are doing.

But maybe it’s okay to stop dwelling on it so much.

My daughter and I have many years ahead of us.  Years filled with busy, hectic weekends.

My daughter’s joy has always been my biggest priority.

My second priority has been thinking about Bryon, being sad and dwelling on his death and absence.

And my happiness comes last.

But maybe it’s time to swap the second and third.  It’s a hard thing to admit but being sad all the time is exhausting.

And I can’t believe that Bryon would want that.

My daughter and I are still living on this Earth and it is time to embrace life for what it is and enjoy it.

Turning Inward: It’s not you, it’s me.

So January is almost over and I haven’t blogged.

I started 2019 with big plans for the blog.  I even scheduled blog posts into my google calendar.

Then the New Year happened.

And I just didn’t feel like it.

Kind of like Forrest Gump when he decided he didn’t want to run anymore.

I started this blog as an outlet for my emotions and my grief.  I also had hoped to help others understand what a widow went through.

I have tried really hard to be open and honest about my grief.

I do not regret doing that.  Not for one minute.

I know I have helped people as I have also helped myself.

I experienced immense healing and I got to explore my new life and new depths of myself and my personality.

Things began to change.

But I found as time went on, I felt the need to censor myself in my blog.

I put my feelings out there and I feel like people took advantage of my openness.  That they were entitled to know everything and they were entitled to have a say about my decisions.

I got tired of people telling me how I am supposed to feel, how I am supposed to live my life and what my boundaries are supposed to be.

Especially when most people have not gone through what I had.

I have always been a very closed off person with a lot of walls.  Bryon was able to tear down some of those walls but sadly, it took his death to tear down the rest of the walls.

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I’m going to focus on another president and another wall. Because this is America and I can.  Yes, I can.

I believed that tearing down my walls and letting people in was one of my spiritual lessons that my soul needed to accomplish in this lifetime.

I still do.

But the pendulum went too far.

And now I need to learn how to set boundaries again.  Albeit healthier boundaries.

It’s okay to have walls but instead of huge 10 foot walls, I need some of those cute stone walls you find in New England.  Remnants of a colonial time, strong but low enough  to the ground that people can easily climb over them.

My blog stopped being my space.

A good friend of mine pointed out that I feel the need to explain myself in my blog and apologize for moving forward.

This blog, a place that was once therapeutic, has now become a bit of a chore.

Writing no longer felt therapeutic.

In fact, I began to wonder if the blog was hindering my growth and healing.

And it defeats the purpose of why I am writing in the first place.  At least, writing in a public platform.

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So I have decided that I am turning inward for the time being.

I will continue to write, but in my personal journals.

I have come to the realization that while I have been open and honest about my grief, it does not mean that I have to be open about every area of my life.  

It’s okay to keep some parts of my life to myself, my daughter and those closest to me.

And that is okay.

I will write in here when I feel called to write to.

Yes, I am passed the worst of my grief but I still have my moments.  And those moments will always creep up on me.

Or maybe I will be called to write about other aspects of my life.

Who knows?

There is a bright and long future ahead of me.

So for those who have always supported me and my writing, I thank you.

You will be seeing less of me here.

But this isn’t good-bye.

 

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.

The ugly side of grief

Grief if not pretty.  Grief is actually quite ugly.  Some view me as strong.  Some view me as delicate.   But the truth is I am neither strong or delicate yet I am both strong and delicate at the same time.  I always joke that I am a girl of many contradictions as I am part city girl, part country girl.  The analogy fits here as well.

Grief is hard.  It’s hard to go to bed alone.  It’s hard to deal with the moments of shock where you wonder why all of this had to happen.  It’s been 8 months since Bryon died and over a year (13 months) since Bryon got sick and I am still hit with those moments.  But one of the hardest parts of grief is all the emotions.  Grief makes you feel every emotion there is; sadness, anger, frustration, helplessness, desperation.  It is like each emotion is it’s own bright, vibrant color and I am that cup of disgusting water that you dip your paintbrush into.  All those bright colors have turned my cup of clear water into a disgusting murky shade of greenish brown.

