Why this widow donated her wedding dress.

The dress came into my life on October 28, 2011.  Bryon and I had been engaged since Sept 6, 2011, and had set our wedding date for Sept 29, 2012.  We had our venue and wedding planning was in full swing. I needed a dress.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

I can’t say that I was looking forward to picking out a wedding dress.  5 out of 6 of my bridesmaids lived out of state so I was pretty much alone in the process.  I wasn’t going to be sitting with a group telling Randy that I was saying yes to the dress. (Yes, that is a TLC reference)

I have also struggled with my weight throughout my life so that also left me apprehensive about the whole wedding dress shopping process.

I had looked through some wedding magazines and I had an idea what I wanted.  I wanted a princess gown with sparkle but I didn’t want anything too crazy.

At that point in my life, I was working in a clerical position at a local emergency room and my schedule ran from Sunday to Thursday.  Bryon and I decided that we would go to Boston because Filene’s was going one of their “Running of the Brides” events on Friday, October 28, 2011.  It ended up being the last time Filene’s did the “Running of the Brides.”

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

These events were known to open at 4 am and be full of brides and their teams running around grabbing whatever they could find.  Bryon and I decided that we would aim for a ten a.m. shopping time after things settled down and we left Albany for Boston around 6 am.

Bryon was not going to go shopping with me. We were old-fashioned about many things and seeing my wedding dress was one of them.  Luckily, one of my bridesmaids who lived in Maine made the trip down to Boston to help me shop. Bryon decided that he was going to take a tour of Fenway Park while we were dress shopping.

I told my friend my vision and my size range.  I looked at a few racks and found exactly what I was looking for but it was a size too small. Yes, I planned to exercise and lose weight and all that but I didn’t feel comfortable relying on my plans.  I knew it was safer to err on a larger sized dress and have it altered own.

Luckily this dress was a mass-produced Alfred Angelo dress and I quickly located the same dress in my size.  I quickly located my friend who has a few dresses she found for me to try on. Then I stripped down in a busy store and put on the dress.  Normally that might seem bizarre, but that morning, everyone was doing it.

 

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Buying my dress at Filene’s “Running of the Brides in Boston, 2011.  (Cellphone picture)


I knew the moment I put on that dress that this was it. This was my dress. It was love at first sight.   It was a princess gown but not too poofy and just the right amount of sparkle.

There was what looked like a few black grease stains on the bottom but I figured they would come out with dry cleaning. (Spoiler alert- they did!)

I didn’t even try on the dresses my friend picked out. We both knew there was no point.

I called Bryon to tell him the news. He couldn’t believe that I picked out a dress so quickly as his tour of Fenway Park hadn’t started yet.  I told him how much the dress cost ($500) so he could input the data into his Google spreadsheet. He loved Google spreadsheets.

While Bryon took his Fenway tour, my friend and I took the subway out to where Bryon and I had parked our car and I locked my dress in the car.  We went back into the city and we met Bryon for lunch at Boston Beer Works right outside of Fenway Park.

Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

I don’t remember much more from that afternoon. I had my dress and I was happy. Bryon was happy that I was happy. We walked around the city. We went to Cheers (it will always be the Bull ‘n Finch to me) and Bryon got annoyed by some tourists that were blocking the door.  We had dinner at an Italian Restaurant in the North End that Bryon had seen featured in Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Bryon had a bit of a man-crush on Gordon Ramsay and gushed after a trip to the men’s room saying he went in the same urinal that Gordon Ramsay must have used.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography



Our wedding came and went.  It was my day. It was everything I dreamed it would be and I felt like a real princess.

Now it is five and a half years later.  My husband is dead and I have no use for this dress.

I am never going to wear the dress again.  I mean, even if I get married again, I am not going to wear it again. For one, it’s the dress I wore to marry my first husband who is now dead. Secondly, even if it wouldn’t be weird to wear the dress again, my tastes have changed. It was the perfect dress for me in 2011-2012 but now it wouldn’t suit my style in 2018.

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I can remember telling Bryon I wasn’t walking down the steps in the heels I was wearing. He obliged. Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography



The dress has sat in the back of the closet in my spare bedroom.  I never had it cleaned after the wedding and the bottom of the dress is dirty from being dragged on the floor all night.

