Why I didn’t participate in International Widow’s Day

Today was International Widows Day and I chose not a participate.  For starters, I was supposed to take a selfie at 7pm and at 7pm, I am chasing my daughter around the house trying to get her ready for bed.  It had been a busy day.  It didn’t matter that I was actually having a good hair day.

But that’s not the real reason I don’t participate.

I don’t want the fact that I am a widow to define me.

I admire the widows who participate.  I just can’t bring myself to.

I am not ashamed to be a widow.  I am Bryon’s widow.  I would prefer to be his wife but I have to settle for being his widow.  He was here for a short time, lived his life to the fullest and he chose me to be the leading lady in his life.  I wish our years together were longer but I am happy I got the time I had with him.

I share my story.  I have been very open about my grief process.  So open that I post some of my most private and intimate thoughts on the Internet.

I share my story because I want people to understand what a widow, especially a young widow goes through.  I want people to understand what my grief is really like.  

I share my story because I want to help other widows.  It helps to know that you aren’t alone.  While every story is different and everyone handles grief differently, there are a lot of similarities.

I share my story because I want to preserve it for my daughter.  This is part of her story too but she won’t remember.  I want my account to be a good history for her.

I share my story to help others understand grief.  We hide under the sadness and scars but we are there.  Most of us are a stronger version of our older self but we are there.

I share my story but I don’t want my widowhood status to define me.  During Bryon’s ICU stay, I told him at one point that we will get through this and that this horrific event will not define him.  Bryon was fully aware but could not speak due to a tracheotomy but he nodded with determination.  I could tell he appreciated that I still saw him for who he was and not the medical conditions that he had.  

It’s the same for me.  This has been a horrific event in my life.  It has shaped who I have become but it doesn’t define me.  I still want people to see me for who I am, not just someone who had one of her worst nightmares come true. 

So even though I share my story, I will not be participating in International Widows Day.

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10 Months

I found this picture of us from our last cruise one month before you got sick.  It was still in the plastic wrapper.  It is likely the last picture taken of our family.  I can’t help but look at it and think of all our plans.  We had our whole lives ahead of us.

It’s hard to believe that you have been gone for 10 months.   That is almost a year.

I still have moments where it doesn’t seem real that you are gone.  Moments where the memories are so vivid that it feels like you are in the present.  That you aren’t gone.

And then I realize that you are gone.

Sometimes I can move on from those moments with simple acknowledgement of the memory.  Sometimes I might even smile.

Other times I get overwhelmed with emotion.  I feel the grief that goes down to my bones, albeit briefly.  I cry.

I ask myself why.  Why did this have to happen?  Why you? Why me? Why us? Stuff like this wasn’t supposed to happen to us.  Not that I would ever wish this on anyone.

I think about all the suffering you went through and tears well up in my eyes.

I think about how you will not see our daughter grow up.

We will not grow old together.

You will never be the old man that you looked forward to being.

Although you are on my mind constantly, there are times that I begin to think that I am getting used to you being gone.  I am starting to forget many of the aspects of our life together.  Sometimes I am scared that with every step forward I take, that is one step further away from our life and our dreams.   But I know I can’t live in the past forever.  It’s not healthy.  And I know you would not want that.

No matter what happens in my life, I will never forget you.  And I will always love you.

 

I am not marrying a Texas rancher.

Members of my Albany family often get together for dinner.  Witty banter is exchanged, like a real family.  My daughter fights with my best friend’s son as if they are siblings.  Last night dinner was at my house.  I made several dishes from The Homesick Texan’s cookbooks (yes, I have both.)  Anything I have ever made from her cookbooks is a hit.  I highly recommend them.  We started joking that my husband should be a Texas rancher.  Except I can’t move to Texas so he would have to set up a ranch in our suburban town.  

I may have posted a joke about this on social media as my sense of humor can be inappropriate at times.  Part of it is my personality.  If you follow the Meyers-Briggs philosophy, I am an INFJ.  My blog friend Jessica is an INFJ as well and she often writes about INFJ problems.  She so gets me.  One of her recent posts is about INFJ humor and our ability to tell jokes that make others uncomfortable.  The other part of my inappropriate sense of humor is dark humor, which is typical of widows.  The way I look at it is, if you have lived through dark times, then you can joke about it.

But I want to be clear,  I am not marrying a rancher from Texas.  

I am not marrying anyone.  

