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.

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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.

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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 .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The day I found my voice

This was the first piece I wrote as a widow.  It was a Facebook note called “A Mini-Memoir”.  I wrote it one year ago.

* * *

Bryon McKim took me by surprise.  Those close to us know that the first time I met him was in November of 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky.  2006 was a bad year to be a Republican and I learned that because I lost my race for the Maine State House. (At least I won my hometown. Thank you Surry!)  The weekend following the election was the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) Board Meeting in Louisville.  I first met Bryon at the Northeast Caucus.  I was the only Mainer in a room full of New Yorkers and there was one in particular that would not shut up when I was giving my report on Maine.  And we all know that that New Yorker was Bryon McKim.  He didn’t make that much of a lasting impression on me except that I thought he was rude even if everyone from New York thought he was hilarious.

Our story really began in the beginning of the 2008.  I was coming to a New York State Young Republican (NYSYR) event to try to build bridges between the NYSYR and the Maine Federation of Young Republicans (MFYR) of which I was the State Chairman.  New York and Maine had been on opposite sides of the previous YRNF election and our relationship was not good.  I was nervous about the reception I would be receiving so my best friend Tiffany came from Chicago (Illinois and New York had been on the same side of the previously mentioned election but it did not affect the friendship between Tiffany and me.)  It turned out that I didn’t have anything to worry about.  All the scary New Yorkers were perfectly nice to me.  I noticed one person who seemed to be in charge so I went up to him and introduced myself, “Hi.  I am Kerry Sullivan, Chairman of the Maine Federation of Young Republicans.”  He responded with “I know.  We met in Louisville.”  Then it clicked.  He was the a-hole that wouldn’t shut up when I was talking.  Luckily after a year and a half, I seemed to be (mostly) over it.

Over the course of the weekend, Bryon began to try to get my attention.  I thought he was nice enough but I was aware that he was several years younger than me so despite being flattered, I kept letting him down, albeit gently.  I told him I was too old for him.  He didn’t believe me.  At one point, I pulled out my drivers license.  I do remember him staring at it in disbelief.  I definitely liked him but I was not looking to fall in love, especially with a younger man who lived eight hours away.

Heck, at that point in my life, I didn’t believe in love.  I was also told that I was too picky.  I  had a list of ten items.  Funny this is, I don’t remember all ten items.  I would tell people my top 3 (Republican, Catholic, Red Sox fan) and I was told that was not reasonable especially in Maine.  There are Red Sox fans, but not many Republicans or Catholics.  I know number 4 was Irish.  (That was a bit of a stretch as Bryon was only 1/8 Irish.  I guess it didn’t end up being that important.)  I do remember two of my other items on my list.  One was that I wanted a man to be intelligent.  Preferably more intelligent than me because I like to surround myself with smart people and I like to learn from those around me.  And I like personalities with a lot of depth to them.  I  wanted a man who could go to the symphony and a wine tasting one night and a baseball game with hot dogs and beer the next night.  I wanted someone who wouldn’t be bored with Museums and historic places.  Someone would wanted to do interesting stuff but also the simple stuff. I was told that those two points are not reasonable.  I knew what I wanted and I didn’t want to settle.

Anyway, I digress.

For the next six months, Bryon and I started to get to know each other better.  First through google chat (I think it was called g-chat then) and then we went to the next level and started texting.  Serious stuff that involved actually giving each other our phone numbers.  He convinced me to come out for the NYSYR day at the races.  I agreed and I decided to come out a day early to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  I asked him what he thought of the Baseball Hall of Fame and he said it was lame.  I said that was a shame because I was hoping to go and surprisingly, out of the blue, Bryon changed his mind and said that it actually wasn’t lame and that he would take me.  So we went to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  After visiting the Hall of Fame, we weren’t ready for our date to be over so we decided to head back to Albany for dinner at the Pump Station.  Then that turned into drinks at Mahars and then Lark Tavern.

