Widow at a wedding

This past weekend, two of my closest friends got married.  I love these two people so much. I can not stress enough how much of an honor that my daughter and I got to be a part of their day.  The we were with Bryon and me on the best days of my life and they didn’t leave my side through the worst days of my life.  While I would do the same for them, I  prefer that the days be happy. 

The wedding was held at the lovely Otesaga Resort in Cooperstown, NY. I wish I could share more details but I was chasing after my daughter.  Please take my word for it when I say that this wedding was epic.  

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“I do myself, Mommy!”

 

The weather was warm for December.

Everything was beautiful; the bride, her dress, her hair, the music, the guests.  

The food was amazing.  And there was an open bar.  

I got to see lots of old friends and I made some new friends.

But my heart was heavy all night.  Because Bryon was not there.

This is not the first wedding I have gone to since Bryon’s passing.  My Maine best friend got married last summer.  I meant to blog about it because it was a beautiful ceremony that deserves it’s own post and I hope to write about it before I visit her in Ann Arbor this spring.  

But that wedding was in Maine and that was my turf.  Some of my old friends I saw at that wedding had never even met Bryon (though that doesn’t lessen their empathy).  Both the bride and groom had lost their mothers in their 20’s and the only time I felt sad was when the father of groom gave a speech and mentioned the groom’s mother and if she were there.  My eyes teared up because it made me think of how Bryon isn’t going to be there when my daughter gets married.

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I was very anxious about this wedding but I kept those feelings to myself. I felt selfish for even having these feelings. Weddings are happy affairs.  There is very little I do not share with the bride but I wasn’t going to burden her with my grief leading up to her big day.  Especially when I know it was hard on her that Bryon wasn’t there.  

(And to note, I have discussed this with the bride after the fact.  She is not going to be blindsided by reading this).

A large portion of these guests knew Bryon.  There was no way I could even pretend he wasn’t dead or that I wasn’t a widow.  All through the night people approached me and said kind things about Bryon which I did appreciate.  Because enough time has passed from his death where sometimes I think people forget about him and the last thing anyone who is grieving wants is for their loved one to be forgotten.  

I have come to the conclusion that it was a good thing my daughter was there.  I spent the night chasing her and that prevented me from getting drunk and crying on the bathroom floor.  And that is not a flattering look for anyone.  Though chasing her did hinder my ability to take photos.

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“Mommy, why do I have two forks?”

There were so many couples at the wedding though I don’t know if that is true or if that was just my perception.  I started thinking back to my wedding day.  How pretty I felt in my dress.  How I felt when we had our first dance. We were so in love.  

There was no way that I could have foreseen exactly what “in sickness and in health” would entail.  Bryon would tell me that I nailed that vow.

I started to wonder if I would ever feel that way again.  Will I ever love again?  Will I ever love someone enough to marry them?  Will I have a second first dance and cut another cake?  Five years ago, when I married Bryon, I thought that was it.  We were going to grow old together.  Forever and always.  I never dreamed that this would be a possibility.

I know that I do want to love again.  I just don’t feel like I am done yet.  But is it even possible to feel that way about someone else?   Is it a glimmer of hope or an impossibility?

I honestly don’t know.

I know is that I need to learn to cope.  It is frustrating when you want to be happy and instead you are an emotion mess. 

Bryon might be gone but the sun stills shines.  My daughter still laughs.  There are people that I love that are still here.  There are still happy times.  I just need to accept that there will always be some sadness attached to all the happy moments.

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Don’t know where I am going

I have no idea where I am going.

I am still trying to figure out the person I want to reinvent myself to be.

I have no idea what the future entails.  I am not sure what I want from the future.  Bryon’s death has given me the opportunity to really think about how I want to spend the remainder of my days.

Because life is temporary after all.

If it were just me, I probably would have sold my house and would have had plans to go somewhere new.  Where I have never been before.  On my own.  But I probably would have wound up in Chicago or Florida because that is where one of my best friends and my cousin live, respectively.

But I have my daughter and it is important for her to have roots where her father and I had our lives.  And to be around those who loved her father and love her.

During my widowhood, I feel like I live in two different time dimensions.  The first dimension is the same dimension that we all live in where time moves forward in minutes, weeks, months, years, etc.  The second dimension of time is where the past is in the present.  The times that I try to cling to a memory for as long as I can because for that brief period of time, I can pretend that I am still in that moment and that Bryon is alive.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I live in this first dimension of time.  I am still here on Earth for an undetermined amount of time.  I want to make the best of my years here and do as much good in the world as I can.  I want to be the best version of myself I can be.