I am not dating anyone.  

I am not sleeping with anyone.  (Though it would not be anyone’s business if I was sleeping with anyone and no one’s place to judge.  I am just not interested.  Besides, I would probably start crying halfway through this activity and I am pretty sure that is not considered a turn-on. Though some people are into some weird stuff so you never know).

I am not marrying anyone.  I was married to a man who was the love of my life and my best friend.  I don’t know if there are even words to describe the love between us.  We were a team and we fit.  Sure, we had problems and arguments, but got through them.  We both had strong personalities and we had our groove.  We supported one another as individuals and as a part of our team.  Bryon was the first man I ever let my guard down too and he never let me down.  

My Grandma Sullivan was widowed when she was 76 and was never remarried before she died at the age of 90.  I remember her joking about two things with me.  One was that she was going to buy a pair of jeans (though she called them dungarees).  The second thing she joked about was getting a boyfriend.  I didn’t see a problem with it, but I remember my grandmother just saying that she could never find a man who would compare to my grandfather.  My grandmother was an Irish woman and she was not one to express emotions and my younger self didn’t detect any emotion in her comment but now I know that comment was full of emotion.  Now I totally understand exactly what she was saying.

Will I ever remarry? Possibly.  I was good at being a wife.  I can cook.  I am not bothered if dinner is interrupted by a work call. I don’t mind sports being on the TV.  Oh, and I will stay by your side when you are sick.  But I really hope that Bryon’s situation doesn’t happen to anyone again, especially anyone I know.  But right now I struggle to think anyone could capture my heart like Bryon did.  There was only one of him and he was perfect.  I doubt there is anyone out there that would be perfect for my broken heart or could understand what a widow goes through.

Will I ever date?  Someday, maybe, but right now I feel “meh” about it.  I have never been good at dating and I just don’t have any desire to enter the meat market.  Plus, I know that even the best relationships are work and right now I am not ready for that kind of work.  Especially when most guys would probably be mediocre.  I have spent my life trying to do well in all my roles- the good wife, the good mother, the good daughter, the good friend.  Those roles are important, but there was one area I was never concerned about and that was being good to myself.  I need to sort out who I really am as opposed to who I have been expected to be.

So I am not marrying anyone and I am not dating anyone and I don’t plan on doing either anytime soon.  Oh, and I am not sleeping with anyone and I don’t plan on doing that anytime soon either.  Until I am ready for any of those things, I have so many things to do.  I have a story I need to write.  I need to figure out where I stand with God and I need to decide if there is any point to being religious. I have a nightstand with three ridiculously tall piles of books I need to read.  I have races to train for.  I have places to travel to and weddings to attend.  I have a stack of cookbooks full of recipes that I need to try.  I have crime TV shows to watch even if they scare me and then I can’t sleep.  I have a garden to tend to.  I have a house to redecorate.  And all of this gets worked around my daughter’s schedule and spending time with my friends.  And once I know what my daughters dreams are, then some of our adventures will revolve around that.  Right now I know she likes gymnastics and aquariums.

After I accomplish all of this, then we will see about the whole love bit.

My first giveaway!

Happy Monday!

A month or two ago when Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B came out, I bought a second copy with the intention of giving it away to a reader.  This book isn’t just for widows.  And then I put the book on my dining room table and forgot about it.

Recently my blog hit 20,000 pageviews and I have 100 WordPress followers.  So I thought what better way to celebrate than do that giveaway!

This book is applicable to anyone who has had any kind of loss whether it is a loss of a spouse, family member, a divorce or a loss of a job or career.

I am not one for rules so it will be pretty simple.

  1.  Contest is open to residents of U.S. and Canada (excluding Quebec).
  2. To enter, just comment on this blog post and tell me one fun thing you plan to do this summer.
  3. One entry per person.
  4. Any anonymous comments will be deleted.
  5. Family members are not eligible.
  6. Contest ends on Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 11:59 pm EST.
  7. Winner will be announced on the blog on Friday, June 23, 2017 st 8:00 am EST.
  8. Book will be mailed out once it is claimed.

So what fun thing do you plan to do this summer?

Father’s Day without you

Here we are.  Father’s Day.  The second to last first holiday without you.  Unlike all the other holidays, I couldn’t just go through the motions since this holiday is centered around you.  Each holiday was drastically different, but I still had events to distract me.  

