Two years of widowhood- an honest assessment. And what now?

Six months into widowhood, I wrote a blog post about what to expect in widowhood.

I decided to do a blog post summing up my thoughts.

Kind of a sampler of random thoughts.

Before I delve into my experiences, I want to mention that everyone’s experience with grief is different.  This post is based on my experience.  Your mileage may vary.

Secondly, I use the term widow and “she” because I am writing from my perspective.  But this also applies to widowers as well.  I just thought my writing flowed better saying “widow” instead of “widow or widower”.

And third, this is no way a complete list of things I could say about widowhood.  But this is a blog and it will be ready for those words when I write them.

Widowhood is hard to reconcile.  And accept.

I thought I was going to grow old with Bryon.

Then he died and I had no say in the matter.

Survivors guilt is a real thing.  I tormented myself for months, wondering what I could have done for a different outcome.  It took me many months to come to the realization that there was nothing I couldn’t have done.

I don’t know why this had to happen.  I probably never will.

But it did happen.  Whether it is for a specific reason or as the result of the butterfly effect or a combination of the two, I don’t know.

Sometimes shitty things happen to good people.

29972ffdbd0a17ab6cdbcea027767a71--widows-walk-sorrow-quotes

Our society doesn’t know how to handle grief.

After Bryon died, I was barraged with cliches.

Everything happens for a reason…

You just need to find your new normal…

It was all part of God’s plan…

He will always be with you in spirit…

God doesn’t give you more than you can handle…

He will be watching over you and your daughter…

He’s not hurting anymore…

People mean well.  They feel like they need to say something to make you feel better but they don’t know what to say.  So they revert back to these cliches.

The problem is that these cliches rarely make people feel better.  They usually make people feel worse.  The best case scenario is that the grieving person just ignores it or rolls their eyes.

This is usually the opposite effect than was intended.

If you know someone grieving, ask how the grieving person is doing.  Take them to lunch. Share a story about the deceased.  But please, please, please, try not to use a cliche.

cliches-cliches-everywhere

People will disappear

It doesn’t matter how popular your deceased spouse was.  People disappear.

It starts with the funeral.   You won’t hear from 70% of those people again.

And as time goes by, the amount of people who check up on you continues to goes down.

People move on and forget about your deceased .

download

If you make it to two years out, the people that are still here are your nearest and dearest.  Hold on to them.

People will kick you when you are down.

My late husband was a popular person.  In fact, he is way more popular posthumously than I am alive.

I have had people use me and my situation to latch onto my husband’s popularity.  You know, offer to help on social media where everyone can see but they never call after a snow storm.  Or people who try to take pictures with my daughter treating her like a photo op instead of a real person.

It’s sick.

A couple of times it has surprised me because this behavior came from people who I thought were my true friends.

I am going to clear something up.

Widowhood is lonely, even with amazing friends and family.

But just because a widow is lonely does not mean that she must accept all friendship, even if she is being used and treated poorly.

It is insulting.

For me, the opposite is true.  Life is short and I need to spend my time with those who care about my daughter and me.

I’ve also learned there are a lot of narcissists and toxic people around and it is important to set boundaries.

If I cut someone out of my life, there is a very good reason for it.

1a4d4a4eb0c9e8aae0c5be10fe1aa906

At first these realizations upset me but now I am appreciative of them because they taught me important lessons.  And I can make room for true friends.

Your tolerance for bullsh*t goes way down.

When Bryon and I got married, I thought my tolerance for bullshit went down.

And it did.

When Bryon and I became parents, I thought my tolerance for bullshit went down.

And it did.

But it was when Bryon died that my tolerance for bullshit plummeted.  When you watch one of the two people you love most slowly die, you quickly learn what is important and you lose any tolerance for people who try to make your life miserable.

1bwx4d

It does get better.

It take time but eventually the pain lessens.

Though I haven’t figured out if it is actually getting easier or if you just get used to their absence.

But the pain never goes away entirely.  You will still have bad days.  There will still be things that trigger you.

But there is hope.

Where does this leave me now?

As I said in my blog post on Tuesday, I feel like am  stuck between two worlds.  I am looking forward to the next chapter but I am struggling to let go of the past.

The first year of widowhood was about survival for me.  Getting out of bed was enough of a challenge.

The second year was about getting used to Bryon being gone and getting used to envisioning a future without him.