When Bryon was alive, he encouraged me to get the dress cleaned and then sell the dress but I just couldn’t bring myself to part with the dress I wore on one of the happiest days of my life.

Now, this dress, which is a symbol of my happiness is also a symbol of my sadness.

EQ4C1830-334And I began to wonder what I should do with this dress.

The first thing people usually suggest to me is that I should save the dress for my daughter.

While I think it is touching when someone wears their mothers’ wedding dress, I felt like I would be burdening my daughter.  I didn’t want her to feel like she had to wear my dress.

Styles change.  Yes, she could change the style but the dress was strapless, to begin with. Also, the dress was made out of polyester, not some fancy fabric. Lastly, I hope my daughter doesn’t struggle with her weight like I do and the dress size may not be easy to work with.

I feel that my daughter deserves her own “say yes to the dress moment”.  A moment that, God willing, I will be there to witness.

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Flower Girl Dress Shopping, 2018  (Cell phone photo)


The second reason I don’t want my daughter to wear my wedding dress is a bit selfish.

I have attended two weddings since Bryon passed and my daughter and I will be in a party wedding very soon.

And at each moment I am always taken aback at the father-daughter moments. Because Bryon won’t be there to walk her down the aisle. He won’t dance with her.  (Which he once mentioned he wanted to dance to Sitting at the Dock of the Bay because it was in his favorite movie, Top Gun. I told him it would be our daughter’s decision, not his.) He won’t be beaming with pride. He won’t be making jokes, pretending to be annoyed at how much the wedding cost.

Now I don’t know who is going to walk my daughter down the aisle.

Maybe she will have a stepfather. I am optimistic that I will fall in love again. And he will be a wonderful man because I wouldn’t settle for anything less.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

Or maybe my daughter will have her grandfather walk her down the aisle. Or maybe her Godfather will walk her down the aisle. Or maybe one of the many uncles she has, the men who were Bryon’s closest friends.  She has lots of great men in her life to choose from.

But the only thing that is certain is that Bryon won’t be walking her down the aisle and that moment is going to take me aback.  Even if that moment is brief, that moment will be there. I will feel my breath being taken away. I will feel like I am being punched in the stomach.  It will sting. There is a good chance I will tear up. Because even though so many people love my daughter, the man who gave her life and loved her so much won’t be there to walk her down the aisle.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography


And if she were in my wedding dress, it would be too hard for me.

So this brings me to this wedding dress from one of the happiest days in my life that was a symbol of all my sadness.

I am in the process of clearing Bryon’s belongings out of the house. Letting go of each item is a process, no matter how small.  First I have to decide if an item holds a practical use for me  If not, does someone I know have a practical use for the item?  Is the item broken? Those questions are usually easy to answer.  It’s the sentimental items that are tough.

Sometimes I break down and cry. Sometimes I get angry because he is dead and all I have is…stuff.  Sometimes I feel empty. Sometimes I feel nothing at all.

My wedding dress was definitely a sentimental item.

EQ4C2025-437I felt like my wedding dress wasn’t done yet.  My dress had done what it was meant to do.  It had served its purpose.   It made me feel beautiful on one of the happiest days of my life.  I felt like my dress wasn’t mean to just sit in my closet and remain a symbol of my sadness.

One day I felt like it was time to let go of my dress.

I remembered hearing about charities that take donated wedding gowns and making gowns for babies who have passed away.

Just like I knew right away that my wedding dress was the one, I knew immediately that this was what I was meant to do with my wedding dress.

The families of those babies are in a deep and profound grief and while I don’t know the pain of losing a child, I do know deep and profound grief. I felt like I needed to whatever I could to help.

EQ4C2130-494I couldn’t think of a more dignified second life for a dress that made me so happy. That dress didn’t deserve to sit in a closet, avoided.  That dress would go on for a deeper purpose.

It brings me a sense of healing to donate that dress will, in some form, bring comfort to a grieving family.  My wedding dress made me look beautiful at my wedding and lives on in my memories and these angel gowns may be the last (and maybe the only) chance for these grieving parents have to see their child dressed in something beautiful.