I have always been someone who has struggled with expressing my negative emotions.  I usually say nothing and I let frustration build until it turns into a completely different emotion and then the volcano erupts and it is usually over something minor and stupid. And once that volcano erupts, there is so stopping and tt is not fair to the people that stand in line of that volcano.  It’s not fair to take your negative emotions out on people.  People shouldn’t have to deal with Mt. McKim.

Grief is exhausting.  I joke with my friends that grief has turned me into an emotionally stunted preteen girl.  While I like to think I have more wisdom than the average preteen girl, there is still some level of truth to that statement.  Emotionally, I can only deal with what is in front of me and that in turn has made me self-absorbed.  I talk about myself too much.  I wonder when enough time has gone by that I don’t feel the need to talk about myself and my grief so much.  When do I begin to act normal again?

Grief is overwhelming.  Not only are we dealing with the absence of our loved one, we have to deal with the secondary losses.  Loss of security, loss of income, loss of future plans.  We have to rebuild and that is overwhelming.  Many widows don’t know how to rebuild.  I know I am relearning skills that I haven’t had to think about in over 6 years.  I know where I want to be but I don’t know how to get there.  I am like the underpants gnomes except I am not collecting underpants.

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I had been working on removing toxicity from my life and I still find that I have too much to deal with emotionally.  It dawns on me that it isn’t enough to remove toxic people, you need to remove toxic thoughts too.  I need to learn how to redirect that energy to something more positive.

I also want to make a point that just because one is widowed does not mean that they are obligated to accept friendship from a person who tears you down.  Just because you are at a low point in your life does not mean that you deserve to be bullied or talked to in a way that is demeaning.  Surround yourself with supportive people.

Grief also can make you anxious and paranoid.  So much bad stuff happened to me this past year and I am constantly worried about what tragedy is coming next.  It’s like I can’t just accept that this storm has passed and I need to enjoy the sunshine until the next storm happens.  (Because widowhood doesn’t give you any immunity from bad things happening.  But let’s hope I don’t have to sit in another ICU room for 5 months watching someone else I care about suffer and die)  In addition to watching my husband die, many people that should have been supportive of my daughter and me were not.  Those people were selfish and self serving.  I was hurt by those people but I need to stop anticipating that I am going to be hurt by the people who have been there for me over and over again.  My friends have proven that they have been there for me and I need to trust that they will continue to be there for me.

Grief is ugly.  I am not looking for pity.  People who are grieving generally don’t want pity.  Or advice unless we specifically ask for it.  We want empathy, love and support.  People who are grieving don’t want to be spoken at or preached at.  We just want to be listened to.  And whatever you do, don’t tell the grieving how to grieve or try to educate them on their own experience.  Trust me, you don’t know.  Even if you think you do, you don’t.

Why am I sharing this?  Most people try to portray themselves in the best light possible, not share their ugly side.  There are many reasons.  The most important is that I believe in being honest and I want to give an honest account of grief, not just the noble parts.  I am not always that strong and stoic widow that many people believe I am.  The second reason is accountability.  I don’t want to act like this but I need to own it when I do.  I have been hurt by too many people who don’t take accountability for their actions.  I think we all know those people, the people that never apologize for anything.  They just blame everyone else .  And as always, I am writing this because I know I can’t be the only grieving person that feels like a hot mess sometimes.  Maybe someone that relates will read this and will get some relief for not being alone.

I have had a rough week.  I tend to write about what’s on my mind and there have been four posts this week.  I think that is a record. That’s a lot of stuff on my mind.  I want to put this week behind me. I have a nearly dead palm tree and a nearly dead oak tree in my kitchen.  They have not looked good for months.  I was convinced I had neglected those poor trees to the point of no return.  Well today I see signs of recovery.  If those trees can recover, there is no reason I can not.  We all can regardless of what pain we are moving forward from. It’s time to put the negativity behind me and enjoy the two birthday parties I am attending this weekend.