The second year was also the year I learned to love myself.

And now I am about to embark on the third year.

What does that even mean?  What does that mean for this blog?

While I miss Bryon every single day and I will still have sad days and moments where I cry.  But I can’t stay in deep sadness forever.  Grief is exhausting and I have been grieving for two years.

Do you know how exhausting it is to work full time, write a blog, raise a daughter by yourself and experience and process deep and profound grief at the same time?

I know Bryon doesn’t want me to be this sad forever.

Bryon gave me so much in our years together and the best way to honor him is to start living again. He made the most of his 30 years.  He accomplished more in those years than most people do in 80.

But it is hard for me to listen to people complain about becoming older.  Bryon didn’t even make it to middle age.  I need to make the most of the years I have left.

So the third year is going to be the year I start to live again.

ce20a17597b6d318b1aa4c15bebb6659

Two years

Two years.

I am trying to let that sink in.

Two years ago I was sitting next to you during the last hours of your life.

We were both clinging on in a way.

It was what I imagine Purgatory to be like.

As much as I wanted the agony to be over, I had no choice to but to cling and wait out our last hours and minutes together.  Because once Purgatory was over, you were going to be dead.

(There was no way, at that time, to foresee the agony that would follow during the months after).

I don’t know why you were clinging on but you did.  I am sure it was because of some deep spiritual meaning that I can’t understand in this human form.

Or maybe you were waiting for Chelsea to score even though we weren’t watching a game.  Besides, your heart stopped beating at 6:47 am which is probably still too early, even for English Premier League Soccer.

I am in a much better place now than I was last year.

Your first deathaversary really kicked me on my ass.  It put me in a funk that I couldn’t seem to shake off until Christmas.

Last year I would have said that your death made a big impact in my life.

Which it did.

But now I realize that your life had an even bigger impact than your death.

I will probably never understand why our years together were so short but I am grateful that I had you for as long as I did.

I am grateful for the memories and all I learned from you.

You loved me at my worst.

Sadly, you never got to experience me at my best.

I’d like to think that you would be proud of me.

I am better person because of your love.

You always believed in me.

You were right.  I am a lot smarter than I ever gave myself credit for.  Though I am sure you roll your eyes a lot every time I mess something up or forget to do something.

I remember how appalled you were when we were in our dating days when I half-joked that whenever I hear a noise in my car, I would turn the music up and hope that the noise went away.  You told me that you were going to take care of the car and I happily obliged.

Well, I’ve actually kept up on car maintenance.  I even checked with my Dad to make sure there wasn’t anything I might have forgotten and he said I was all set.

Though, truth be told, I am too scared to let car maintenance slide since I drive with our daughter in the car.  If it were just me…then…eh…

But I have been trying hard to learn these new skills.  Because you aren’t hear to take care of the things you used to take care off.

Last year I was still grasping the concept that you died.

This year I am grasping the concept of how much time has passed since you were gone.

I used to marvel at how much has changed since you were here but now I can’t help but notice how much has changed since those early months after you died.

It might seem silly but it started when I noticed that the heels on my boots were wearing out.  And then I remembered that I bought those boots after you died.  How can it be possible that you have been dead long enough where I can wear out a pair of boots?

Friendships have run their course.

(Do you remember when I used to let people walk all over me and use me?  I would get so upset and those offenders and the situations always angered you.  At the time, I didn’t realize that it hurt you to see me hurt.  You encouraged me to stand up for myself more.  Well it is safe to say that I don’t out up with being treated poorly anymore.)

You died a month before our daughter turned two.  Now she is almost 4 and she is going to be starting pre-K.  And your best friends son who was born after you died is almost 2.  I am not going to lie but your absence hurts the most during their milestones, first and achievements.  You not here to see them grow up.

At this time last year, I was still struggling with adjusting to life without you.

Now, I feel like I am used to you being gone.  Or maybe I am just used to your absence always being present.  But I know that nothing is going to bring you back.

I have to accept that this is our story even if it’s not the ending I would have written for us.

I keep hearing that you are supposed to live in the Present.  But my Present feels like I am living in limbo between two different worlds.

One of the worlds I live in consists of the past.  While I am not in denial about your death, part of me is having a hard time letting go of the past.  It just feels like every time I complete a task, your existence on Earth is erased just a little each time.