The following day was the Day at the Races.  We didn’t want anyone to know we were a thing so we spent the day on opposite sides of the group.  We acted like we barely knew each other except we did sneak off to the paddock at one point.  I left New York not sure what was going to become of us.  He was younger and lived eight hours away.  Neither of us wanted a long distance relationship.  But our relationship only seemed to get stronger.  Our communication changed from text messages to actual phone calls.  Nightly.  I remember having to put my phone on speaker and hold it a certain way or else I couldn’t hear him.  Cell phone reception in rural Maine wasn’t that great.

We made plans to meet up in Boston on August 29th, the day between our birthdays.  I called him up to wish him a happy birthday on the 28th.  He had been out celebrating.  He told me he was young and hot like Sarah Palin and that I was old like John McCain.  (Remember, it was 2008)  Yet I still went to Boston the next day.  I had fun recounting that conversation to him as we rode the Red Line into Boston.  He made it up to me though.  He took me to a Red Sox game on my birthday.  If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is.  And it was that weekend that I realized that this wasn’t just a passing fling.  It was the real deal.  I never would have known that weekend that almost exactly eight years later, I would be attending his funeral.

It’s easy to be negative.  Some days I struggle to stay positive.  Some days I am not positive at all.  Other days I am almost optimistic that despite this sad chapter, I might actually still have a good second half of my life.  The reality is that right now I feel lost and like an empty shell of who I used to be.  I feel like I am going through the motions.  I hate the term “new normal” because I hate that I have to find a new normal.  I was perfectly happy with my old normal.  I am one of those people who likes to have a 1 year, 5 year, 10 year plan.  It may not be detailed but I liked being able to look down the path I was anticipating and have a general idea as to what was going to happen.

I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen in our planned future but Bryon was there.  The other child (or children if I got my way) would have been there.  We went from being a family of three with plans of being a family of four to a family of two.  Now it’s just Maddy and me.  I don’t even know if two people fit the definition of a family.

Bryon had all these plans he wanted to do when Maddy was older.  He will never take her to a father-daughter dance.  He will never make her dates nervous.  He will never get to play catch with her or teach her how to ice skate.  He won’t ever take her to a Broadway play.  He won’t walk her down the aisle when she gets married.  He won’t take her on the proper Disney trip he was planning.  We spent a day in Epcot last February and we went to a character breakfast, but not the fancy, expensive Princess one.  Bryon said if he was going to spend that kind of money, he wanted Maddy to be old enough to enjoy it.  I know I can take Maddy to Disney but the thought of being in the Happiest Place On Earth without Bryon makes me cry.  And I am not sure that is allowed.  It’s like a sick and twisted joke.  He did this to try to be healthier for himself and Maddy and then this happened.

We would have taken a lot more cruises.  We would have eventually hit all the Caribbean islands.  I would have continued to lobby for an Alaskan Cruise and Bryon would have continued to say that an Alaskan cruise sounded boring. (We had two cruises booked.  I cancelled one and pushed the reservation out on the other.  I don’t know when I will be ready to cruise again, if ever.)   We had plans to someday go to Scotland, Ireland, England and Germany.  He wanted to go to a Chelsea game in London.  He wanted to visit the Scottish Highlands where the Fraser clan originated.  He wanted to buy a BMW in Germany, drive it around Bavaria for a week and then have it shipped home.  He said something about avoiding some sort of import tax that way.  I am not sure.

We would have probably outgrown our current house pretty soon and would have moved somewhere bigger.   We’d probably would have argued about that house.  I would refuse to live in a ranch house or a house built after 1950.  Bryon would probably tell me I was being too picky.  I would  have dug in my heels on hardwood floors as opposed to wall-to-wall carpeting and Bryon would have eventually agreed with me because he would know I was right.  Bryon would have held firm that we would never have a swimming pool, trampoline or a swing set because they are liabilities.  I would have pushed to live in the country and Bryon would have probably said there was no effing way he was going to live in a place where he would need to buy a gun because of wild animals.