Why am I doing this?

Yesterday my blog reached a milestone.  A milestone that I never would have dreamed of ever happening, let alone only after two and a half months.   Yesterday my blog reached 10,000 page views.  I never would have thought that my words about Bryon would go so far in such a short time.  

So why do I do this?  Anyone who knows me in “real life” would tell you that I tend to be a pretty private person who takes a long time to open up to people.  I usually prefer to keep in interactions with people at the superficial level.  Want to talk about the weather?  Sure!  Talk about emotions and feelings?  No way!  Before Bryon got sick, I kept all but a few people at an arm’s length.

So what has compelled me to share some of my most private feelings on the internet? If someone would have told me that I would be sharing some of my most personal thoughts for the whole world to see, I would have probably looked at them like they were nuts.  But here I am.  Sharing my personal thoughts in a place where anyone can see.   I am not lying when I tell you that it is one of the scariest things I have ever done.  I am most likely ruining my chances of ever getting a boyfriend (in the very distant future) because any potential suitors would likely find this blog during a google search and go running far away after reading this.  And I can’t blame them.  Run, Forrest, Run!

There are many reasons I pour my heart out on the internet.

I have barely begun to share most of Bryon’s story because it is still too painful for me to share.  But I feel compelled to tell Bryon’s story in an effort to help other patients.  I want to help people know how to advocate for themselves and I want to empower people to find the right knowledge so they can make educated medical decisions.  I want to help people know what kind of questions to ask their doctors and what to do if something just doesn’t seem right with themselves or with the health care that they might be receiving.  I want people to know why it is important to know their own health history and, if possible, that of their family members.

I feel compelled to share my story as a caregiver and an advocate because I want to help the family members and friends of the critically and terminally ill.  I was thrown into a situation where one day my husband was recovering from a minimally invasive surgical procedure to fighting for his life in the ICU a few days later.  I don’t think there is a word in the English language that could accurately describe how overwhelmed I felt during those weeks that my life came crashing down. I have a background in oncology data and oncology was one of the few medical specialties that did not play a role in Bryon’s care.  While I had more medical knowledge than the average person, I am not a doctor or nurse and I had to quickly adapt to all the new medical terminology and procedures.  Bryon also could not speak for himself while he was in the ICU and he depended on me to advocate for him.   And unfortunately advocating for patients is not easy.  As a caregiver, you need to be prepared to fight for your family member or friend.

I feel compelled to share my story because I want to help other widows and widowers.  Widowhood is a very lonely place.  It helps to read that we are not alone and that other people can relate.  I appreciate reading blogs and memoirs of widows and widowers, especially those who are further in the healing process because I want some sort of idea of what to expect down the road.  Since I benefited from the stories of others, I want to share my stories with the hope that it might help another widow and widower.

I want to share my story to help those who have gone through a trauma and/or have experienced the loss of someone important in their life.  Grief is grief regardless of whether it was a spouse, a family member or a friend and we can all relate and support each other.

I write because it helps me process my own emotions.  I was in the “widow fog” for several months after Bryon died and the fog didn’t start to subside until I started writing about my feelings and my experience.  Before I started writing, I could bottle up my emotions and ignore them for a later time.  This isn’t healthy.  Writing forces me to acknowledge what I am feeling at any given time and it forces me to deal with my grief instead of ignoring it.

I write because I must preserve as much of our story for my daughter.  She won’t have any first hand memories of Bryon and she will have to rely on the stories that are told to her.  I can already start to feel that my memories are not as sharp.  I feel a huge void that Bryon left but it’s getting harder to remember the little things.  I am fearful that if I don’t write things down then those memories will die with Bryon.

I hope to become a patient advocate someday.  I want to raise awareness for the issues that plagued Bryon and ultimately took his life.  I want to empower the caregivers of critically and terminally ill patients.  I share our story to meet others who have been in similar situations and have similar goals.  I write with the hope that I can expand my network so that someday I am able to accomplish my goals of helping people.