If I can give you one piece of advice- this would be it

When one goes through a trauma and/or profound loss, it changes every aspect of your life.

It changes your daily routine.

It changes your sense of security.

It changes your health.

It changes you sense of identity.

Everything you have ever believed gets questioned and your life goes into turmoil.

During my time of turmoil, I have decided to question everything I have ever believed and there have been changes to my thought patterns.

I learned not to worry so much.  I can’t change my past so I no longer obsess about my past choices and regrets.  There is so much about the future that I can’t control, so I don’t worry about that.  There was no way I could foresee what would happen to Bryon and it happened.  I can’t control what happens tomorrow, next week, next month or next year.  I can just live my life and try to make the best decisions I can.

My tolerance for bullsh*t is so much lower, if it even exists at all.  I have learned that life is too short to deal with inauthentic people who have no regard for your feelings and are trying to make your life more difficult.

I had always been a rule follower.  Bryon used to give me hard time about it.  Some rules are meant to be bent, some broken and some are silly and shouldn’t be followed at all.

During this season of my life, I have thrown myself into a period of soul searching.  I have learned so much from reading books and blogs, from heart to heart talks with close friends and from watching YouTube.

I am always up for a conversation pondering the meaning of life and how to live one’s life to the fullest.

I am not a guru but if I were to offer one piece of advice, it would be that you need to love yourself.

It might sound cheesy but you can never be happy if you don’t love yourself.

Too often, we are taught that the needs of others should be put above your own.  Any mother knows this.  Our kids come first and we neglect ourselves.

But we are actually doing our children a disservice by not allowing ourselves to be happy.

If my baseline is to be unhappy, my daughter will pick up on that. She will grow up learning that you are supposed to be unhappy.

People often think that I am a happy person because I have a cheerful disposition.

I had them fooled.

I was never truly happy.

I have always relied on others to make me happy.

Happiness was measured by how many friends I had and who I was friends with.  For someone focused on that, I never had many deep friendships.

And when I was married, I relied on Bryon to make me happy.

The whole part of Jerry McGuire where he says to Renee Zellweger “You complete me” is complete and utter bullsh*t.

No one can complete anyone.  We have to be happy and complete within ourselves.

I grew up with very low self-esteem.  I didn’t date much and I measured my self worth by this.

I had one long term relationship at the end of college.  I often refer to this guy as the “Anti-Bryon” because they were opposites on many things.  The “Anti-Bryon” did not appreciate me and tried to extinguish my spirit.  Though I don’t think he necessarily did that intentionally.  I think he just vibrated on a lower level of energy.  When we broke up my Grandma Sullivan expressed that she was disappointed that we had ended our relationship.  She had liked him.  I told her that the Anti-Bryon had no intention of marrying me.  My grandmother just said “You’re right.  He didn’t have enough zip for you.”

God, I miss my grandmother.

Needless to say, I let how the Anti-Bryon viewed me to affect my self-worth.  When I am in love, I like to express it verbally.  (Actually, I am told I express a lot of things verbally, not just love.)  I would tell the Anti-Bryon that I loved him and he would get annoyed and respond with “random.”

And it was random, but I was expressing my love.  Which I feel should be done when you feel it.

If you express your love, the recipient should appreciate it.  I mean, as long as you are doing it in a non-creepy manner.  If you express your love to a complete stranger in a public place then that recipient would be justified for not appreciating it.  But if you are in a committed relationship, then you should be able to tell your significant lover that you love them, gosh darn it!

I began to realize that the Anti-Bryon was with me for convenience.

Eventually, I decided that I deserved better.  I deserved to be loved.

The Anti-Bryon and I were supposed to stay friends but that didn’t last long.  Our friendship started to take after our relationship.  As in, I was doing all the work.  I remember chatting with him on Instant Messenger in Late October in 2004.  I told him I was volunteering on the 2004 Bush Campaign and that I had just been diagnosed with bronchitis but I was still going out to wave signs.  I was excited.  I was telling him because we were friends and he barely seemed interested.  I mean, he also was a Democrat so that may have played a little bit into it.  But it was at that moment that I realized he didn’t even deserve my friendship.  That was the last time we spoke.