I took your name off of the bank account.  It was time.  The process only took about ten minutes and the guy working at the bank was really nice but when I got back to the car, I cried.

People talk about you less. When you first died, everyone was willing to talk to you and share memories.  Now it feels like I can only talk about you with a small group of people. I guess most people have moved on. I am not quite ready to move on.

It feels like you have been forgotten.

I don’t want you to be forgotten.

I also live the other life that consists of the future.  I hope it’s a happy time.

I live in a world where I am so ready for that next chapter.  Whatever it might have in store for me.

Though I get overwhelmed when I think of all I need to do physically and emotionally to get to the next chapter.

I have been in a deep sadness for two years but I know I can’t stay this sad forever.

I am tired of feeling sad.

This type of sadness takes so much energy out of me.

And I know you don’t want me too.   You want me to live my life to the fullest.

But you are one hard Mo-Fo to get over, Bryon McKim.

You changed my life and I will never meet anyone like you.  But maybe from here I am supposed to be the one changing people’s lives?  I am still trying to figure this out.

I want to be happy again.

I am ready for my next chapter.

No matter what happens, I will love you forever, BCM.

I promise I will never forget you.

 

Choices

Here it today’s bit of Kerry McKim Wisdom-

Your life is the aftereffect of all the choices you have made.

Boom.

The first major decision in my life was in the Spring of 1993.

It was a period of high fashion consisting of blazers, floral dresses, choker necklaces, boots and scrunchies.

(Okay, that kind of sounds like right now.)

An era was ending as Cheers had their last call.

8bc14a1678f4e57b399878e561c5bb13ebc2b38900acaff4de19536fca1c7cfd_large

And Zack and the gang graduated from Bayside High.

WdjDK-1527024296-2059-blog-SBTB_graduation

I was finishing up my eight grade year at Cyril D. Locke Middle School in Billerica, MA and I was preparing to begin my freshman year at Billerica Memorial High School.

My father had worked for the U.S. Postal Service since 1977, the year before I was born.  He had worked in Suburban Boston and he had been promoted to the position of Postmaster.

But there was a catch.

He would be the Postmaster of Little Deer Isle, ME.

So we were going to be moving five hours away to coastal Maine.

I would not be going to high school at Billerica Memorial High School.

I had been bullied in middle school so I wasn’t particularly sad about leaving.  But it was still a period of uncertainty.

The population of Billerica, MA in 1990 was 37,609 and the population of Little Deer Isle, ME in 2000 (couldn’t locate the number for 1990) was 251.

My father had to start his new position immediately so he would work in Maine during the week and come back to Massachusetts on the weekends to see us and to pack up and sell our house.

My father went to the local high school which was on the larger neighboring island of Deer Isle (connected to Little Deer Isle by a causeway) and the school was grades 7-12 with a school population of  about 150.  The guidance counselor of the school was up front with my father and said that there was a high chance that the students wouldn’t accept me because I was not a native of this island.  The guidance counselor recommended that he send me to a larger high school on the mainland because I would have a better chance of fitting in.  She gave my father the course catalogs for her high school as well as the three closest high schools on the mainland.

My father took my guidance counselors concerns seriously. He brought home those course catalogs and told me to look them over which I did.  Then I made my decision.  I told my father I wanted to go to Ellsworth High School.

My decision was based partly on intuition and partly because Ellsworth High School had the better catalog.  (Take away- listen to your gut and marketing matters).

The high school I chose was the furthest away geographically from Little Deer Isle but my mother also wanted to live closer to Ellsworth because there were more stores (i.e. civilization).

As my high school years passed, it was clear that I had made the right decision.  Each school had a reputation and I knew I wouldn’t have fit into schools labeled “crunchy” and “granola”.  (Not that there is anything wrong with that.  It just wasn’t me.)   I fit in the best at my high school, which had the reputation of being a “jock” school. I fit in, even though my classmates teased me (good-naturedly) for having a Boston accent.

My choice of high school affected the friends I made, some of which I am still friends with to this day.  My choice in high school affected my studies because I had some great teachers who exposed me to Broadway musicals, the French language and the concept that the world was a very large and fascinating place.  I also had some not so great teachers that turned me off to math and science.  (I don’t know what high school Kerry would think if she knew that in her 30s, she would go back to school for a degree that required Anatomy and Physiology.  I wish I could tell my younger self that she was smarter than she thought she was and capable of much more than she thought).