Because I can’t go back and be the older versions of myself.  And I don’t really want to either.

Even though my soul feels broken without Bryon, I don’t want to be the person I was before he got sick.  I didn’t know what was important.  I was selfish.  I worried about things that were insignificant.   I did not appreciate all that I had and I did not appreciate Bryon.  I let my fears rule my life.  And sometimes I just went along with things Bryon wanted because I didn’t want to risk an argument.  But in the process of not rocking the boat, I wasn’t always true to myself.

Going forward, I must always be true to myself.

Even if it means rocking every boat in the marina.

Death changes everything.  The timeline of my life has been broken into two very distinct pieces- the before and the after.

I can never go back to who I was when Bryon was alive or who I was before Bryon came into my life.

I can never go back and be the lonely shy child who grew up in the outskirts of the Boston suburbs.

I can never go back and be the restless teenager in rural Downeast Maine.  The girl who knew there was an exciting world out there and felt trapped in her small town.

I can never go back and be the girl who went to college but had no idea what she wanted to do.  The girl who had no confidence and was equally afraid of success and fear.

I can never go back and be the 21 year old who was spending a semester “studying” abroad in Winchester, UK.

I can never go back and be the 25 year old girl who had just broken up with her college boyfriend and who was working three jobs to get by.

I can never go back to the 27 year old girl who was involved in politics.

I can never go back to any of these versions of myself.  But I still carry something from each version.

The child version of myself represents my Boston Irish roots and my inner child who isn’t afraid to get creative.

The high school version of me represents my restless spirit that I will probably never outgrow and also reminds me that I love to run.

The college version of myself reminds me that I need to be more confident and not be afraid of my dreams like she was.

The 21 year old version of me was proud of herself that she went to England and got to visit London, Paris and Dublin.   She got to see places she had dreamed about for years and she got to experience a different culture.  Most importantly, she learned that “pants” don’t mean the same thing in the UK as they do in the US.

The 24 year old version of myself taught me that sometimes it is better to let go of something instead of chasing it.  You can’t make anyone love you.  It is best to wait for real love.

The 27 year old version of myself taught me ambition and how to get over my shyness.  This girl also represents who I was before I learned how to love.

And I think about everything I learned from Bryon.  He taught me how to love.  He taught me to believe to in myself and that I was worth nice things.  He taught me how to live like to the fullest.  He taught be to not be afraid.

It was because of him I got to be a wife and a mother.

 

I know that he is a part of me now.  But I still wish I could live in my memories with him and not in the present and future.

The second year is a b*tch

During my first year of widowhood, I learned what coping mechanisms did not work.

I tried to outrun grief, literally.  I ran a half marathon 6 weeks after Bryon died.  It was one of my biggest accomplishments in my life.  I hope to do it again.  But with only 6 weeks of training, my knees were not happy with me.

I tried to eat my emotions.  I gained back all the weight I lost when Bryon was sick and then some.  My knees continued to be unhappy.

I tried to keep busy and outsocialize my grief.  But now I am exhausted and nothing is getting crossed of my to-do list.  Being with friends is important but I have ignored spending time with myself.

There was one night I had some Spanish red wine.  That night I watched Jinger Duggar’s wedding and I bawled my eyes out.  But the next morning I had a headache and I was too old to be waking up with headaches.

I would go to Target whenever I was sad.  Nothing could cheer me up more than buying my two year old daughter a pair of pink cowgirl boots.  However, that cheerfulness would never last long.  My daughter had a great wardrobe that year.  A wardrobe she promptly outgrew and I gave away.

Writing helped my grief.  It helped me sort out my feelings.  But it also caused me to intellectualize my feelings which can prevent a person from feeling those feelings.  It is a mechanism I have used my whole life.

While I participated in some questionable grief practices, I have never denied my grief.  I have always acknowledged it.

But maybe I did something wrong because now I feel a flood of anger consuming me.

Let’s say grief is like an ocean.  Grief, like the ocean, can make a person feels small and insignificant.  Both grief and the ocean can be peaceful and serene at times and stormy and dangerous at other times.  Well I am standing in an island in the middle of this grief ocean and my anger is like a large wave crashing down over me.

Anger for all that happened to Bryon and for all his physical, mental and emotional pain.

Anger at how the events transpired.

Anger that Bryon and I never got to discuss what was happening nor did we get to discuss “what if”.