I dated a little over the next 4-5 years.

Whenever I let my guard down, I was rejected.  This took a toll on my self-esteem.

I got strung along.  Like on How I Met Your Mother.  I was always on some guys hook.

Then one day I said “F*ck it.”

Inspired by one of my favorite movies of all time, Kate and Leopold, I decided to take Leopold’s Victorian dating advice and not give a man my time unless he made a “proper overture”.

Enter Bryon.

Bryon did not string me along.

Bryon did not keep me on his hook.

Bryon made a proper overture and made his intentions known.

And we should have lived happily ever after and in some respects we did.

We loved each other fiercely.  We were good for each other.

But no relationship is perfect.

Our relationship was not perfect for many reasons.

One of the reasons our relationship wasn’t perfect was because I did not love myself.

I recently read Don Miguel Ruiz’s book , The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship: A Toltec Wisdom Book.  It is a continuation of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) which is based on Toltec Wisdom.  I highly recommend both.  (The link is an Amazon affiliate link which means if you click on it and decide buy it, I probably get, like, $0.04 or something.  Why not?)

In The Mastery of Love, Ruiz discusses how there are two people in every relationship and we are only responsible for our happiness.  The other person is responsible for their happiness.

In order to thrive in a relationship, one must look inward and be happy and complete with themselves first.  Ergo, Tom Cruise was full of sh*t in Jerry McGuire because no on can complete you.

So Bryon and I were in a marriage and I was expecting him to complete me.

I wasn’t happy with myself.

I relied on Bryon for my happiness.  This was not fair because he was not responsible for my happiness.  I was.

He definitely tried to make me happy.  He offered me the world and I still wasn’t happy with myself.

I know I frustrated him.

I was unhappy with myself and often, that unhappiness would spill over into our relationship.

Any other guy probably would have left me but Bryon made it clear that I was stuck with him.

I felt so poorly about myself that I never understood what Bryon saw in me.

I felt he could do better.

I can’t speak for Bryon’s half of the relationship and his thoughts.   Those thoughts died with him. It is easy to put your deceased spouse on a pedestal but I know he wasn’t perfect.  But I would love to be able to discuss this with him.

I wish he could see how much I have grown.

Though if he were still alive, I probably wouldn’t have grown.

But I can’t help but wonder how much stronger our marriage would have been if I had been happy with myself.

Bryon loved me at my worst.

My next husband will have the better version of me because now I love myself.

I just don’t want people to have to go through what I did to realize how important it is for you to love yourself first.

 

 

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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.

Turning a new page

I feel like I have just come off some sort of grief bender.

I thought I was in a good spot when I was coming up to Bryon’s deathaversary.  (My widow blog friend Lisa says it perfectly when she refused to call it an angelversary.  She said that even if you sugar coat a turd, it’s still a turd.)

But August 21st came and I was pulled into the strongest period of grief I had felt.  Sure, a year had passed but the fog had lifted. So the deathaversary made me relive those memories of Bryon’s death without having to fog to soften the pain.

The grief cycle was further exacerbated by the fact that his birthday was a week later, my birthday two days after that and our daughter’s birthday a month later.  

There also was our engagaversary and the excitement of my daughter starting her preschool year and a new year of gymnastics and dance. 
I tried hard to stay positive during these events because they are happy occasions. But it’s exhausting.  Grief is exhausting, period.  Especially raw grief.  It takes a lot of effort just to focus on life in front of you and not think about what happened.

For five weeks I have been in this deep form of grief. I haven’t written much in this blog because I didn’t know how to articulate this grief.  

September 29 would have been our fifth wedding anniversary.  It would have been our first milestone anniversary.  

I figured it was my anniversary and I still deserved steak.  So I took Kimmy Gibbler out for lunch.

Crab and Lobster Fondue
7 oz filet mignon. Side of Red Bliss Mashed Potatoes. Not pictured: Orzo Mac and Cheese and Haricot Verts
Molten Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Bean ice cream

The meal still looked pretty good in leftover toddler dinner form.