I went to google and saw that most of the charities that made angel gowns weren’t taking wedding dress donations.  I looked through my google results and saw that there were many other worthy organizations that accept weddings dresses for various uses.  But I felt drawn to this particular purpose.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

After searching, I found the Facebook page of a charity made angel gowns and it was local.  I sent the charity a message over Facebook messenger to inquire if they were currently accepting and they responded within the hour.  They were accepting wedding dresses and I could drop it off at a Ford dealership on the other side of town.

I also learned that they were looking for shipping sponsors to purchase VISA gift cards as these gowns sometimes have to be overnighted free of charge to the recipients.  Gift cards to Wal-Mart and Jo-Ann’s were also appreciated as these seamstresses were volunteers and can always use donations for materials to decorate these gowns. I did decide to be a shipping sponsor and a donated a VISA gift card along with my dress.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

It was also requested that the crinoline be removed.  Crinoline is that netting-like material that makes up petticoat.  My dress had a lot of it.

I took the dress out of the closet.  Then I took it out of the garment bag.  I looked at the dress one last time. I contemplated trying it on the dress on but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.  As requested by the charity, I removed the crinoline. Then I removed the sparkly band that sat just under the bust of the dress.  I decided that I would set it aside for my daughter. She can incorporate it into her wedding, should she choose to do so.

Then I cried.  I bawled.

I hadn’t bawled like that in many months.  Sure my eyes tear up a little but I couldn’t remember the last time I bawled like this.

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First date. Engagement. Wedding Day. All at this bar. Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

I put the dress back in the garment back and brought the dress downstairs where it hung on a hook on the exterior door of my kitchen.

The dress sat there for 4 days because I did not have the time to bring the dress where my daughter would not have been present.  I was afraid that I was going to be an emotional mess and I did not want her to see that.  Though part of me dragged my feet because this would be final.

One morning after I dropped my daughter off at daycare,  I decided it was time. I put the dress into my car and drove to Latham Ford.

Dropping off the dress was an easy process.  The salesman held the door open for me and told me to go over the receptionist.  The receptionist took the dress and thanked me.

And then I left.

At that moment I felt nothing and everything all at once.

My dress was gone.

I couldn’t ask for it back.

I didn’t cry.

I know I made the right choice for me.

* * *
All wedding day photos are courtesy of my wedding photographer, Heidi Benjamin.  Thank you for being so gracious.

http://www.heidibenjamin.com/

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Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #20

It’s Friday!

You know what means- time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

Here are the 5 things I am grateful for this week:

  1.  Seeing H-bomb 

    I don’t really remember life without my cousin H-bomb.  My earliest memory of her was in my Nana’s kitchen.  I had to have been around my daughter’s age (3 and a half.  Can’t forget that half.)  My Nana was feeding H-bomb, who was sitting in a high chair.  I want to say that the Price is Right was playing on a black and white TV but I could be wrong.  If it wasn’t on, it should have been.

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    Crowley Cousins- Easter 1982- Woburn, MA (H-bomb’s siblings would arrive in 1983 and 1985)

    H-bomb has pretty much seen me through all stages of life- hyper kid, awkward middle schooler, high schooler, college kid, singleton, politico, wife, mother, widow and…whatever weird stage I am in now.  And she has been my best friend through it all.

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    September 29, 2012- Albany, NY  Photo credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

     

  2. Going to the House of Seven Gables 

    As I said in my last post about my trip to Boston, I finally got to go to the House of Seven Gables.  I had wanted to go about 20 years ago but no one wanted to go with me.  I was excited that H-bomb and the gang were going.We kept joking that all my dreams from 20 year ago were finally coming true.   I don’t know if the spirit of my younger self comes alive more when I am around H-bomb or if I am more in touch with it due to all my self-reflection over the past year and a half.

    I am also thankful I am getting this period of time to examine and reflect on my life and choose to live my life more deliberately.

  3. My future son-in-law’s birthday 

    Okay, I don’t know if this boy will be my son-in-law someday.  It started as a joke.  This little boy is the son of Bryon’s best friend.  He is 5 months older than my daughter and it has always been the joke that they will get married someday.14224804_1469396146411319_7112937204134600051_n.jpgThe other day we (my daughter, my future son-in-law, his mom-and one of my besties, her younger son and I) were walking out of daycare.  My daughter and my future son-in-law are ahead of us and there is a random lady there.