Anger that Bryon isn’t here to help me raise my daughter.

Anger that Bryon didn’t get to accomplish all his dreams and that we didn’t get to accomplish our dreams together.

Anger at the isolation I feel.  Everyone else gets to live normal lives  and not the “new normal” that I was told I needed to find when Bryon died.  I want the old normal.

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The second year is isolating.  Just as the reality of Bryon’s death is hitting me, people think I should be “over it”.

The second year is a b*tch and I still have nine months of it.

Late night ramblings of a widow #3

I haven’t rambled for awhile so here goes.

I want my old life back.  My old life was so easy.  Bryon took care of everything.  And not just for me.  He took care of everything for so many people.

My old life was so much easier.  And I never appreciated.  Now when something goes wrong, I am the only one here to deal with it.  Luckily I can usually get help but I hate asking for it.  I hate being a burden on people. 

I never appreciated my old life.  I never appreciated all that Bryon did for me.  

I miss my old life even though it feels like a lifetime ago.  I feel so removed from my old life even though I live in the same house and have the same friends.  I still have my daughter and my cat.  

I am a different person.  The old Kerry is only a shadow inside of the New Kerry.

I want my old life back because in my old life, I didn’t know this kind of pain.

Some days I like my new life.  I like myself better now.

But some days my new life completely sucks.

My new life is lonely.  I know what I am missing.

Before I met Bryon, I felt like I was waiting for my real life to begin. Then I got my real life and was always concerned about the next step.  

I would be running from the past and escaping into the future even if the future scared me.

And then- it was all gone.  

Now I am in a future I never imagined having.   

For the first time in my life I am forced to live in the present because the past makes me sad and thinking about the future makes me uncomfortable. 

I feel stuck.  How do I know the difference between spending enough time grieving versus being afraid of the future?

I am so afraid of being disappointed in the future.  

I started to get excited about the holidays but now I wonder if I am setting myself up to be let down. Because my life isn’t a Hallmark movie. 

And if I ever date again…am I setting myself up for dissappointment.

I had to call IT for work tonight. The IT guy was nice enough. I am so lonely that I didn’t want to hang up. But I did because otherwise it would have been weird and creepy. At least I ended the call with “thank you” and “bye” instead of defaulting to “love you.” That would have been awkward even if I do genuinely appreciate the help.

I feel Bryon’s spirit so close at times. So close that he doesn’t seem dead. At times I feel like if I just reach out and wish harder that I can bring him back and pretend this was just a bad dream.  And then reality smacks me on the face.

Or maybe if I try hard enough, I can move myself to the parallel universe where things played out the way they were supposed to.  Where he continued to be a successful lawyer and we had 2.5 kids (he wanted 2, I wanted 3), our cat and a dog.  

But none of those things will happen. 

Instead, I am alone, awake at 3am and writing a blog post that no one is going to read.

Soulmates

The other morning, I was driving to my gym and I was listening to some talk show and the talk show hosts were discussing the concept of soulmates.  Particularly, they were discussing if every person had just one soulmate or several soulmates.  One of the hosts leaned toward the attitude that we only have one soulmate while the other thought that if everyone only had one soul mate that it would be statistically impossible to meet them.

People were calling in with their opinions.  One lady said she was married to her soulmate and she had spent the last 31 years married to him.

This pissed me off.  Because if we only have one soulmate that means that mine was dead or I haven’t met him yet and Bryon was not my soulmate.

Frankly, I don’t like either option.

Why should all the married, non-widowed people get determine this?  What makes them so special?  Aren’t they special enough because they didn’t have to go through what I did?

But I shouldn’t let these people determine what love is for me.  While I truly respect- and envy- these people who have been married for decades, they don’t know what it is like to watch the one that you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with die.

They also don’t know what it is like to experience soulmate love that transcends death.  Because love doesn’t die.

I was also pissed because I used to believe in this notion that we only had one soulmate.  Until the world as I knew it ended and the foundation of everything I believed was shattered.

And no offense to that caller, or to anyone who ascribes to that theory but it is naive.

I was naive.

Bryon was my Husband.  He was also my best friend, the love of my life, my other half, my partner in crime, my co-pilot and my one and only.

He is my soulmate.

My Grandma Sullivan lived until she was 90 and my Nana Crowley is still alive at age 95.  Both of my grandfathers lived until their 80’s.  Grandma Sullivan had an aunt in Ireland who lived to be 98.  Nana Crowley had an aunt who lived to be 111.  (She was New England’s oldest resident when she passed)

I have the potential to be on this planet for a long time.  I also could be hit by a bus tomorrow but I don’t want that to happen.  My daughter would have to miss her gymnastics class and I am supposed to be going to a concert.

