It’s been slow around here. I have been catching up after a bout of bronchitis. But I did film another video today. In this video, I discuss grief and the holidays.
It’s been slow around here. I have been catching up after a bout of bronchitis. But I did film another video today. In this video, I discuss grief and the holidays.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One Saturday night a few weeks ago, my friend came over. She is newly single and she recently signed up for Bumble. After a glass of wine, my curiosity started to peak. I asked her if it was okay to create a profile just to look. I have no intention of dating. I still wear my wedding rings. But I was curious to see what the market looked like and if anyone would find me attractive.
Spoiler alert: No one finds me attractive.
For those you are lucky enough to not be versed in online dating sites, Bumble is like Tinder where you swipe left to pass and swipe right if you like the person and if they like you, you are a match. Bumble is different than Tinder because only women can initiate contact with men. Personally I am not a fan of the whole concept of online dating. I would prefer to meet a man the old fashioned way. The whole concept of creating a profile to date feels to forward to me and is too much pressure.
At first the whole swiping process was fun. We swiped left when we saw things we didn’t like and right on things that we liked or at least seemed okay. Granted the whole thing was kind of shallow but entertaining. My friend and I laughed quite a bit.
As I was looking at profiles, there were men who didn’t say anything about themselves. Others were extremely well rounded. They wanted a woman to join them on hikes, wine tastings, dinners, travelling, runs, walks in the woods, trips to the beach, cooking a nice dinner, watching Netflix and to have meaningful conversations with. I started to get stressed out just reading these profiles. Some days I barely find the time to shower. There is no way I could keep up with all these Renaissance men. Maybe they are single because they are high maintenance and needy. Really, I just need a guy who likes frozen pizza, Disney Jr. and is willing to carry my luggage.
There seem to be a lot of men out there that play the guitar and I swiped left on them. I admire people who can play a musical instrument because it is a talent I definitely don’t have. But I don’t have the attention span to sit and listen to them play. Sure the first couple of times I will sit and appear impressed to be nice but over time I become bored because I would rather be conversing, or eating, or moving around or pretty much anything else. Those guitar playing men deserve to be with women who appreciate their talents.
I learned that I am not interested in dating guys who want to start a family. I have an amazing daughter. I am not interested in being pregnant again. It’s probably the PTSD talking but too much can go wrong in childbirth and I need to be here for my daughter. Also, I am in my late thirties and I don’t think I want to do any more sleepless nights or pumping sessions. So if a guy wants more than my amazing daughter, then he would have to bring his own children to the relationship.
I learned several things. I do value intelligence and an education. But as much as I am attracted to intelligence, I also am not into men who are pretentious about their education level and intelligence. Bryon was confident about his intelligence and never had a need to be pretentious. I am also leery of men who call themselves entrepreneurs and I am much more likely to swipe right on a man wearing a Red Sox hat as opposed to a Yankees hat.
I also found myself drawn to men who liked the things that my husband liked which was ridiculous. It doesn’t matter if a guy likes rugby or the Buffalo Bills, or Gordon Ramsay. He will never be Bryon. It is as if I am subconsciously looking to try to get back what Bryon and I had but that is not possible. Bryon was a one-in-a-kind. He was amazing and the world will never see someone like him.
I am no longer part of a Bryon-Kerry team. The goals and rules of the Bryon-Kerry team no longer apply. It is all me now. And on top of it, I am not the same. I am broken. I don’t even know who I am anymore. I always prided myself on being true to myself but the more I try to find myself, the more I wonder if I am going through some sort of identity crisis.
I just hate that I am even in this position. I feel cheated of my happily ever after. Almost all of my friends are married or are in committed relationships and my husband is gone. I wasn’t supposed to be in this position. I was perfectly content to be a wife and mother. I wasn’t supposed to be single in my late 30’s. The new rules of dating seem so complicated, full of craziness like dick pics and ghosting and pretending that you are too cool to be interested in each other. I don’t want to date. I want to be a wife but you aren’t supposed to want that or you are desperate. But I know I am not desperate. And as much as I would rather be a wife than have to date, I am not going to settle. I had true love and I know what it is and frankly I don’t want to be someone’s wife if we are not crazy in love with each other. I am not going to jump into any relationship with just anyone.
As the night went on, I started to become sad and the sadness began to intensify. I miss Bryon too much. No one will ever replace Bryon. He is a person worth missing. He is worth every tear and every pang to the heart. He is worth every lonely night. He leaves a void that I doubt any can ever fill. I just hope that living with the void becomes tolerable enough over time where I can move forward.
So after 6 hours, I realized that dating, at least online dating, was not for me and I deleted the app. I am not saying that love will not find me and I hope that if it does find me, I am open to it. But I don’t need to be looking for it online. If I change my mind, I guess the internet will be there.