My choice in high school affected my social life.  I had to chose between staying busy with sports and work or hanging out in the Burger King parking lot.  Or partying in a gravel pit.  Though I wasn’t cool enough to party in a gravel pit.  I made the choice to run cross country and track, tutor students and participate in French Club.  I also made the choice to participate in class activities like prom committee and I raised money for the Chem-Free party on graduation night.  I also made the choice to work part-time at Shop N Save (now Hannaford).

I definitely left high school with a certain set of experiences that my eight grade self would never have foreseen me having.

20228600_10155833631237841_184343933948173165_n
“Mormons or Lobster” A sign in Ellsworth, Maine.

My next major decision was college.  I actually felt like I had less of a choice in choosing a college due to financial constraints.  My older brother had attended college at University of Maine at Orono (UMO) which was a little over an hour away.  I knew if I attended UMO that I would live there for a semester or two and then move home to save money.  I did not want that.

I wanted to be in the city.  Any city.  And if I couldn’t be in Boston, Portland was going to do.  That is how I wound up at the University of Southern Maine.  (USM)

High school had been a learning experience and a culture shock as I adjusted from Suburban Boston to Rural Maine.  But college was definitely more of a shock as I was exposed to so many different ideologies and lifestyles that I had not been used to.  Like high school, I made friends.  Some of which I am still friends with.

I made the choice to study abroad in England the Fall of my junior year.  I almost didn’t apply because I had had a rough year my sophomore year.  I remember telling my father that I couldn’t keep it together here so going to England was probably a bad idea.  My father said that he thought that three months away from USM might be exactly what I needed.  I chose to listen to him and listening to him was one of the best decisions of my life.

267296_10150263039187841_5221651_n
Canada looks really good.  A sign we saw on our way to Ottawa in 2011.

My life had became a series of choices, even if they didn’t feel like choices at the time.

The choice to finish college.

The choice to enter a romantic relationship.

The choice to not return to England after graduation because I had a new boyfriend. (Stupid, stupid, stupid!)

The choice of employment.

The choice of friends and associations.

The choice of my living situations and roommates.

The choice to end my romantic relationships.

The choice to move back home.

The choice to pursue a new career.

The choice to go back to college.

The choice to get involved in politics.

The choice to join the Young Republicans.

The choice to start dating that younger guy in New York even if it didn’t make sense.

The choice to move to New York.

The choice to accept a marriage proposal.

The choice to buy a house.

The choice to start a family.

Where we are in life is based on the results of choices we have made.

choices_meme_of_the_week

Everything in your life is based on a decision you have made or haven’t made.

However, these decisions have no guarantees.  Good decisions don’t always yield good results.  A good decision may have catastrophic results while a bad decision may surprisingly yield a very positive result.

Sometimes shitty things happen to good people.  We can’t control external factors.

But you always have to make the choice as to how you react to the shitty situation.

sorry-im-late-i-had-to-stare-at-the-ceiling-and-question-all-my-life-choices-0-somee-cards-H0Fei

This realization is overwhelming to me.  I used to view life as a series of events that happened to me and that everything was left to chance.

(So I guess Green Day was wrong in Good Riddance when they say that time grabs you by the wrist and directs you where to go…)

I did not realize how much of a role I played in my own life.

This realization comes to be at a time when my life in a crossroads.

In some ways, this scares the shit out of me.

The stable life that I knew is gone.  I have spent the last two years of my life reeling from what happened and I have been struggling to make sense of it.  I have been trying to figure out this “new normal” even though I yearned for the “old normal”.

I had always been one of those people who always had a “two-year plan”, a “five-year plan”, a “ten year plan” and a “twenty-five year plan.”  Now I barely have a “two-week” plan.

My need to have plans was because I didn’t like living in the present so escaped to the future.  But when the future became the present, I would escape further into the future.  I learned the hard lesson that the I need to be in the present because the future that you look forward to may not be there.

I do notice a change in how I choose to live in my life.  I choose to spent less time worrying.  I choose to surround myself with good people and let go of those who treat me poorly.

I choose to try to experience as much as a I can because we aren’t all guaranteed to make it to old age.   Bryon didn’t even make it to middle age.

