Year Three: I feel rage-ey (complete with cuss words) #sorrynotsorry

Here we are.

Another 365 days later.

The Earth has made another trip around the Sun since you left.

The shock is gone but I still feel the void.

“They” said it would get easier and that time heals all wounds.

Perhaps they are right. But I think it’s more like you get used to feeling the void.

And chances are “They”- whoever they are- are full of shit anyway.

People are full of opinions and are usually happy to give unsolicited advice.

And 99.98% of the time that unsolicited advice is shitty advice.

I’m doing okay.

Our daughter is doing well. Parenting her by myself was daunting at first but I think I got it figured out. Well, most of the time.

She’s a great kid. She is about to start kindergarten and she keeps busy with dance and swimming. She also played T-Ball last Spring and she will be doing soccer this Fall.

You would be so proud.

It makes me sad that she only has an interpretation of you based on stories about you and photographs. I wonder how much she knows about you. She saw the pictures of you making kissy faces at the baby turtles in Grand Cayman and laughed about it at another time. So she does think about you.

I talk about you often and I let her know that you love her very much.

The cat is still here. He is still cute even though he coughed up a hairball as I type this. But I still love him.

The first year without you was about survival.

The second year was about existing.

This third year has been about living again.

I have made some big life changes.

Moving forward without you is a struggle. For two years I tried to hold onto the life we had together.

But the more time passes, the harder it became.

Shit had to go.

I had to let go of unhealthy relationships. Toxic really.

I have had a lot of shit flung at me. Shit that never would have been flung at me if you were alive.

Because you would have never tolerated it.

Not on this planet. Not on any planet.

As life moves forward, it’s as if you remain frozen in time. I have come to accept that some people can compartmentalize you separately from how they treat me and your daughter. Or how they treated you when you were alive.

Our marriage had its struggles (all marriages do) but I never questioned your loyalty. You never gave me a reason too.

You always had my back.

I miss having you as an ally. At least, in human form.

But I have learned from it. I need people in my life who are loyal and deep and I finally think I have set healthier boundaries.

My only regret is not walking away sooner.

And people can say whatever they want to, or need to, to make themselves feel better. Even if a lot of it is probably shit.

Those people can fuck off.

I say that with love, of course.

Things are almost never what they seem.

I know it wasn’t practical to move forward with “our” dreams. Our dreams are empty without you. I have realized that it’s time to move forward with my dreams.

As time marches forward, I struggle with guilt.

Why do I get to live out my dreams when you can’t?

It’s so unfair.

And then I get scared because what if my dreams make me happy. Then I cycle back to feeling guilty at the idea that I could be happy in a life without you.

And it’s ridiculous because I know, with every fiber of my being, that you want me to be happy.

I am torn between knowing life is short and feeling guilty for living a full life.

You were such a big part of my life but the harsh reality is in my present life, you are no longer an active part of the equation.

That seems harsh but it makes me sad.

Very, very sad.

But we both know that no matter what my life brings in the future, we will always have those 8 years together. The good times and the bad. The Caribbean cruises and the nights at home, binge watching Breaking Bad, The West Wing, and Friday Night Lights.

Nothing can take that away from us.

I will carry them forever.

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Clear eyes and a full heart

Yesterday I got new glasses.

When I put on these glasses, I realized that they represented a lot more to me than I expected.

I first got glasses in high school. I was told I needed them for reading. Sometime between high school and college, I lost them and I never worried about it.

Since I like to measure time by presidential administrations, this was during the end of the Clinton administration.

My eyesight never seemed to be a real issue and I didn’t worry about it.

Sometime after my daughter was born (during the late Obama administration), I noticed my vision wasn’t what it used to be. Bryon showed concern and encouraged me to make an appointment with his eye doctor.

I made the appointment with Bryon’s eye doctor. His eye doctor was very nice. I liked him. And I got the glasses that I needed.

I even went to see him when I was sent home for work for conjunctivitis. My work did not require me to see an outside optometrist but Bryon thought it would be a good idea. Turns out I didn’t have conjunctivitis. I just had dry, red eyes that can happen to nursing mothers due to hormonal changes. He gave me some drops.

After Bryon died, I got the notice in the mail that I was due to an eye exam. But I couldn’t make the appointment.

Bryon had been a patient of this eye doctor since he was seven.

I didn’t know if his eye doctor even knew that Bryon died. Bryon’s death had been in the newspapers but I had no clue if he knew and I didn’t want to be the one to have to tell him.

I could handle talking to people that knew Bryon and knew he died and I could talk about Bryon’s death to people who didn’t know him at all. But I couldn’t be the person to tell someone who had known Bryon since he was a kid that he had died.