Now I want to spend the rest of year two focusing on myself and healing.  Not just healing from Bryon’s death but healing all of me. I have always suffered from low self esteem and have always hated myself. Bryon used to tell me that it hurt him to listen to me talk about myself the way I did.  But it was more important for me to keep hating myself than it was to stop talking about how much I hate myself in front of Bryon.

So it is going to stop.  I need to do this for me. For Bryon’s memory. For my daughter. I am her primary influence and I don’t want her to pick this up.

I do think I am off to a good start.   I have been surrounding myself with positive people who make me (and each other) feel good.  There is no law stating that if you have a negative person in your life that you need to keep those people in your life. If someone tears you apart- set them lose.  If you spend more time fuming about something a friend did than having positive experiences, then they may not be a friend after all.  Focus on your real friends. There is no room for toxicity in your life.

I am spending the rest of year two focusing on healing, gratitude and positivity.

I am also embarking on some physical goals.  I recently joined an amazing new gym.  Running was stressing me out so I am on sabbatical but will restart after I lose some weight and become stronger.  I also signed up for Macro (macronutrient) coaching.  I decided that in order to love myself, I need to take care of myself.  

So if you see annoying fitness posts here and on my Instagram and Facebook, I am sorry.  Actually I am not sorry. I need to be holding myself accountable.
I also need to do the things that I need to do to be happy. I need to learn new things, try new recipes, be creative, spend time with my friends and family and travel to at least one new place a year.

I need to do this.

Living without an agenda

I am a girl of a lot of contradictions.  I am part city girl and I am part small town girl.  I am a quiet introvert but I am also social.  I am part girly girl and I am part tomboy.  I am part homebody and part world traveler.  I attributed my contradictions to the fact that I spent part of my childhood near Boston and part in rural Maine.  But I have also learned that it is typical of my INFJ personality type.

Due to the contradicting nature of my personality, I found that I clung to the aspects of my personality that were more absolute.  I might not know if I am a city girl or a country girl, but I am a New England Girl. I love the Boston Red Sox and fried clams. My heritage and religion stayed the same so I clung to the fact that I am an Irish Catholic. I created an identity for myself and I stayed strong and true to this identity.  I have seen this referred to as a fixed identity.

I also liked to live within my comfort zone.  I did not take risks in my personal or professional life.  I worked hard and moved up in my career, but I never pushed myself to try something unknown.  I never was one to let my guard down in my love life and I would never dream of telling anyone how I felt.  I never would have wound up with Bryon if he didn’t take a risk on me.  

I lived my life with my strong fixed identity in my comfort zone.  I never challenged why I believed certain things.  I never left my comfort zone and therefore I inhibited my own personal growth.  I clung to my likes and dislikes without revisiting them to see if they changed.  I also chose friendships based on how they fit into my fixed identity.

I was a wife and mother.  I worked in healthcare data.  I was an Irish Catholic.  I knew there was a God and that God was loving.  I knew where I stood on the political spectrum.  I knew who my friends were.  Bryon and I lived a life where we had a modern view of traditional gender roles where we both worked, but Bryon did the work around the house and the yard and killed bugs and I changed diapers, made sure there was milk in the fridge and unsuccessfully tried to keep up with the laundry.  Bryon was a proud husband and father.  He worked hard to provide and he didn’t want me to worry about anything.   I worried about things that weren’t really problems, but Bryon always assured me that everything was going to be okay.  I lived a very safe and secure life.  I was happy with my life and felt no need to question my identity or push myself out of my comfort zone.

Then the crisis hit.

In a five day period my husband went from recovering from a minimally invasive surgery to clinging for his life in the ICU.  I was not prepared for this outcome.  We were at a large regional medical center.  Up until this point, I believed in the healthcare system and that it worked.  This wasn’t supposed to be happening.  

I didn’t know what to do. Bryon always made sure everything was alright and now I had to be the strong one.  I wanted to curl up and pretend it was all a bad dream because it didn’t feel real.  But I had to stay strong for him. How could I expect him to survive if I gave up on him?  I felt helpless.  I was at the mercy of the doctors and God, both of which failed us.  