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    April 2017

    Future son-in-law (to random lady):  I am going to marry her.
    His mom/my bestie, me, and everyone within earshot: Awwwwww!
    Random lady: Can I come?
    My daughter:  No.

    We need to work on being more gracious and tactful.

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    This past weekend was my future son-in-law’s 4th birthday and we went to his school party at the trampoline place.

    On Tuesday night (the night before his actual birthday) we all saw Disney Jr Dance Party at the historic Palace Theater.  Ironically I only got pics with my daughter and the birthday boys little brother.  Ooops.

    Whether the kids end up marrying each other or not, it is an amazing experience to watch them grow up together and see their friendship grow.

  4. Spending time with my friend Gentel/Corks and Forks Event 

    Last weekend I got to see my friend Gentel (she blogs here).   Gentel and her boyfriend were in Albany for the weekend and invited me to attend the Corks and Forks fundraiser to raise awareness for Huntington’s Disease.   I didn’t know much about Huntington’s Disease.  You can read more about the disease here.It was a great event.  And it was great to spend time with Gentel and her boyfriend.

    I hope to see them sometime soon.

  5. Everyone in my life 

    I know this is a broad one but I am thankful for everyone in my life.images (1)For everyone who is there for me and my daughter.

    For everyone who messages me and checks up on me if they think I am sad.

    For everyone who has offered to help me.

    For everyone who listens to me.  And for everyone that shares their stories with me.

    For everyone who encourages me.

    For everyone who sends me funny texts and SnapChats.

    For everyone who helps me create happy memories.

    I think about close friends, new friends, old friends, school friends, work friends, political friends, widow friends, internet friends, Maine friends, New York friends and former friends.

    I truly believe that everyone has been in my life for a reason.  I am thankful for all the love, light and laughter in my life.  I am also choosing to be thankful for all those who have caused pain.  Because that pain has helped shape my character and taught me the importance of treating people better.

    I am thankful for all those who have played a role in my life.

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    What are you thankful for this week?

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Widowhood: The toughest pills to swallow

I just want to start this out by saying that I am not taking any pills.  Only the occasional Ibuprofen or antacid.  I am only using that term metaphorically.

But I decided to write about the hardest things that I have had to accept.

  1. Not having closure

    I just want to preface this part that there is no easy way to watch someone you love die.

    But I didn’t always think that.

    For a long time, I was jealous of almost every other widow. I was jealous of the widows who lost their spouses quickly because they didn’t have to watch them suffer.  I was jealous of the spouses who had a diagnosis and a life expectancy because they got to chance to say what needed to be said.

    I got neither.

    Bryon’s illness was unexpected.  And he was put on a breathing machine so he couldn’t talk.  And he was so weak that he couldn’t write.  He could mouth words but I couldn’t always read them correctly.

    I had so many things I wanted to tell him when he got better.  And I will never get to.

    During those months, I did not know if he was going to live or die.  Obviously I was hoping for the better outcome.  For five months, I lived day by day, desperately clinging to hope.

    A friend of mine referred to it as limbo but it was complete hell.

    After I was told there was nothing left that could be done, a part of me was relieved that the nightmare was going to be over soon.  It wasn’t going to end the way I wanted it to end, but at least it was going to end.

  2. Never getting to that sweet spot

    Anyone who has ever been married knows that marriage isn’t always easy.  Bryon and I loved each other fiercely but we both had strong personalities which presented it’s own set of challenges.  We both struggled with our own vulnerabilities.  We were also competitive.

    For many years, I was resentful that I had to leave Maine and relocate to New York.  And I made sure Bryon knew it.

    But we pushed through.  We became parents and we settled into our life as a family.  I truly believe our last year was our best.  We were just about to get to a really sweet spot in our marriage and it was all taken away.

  3. Letting go of the “what ifs” and the guilt

    In the early days of widowhood, I kept wondering what if?  I thought about all the “what ifs” that accompanied his illness and his death.

    I thought about all the “what ifs” that accompanied our relationship. What if I had been a better wife?  What if I hadn’t argued with him about XY and Z?

    This has been one of the hardest things to accept.  That I did everything I could do to and that it wasn’t my fault.  I needed to accept that sometimes horrible things just happen.  And this one happened to me.