My weekend was a lot like other weekends. There were social engagements. There were errands that were done as well as errands that didn’t get done. I got some cleaning done and there was even more cleaning that didn’t get done. I wanted to take a nap but that didn’t happen. On Saturday evening, I was rushing around getting my daughter ready for her sitter and getting myself ready for a birthday dinner. Embracing a night where I wouldn’t need to be carrying a diaper bag, I grabbed a small clutch purse that I hadn’t used in a long time. I opened it and inside there was a shiny green toy baby. I looked at it for a second and then I remember that it was from our trip to New Orleans in 2014. I was nine weeks pregnant and we were going on a cruise (this was before Zika was a thing) and we spent a few days in New Orleans before the cruise. We had had dinner at Emeril’s restaurant NOLA. I don’t remember what Bryon ate but I remember that I had the fried chicken because my stomach couldn’t handle much else. For dessert I had iced cream and Bryon had King cake and this little toy baby was in the King Cake. Being the sentimental packrat I am, I saved it and forgot about it. There even is some frosting still dried onto it.
Now it is three years later. Our nine week old fetus is now an active two and a half year old girl and Bryon is dead. I don’t think this toy baby is a sign from heaven but it was a nice memory I had forgotten about. I thanked Bryon for that memory. As I clean out my house, it is likely that I am going to find more memories but I know over time these surprise memory triggers are going to become less frequent.
Our circle of friends always call ourselves “the family that we created.” Some members of our social circle know each other from college, or from politics or other organizations in Bryon’s life. Many of us are not from the Albany area and we live far from our own families so we do depend on each other like a family. Bryon’s sickness has also brought us closer together. We were there to comfort each other. They got me through the funeral and those early weeks of raw grief. We continue to help each other and support each other. Bryon’s death continues to bring us closer each day. Our souls are on some sort of journey and Bryon was in each of our lives for a reason and there is a reason that we are together now. We may not know, or ever know, the exact reason but there is a reason. We are all exactly where we are supposed to be.
During my conversations with close friends this weekend, we came to the realization that while Bryon might be physically dead, he is not really dead. He still has us laughing hard when we tell stories of his antics and those stories bring us comfort. While we share situations when we need Bryon’s guidance, we share the guidance he gave us when he was here. He truly lives on in our memories. While we may all be special and one of a kind, Bryon was different. He completely shattered the mold.
Our friendships have changed since Bryon died. Most of us in our circle have grown closer. We take the time to check in with each other more. We celebrate the events in our lives more and if there is no event to celebrate, we make up a reason. Being alive is a good reason. Every brunch together, every birthday dinner, every game night, we are meant to be together. We are in each other’s life for a reason. I may never make sense of why Bryon’s life had to be so short but I know that we were meant to be together for the short time we had and that it is because of Bryon that I have these amazing friendships and a whole bunch of happy memories. I have no idea where my life is going to end up, but wherever I go, it will be a result of the time I spent with Bryon as well as the time spent with my friends now. I don’t know how but these two factors are going to play a pivotal role in the rest of my journey on Earth.
Some friends have grown apart from our core group since his death and that’s okay. It’s natural. We are all moving forward. Forward doesn’t necessarily mean together. Just like some of us are in each others lives for a reason, there is a reason that people grow apart too. We are each on our own path and must follow it. Coming to this realization makes it easier to let go of any relationships that may be toxic because there is no reason for that to be in my life or my daughter’s life. Toxicity brings no value.
One thing none of us doubt is that Bryon is still playing a role in everything down here and we could very well just be pawns. There may be relationships I don’t have yet because Bryon still has it in the works. He was never one to play his best card right away. He is too smart for that. He has plans for all those close to him and he’s going to orchestrate it carefully. We just need to be patient.
I thought of this over the weekend when I brought my daughter to the birthday party of one of Bryon’s law school rugby teammates. I don’t know his teammate and his wife very well but they are great people and have always been kind of my daughter and me. They expressed an interest in our daughters being friends as they are close in age. Only time will tell if they become good friends of ours or if our daughters become close friends. But it is a good reminder to myself to not to get too comfortable with “the family that we created” and that I need to be open to the other friendships too. Because Bryon’s work may not be done. There could be people that are meant to be in my life that aren’t yet and it may take awhile for our paths to cross. Or maybe the friendships I have now will change and I need to be open to whatever those changes might be.
I certainly don’t know the meaning to everything or anything for that matter. I will never understand why Bryon had to die young. But I do think he was given more personality because he was here for a short time. I also think that maybe his soul was in some way more developed and therefore, he didn’t need to spend 80 years on this earth. But I know that he is still here and he is still working his magic and it gives me hope that maybe there are good things yet to come for me, my daughter and for everyone in our family that we created.