I vowed to myself that if Bryon had survived, I was going to be a better wife.  I wasn’t going to take him for granted.  I knew that if Bryon was to survive that he would likely have some permanent damage to his body.  I started to think research who the best doctors were in Boston and New York.  Life wasn’t going to be how we envisioned, but that didn’t matter.  All that mattered was Bryon surviving.

For five months, I was at Bryon’s side while trying to make our daughter’s life as normal as possible.  The latter I was able to do with the help of my parents, the staff at my daughter’s daycare and my friends who filled in any child care gaps. For five months, I prayed for a miracle that wouldn’t happen and I watched him slowly die.

Enter widowhood.  

Widowhood is an ultimate game changer.

For five months, my life was mostly spent in an ICU room. For five months I listened to beeping machines and heard medical terms and jargon thrown around.  When Bryon died, I had to get re-acquainted to living in the world again.  It was a combination of widow fog and the re-entry shock that was similar to when I returned to the United States after studying in England for three months.

My life was permanently altered.  I had held out hope that Bryon was going to survive and now that hope was crushed.  It wasn’t like I went back to my old life.  I couldn’t go back to my old life.  Bryon wasn’t there.  He wasn’t just a detail in my life. He was my rock and our life was built around that rock.  The core of my life wasn’t just shattered, it was completely gone.  All our hopes and dreams were gone.  Bryon had spent years working on a career that would never progress past where he was in March 2016.  We were never going to have our second child or buy a bigger house.  We weren’t going to take the cruises we were planning.  Our life was gone.  My life was gone.

When Bryon was in the hospital, my only semblance of normalcy was my daughter.  I still got up with her in the morning, I still took her to daycare, and when my parents would return to Maine periodically, I put her to bed at night.  And after Bryon died, the only thing that kept me going was my daughter.  I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed all day, but I had to get up and take care of my daughter.  She gave me a purpose to live.

When you go through this kind of loss, it changes you.  I learned that I was much, much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.  I learned that I am smarter and more resourceful than I thought I was.  I also learned that my threshold for bull sh*t is lot lower than I thought it was.

I learned what it meant to have courage.  Courage to wake up in the morning.  Courage to move forward with my career with a new company.  Courage to let people into my life.  Courage to let go of negative people who were self serving and tore others down.  Courage to share my story.

I have always been an introvert, but I learned that I needed people, more than I ever could have imagined.  I am lucky because I learned that I had a strong support system who continues to be there for me.  Before widowhood happened, I was content in my own thoughts.  But since Bryon died, I can’t be left in my own thoughts for too long or they become dark and intensely sad.  I need my relationships to keep me positive and hopeful of the future.  I still think a lot and I read a lot but chatting with my friends keeps me balanced.

After a crisis such as this one, every core belief you had is questioned.  How can I believe that a loving God would do this to me?  I believe in God, or a higher power at the very least, but I no longer believe that He is a loving God.  That opinion always upsets people but it upsets me that people don’t sincerely try to understand my point of view before defending God.   I am beginning to read up on Buddhism and it makes a lot of sense to me.  But I don’t think I will ever completely give up my title as Catholic girl.  

While I don’t think I am going to switch political parties anytime soon, I get frustrated on my party’s view of healthcare.  But I also get frustrated with the other party’s view too.  Both parties play a proverbial tug of war.  But the problems in healthcare are not on a linear spectrum.  The problems run deeper than just access and cost.  Who cares about if it’s accessible or how much it costs if there is no quality?  But people can’t understand that unless they live through something like this.

I’ve stopped worrying about the small things.  I take more risks.  One of the worst possible things that could have happened to me did happen and I survived.  The small things don’t matter.  You can change your mind.  Most decisions don’t have a lasting impact. Most things can be reversed or fixed.  

My identity is not fixed.  If I remain open, I might learn new things.  I may meet new people who could change my life.  I could open myself up to new experiences, new hobbies and new ideas.  I could have undeveloped dimensions of my personality that I never would have developed before I was convinced I knew who I was and what my plan was.  I was so concerned about the next five steps that I wasn’t truly living in the present.