Now that has been ripped away.  I look at my future and all I see is nothingness.  I know it will be filled with new adventures and of course, time with Maddy but I don’t like not knowing what to expect.  I thought I had my life figured out.  I am not good at this “one day at a time” thing.  Not only do I  have have to mourn the death of my best friend and the love of my life, I have to mourn the loss of my future.  I know an optimist would tell me that my future is a blank canvass and I can color it any way I want.  Perhaps that is true but I didn’t ask for a blank canvass.

I also have to figure out who I am as an individual which is a daunting task.  The Kerry McKim that was Bryon’s wife, no longer exists.  I am not the same person I was on March 24, 2016.  My life forever changed when Bryon was admitted to the Surgical ICU on March 25.  I will never go back to being that version of Kerry McKim again.  The truth is, there are some aspects of who I am that got pushed to the back burner during my time with Bryon.  It wasn’t intentional.  He just always had ideas and sometimes my ideas went to the background.  And I let that happen.  He didn’t do it on purpose, though it did cause tension in our relationship at time.  Of course, now I am glad that I got out of the way and let Bryon accomplish what he needed to do since his time on Earth was limited.

Now I do get to do the things that Bryon never wanted to do.  I like to do boring things like take drives to check out scenery and Bryon couldn’t stand that.  To him, there was no point. I could go on an Alaskan cruise if I wanted or to a National Park (Bryon had no interest in going to the Grand Canyon even though I told him pictures don’t do it justice.)  I can live my life at a slower pace.  It could sometimes be exhausting keeping up with him though it was exciting.  I loved every minute of it.

However, I don’t revert back to being Kerry Sullivan either.  Kerry Sullivan was a young girl who was bored and wanted “more.” Bryon changed my world.  He challenged me.  He encouraged me.  He believed in me.  I am tasked with taking the best parts of being Kerry McKim and the best parts of being Kerry Sullivan and make them into some sort of newer version of Kerry McKim.  I just don’t want to be viewed as Old Widow McKim.  While I am definitely a widow, I don’t want it to define me.

So where does that leave me?  Everyone talks about stages of grief.  Personally I think stages are bullshit.  The first one is supposed to be denial.  I was never in denial that he died.  I watched him slowly die for five months in the ICU.  I can tell you that he never gave up.  He fought until the bitter end.  I think almost anyone else would  have given up long before but he kept fighting.  While he could communicate, he obviously couldn’t express himself fully and I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him to have to lie in a bed for five months, not being able to move and having to be dependent on me or a nurse for simple tasks like changing the channel on the TV.  He had his mind up until 36 hours before he died.  It must have been hell for him to be lying in that hospital bed without being able to articulate his thoughts.

The second stage is anger.  Well of course I am angry but that will be another post for another time.  Third stage is supposed to be bargaining?  Bargaining for what?  He’s not coming back.  Then desperation.  Again, he’s not coming back so I don’t know what there is to be desperate about.  The final stage is acceptance which is probably the only stage that makes any sense.  I don’t even know what it means to accept that he is dead.  I know he is dead.  I know because all the tasks he did are now my responsibility.  (I am beginning to wonder what I even brought to the table?  I think all I did before was change diapers and make sure there is milk in the fridge.  And I wasn’t even that great at the latter.)  I know he is dead because once in a while I think about something to ask him something and then I remember that there is no point in texting him because he isn’t going to answer that text.  I know he is dead when I am watching one of our TV shows and they make a joke that he would have found funny.  He isn’t there to laugh.  He wasn’t there to discuss the issues surrounding the election.  I know he is dead every night when I lie in bed alone. Even though I know he is dead, there are times where I think about certain memories where he was so full of life and then I think about him being dead.  Then it hits me me- the pang of disbelief.  Disbelief that someone so full of life can be gone.  That realization always takes me by surprise.  It stings.  Every time.