But seriously, I would love to meet my great-grandchildren.

But if we only get one soulmate then I would be lonely for the next 50 or more years.  The thought of that makes me sad.

Also if I were to get married again and my new husband was my soulmate, then what does that make Bryon?  That makes me sad too.

And I still too sad to even think about having a second soulmate right now but I know what when I am ready, I still have a lot of love left to give.

When I was younger, I was not good at dating.  I was told I was intimidating.  I had low self-esteem and could not imaging why I could be perceived as intimidating but now I know that it is because I am smart and I was closed off to people and standoffish.  If any guy was interested, they were going to fail because I was not going to give my heart to anyone.

I convinced myself that I didn’t need anyone.  Truthfully, I was lonely.

But Bryon saw something.  And he was not intimidated.  Or he never let on if he was.  He saw through my tough facade and broke down my walls.

Bryon is my soulmate.

I will never understand why our time had to be so short.  But I know with every fiber of my being that we were meant to be together.  I am who I am now because of Bryon.  He challenged me.  He changed my way of thinking.

He taught me how to live.

He taught me so much that I will carry those lessons until I die.  I hope those lessons live on in our daughter.

And when the day comes that I do leave this Earth,  Bryon will be right there waiting for me.

And I know when it is time to meet my next soulmate, he will be an amazing man.  He won’t be like Bryon.  Bryon was one of a kind.

My second soulmate will be his own person.

But I am not the same person I once was so it wouldn’t make sense to look for someone like Bryon.

I am more open to people and I hope I am less stand-offish.  But dating a widow or widower is intimidating.  Especially when the widows deceased spouse is such a legendary person.

And my second soulmate will have to accept that I would always have love for another man.  My second soulmate will have to understand that a widows heart expands.

My second soulmate will be amazing because Bryon would not let me settle for anything less.  He would find a way to communicate to me if he thought I was making a poor choice.  He would probably have “Last Christmas” by Wham! playing on every radio station, on repeat, because he knows that that is my personal vision of Hell.

Maybe I am the lucky one because I will the potential to experience “one and only” soulmate love twice?

All the days of my life

Our cake had four tiers, each with a different flavor.   The cake was decorated with a Celtic cross, red roses and with the tartan ribbon from Bryon’s Scottish clan.  There were weddings pictures of our parents and Bryon’s grandparents.  No wedding pictures of my grandparents exist so there were pictures from my grandparents younger days.  

There was no cake smashing as neither of us were fond of that tradition.  The song that was playing during our cake cutting was “You’re my Best Friend” by Queen.  There was so much excitement going on that day that I don’t remember what the cake tasted like but that was okay, we would freeze our top tier.  Of course, one year later we would discover that that cake would absorb the flavor of everything in our freezer and not taste as it was on our wedding night.

I was driving back from Starbucks yesterday morning (a habit I am trying to break though I am not sure I really want to) when Queen’s “You’re my Best Friend” came on the radio.  (Warning, you might think I am nuts after you read the next sentence.) They say the dead communicate to you through electronics and I am convinced Bryon is doing that.  He communicates with my daughter’s Godmother by putting Top Gun on her tv and he communicates with me through songs, usually in the form of Hall and Oates.  I have heard Hall and Oates more in the past couple of months than I have heard in my whole life prior.  He was partial to this 2008 Saturday Night Live skit of “Hall and Oates”.

Usually hearing a song that triggers a memory like that makes me cry but I actually handled it alright.  I was actually excited that Bryon was communicating and I turned up the song and listened.  Surprisingly I didn’t cry.  I was actually kind of happy and lighthearted.  I was okay until I read my friend widow blogger friend Emily’s post.  Emily’s post really reasonated with me and after I read it,  I cried.  I know, I cried.  Big surprise, right?

Emily’s post got me thinking about the wedding vow “till death do us part” but Bryon and I did not make that vow.  Our weddings vows at our Catholic Nuptial Mass stated that “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”  I remember having a conversation with Bryon about the significance of that vow.  He did not express any preference between “till death do us part” and “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”  As far as he was concerned, they had the same meaning.

I remember saying to him that I preferred “I will love you and honor you, all the days of my life” because one of us was going to die before the other and when one of us died, our love wasn’t going to stop.  Bryon didn’t really want to talk about it.  He was never one to talk about death and what happens after.  He came from a family where talking about death was taboo while my Boston Irish-Catholic family talked about death almost casually, like one would talk about the weather or the Red Sox.