  4. Even if he survived, things would never have been the same

    When Bryon first died, I would always think about how much better my life would be if Bryon hadn’t died.  Especially when things would go wrong around the house.

    I had a jolt of reality and this was a painful jolt.

    During those early months, whenever I would wish Bryon were still alive, I imagined him as he was before he got sick.  The strong and healthy Bryon I knew.  But over time, I began to admit to myself that had Bryon survived, he would have been a very sick and disabled man.

    Our life would have been very different.  I wouldn’t be living the comfortable married life I once knew.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed between working full time and being a single mother but had Bryon survived, I would still be working full time, taking care of my daughter and I would have had to take care of a very sick husband.

    Don’t get me wrong, I would have done it.  You know…in sickness and in health.  But I wouldn’t have had the life I knew before.  My life would have been much harder.

  5. Reconciling the past and the present

    One of the hardest things I have had to accept if that there is no reconciling my past and my present.

    During the early months of grief, I would have given anything to get Bryon back.

    But the further removed I become to my old life, the more I change.  And I have to admit to myself that I don’t want to be the person I was when Bryon was alive.

    I have memories that I treasure from our life together but I was such a different person back then.  And I don’t want to be that person.  She didn’t appreciate what she had.  She was ungrateful.  But I can’t hold it against my younger self.  She didn’t know how good of a life she had and how easily that life could change.  And there was no way she could know.

    I am a different person now.  The trauma of widowhood pushed me to re-examine my life and do some soul searching.  For the first time in my life, I actually like myself.  As time goes forward, the harder it becomes to imagine my old life.  Because if I had my old life, I wouldn’t have my new self.  But even if I could bring my new self into my old life, would Bryon even like my new self?

    I guess there is no point in dwelling on it.

Boundaries

My close friends and I were discussing the role that narcissists have played in our lives.

None of us have a Psych degree but we have all had issues with narcissists whether it was someone in our social circle, someone we dated, someone in our family or if they were in-laws.

Maybe you know a narcissists.  Narcissists do not know empathy to others, they think the world revolves around them and they will tell lies to people to turn them against each other.  If anyone makes them insecure, they try to change everyone’s opinion of the person that makes them insecure so people see them in a negative manner.

Research states that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is rare but it seems that our group of friends have encountered more than our fair share of narcissists.

I have a few theories.

The first theory consists on our influence of others.  I believe that we all vibrate at a certain level of energy.  It could be good energy or bad.  That energy ripples out and effects those around us.  People are affected whether we are spreading love, light and positivity or  if we are spreading selfishness, lies and negativity.

Our behavior affects others.  And other’s behavior effects us.

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Narcissists are confusing beings because they disguise their true selves and most people are fooled.  They pass as perfectly nice people. They are good at fooling people because that is their natural state.

When you are the victim of a narcissist, you feel alone because everyone else thinks that they narcissist is great.

Narcissists can cause a lot of damage in families and social circles.

One theory I have to the inflated perceived narcissistic population is that some people may grow up with a narcissist parent or grandparent and that a child may grow learning that manipulation is simply the natural way you treat people.  These people are probably not narcissists in their core but are merely using the “skills” that they learned from their narcissist parent grandparent.

This theory has a positive spin as a person may grow up with a narcissist parent or grandparent and learn that that is not how you treat people.

My second theory is that some social circles, including the one that I am belong to, are very inclusive and since narcissists are good at hiding their true colors which are not beautiful like a rainbow.  But my social circle does not want to be closed off so we will take the risk.

Widowhood has made me wiser.

When I became a widow, I began to examine every area of my life. Heck, I am still examining and learning.

I want to make sure I am living my life to it’s fullest potential and that I surround myself with love and not negativity.

I began to truly appreciate those who love me and my daughter.

But I also became really good at noticing people who are toxic, people who are phony and people who had an ulterior motive to our friendship.

Before widowhood, I would have brushed off those feelings and given the offenders the benefit of the doubt.

And on top of that, I would have gone out of my way to make sure they liked me because I was a people pleaser.

I ignored my intuition on so many accounts, despite the fact that my intuition is almost always right.

But now that I am a widow, I can spot a phony person right away.  I can tell when a person is trying to manipulate me.  I can see all the ulterior motives.

I have learned to listen to and trust my intuition.

I think it is a widow superpower.