After I put my daughter down to bed, I thought to myself that I need to remove some of this snow. Normally my amazing neighbor plows me out but he was in Florida. I was going to have to do this alone. I went to the garage and looked at the snowblower. I have never used the snowblower. Bryon bought a high end model and a good friend of his showed me how to use it last fall. And of course I couldn’t get the thing to start. It is most likely the fault of the operator. There probably wasn’t any gas in it. I googled some YouTube videos (because everything is on YouTube) but I still had no luck. Luckily, I own an old fashioned snow shovel and as I was shoveling my driveway during the Blizzard of 2017, or Storm Stella, many thoughts came through my mind.
First I want to address a pet peeve of mine. Why are they naming winter storms? They are not hurricanes. Naming winter storms is like “Fetch” and they need to stop trying to make it happen.
So during the beginning of shoveling, I was all “I am woman, hear me roar!” Us younger widows are tough.
Then I wanted to forget the “I am woman, hear me roar” crap. I need to start taking applications for Husband #2. Bring on the quasi-traditional gender roles. (I am kidding, of course. About the husband. I am a modern woman but having some semblance of traditional gender roles doesn’t bother me.) At this point, I don’t need any romance or intelligence. I would settle on usefulness.
I started to ask why did my Bryon have to die? If he were alive, he would be using the snowblower and listening to some online radio station from the Virgin Islands. At least in our old life. I always tend to forget that even if he were still alive, things would be very different. Had he survived, he wouldn’t have been the physically strong man he was. He would have had some long lasting health problems. He would be too weak to snowblow or shovel or he would still be in rehab and I would probably be in the same position. I also began to wonder if he had survived, how would he feel about the new dynamics. He was always a take charge person. The last thing he would have wanted was to be dependent on me. It would have frustrated him but at the same time, he would have been grateful.
I started to think that the Blizzard of 2017 really sucks. Then I remembered what I said to myself at the beginning of the year. There is no way that 2017 can be as bad as 2016. Almost half of 2016 was spent in an ICU room and a third of 2016 was spent in the earliest, most raw stages of grief. Shoveling snow might suck but I would rather be shoveling snow than be sitting in an ICU room.
My muscles were beginning to ache and I started to whine to myself. Then I remembered the pain Bryon was in during the final months of his life. It seemed silly to be upset about pain that some Ibuprofen and a heating pad could take away. I also began to feel grateful that I was alive and that my fat and asthmatic body was able to shovel snow. It might take me three days to shovel my driveway but I could do it.
At one point I stopped and asked myself a question I ask myself a lot: what would Bryon McKim do? The answer was simple, Bryon McKim would grab a beer (or several). I don’t usually keep beer in the house. I am not a big drinker, usually just wine with the girls. But when I was grocery shopping, I saw Saranac S’mores porter and I thought it looked interesting so I bought it. Maybe I subconsciously knew I was going to need a beer. I rested the beer in a snowbank though it didn’t taste good after awhile. It was still snowing and snow was getting into the beer. And the porter started to ice up. Oh well.
My daughter was inside sleeping and I started to think about what life would be like when she was older. If she were older, she would have had to help me. Was she going to help willingly or be a little stinker like I was? I know growing up I gave my father a hard time when he told me to help with snow shoveling. Though I gave him a slightly less of a hard time when it came to shoveling out my grandmother. I thought about how it was just my daughter and me and we were going to have to depend on each other much more than we would have if Bryon was still alive. And she doesn’t have siblings to share the burden. I began to worry that she might grow up earlier than most kids because of our situation.
I started to think about my retirement dream where I buy an old farmhouse on the coast of Maine. My retirement home will likely have a long driveway so I decided that I was going to have to purchase a truck and a plow when I retire.
By 10:30, the snow was still coming down and the wind was picking up. I was really starting to get cold so I figured that the snow will still be there in the morning and surely daycare would be closed. So I went inside, took a hot shower and then watched the Season Finale of This is Us. Then I went to bed.
The next morning, I was surprised that wasn’t closed or even delayed. Half of my driveway wasn’t shoveled. So I bundled my daughter in the Gap snowsuit that I bought in a large size two cyber Mondays ago that barely fits now. Ironically it was her first time wearing it because it the snowsuit was too large last winter and we barely had snow this winter. I was kind of glad it got one wear before being passed on to a friends daughter. I told my daughter to go be like Elsa while I shoveled.
I shoveled until my daughter told me she was cold. Then we went back inside. One of my girls has a son that attends the same daycare as my daughter and she came by to bring her to daycare but there was a huge snowbank in the way. Luckily, just then my neighbor’s brother-in-law showed up to plow me out and I was able to take my daughter to daycare. Crisis was over and everything was okay.
My muscles might still be achy but we survived our first major storm. Bring on Spring. I didn’t get to enjoy Spring last year so I am ready to enjoy it twice as much this year.