Now there are very few things I can say with certainty.  That I will live my life in the present and focus on what matters:

I need to live my life to the fullest.  I owe Bryon that much.  He gave me so much during his short time here and I need to learn from him.  

I am going to make positive changes as the result of Bryon’s death.

And that I am going to be the best mother I can be and help my daughter be the best version of herself.  

And I am going to love those around me as hard as possible.  

The Growing Self Blogger Award

I am honored to be nominated for the Growing Self Blogger Award by no other than the awards creator- Roda!  It means a lot to me.  I have enjoyed reading Roda’s blog and especially reading about her farm.  Maybe the next time we are in Western Michigan, we will take a side trip and stop by the farm.

What is The Growing Self Blogger Award:

“The Growing Self Blogger Award has been created to acknowledge and celebrate amazing individuals, in the blogging community, who are persevering through life’s challenges not only to GROW as individuals,  but to reach out and help others GROW as well.” ~Roda

How Does It Work:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog
  • List the rules
  • Thank the individual that nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Describe the award and mention the creator: Roda  – Growingself.blog
  • Nominate up to 5 blogs.  Remember, the purpose of this award is to specifically celebrate those individuals that make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Give 1 reason why you nominated each individual.
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

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I am honored to nominate the following bloggers:

*I understand that not everyone chooses to be a part of the award nomination process. By nominating the following blogs, I am able to show thanks and appreciation for the joy, knowledge and laughter these individuals have brought to my life. If you choose to take part, that is fantastic! If not, no worries! Just keep writing…

 

Just because I am a widow…

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that I can’t make my own decisions.  Please stop second guessing my choices.  

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean I am helpless.  I am actually the opposite of helplessness.  I watched my spouse die.  I survived something that most people can’t even imagine.  I might need help with some tasks, but don’t misconstrue that as helpless.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that you can ignore my feelings and dismiss them as part of grief.  Trust me, I have don’t more thinking in the past year than I did my previous 37 years.  My feelings are very well thought out.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that I need to defend my feelings, especially those about God.  A widow is allowed to be mad at God.  It is not your place to scold her or re-educate her.  It’s up to the non-grieving to be supportive and understanding.  

Just because I am a widow, it doesn’t mean I need to put up with poor treatment.  I have been through something so horrendous that you probably can’t even comprehend.  I miss my spouse and I can be lonely.  But I am used to being lonely and I would choose that over being around people who treat me poorly.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean that I don’t have responsibilities.  I have a full and busy life.  I am not just sitting around my house.

Just because I am a widow doesn’t mean you can tell me how to raise my child.  I am capable, thank you.  My child is happy and well taken care of thank you.

Just because I am widow doesn’t mean I am desperate for love.  (This one is directed to all the scam Twitter accounts that started following me.  The ones that when you look at who they follow and they are all widows).  Trust me, I had the love of my life and I lost it.  When I decide to date again, it isn’t going to be with some random, bogus Twitter account.

 

A better version of myself

I am always wondering “what if”. What is Bryon hadn’t died?  What if Bryon hadn’t gotten sick?  What would we be doing?  How would the crisis have affected our relationship?  I think about Bryon playing with our daughter.  I think about Bryon hanging out with our friends.  I think about going to political events with Bryon and our daughter.  

Usually when I visualize how life would be with Bryon and I, I am imagining life with him at his healthiest.  I have no idea what long term effects he would have had if he had survived.  I know we wouldn’t have been able to go on a cruise (our favorite way to travel).  In fact, I would have been nervous travelling anywhere that was not close to a large medical center, let alone on a ship in the middle of the ocean.  Had Bryon survived, our lives would have been drastically different.  

But Bryon didn’t survive and our lives are drastically different.  And one of the things that is drastically different is me.

As the crisis began to unfold, I had to change.  I went from being one half of a two person team who took care of a toddler and I instantly became one person who had to take care of her critically ill husband, our toddler and myself.  Everything became my responsibility, plus I had to stay on top of Bryon’s care.  Luckily I had help.  My parents did take care of my daughter and when they had to go back to Maine periodically, friends would step up and take care of her.   Friends prepared meals and did tasks around my house, like mowing my lawn.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to tell Bryon because he was going to be proud of me for rising to the occasion.  