On Halloween, our daughter and I were invited to go trick or treating with friends in a neighboring town.  Our daughter was a cheerleader. There were other kids who were our daughters age and she had a blast.  She totally understood the concept and would run up to each door and do a happy dance each time she received candy.

On Thanksgiving the family met at my brothers in New Hampshire and I cooked dinner.  I also ran a Turkey Trot and at one water station they were giving out beer.  I took one because I knew that you would been disappointed if did not.  I only managed a sip.  

On Christmas, our daughter and I continued to see our friends.  Instead of continuing Christmas Eve afternoon at the pub, some of us started the new tradition of Feliz Navidad Brunch.  We visited your grave.  We went to Mass even if I still think the whole religion and praying thing is pointless.  Santa may have gone overboard with Amazon Prime.

Our friends and I stayed up on New Years Eve.  Mariah Carey was so bad that it was epic.  I made poblano macaroni and cheese, which is a crowd favorite.  I learned to make it after you died so you have never tasted it, but you would have loved it.  We went to New Beginnings Brunch the next day.

Valentine’s Day was filled with love from our friends.  They didn’t forget about us.  Even Carter the dog thought to get us roses.

I made a ham on Easter.  We colored Easter eggs and we went out for ice cream.

Mother’s Day was spent at Baby Animal Day at Indian Ladder Farm.

But today I couldn’t avoid the fact that you were not here.  I kept thinking about how you were looking forward to our daughter being this age.  You were so excited for her to start talking.  You couldn’t wait to hear the funny things she was going to say.  I know you would have had some pretty ridiculous conversations with her.  

I just not fair that she is going to grow up without you.  All these other kids get their fathers and she doesn’t.  She doesn’t remember life with you so she seems content that it is just me and her.  But I always think about how life should have been.  If you were still alive, we would be planning on having a second kid soon.

One thing that struck me today is that our daughter is always asking why.  I always answer because I like to think she is trying to figure out how the world works.  But today when I told her you were in Heaven.  I braced for the “why?” but she didn’t ask why.  I know that question is coming.  Don’t worry, she will know all about you.  She will know you loved her very much and that you still do.

So today we visited your grave.  I cried because this isn’t how we were supposed to be celebrating Father’s Day.  We should have spent the day doing whatever you wanted to do.  But instead, I spent the day thinking about how you are not here.  There will be no pictures on Facebook of you spending time with our daughter.

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I did decide that we would go out for ice cream since you wouldn’t want us to spend the day being sad.  But please know that no matter what happens in life, you will always be missed.

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Just because I am a widow…

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that I can’t make my own decisions.  Please stop second guessing my choices.  

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean I am helpless.  I am actually the opposite of helplessness.  I watched my spouse die.  I survived something that most people can’t even imagine.  I might need help with some tasks, but don’t misconstrue that as helpless.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that you can ignore my feelings and dismiss them as part of grief.  Trust me, I have don’t more thinking in the past year than I did my previous 37 years.  My feelings are very well thought out.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that I need to defend my feelings, especially those about God.  A widow is allowed to be mad at God.  It is not your place to scold her or re-educate her.  It’s up to the non-grieving to be supportive and understanding.  

Just because I am a widow, it doesn’t mean I need to put up with poor treatment.  I have been through something so horrendous that you probably can’t even comprehend.  I miss my spouse and I can be lonely.  But I am used to being lonely and I would choose that over being around people who treat me poorly.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that I don’t have responsibilities.  I have a full and busy life.  I am not just sitting around my house.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean you can tell me how to raise my child.  I am capable, thank you.  My child is happy and well taken care of thank you.

Just because I am widow doesn’t mean I am desperate for love.  (This one is directed to all the scam Twitter accounts that started following me.  The ones that when you look at who they follow and they are all widows).  Trust me, I had the love of my life and I lost it.  When I decide to date again, it isn’t going to be with some random, bogus Twitter account.

 

An epiphany

There have been two feelings I have had my whole life.

The first feeling of restlessness.  I have always felt that there is a whole world out there to see.  So much history and culture to absorb.  Different people with different routines and traditions.  