But I have spent the last two years existing, trying to live even if, at times, I was just going through the motions.  I can’t stay in this state forever.  I am going to need to choose how I am going to live the remainder of my years.

hw416

And I have no clue what the future is going to bring.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #28

Today is Friday! You survived the week!

Do you know what this means?  It’s time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

giphy.gif

Here are 5 things that I am grateful for this week.

  1.  Friday means Chinese Food for lunch. 

    It’s my own weird tradition.  I must do it a lot because they know me at my local restaurant.  I used to be a strictly sweet and sour chicken combo person.  But I decided I needed to try new things so now I am strictly a pork lo mein and egg roll person.IMG_20180713_133921

  2. Movie Date
    My daughter went on a movie date with the boy she says she is going to marry.Since she is only 3 and her “fiance” is only 4, the date was chaperoned by the moms. Kind of like the Duggars except the kids are allowed to hold hands and they are allowed to hug to.  Not that weird, awkward side hugging that the Duggars do.

    Annnnnd…I think I just totally outed myself as someone who watches the Duggars.  Oh well.

    whatever-guy-meme-face-for-any-design-vector-10965488

    Moving on-

    I am not going to lie.  Part of the reason I get the large popcorn is because the picture always makes me laugh.  We never finish it.  She usually spills it on the floor.  Along with the M&M’s.

    What can I say?  I am a sucker.

    We saw Incredibles 2.  My daughter refused to nap beforehand.  She had trouble focusing on this movie.  I think she was more excited about the idea of the movie than the actual movie.  Oh well.

    IMG_20180714_171839

  3. The staff at the movie theater who have to clean up after my kid. 

    Most of us probably take for granted clean movie theaters.  So thank you!!!images

  4. Taco Tuesday with friends 

    A time to catch up with dear friends. and eat yummy tacos.No pics.  I am sorry.  What can I say?  I suck this week.

  5. Personal Growth 

    I value any time I get to read and write.  I am working on self love and feeding my soul.I saw on Facebook that my friend Roda at Growing Self Blog had bought The Untethered Soul.  That book has been sitting on my nightstand for a really long time.  (My “to read” pile is ridiculous).  So I decided that now would be the right time to start it.

    I mean, if all the cool kids are doing it…

    I decided to start it because Roda bought it.  And should and of the subject matter come up in her blog, I wanted to be prepared.  I didn’t want to feel like the blog reader equivalent of Elle Woods on her first day of law school.

    The book reminds me of The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle where you only need to read a little at a time because the information is a lot of digest.  A lot of “Wow” moments.  The good news is that the chapters in The Untethered Soul are short so you can read a chapter a day if that is your speed.  (It’s mine!)

    37400847_10156921841182841_5944059743516491776_n

What are you grateful for this week?

1_yKa_H7aVNojOqCts0hpBxg

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #22

It’s Friday.  You know what that means!

Time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

8vTtZo5

Here are some of the things I am grateful for this week.

  1. Girls Night

    I got a chance to catch up with Kimmy Gibbler and The Architect.  And it was a lot of fun.

  2. Inner circle

    Not THAT Inner Circle.

    (We are also going to ignore the fact that this song was popular during my freshman year in high school.   Because I don’t feel like feeling old today.)

    download (1).jpg

    We are talking about this inner circle.  And the non-pictured husbands and boyfriends.

    output (16)
    I can’t imagine life without them.  Not just because they got my through the worse of my grief and they don’t make me feel bad when I talk about Bryon.  But just because they are awesome people.  This might sound cheesy but for the first time in my life, I feel like I belong.

    download

  3. Wedding Week

    On Saturday these two adorable kids are getting married and I am grateful that I get to be a part of their day.

    31944541_10100494516382353_2766830984488812544_n

  4. 8 Years of Friendship with Robin Brillantes

    Facebook reminded me that Robin Brillantes and I became Facebook friends eight years ago yesterday.  She remains one of my most favorite people of all time.  I couldn’t figure out how to play the cheesy video that Facebook compiled so you get this picture of us from last Saturday.

    31946466_10100494515823473_7056845216828882944_n
    Of course one of our friends says that Facebook is the lowest form of friendship.  But I am not going to worry about that with Robin Brillantes.  Because we know our friendship is amazing because it is built on love, laughter and tacos.

    fd80a0dba677d66e8578e0433ffe7744

  5. That I am still remembered on Mother’s Day.

    My daughter made the picture and cards  at school and my parents sent the flowers and the teddy bear.  Though my daughter has already claimed the teddy bear as hers.  I had a feeling that they had that in mind when they ordered it…

    20180511_005659
    What are you grateful for this week?

    Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mother’s out there!

    happy-mothers-day-16901152

How to handle it when people start to forget your spouse.

It’s a scenario that is very common to those in the widow world.

Our beloved spouse dies. Whether your spouse died after a long illness or if your spouse died suddenly and unexpectedly, you are in shock.

Then we have a funeral or a memorial service. Friends, family, co-workers and even acquaintances may attend.  People tell stories about the deceased and assure the widow that they will never forget the deceased and that they are there for her if she needs anything.

A good portion of those people disappear forever.  They mean well but to tell a widow that they are always there for her.  What did that mean? Was it a lie?  The funeral is not the hardest day for the widow.  It’s the weeks and months that follow.

giphy (4)

The pessimistic side of my personality feels that these people only told the widow that because it made them feel better.  

The optimistic side of my personality reminds me that that time period is a big jumble in my mind and it remains blurry in my memory, a lot like a dream sequence in a 1980s sitcom.  But without the cheesy transition music.  So does it really matter if all those people who said they would never forget my husband have forgotten my husband?

0cac0c9b96805b338d79fb04bb2836d1.gif

For the first few weeks after the funeral, there may be people to check up on the widow.  They may see if these needs anything around the house. They may have made her dinner and played board games.  They let her cry in her dinner.  They may have kept her company as she drinks wine and binge watches the Gilmore Girls.

7057dc0051ed2c2533bab7bcd71cf776

But gradually the amount of people checking in on the widow gradually drops off until one day she begins to wonder what happened to all the people who said that they would never forget their spouse.

fc48d4af3cf0fbcb85707578a67da3bf

It happens to every widow.  On some level.  And it stings.

I was shocked when I came to the realized that very few people talk about Bryon now.  It’s pretty much just my inner circle. Even though I still feel like I am getting my feet steadily on the ground, it is like Bryon never existed to anyone outside my core group of friends.

And what happened to all those people who said they were going to share stories of my late husband with my young daughter?  She was a month shy of her second birthday when my husband passed so she won’t have any memories of her own. I was counting on those stories for her to know her father.

I do have a core group of friends who are very present in my life and my daughters life. I am one of the lucky ones.  Widowhood is lonely. Some widows don’t even have a core group of friends or family to lean on.

So how is a widow supposed to handle it when they are struggling to move forward and the rest of world has already moved on?   And while I have moved forward, it doesn’t mean that I want Bryon to be forgotten.

Here are the five things I remind myself to feel better when it feels like everyone has forgotten my late husband.

  1. Remember that this is what normally happens.

    Many people were affected by Bryon’s death.  I think of their grief as a hole and depending on their relationship with Bryon would determine the size of the hole.  

    On one end there are some people had small hole that might trip them if they weren’t looking.  But they can just look up and keep walking.

    On the other end  (where our close friends and family are) is a hole that is the size of the hole that was next to Anne Perkins house on the pilot episode of Parks and Recreation.  This hole is impossible to avoid and it caused drama in Anne Perkins life. Her boyfriend even broke his leg.  It is much harder to function with this kind of hole.

    giphy
     

    But I am the widow.  But I wasn’t dealing with a hole that needed to avoided or filled.  I was dealing with the fact the whole foundation my life was built on was destroyed.  Everyone else had their distractions and they had their homes to go back to with their spouses and significant others.  It is hard to find distractions when your whole life is destroyed.  My husbands death affected every area of my life.

  2. Give yourself a pat on the backgiphy (1).gif


    Because you have done such an awesome job at surviving and existing that people don’t feel like you don’t need to hear stories about your deceased spouse.  As far as they are concerned, you have moved on. Why shouldn’t they?  We live in a society that has a twisted sense of grief.  You are either completely beside yourself with grief or you are completely over it and there is little room in between.tumblr_inline_n4t9qcHeke1snxyd1.gif

  3. Accept it

    This is your life and you can’t make people understand.  Unfortunately I feel like you can’t truly understand widowhood until you have been there.  No one can understand the pain and emptiness that fills up most of our life. It is what it is.  And really, that is a good thing that they are blissfully unaware. The world doesn’t need more hurt.