I also have to accept that even if he had lived, our future would have not been what we planned.  He would have had some long term medical problems.  Doctor visits to NYC or Boston would have become the norm.  We certainly wouldn’t be traveling on cruise ships in the middle of the ocean far away from American hospitals.  Before this crisis, Bryon liked to take care of everything.  It was as if his goal was for me to never have to worry about anything.  I am not going to lie, I enjoyed that and took full advantage of that.  I was thrust into the caregiver role and even if he survived, he would have been sick for a very long time, possibly for the rest of his life.  The carefree days would be over but I would have continued to fight for him.

Maybe this is some sort of “post acceptance” processing.  I know he is dead.  He is never coming back at least in any human form.  Some widows get upset about “being left behind.”  I am not.  I don’t want to be in Heaven or wherever spirits go when in the afterlife at least not until it is my time.  I want to be here and with Maddy.  But I am, in a sense, left behind to try to make sense of what happened.  I ask myself why at least once a day.  Why did this have to happen?  And why did it have to happen like it did?

Then there are all the other questions.  Did I do something wrong?  Did I miss something?  Was I not paying attention to something the doctors said?  Why would God let something like this happen?  What did we do to deserve this?  Why does Maddy have to grow up without her father?  When will all this pain go away?  When does it start getting easier?  When will I start to feel like myself again?  How can I feel like myself when I don’t even know who I am as an individual?  How much is Maddy aware?  Does Maddy even remember him?  Will Maddy grow up feeling cheated?  Can I give Maddy a happy life without her Dad?

So many unanswered questions.

The only question I can answer is- would I do it all over again even with the same outcome?  That answer is yes.  Not just because of Maddy.  I am a better person because of Bryon McKim.

BCM 08-28-1985 – 08-21-2016

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” ~Dr. Suess

 

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.

“On this day” should be changed to “More depressing sh*t”

I belong to a few widow(er) facebook groups and it comes up periodically that the “On This Day” feature on facebook is a minefield full of triggers.  The triggers aren’t just reminders of illness and death.  The triggers are also the happy memories because you are reminded of the life that you are missing.

Some days I didn’t talk much throughout my history on facebook.  But some days are chock full of memories.

On this day in 2009, I was attending the Midcoast Maine Young Republican Meeting.

On this day in 2010, I was having a bad day at work and wanted to go home and drink. Considering I was working in the ER, that sounds about right.

On this day in 2011, I was out of work for the weekend and I had a hot date.  Of course someone commented and asked what Bryon was doing that night.

On this day in 2012, I was at a Bruce Springsteen Concert at the Times Union Center with Bryon.  I also was pissed that the Red Sox blew a 9-0 lead and I wanted Terry Francona back.

On this day in 2013, I hated Windows 8. I still do.

On this day in 2014, I was wishing all Boston Marathon Runners Good Luck.

I apparently wasn’t doing anything on this day in 2015.

On this day in 2016, I had my first glimmer of hope.  I remember writing that facebook status and feeling relieved.  We were finally on the road to recovery.  I remember being told that he would probably be in the ICU for another month or so and then he would go to rehab for a couple months.

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But we now know that that road would never lead Bryon to recovery.  It’s like I can feel all the emotions I felt waiting for that road to recovery at the same time; the frustration, the anger, the sadness, the hopefulness, the desperation.  However, it is also mixed with the grief and emptiness I feel every day from Bryon’s death.

Those memories are always going to be there whether they are on Facebook or in my memory.  I can’t un-live it.  I can’t pretend it didn’t happen.  And I don’t want to forget my memories with Bryon.  We had too many good times.  I can only hope that as time passes, I can think about these memories without crying and being overcome with sadness.  I want to be able to look back and smile.

I must move forward and try to fill my future with happier memories with my daughter and my family and friends.