I had only left New England seven times before I went to study in England the fall of my junior year in college.  Three of those times had been to Canada (New Brunswick, Quebec City and Montreal), two had been to New York (NYC and Niagara Falls with a side trip to the Canadian side) and one trip to Gettysburg, PA and one trip to Washington D.C.  The flight from Boston to London at the age of 21 was my first time flying on an airplane.  I have since seen more of the U.S. between my involvement in the Young Republican National Federation and my parents purchasing an RV.  I have seen more of the world due to Bryon and my love for cruising.  And I don’t plan on stopping.  I promised Bryon I wouldn’t stop.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do love my small Maine town.  I miss Maine, especially the people and the ocean.  But I always felt like there was more in the world and I wanted to experience it.  Maine did feel so isolated.  The only cities you could travel to easily by car was Boston and Quebec City.  I always wanted to be close to more US cities.  I love Boston (my birthplace) and Quebec City but I love having the option to do weekend trips to other cities.  

I still feel that urge to see the world.  It doesn’t matter if it is a back country road or a big city.  I just love to see new places.  I love historical sites and museums.  I love trying local food.  I love shops.  I love scenery.  I want to see it all.

The second feeling I have had my whole life is that I have always felt like an outsider. That I am on the outside looking in.  I never felt included despite being involved in sports, clubs, and later politics.

This brings me back to high school and college.  I always worried where I fit in.  I wasn’t cool but I wasn’t uncool either.  I wasn’t particularly included but I wasn’t excluded.  I had friends but I wasn’t invited to the cool parties.  Though looking back, I am sure some of that was me.  I didn’t have the wisdom to know how to be as open to friendships.  Being open to friendship is something I only started to do when Bryon got sick.  

I followed my same social patterns in college.  There were two major groups in my college dorms.  The theater/art/music majors sat on the left side of the cafeteria and the athletic and Greeks sat on the right hand side.  There was one row of tables that was right in the middle near the salad bar and an ice cream cart.  I was friends with people on both sides and would sit on either side.  If I was by myself (something that didn’t phase me, especially after studying abroad and going to Paris by myself) and I didn’t see any of my friends, I would just sit in the middle.

When it comes to my writing and purpose, I come back to these two feelings that have plagued me my whole life.  

I have so many ideas for blog posts in my head and no idea where to start. I have so many ideas of what I want to accomplish, but I don’t know how to get there.  Now I have Paul Simon’s Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard stuck in my head.

I think about the concept of having a niche when writing.  What kind of blogger and writer am I?  Trying to find what writing niche reminds me of my high school and college years where I was trying to find the right table to sit at in the cafeteria.  My half-marathon training has been suffering due to my poor time management skills so I am definitely not a running blogger.  I don’t travel enough to be a travel blogger.  I write about life, but I am not a lifestyle blogger.  Trust me, if you could see how messy my living room is, you would know why I don’t post pictures of my house.  I write about death and grief.  It is important for me to share that part of my story as our society has a twisted view on death and grieving and we need to talk about it.  But I don’t want Bryon’s death and grief to define me.  I am still a person who has a lot of living left to do.

I need to make a difference.  I need to help people.  

I need to talk about grief to help widows, especially young widows because the world thinks of widows as being elderly.  

I need to talk about grief to help those who have lost loved ones, not just widows, but anyone who has lost a child, family member or friend.  

I need to talk about rebuilding my life to help those whose life and sense of security  was shattered, whether it was by death, divorce or job loss.  

I need to talk about my struggles in parenting to help those who are single parents.

I need to tell my story of surviving to give hope to those who are struggling to carry on.

I need to talk about the problems in our healthcare system so people can advocate for themselves and their families.

It dawned on me today that instead of worrying where I fit in, I need to just blaze my own trail.  Not just with my writing, but in my life in general.  If I truly want to be open to new people and new experiences, then I shouldn’t be focusing on trying to put place myself in a niche or group.  If I do that, then I inadvertently narrow down who I meet and my opportunities to make a difference.  I have spent my whole life waiting for others to define the path I am to take.  That is silly because no one other than myself can know my true life purpose.  No one else can understand what I hope to get out of life.  If I wait for others to define my path, then I am limiting my potential.  

I need to blaze that trail even if I don’t know where I am going.  Besides being a wife and mother, the other two times I felt accomplished in my life where when I took risks and did something scary.  The first was my semester in the UK and the second was my years in politics.  They were the two times in my life when I felt like I was out experiencing life the most and my experiences were the most rewarding.  I pushed ahead and did things out of my comfort zone.  I didn’t let fear stop me.  I need to remember this as I blaze a trail forward.