    maxresdefault
  4. Realize that maybe people are actually thinking about your spouse and you just don’t know it.Maybe people are remembering your spouse and you are just not aware of it.  We make assumptions based on what we see and maybe people don’t want to bring up your deceased spouse because they are worried that they are going to hurt you if they do.  They don’t realize that we are not delicate flowers.

    assumptions-quote

  5. Take that upset energy and turn it into gratitude. 

    This one is the most important step.  It is best not to waste your energy dwelling on negative feelings and instead, use that energy to be grateful for all the people who remain a positive force in your life.  Even if that positive person is you.giphy (2).gif


    I will hold onto those friends who have been by my side through the past two years.  They aren’t getting rid of me.You can also take some of that energy and focus on yourself.  Give yourself some self-love.  You deserve it.

When-Meredith-Advocates-Fierce-Self-Love

  If you are widow, how did you cope when it felt like a loved one was being forgotten?

Second Annual Bryon C McKim Memorial Derby Party

Thank you for everyone who worked hard to make this event a success!

Thank you to everyone who came out to attend the event.  I appreciate the love and support for my daughters future.  It means so much to me that you came to keep Bryon’s memory alive.

We hope to see you next year!

20180505_191043
Seer Sucker Count: 5

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #21

It’s Friday!

We know what that means!  Time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

1979ffe250ee8af96b404db81df31e4e

  1. My readers

    My last post was my 200th post.  Thank you for reading and for all your support!

    puppy-thanks

  2. Warm weather

    While it seems that we have gone straight from winter to summer, I will take it.

    31783598_10156729919557841_236291267921707008_n

  3. A rainy but memorable day.

    My daughter had her first field trip at a local farm.  It was a great day, despite the rain.  I was going to write more, but I think the event deserves its own post.  But here is a preview.

  4. Surviving wasps and ticks

    Along with the warmer weather, we have been getting visits from unwanted guests.

    My daughter had her first tick bite last night.  I saw it in the morning.  Now I know I must check her every night.  I have never had a tick bite myself so I have never worried about it.  Luckily I was able to get it all out with tweezers and we went to the pediatrician just in case.  So I will keep an eye on it for a rash.

    We also had a few hibernating queen paper wasps in the house.  That freaked me out.  I am not a fan of bugs.  Killing bugs was Bryon’s job but now it is mine.

    rs_600x796-150430104629-CD20z_PVIAAfh6j
    Sorry,  I couldn’t resist.  I laugh each and every time I saw that on my Facebook newsfeed.  Though this was in a different context.  Probably in the intended context.

    Anyway, the day after I discovered the wasps was my routine treatment from the exterminator.  Luckily Mr. Exterminator was very nice.  He didn’t mind me staring at him adoringly because at that moment, he was my knight in shining armor.  He even located a wasps nest on my garage and got rid of it.

    MjAxMi1kYzRlM2M2YWFhMTU5MGFj

  5. Everyone who has worked hard on the second annual Bryon C. McKim Derby Party

    Saturday will be the second annual Bryon C. McKim Derby Party.  I am thankful for everyone who donated their goods and their time toward this event.  We raise money for my daughter’s education trust and toward the establishment of scholarships to be set up in Bryon’s memory at Siena College and Albany Law School.  If you are in the Albany area, we hope to see you.

    Tickets can be purchased here or you can buy them at the door.

 

What are you thankful for this week?

8d41a1c8034c4041eaa85b4e96d201bf--home-decor-outdoor

 

 

 

 

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.

EQ4C1451-99
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.”

EQ4C1578-177
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.

 

30595288_10103363917085152_4673388369005248512_n.jpg
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.

EQ4C1735-282
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.

EQ4C1749-290
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.

output
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.

EQ4C1939-397
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.

EQ4C1993-423
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.

EQ4C2206-533
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.

EQ4C2273-579
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.

EQ4C2308-602
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/

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.

    164180_481433559522_7726419_n
    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.

    37081_10152007803332841_595235855_n
    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.

    18010417_10155503198482841_6291866177824599826_n
    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.

    images.jpg
    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.

    bb72607b8d106cb5f6a668475904654a--kinds-of-people-people-come-into-your-life-for-a-reason
    What are you thankful for this week?

    6360838-Muhammad-Ali-Quote-Don-t-count-the-days-make-the-days-count.jpg