Honesty

I have tried to be honest about my grief through this whole process.  I usually do that in the form of blog posts such as this one.  I find that writing about my feelings helps me process them and I make my feelings public because it might help others. While it might only take you five minutes to read this blog post, it will take me hours to write this.  Sometimes those hours are spread over days.  I keep a written journal of sorts that I write down my thoughts and ideas that come to me as they are happening in their rawest forms and usually I review these journals when I write a blog post.  Sometimes my thoughts go straight on my google doc and I spent hours elaborating and organizing these thoughts.  I usually write about something that has bothering that particular week and I usually feel somewhat peaceful about that particular issue after I hit the publish button.  

There are times that a feeling comes on so strong and I can’t keep it in.  Like my blog posts, I need to get these issues out.  So sometimes it comes out in a post on social media.  Usually when I post on social media about something, I am upset and can’t wait to go through the process of writing a blog post.  When I post something in this state, I am venting.  I am not looking for sympathy nor am I looking for advice.  If I am looking for advice, I would be asking a specific question.  Usually when I post an emotional social media status, I don’t have anything left to debate or defend my position.

Usually the social media posts that spark the biggest reactions are those about religion.  There are some widows and widowers that never lose their faith in God and that is great.  I am happy for them.  I began my grief journey feeling that way.  I was actually fairly at peace when Bryon died but as time passed and I was left to deal with the grief, I was not comforted by God.  I have recently begun reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis and Lewis speaks about feeling like God has slammed the door in his face.  That is how I feel and I own it and I am honest about it.  I don’t take my loss of faith lightly and I resent it when people imply that I have.  I actually was very distressed about it in the beginning.  Aside from a few rebellious teenage years, I have tried to have a close relationship with God.  Being a good Catholic girl was a huge part of my identity and I was distressed that I was losing my identity on top of losing my husband.

I know that the comments about God being good and God allegedly loving me are well intentioned, it is actually like salt is being rubbed in my wound.  I have also come to the conclusion that a lot of these well intentioned people truly don’t understand what I have lost and what kind of pain I feel every single day.  And that is a good thing because I would never wish this type of pain on anyone.

Being told that I need to realize that life isn’t easy comes across as disingenuous to me and it demonstrates to me that my point is being missed.   I lost my best friend and the love of my life after less than four years of marriage.  Can people who have not had that loss truly tell me that they know how I feel?  Bryon was robbed of  the life he was supposed to live, the career he was working on, the places he wanted to go to, and the years he was supposed to spend with me and my daughter.  I was cheated out of my Happily Ever After and my daughter was cheated out of knowing her father and all her years with him.  I am tired of being told that the God that stole my daughters father from her is “loving”.  She’s 2!  What could a 2-year-old do to deserve that?

Sometimes I wonder if they need to reassure me of God’s alleged love not because I need to be reminded but that they need to reassure themselves.  I also wonder of people’s motives when they are trying to convince me about God’s alleged love.  Are bonus points given out for saving the widow?  I don’t need another church or another religion.  I am Catholic and will always be Catholic to some level.  I don’t need a new parish.  I will forever be grateful for the parish priest at my church.  He was there for Bryon, my family and me even when God was not.

I know this post might offend some people but I have spent too much time over the past 8 months worrying that I was offending people and this has caused stress.  Before Bryon got sick and passed away, I had the energy to deal with someone if they said anything rude or critical or insincere and by “deal”, I mean fume about rude, critical and insincere comments.  I also held back a lot of my true feelings.  But I don’t have the energy to fume.  If you cause that kind of reaction from me, I am going to take a step back.  I am going to take my space.  Because I just don’t have the energy to deal with anything negative.

There are a lot of assumptions and expectations about who I am based on who I was.  I touched upon that here.  But I am done being defined by others expectations of who they think I am.  I have spent my whole life worried about what people thought of me and not wanting to offend other people.  I can’t do it anymore.  I can’t hold back who I am, take care of my daughter, work 40 hours a week and grieve all at the same time.  I have to put my daughter and myself first.