So in the beginning of widowhood, I removed toxic people from my life.  Part of it was necessity.  But mostly because I didn’t have enough bandwidth to handle the drama.

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But then it became clear to me that I just didn’t want to deal with the drama.  I only have so many hours of the day and our lives only consist of so many days and I do not want to spend them with toxic people.

And while narcissists are toxic, there are other types of toxic people.  I just opened with narcissists because they were a clear example and my life had been affected by a narcissist for many years and I hold the greatest empathy for anyone dealing with a narcissist.

Some toxic people manipulate.  Some tear others down in order to make others look good.  Some argue constantly.  Some do whatever it takes to make you feel sh*tty about yourself.

So I took a stand.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Because I was never good at saying no to people.

I decided that I was going to say no to toxicity.

I had to cut some people out of my life.  I needed to keep positive people around me and my daughter and I needed to use what energy I had to focus on the important things.

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And toxic people don’t like being cut out.

They are persistent.

They will try to manipulate you and when they can’t manipulate you, they will try to manipulate those around you.  They will try to change other’s view of you to gain sympathy for themselves.

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Simply cutting toxic people out of your life isn’t enough.

I learned that you need to set firm boundaries.

I used to feel that boundaries were purely a physical matter like having people stay out of the master bedroom or deciding who has a spare key to your house.   Or when you are a kid and your sibling is annoying you and you say that there is an invisible wall that they can not cross.

But boundaries are also emotional, mental, and social.

How you let people treat you is a boundary.  Do you allow people to walk all over you?  Do you let people treat you poorly? Do you let people boss you around?  Do you let people make you feel small?

I used to have a friend in my younger days who would cancel plans with me on a moments notice because a guy asked her out.  I would be upset but I let her do it.  And she would do it again…and again…and again.  I did not have the self-esteem to realize that this behavior was not acceptable and I did not set any boundaries.

In case you are wondering, I have not spoken to that person since my wedding.  It all makes sense to me now.  Before I was with Bryon,  I was a people pleaser and not only did I let people treat me poorly, I would try to get those people to like me more.  But Bryon set the boundary for me.  He would tell me when my friendships were one sided and he would advise me not to put any effort into those friendships.  And this friend did not like that she could not push me around if Bryon was in the picture.

But Bryon isn’t here to help me set boundaries.  It is a skill that I have been learning to implement.

This is my life.

It is okay to stand up for myself.  You don’t deserve to be treated like a doormat.

It’s okay to choose not to hang out with someone because they make you feel poorly.  Your friendship is a privilege, not a right.

It’s okay to delete someone from social media.

Not everyone deserves an explanation about your life choices.

I write in this blog and will continue to do so.  But just because I am open about my grief does not mean that everyone is privy to my personal life.  I have had to exercise my boundaries and make it clear that I determine what I share.

Setting boundaries is about taking care of yourself and protecting yourself (and those you love) from negativity.

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I still get sad sometimes

And it’s been 596 days since I have become a widow.

596 days since my daughter lost her father.

596 days since the world I knew ended and my future was taken away from me.

596 days where I have felt lost and broken.

596 days of wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

596 days of guilt.  Even though my head knows I have nothing to feel guilty about, I still feel it.

596 days of wondering “what if…?”

596 days of guarding my emotions because other people can’t handle them.  Because making sure someone doesn’t feel discomfort for a short period of time is more important than the emotions of a person who deals with or had to deal with this hell every day.

596 days of rolling my eyes when people make insensitive comments knowing that they mean well.  I envy their naivety.

596 days of missing what I had and wondering if I will ever be loved again.  Though my love for Bryon was unique (as every love is) I wonder if I will ever feel that way again.

596 days of feeling like I am on a deserted island.  I know people try to understand but sometimes I really wish I could just be “normal” like everyone else.

596 days of having to work at being happy.  I will avoid anyone that makes me feel worse about my current state of life.

596 days since I have changed but people don’t see the real you.  They want you to be whatever version of you that they previously knew.  Or thought they had. Or they just see you as a broken widow, not the stronger person that you are really are.  The old me is dead or on sabbatical until I decide where those old versions of myself fit into my new life.