I also remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to fill Bryon in on everything that had happened.  I filled him on some of it, but I was waiting until he got better to tell him some of the events that had transpired.  I vowed to myself that Bryon would have known everyone who helped me and our daughter.  There were certain people who should have been supportive and always had high expectations from Bryon who offered little to no support and made my life difficult but I did not tell this to Bryon.  I didn’t want to stress him out and I figured I could tell him when he was well again.  But of course that never happened.

Before this crisis, I was a very different person.  I was innocent and ungrateful.  I did not know how good my life was and I never dreamed something like this could have happened.  Through this crisis, I learned I was much, much stronger than I ever thought I was.  I think everyone has that potential for strength during a crisis, though you have to choose to be strong and not fall apart.  

I have much more confidence in my abilities than I did before.  I used to care what other people thought, but that changed quickly.  When you are a widow, people think they have a say in your decisions and how you live your life and are quick to tell you how to live your life, how to grieve, how to spend your money, how to parent- the list goes on.  I survived one of the possible worst case scenarios that could happen in my life.  I am sure I can survive anything else, even any consequences for any potential screw up that might be my own doing. (Take away point- if you feel like giving a widow any unsolicited advice, just don’t.  We are capable of seeking help and if we wanted your opinion, we would ask for it.  No ands, ifs or buts.)  

Another effect of going through one of the two possible worst scenarios imaginable is that I don’t live in fear anymore. I survived.  It’s not easy, but it’s been 15 months since that day that Bryon went into septic shock and I am still here.  I am still in my house.  I am working.  My bills are paid.  I have travelled.  My daughter is happy.  Fifteen months ago, my life crashed down and I had no clue how I was going to do it without Bryon but I am.  I miss him so much that it hurts, but I am surviving.  I don’t fear what comes down the road because I realize that things can easily fall into place and am open to opportunities.

I don’t stress on unimportant decisions.  I used to be a person that would stress about picking two items on a restaurant menu.  Now I realize that there is no need to stress about things like that because that isn’t an important decision.  I should just go with the hamburger and if I don’t like it, I will go with the turkey club the next time.  I no longer sweat the small stuff.

I am open to friendships now.  I am an introvert (though some online tests call me an ambivert which is technically in the middle of the introvert-extrovert scale) and I usually just kept to Bryon and a very few close friends.  I had a lot of walls and I never let my guard down.  After this crisis, I have learned to let others into my life.  It’s okay to need people and it’s okay to lean on them.  I have learned to embrace the love that comes with friendships.

While I am more open to friendship, I don’t tolerate being treated poorly anymore.  I don’t tolerate B.S.  If you can’t be supportive of me or my daughter, then you don’t get to play a role in our lives.  Grief is exhausting and I don’t have the energy to deal with people who cause drama and make me feel bad.  As one of my closest friends says “less negativity and more high-fives!”

But I used to seek the approval of other people, but now I know that the only people that I have to answer to are myself and my daughter.  For the first time in 38 years, I am being true to myself and I have the confidence to work toward my dreams.  To live the life I want to live.  And even though I am tired and exhausted all the time I feel like I am a better mother.  Sure, I seem scattered and forget stuff, but instead of being concerned being a good mother and appearing as such, I just focus on my daughter.  Not what others think (though I will use self-deprecating humor from time to time). I also am not concerned about being the perfect family because it’s just my daughter and me.  Now I am just concerned about my daughter being happy and I know that (in addition to covering her basic needs-very important), it is my job to make sure she becomes an independent adult and that she becomes of the best version of the person she is supposed to be.

I am a better version of myself.  The hard part of that I like myself much better now, but I would not be this person if Bryon were still alive.  I don’t like who I was then, but I would give up my new self if it means Bryon could come back.  But that is not going to happen.  I can only move forward with the life lessons that I have learned by loving Bryon and having him in my life.  I am a better person because of him.  Everyone that is in my life now knows that I am who I am because of Bryon.   In a way, he is a part of who I am now even if he is no longer here.