My love for Bryon didn’t die on the August morning in New York City when he died.   I will love Bryon until I take my last breathe because my love for him doesn’t die until I die.  He is a part of me now and he will always have a part of my heart along with all the memories from our years together.  My love for Bryon is intertwined with the love I have for our daughter and our friends.  Even if I remarry, I will continue to love Bryon.  And that’s okay because the heart has an amazing ability to grow and to make room to accommodate all the love a person has to give.

Bryon’s love lives on in me.  I am who I am today because of Bryon’s love.  And I like to think that his love has made me a better person.  Bryon taught me so much in our short time together and I will never be the same.

And I will honor Bryon for all the days of my life.  I try to honor Bryon in many different ways.  I honor him by trying to be a good mother to our daughter.  I honor him by spending time with our friends even if it goes against my introvert tendencies.  I honor him by trying not to take my life too seriously.  I honor him by trying to do things that are out of my comfort zone.  I honor him by letting more inappropriate comments come out of my mouth.  I honor him by travelling with our daughter.  And some days, honoring Bryon might not be noble and it might be as simple as getting out of bed and existing that day.

But I will never stop loving and honoring Bryon.

Waiting

“For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.

So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”

~ Alfred D’Souza

I have always been a person who has always been waiting.

When I was a child, I was waiting for high school because from what I observed by watching Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills 90210, high school was real life.  Because after sporting events and lame school dances, it was all downhill.

When I was in high school, I was waiting until I could go off to college because college was real life.  I would be out of my small Maine town and I would study abroad in Europe.  I could immerse myself in the subjects I cared about such as History and French.

When I was in college, I was waiting for graduation because that was when my career was going to happen and possibly I will would meet my future husband.  I was going to earn some real money.  And life was going to begin.

When I was finally out of college, I was waiting for my career to take off and to meet that husband I dreamed about meeting.  But none of those things came with a college degree so I kept waiting.

Once I was in a relationship with Bryon, I was waiting to get engaged because then I would be planning our wedding and my life would begin.

When Bryon and I were engaged, I was waiting to be married and when I was a wife, then life would begin.  We could put the stress of wedding planning behind us and we can focus on our happily ever after.

Once I was Bryon’s wife, I was waiting to buy a house and become a mother.  We would become a family and raise our baby in our little house.

Once I became a mother, I was waiting to have our second child so we could be the perfect family with two kids.  Bryon had been working hard on a career as was I and we would buy a bigger house.  Then life would begin.  We would raise our two perfect children, maybe three and take them to whatever sports or lessons they had.  We would get a family dog.  We would go on family vacations.  Bryon had plans to become 1950’s dad and make our daughters dates uncomfortable.  Then the kids would go of to college to wait for their lives to begin and Bryon and I would grow old together.

Only life as I envisioned it would never begin.  I never once thought “once I become a young widow, then my life would begin.”  But my life is happening and for once, I am not waiting for anything.  I know I have a long life ahead of me but for the first time in my life, I am not eagerly anticipating the next phase of my life.  I don’t even know what I should be waiting for.  I don’t even know what my next phase of my life is.  I know I will see my daughter grow up but Bryon won’t be there.  I hope to be in a position to help people but I am not sure how I will get from here to there.

During my grief process, I have felt like there is a lot of waiting.  I am waiting for the pain to subside.  I am waiting for things to get settled.  I am waiting until I can think about everything that happened and not feel like I am being punched in the stomach.  I am waiting until I can talk about what happened without having my voice shake and tears welling up in my eyes.

I don’t know what to wait for.  My life has so many paths it could take.  I am not looking forward to the prospect of someday dating again.  But if I did, my life would follow a certain path, a path I am not ready to consider at the moment.  For the time being, I am actually looking forward to my time alone to figure out exactly who I am.  But since I don’t know who I am right now, I don’t know how to envision a future alone.  There are many facets of my personality I wish to explore and depending on which ones I develop could affect my path.

I spent 37 years waiting for my life to begin.  But I have been living my life this whole time and not living in the moment.  I spent my years with Bryon looking towards the future and that future never materialized.  I spent so much time waiting and not enjoying the life I was living and that life is gone.  I can’t go back and focus on those moments in the present.  I only have memories.  Memories, a future I am not waiting for and the present.  It’s a shame it took my husband’s death to teach me how to live in the present.