596 days of protecting my boundaries.  People will try to manipulate you.  Even people who you thought were friends.  People will pretend they are helping you in a public forum but never pick up the phone or text.  There are people who think that your private life is their business just because Bryon was popular and I have a blog.  But I choose what I write about on my blog and I choose what is private and will continue to enforce that boundary.

596 days of sadness.  And while my sadness rarely breaks me down anymore, it still runs in the background, kind of like an app you forget to close on your cell phone.  Once in awhile, it builds up and you have to deal with it.

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I remember being told that it gets easier.  And it has gotten easier.  But I still miss him.

Sometimes I wonder if it the grief is subsiding or if I am just getting used to Bryon being gone.  When Bryon first died, my whole world was rocked and I was in the “widow fog” for about a year.  Now I have gotten some of my footing back and the fog has lifted but I am more likely to miss the little things.  I don’t have my fog to protect me from reality anymore.

I am so over this whole widowed thing.

When I really died…

When I first started this blog, I said that part of me died on August 21, 2016.

That was the day that Bryon died.

And that is true.

But it is also a lie.

The “death” of me really began on a different day.

My death really began on March 29, 2016.

Two years ago today.

It was Bryon’s 5th day in the ICU.

He had spiked a fever of 105F the day before.

And on that day, his kidney’s shut down.

Then his other organs started to fail.

It all happened so quickly.

Septic shock.

“Your husband might not make it.”

I made phone calls to those close to us.  Friends dropped what they were doing and rushed to the hospital.

My parents took my daughter, then 18 months, out of school because they decided that she was probably the only person who could bring me any sort of comfort, which she did.

I remember saying to my mother that Bryon couldn’t die because my daughter wouldn’t remember him.

I was told that my husband had to be rushed into emergency surgery.

A surgery he might not survive.

It did not seem real.

How could the strongest person I know, both mentally and physically, be clinging to his life?

My parents left with my daughter because everything seemed too hectic for someone that small.

It all seemed surreal.

My husband might not survive.

He came to the hospital to get better and all he seemed to get was progressively worse.

And now I was told he might die.

He couldn’t die.

I needed him.

I couldn’t do this alone.

Our daughter was too young.

Some of our closest friends sat in the waiting room.

In silence.

With fear in our eyes.

Waiting.

Everyone in that room fell somewhere on the Catholic spectrum and we learned what “purgatory” meant.

After what felt like an eternity, we got news that Bryon survived the surgery but it was uncertain if he was going to make it through the night.

It was during the flu season and only two “visitors” were allowed in the room with him so everyone took turns sitting with me by his bedside.

He did make it through that night.

And the next 145 nights.

And while part of me died 145 nights later, the death began on that day.

I lost innocence.

My naivety.

I lost my sense of safety and security.

The old me is dead.

A new me has emerged.

A wiser me.

A more grateful me.

A person who takes life a little less seriously.

A person who isn’t so concerned about being a people pleaser.

A person who has no trouble telling people who go “eff off”.

But today marks the day that where I was forced give up the safe life I knew.

And I am okay.

I am surrounded by those who truly love me.  People who embrace the “new me” and strive to understand what I went through the best they can.  All while they mourn the man they knew too.

But I would be lying if I didn’t say that today was tough.

Because it reminds me of all the pain I went through and the loss of a great man.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was having moments.

But it is okay.

I keep those moments to myself.

I only cry when no one is around to see it.

 

My last normal day

Two years ago today was my last normal day with Bryon.

It was a Tuesday.

I can tell you that it was the day of the Brussels Explosion but I learned that from Google.

And of course, the 2016 election was going on.  But I don’t remember watching the news or talking about it with Bryon.

I probably did mundane things like change my daughters diapers and feed the cat.

I know I worked that day.

I don’t remember what I wore.

I don’t remember driving into work and parking my car.

Maybe I got a French Toast Bagel with plain cream cheese and a medium light roast coffee from Panera for breakfast like I did most mornings.

No clue what I ate for lunch.

I don’t remember leaving work.

I know I must have picked my daughter up from daycare because Bryon wasn’t cleared to lift her yet.

I don’t remember arriving home.

We probably watched some TV that night but I can’t remember what we watched.

I don’t remember what we said to each other before bed.

For the life of me, I can’t remember a single specific about that day.

It was the last normal day of my normal life and I can’t remember a single thing.

I did not know that the very next day, my life would change forever.