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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Happy second birthday in Heaven

Today was Bryon’s second birthday in Heaven.  You might have read my blog yesterday when I wrote about how it was one year since the funeral and you must be confused as to why I am writing about his birthday.  It’s true.  His funeral was a day before his birthday.  I had to experience a painful first the very next day after the funeral.  And the firsts just kept coming.  My birthday is in two days, my daughters is next month and our wedding anniversary is at the end of September. This corner of the year will probably always be the roughest five weeks of the year for me.

It seems so unreal that we are celebrating Bryon’s second birthday in Heaven.  At times, I am still stunned that this all happened. But I decided that last week that the anniversary of his death will be the sad day.  His birthday will be a happy day. So I decided to have a party for our friends to get together and share stories. Instead of dwelling on Bryon’s death, it was time to celebrate that he had lived.

Last year, the day after his funeral, a few of us had dinner at hibachi because that is what we had done for his last living birthday.  I was thinking of doing that again but I wanted to include more people and it would be hard to have a lot of people at a hibachi table.

I decided that I wanted to release balloons at the cemetery and then have funfetti cheesecake at my house.  I wanted to buy a whole cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory.  Bryon would have loved that.  He loved funfetti cake and cheesecake.  It would be perfect.  But my friend called the local Cheesecake Factory, they said they couldn’t sell whole funfetti cheesecakes.  But that’s okay.  I found a recipe online that worked well.

A few of my friends met at the cemetery.  One of our friends brought a pennant from Siena College to decorate the grave.  The same friend read the prayer of St. Francis which worked well because I did not prepare anything to be said.  St. Francis was Bryon’s favorite Saint so he would approve.

My daughter and I brought a bundle of balloons to release.  I was very impressed with my daughter.  She is not yet three but she understood that the balloons were going to be released and sent to Heaven for Bryon.  I was worried that she wasn’t going to understand the concept and that she would get upset but she let the balloons go and seemed happy that they were going to Heaven.  

After the cemetery, we went back to my house for pizza, funfetti cheesecake and stories.  There also may have been some Moxie tasting.  Kimmy Gibber did not like it.

This might be the start of a new tradition.  Maybe it won’t.  But for the time being, it is comforting to know that I have a group of friends who are like family who want to  remember Bryon’s life.  And I hold my Albany family close to my heart.

Be grateful

Today’s writing prompt came from Teresa’s Creations.  Two word prompt: “Be grateful

Be grateful.

That is what they say tell her.

She must not be grateful for what she has.

How would they even know?

Of course she is grateful.

For her daughter.

For her friends and family.

For her means.

For her health.

How dare they imply she isn’t grateful for that.

Can’t she just miss her husband?

She loves her friends, but they can’t fill the void he leaves.

She loves her daughter.  

Her daughter is young.  

It’s not fair to expect her to take the place of her father.  

People tell her to be grateful.

Do people even know what they are saying?

Do they not understand what she has been through?

Be grateful for what?

The pain?  

The agony?

The loneliness?

The loss of her dreams?

The lost plans?

The loss of security?

The loss of faith?

People think they are helping, but they don’t know.

Why can’t she just feel what she feels?

Why can’t she just be sad?

 

Somedays I really hate my life

Some days I really hate my life.

I know I am supposed to be grateful and all that stuff.  And I am.  

Sometimes I feel like I am faking it because it takes effort to be grateful.

No matter how grateful I am, it doesn’t erase what happened.  

It doesn’t fill the void of Bryon’s absence.

Some days I really hate my life.

I hate that I am inching closer to 40 and I am a single mother.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

I hate seeing children with their fathers and knowing that my daughter doesn’t get hers.

I hate that I had to wait until I was 30 to find my soul mate and he still got ripped away from me while still in my 30’s.    

I hate the loneliness that comes with grief.  The truth is that I am not alone.  I have amazing friends that I am grateful for but they all have their significant others to comfort them in their grief over Bryon.  I don’t have Bryon to comfort me.  Because he is dead.

I hate the lost dreams.  The plans we had that will never happen.  I hate that I have to figure out what to do with the rest of my life without him.

Some days I really hate my life and today is one of those days.

Exhaustion

I have come to a realization over the past couple of days…I am exhausted.

I am physically tired. I can feel it in my bones.

I am mentally tired.  

I am emotionally tired.

I am spiritually tired.

I always feel like I am behind the eight ball.

I have so much to do and no energy to do it. At times my life feels like an overwhelming mess.  Too much to do. My house is a mess. For the past year and a half, I felt that the mess in my house is just representative of my life.  But is the mess, both the literal and the figurative, ever going to get cleaned up?

I don’t know how to feel rested. I can’t remember the last time I felt rested. Was it before Bryon got sick or was it before my daughter was born? I cant remember.

I went from running on fear and adrenaline to being numb and in a fog. Now that the fog is lifting and life is starting to feel “normal”, I feel empty, hollow and drained.

This empty, hollow and drained feeling is discouraging because I feel like I have worked so hard to be positive.  I feel like I have worked hard to put myself first and it feels like I wated useless energy.

I could just stay home but then I am left alone with my thoughts which get depressing if left to their own devices.  I need the company of my friends right now.  But I am an introvert which means that I naturally need alone time which puts me in a contradictory situation.

When am I going to feel like I have sh*t together again?

Kind of grateful

I was happily married and thought I was with the man I would grow old with.

But life had other plans.

Life doesn’t care.

Life can be cruel.

Life doesn’t care who you are, where you have been or where you are going.

Life can rip your heart out.

Life can chew you up and spit you out.

Life can destroy the very foundation of everything you had and leave you to pick up the debris.