I know that this post may upset people but I need to take care of my daughter and myself.  And those who are my true friends will understand and love me wherever my journey of self growth takes me.   Maybe I will find my faith in God renewed.  Maybe I will become a Buddhist.  Those who love me will understand that I am smart and I am strong and I am don’t need to be told what to believe.  I spent 38 years letting others have too much of a say in my life.  I need to figure things out myself and I need to be honest to my myself.  And I need to figure it out in my time.  I am processing my grief and soul searching and I am confident that over time, I will figure out what path I need to take.  The path that is best for me and the path that will lead my daughter into being who she is supposed to be.  And a part of me is actually a excited about the process.  I apologize that my self growth might make you uncomfortable but I will not apologize for doing what is best for me.

The Easter that should have been

We spent last Easter together in the ICU.  You were not able to communicate but I sat with you.  Our daughter spent the day with my parents.  Your best friend and his wife came.  They brought me a plate of food.

This year I have to go to the cemetery to see you.

Easter should have been different.  You should have been here.

You should have been with us on Thursday during our daughter’s Easter egg hunt party at school.  Since your best friends son attends the same school, you should have been there cracking jokes with your best friend.

You probably would have tried to get her to see the Easter bunny but let me tell you, her fear is real.

You should have been here Friday night when we dyed eggs with our friend and her son.  You should have been the one wincing when our daughter dropped a cup of green dye on the dining room floor.

You should have been at the Easter egg hunt yesterday at your best friends house.

You should have been there to see our daughter play with her Easter basket this morning.  Don’t worry, your princess got a basket fit for a princess.

If you were here, we would have gone to church where we would have done all that rejoicing and being glad.  Our daughter probably would have worn a proper Easter dress instead of her Elsa dress with rain boots.  This year Elsa and I opted out.

If you were here, you would have cooked dinner.  You didn’t care for ham so it would have been some version of beef.  We would have used our wedding china.  This year I made ham and used the everyday dishes because I couldn’t bear to look at our wedding china and think about all the holiday meals we would not be having together.

If you were here, you would have eaten peeps and I would have told you that they were disgusting.

But you are not here and if I want to see you, I need to go to the cemetery.  Easter went on without you but your absence was replaced with pain.  A pain as large as your personality.  Since you went into the hospital on Easter weekend, I get to be reminded of that weekend on the date and on the holiday.  But all I know is that going forward, I get to think about what should have been.

Brunette Catholic, blonde Buddhist or somewhere in between?

I always thought I had a strong sense of who I was.  And I never questioned my own authenticity.  Yes, on the outside I am from a small Maine town but many people don’t realize that I spent the first 14 years of my life in the Boston area.  I spent a semester abroad in England when I was 21.  Besides Boston, I have spent time in London, Paris, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, Houston, New Orleans, Vegas and many other cities.  I am fairly educated and worldly.  I just try not to be pretentious about it.

I have always been a rule follower whether it was my Catholic religion or sitting in school.  I was not a kid who got in (much) trouble.  I did get caught daydreaming a lot but there was a whole world outside whatever window I was looking out of.  I can’t say I never broke the rules in high school but I pretty much did as I was told.  I did not drink in high school or go to gravel pit parties.  I rarely stayed out past curfew (though my parents were pretty lenient as long as I called) though sometimes I stayed the night at my best friends house because she did not have a curfew. This created a kind of late night loophole that I would take advantage of. (Sorry Mom and Dad!)

I stretched my wings a little bit when I was in college.  A few weeks into my freshman year I decided to get an eyebrow ring.  It was 1997 and it was before they became popular.  It actually looked good on me though I don’t think any picture exists.  I didn’t think it through because I was heading home the following week and figured I would just take it out when I was around my parents.  My parents never saw it (though my brother saw it and he kept threatening to tell them).  I realized that I was never going to have the guts to wear it in front of my parents and I couldn’t handle the pressure of living a double life so the eyebrow ring didn’t last.

And of course, there was the road trip my friends and I took to St. Stephen, New Brunswick just so we could go to the bars when we were 19.  I remember walking along the Saint Croix River, pointing to the Maine side and laughing because we “couldn’t drink over there but we can drink over here.”  I always think of that trip every time I hear “One Week” by the Barenaked Ladies.  I wasn’t a saint but I kept myself out of trouble.

I was a very hyper and annoying kid and somewhere along the way, I figured that I had to bottle up my true self to fit in with people.  I would just sit quietly because I didn’t want to become hyper and weird and annoying.  I chose to only open up to a few.  I liked to participate in structured activities so I only had to discuss the topics on hand.

After college, I started dating the guy who would later become my ex-boyfriend.  I think of him as kind of an anti-Bryon because he was the exact opposite of Bryon.  One could argue that Bryon was the over correction of this guy. I could probably write a whole post on him and what I learned from that relationship.   In very general terms Bryon was a Catholic, Republican, manly-man who loved sports while the anti-Bryon was a Protestant, Democrat, non-manly man who preferred science fiction to sports.  Another big difference was that Bryon actually liked me while the anti-Bryon did not.  I think I was someone who paid for dates for two and a half years.  He never embraced me for who I was and I spent two and a half years trying to be the woman he wanted.

After I broke up with the anti-Bryon, I got absorbed into the world of politics and most notably, the Young Republicans.  I embraced the lifestyle of Republican politics and I wore suits, heels, pearls and the Sarah Palin hairstyle.  I loved politics because it was like I was an actress playing a role.  I didn’t have to worry that I was shy and awkward.  Politics gave me a way to relate to people.  It was also during my time in politics that I learned conversation skills and poise.

Politics led me to the best years of my life.  My years with Bryon.  The years where I became a wife and mother.  And like everything else, being a wife and mother provided me with a role that I was more than happy to assume.  Bryon did love me for me but relationships are always filled with give and take.  Bryon had the successful career and I pretty much was content to live in his shadow.  It might have caused some contention between us at times but I don’t regret it. Especially since he apparently wasn’t meant to be here as long as the rest of us.

I have heard that during widowhood, you begin to question everything you once believed.  I thought I had myself and the world all figured out.  While I learned that I am much, much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for, I also learned just how much Bryon overcompensated for my weaknesses.  I don’t have him to cover for me anymore. I have learned that I can count on my family and I have also learned which of my friends are actually my family.  I have learned who I can’t count on (some were surprising) and which friends really weren’t friends. I learned that you can’t put all your faith into the healthcare system and that the healthcare system can fail you.  And I learned that God  doesn’t care if you did your best to be a good Catholic girl for over 30 years.

All those years of trying to fit into roles and groups has left me with a repressed free spirit.  I have always had a free spirit that gets antsy and wants to see the world.  It used to drive Bryon nuts when I wanted to day trip to anywhere, as long as it was out of Albany. He usually indulged me. I also have a creative side.  I am still in the process of trying to let those parts of me out.  I have been running.  I have been travelling.  I have been cooking new recipes and putting together furniture from IKEA.  I have been reading about Buddhism to try to stay Zen.  I have been in the process of changing over to natural cleaning and beauty products.  I plan to have a garden this summer and learn how to can vegetables.  I tried to dye my hair blonde but that didn’t work.  And don’t be fooled if you ever see all the books on my nightstand.  You might see titles that consist of history, religion, politics, business, memoirs, parenting and grief/self help but the last two books I read consisted of one by the Long Island Medium and the other was Jodie Sweetin’s memoir.  Candace Cameron Bure’s memoir isn’t proving to be nearly as exciting as Jodie Sweetin’s memoir.

I realize that I was just afraid.  I have been afraid of success and I have been afraid of failure.   I have been afraid to let people see the real me.  I had a clearly defined past and I have been afraid to stray from the expectation of who I am supposed to be.   I have been afraid that if I tried something different or learned about something different that it might change how I think.  And if I continue to be afraid, I will never fully live and I must fully live to be an example for my daughter.  So my daughter can grow into the woman she is supposed to be.