One of my worst nightmares came true.

Life made me a young widow.

What I would give to get my old life back.

My old life was innocent and selfish.  Innocent because I had the luxury of worrying about things that didn’t matter.  I didn’t know what true trauma was.  Selfish because I didn’t know how good I had it, nor did I take the time to appreciate what I had.

Bryon’s illness and death has changed me.  The whole experience has been hell, but I would do it all over again, even if it meant the same result.

I am grateful for the time I did have with Bryon.  I got to experience true love.

To have someone look at you like you are the only one in the room.

Where you can communicate with each other through your eyes from across a room.

To be so in sync with someone that you can finish their sentences.

Someone who would always hug you or hold your hand.

Someone who always rushes home after whatever work thing he/she had just to see you.

The list goes on.  Bryon wasn’t just my husband.  He was the love of my life and my best friend.  My partner in crime and my other half.  I always called him my “one and only” and my soul mate.  It makes my heart hurt to think that he probably won’t be my “one and only.”

But I know I am lucky.  Some people go through their whole lives without ever experiencing love.  But I did, because of Bryon.

I am grateful for all that Bryon gave me.  The love, the memories, the vacations, the laughter, the conversations.  For the fact that he worked so hard to provide for me and our daughter.  For the beautiful wedding and an amazing daughter.  For his faith in me.

He opened up a whole world for me.  I learned so much from him.

I am thankful that because of him, I feel whole as a person even by myself.  And because of him, I know that when the time comes for me to write the second chapter of my life’s great love story, I will not settle.

I was lucky to be your leading lady, Bryon McKim.

Chicago 2017: Navy Pier

During my weekend in Chicago I really wanted to go take my daughter on the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier.

I first rode on the Ferris Wheel in 2004.  It was the Monday after Thanksgiving.  I had attended a wedding in Wisconsin and it was ten days after my Grandma Sullivan died.  I had found out while I was working.  It was a Friday and my father and I had been planning to leave that day to try to get to Massachusetts before she passed but we were too late.

I can still remember what I did in those ten days:

Friday- Grandma died.
Saturday- Went to Massachusetts (5 hours away from my home in Maine).
Sunday- Grandma’s wake.
Monday- Grandma’s funeral.
Tuesday- Went back to Maine.
Wednesday- Helped my mother prepare for Thanksgiving
Thursday- Thanksgiving
Friday- Flew from Bangor, ME to Madison, WI (via Cincinnati) to attend the wedding of a friend that I had attended university with while I was in England.  My cousin (from the other side of the family) was crazy enough to fly up from Florida to attend as my guest.
Saturday- Wedding just outside of Madison, WI
Sunday-  Went to Milwaukee with my cousin.  We went to the Milwaukee Public Museum, had lunch at Usingers, and toured the Colonel Pabst Mansion.

I couldn’t resist posting this Wayne’s World clip.

On Monday my cousin was crazy enough to take a bus to Chicago with me.  She was crazy enough walk around Chicago with me for 12 hours in the cold, November rain.  We had pizza at Gino’s, walked by Wrigley field, went to the top of Sears tower and rode the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier.

I have no pictures of myself on the Ferris Wheel but here is one of me on the El.

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Chicago 2004

And because I talking about the cold November rain got this song stuck in my head…here you go-

I returned to Maine that Tuesday.

There were lots of things that I did not know at that time.  I had just gotten involved in politics but I had not even heard of the Young Republicans.  18 months after that trip to Chicago, I would attend the Young Republican Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.  On that trip, I would attend a party at the Romanian Embassy and on the shuttle bus ride there, I would sit behind a girl from Chicago who would become on of my best friends. (You met her here)

In the fall of 2007, I was living in Southern Indiana with another friend from the Young Republicans.  I was on a three months contract for work.  My roommate and I drove up to Chicago to see my best friend and another good friend in Chicago.  We had dinner at an Italian restaurant and then went to Navy Pier.  And we rode the Ferris Wheel.

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Chicago 2007
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Chicago 2007
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Chicago 2007

In 2007 we were single girls travelling around the country, attending political meetings and partying with future leaders and elected officials (some of them surprised us).

In 2012, we both got married.  I got married in September in Albany and she got married in December in Mexico.  Her location was a bit more exotic than mine but it didn’t matter.  We were both there for each other on our big days.

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Albany, 2012
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Mexico, 2012

We both had our daughters in 2014.  Her daughter came in April and mine came in September.  They are exactly 5 months apart.

And she was there for me when Bryon died.  She made the trip to Albany (along with the other lovely lady in her wedding photo).  They actually already had the plans to be in NYC the weekend that ended up being the weekend of Bryon’s funeral.  His birthday was the day after his funeral and she made arrangements to meet my father halfway between NYC and Albany to bring our daughter to see him for his birthday.   I told Bryon that he would see our daughter, as long as the doctors said it was okay.  He was excited.

But he died a week before his birthday.

And now I am here.  A widow.  Travelling as much as a I can this year to make up for the fact that I spent most of 2016 in an ICU room watching Bryon slowly die.  And because I promised him as he was dying that I would still take our daughter on adventures.

So that brings me to Chicago in 2017.  With my best friend and our young daughters.  And I wanted to go to Navy Pier to ride the Ferris Wheel…again.

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Chicago 2017
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Chicago 2017
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Chicago 2017
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Chicago 2017

Both of the little ones enjoyed the ride.  I can’t remember if it was my friends daughters first time or not.  I think it’s safe to say that when my daughter and I return, that we will go on the Ferris Wheel again.  Maybe next time, she will be tall enough for some of the other rides.