Besides, it would be hard to do an eye exam if I was messy crying.

So I avoided the eye doctor.

I threw that notice into a pile of papers that I called “shit I will deal with later”.

Things were fine.

And then I lost my glasses and I did not have a spare.

I tried not to worry about them.

I adapted. At least I thought I did.

But I knew the truth.

I knew I couldn’t put it off.

I am 40 and my eyes are not what they used to be.

For a long time after Bryon’s death, I bounced between the state of existing and the state of surviving.

But it’s time for me to start taking care of myself.

So I went to a different eye doctor.

And now I have my glasses.

My daughter approved of them because they are pink.

And now things are clearer.

Maybe a little too clear.

I recently watched an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where the family convinced Marie Barone that she needed glasses. Then she got glasses and she could see so well that she pointed out every physical flaw everyone had.

Well I looked in the mirror and I noticed every tiny flaw on my face.

I think I need a chemical peel. Or, like, 12 chemical peels.

At least a facial.

But now that I am seeing 20/20 again, I realized that this is symbolic of my life. As a transition to the next chapter of my life, things are just so much more clearer now.

Of course, some of that might be the fact that I have spent the last 3 years in deep thought and reflection.

Either way, I am seeing things for what they are.

The “blurriness” of my life has cleared up as I processed what had happened in my life, as I learned to cope with the events, as I realized how I let others projections and attitudes affect me and as I learn how to how I respond to all of these factors.

Now it’s time to look toward the future with a clear vision.

It feels fitting to end this blog post with a quote from one of Bryon’s favorite fictional characters, Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights- “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”.

Why Father’s Day can be painful.

For along time after Bryon died, I felt like I had to be both a Mother and Father to my daughter.

And if there is anything I can tell you from personal experience-

Being a parent is hard. Even if you have an active co-parent.

Being both a mother and a father is harder.

Being both a mother and father while grieving is super hard.

“Super hard” might be a lame adjective. I am sure my seventh grade English teacher would be pissed if she read that.

But on this morning, two days before the third Father’s Day without my daughter’s Father, I am grumpy.

“Super Hard” is the best descriptor I can think of in this comparison.

Other adjectives can include-

Exhausting- Being two parents is exhausting.

Lonely- Bryon isn’t here to share my daughters moments with.

Unfair- That feeling I try to ignore when I see other kids with their Dad’s and I know my daughter doesn’t have that.

Empty- That feeling I have when I had to write “deceased” next to her Father’s name on her kindergarten registration forms.

Annoyance: Every time I have to explain that her father is dead. My life used to be so f*cking normal and now it’s not. Now I am a square peg in a world full of round holes. And I didn’t ask for any of this.

Resentment- For the fact that I have to brush off other’s insensitivity. Why is that my job? Why can’t people just take a few seconds and think and be a little more considerate?

Maybe “pissy” might be a better descriptor.

Most days I don’t dwell on it, but I can’t ignore any of this on Father’s Day weekend.

For some reason Father’s Day bothers me much more than Mother’s Day.

Bryon was the one who bought me gifts but he made it clear that they were from my daughter, not him. Bryon liked to add they were not from him because I wasn’t his mother. Though I know he said it because it annoyed me.

It seems kind of ironic.

By Bryon’s logic, Father’s Day shouldn’t bother me.

After all, he wasn’t MY father. My father is alive. And my Dad is awesome too.

My daughter doesn’t seem fazed. But maybe she will when she gets older and reflects. Or maybe not. I can’t dictate how her father’s death may or may not affect her.

Father’s day stirs up so many emotions for me.

It reminds me of Bryon’s absence.

It reminds me of all the dreams we didn’t accomplish as a family.

It reminds me that my daughter was supposed to have a sibling.

It reminds me that Bryon will never get to see his daughter grow up. He won’t see her get on the school bus when she goes to kindergarten or see her walk across the stage at her high school and college graduations. He won’t get to walk her down the aisle when she get’s married.

It reminds me that my daughter was cheated out of her years with her Father. She was cheated out of the one of the most important relationships a girl ever has.

Since Bryon died, I felt I had to be both parents for my daughter.

To be her mother and to fill the void left by her father.

But I came to the realization that I can’t be both her mother and father.

I am just her mother.

I can try to be an awesome, kick ass mother.

But I am not, nor will I ever be her Father.

It is one of my parenting goals for my daughter to grow up and think that despite her Father dying, she had a good childhood. I hope that is what she thinks though I can’t control what she thinks about her childhood.

I can only try to be the best Mother I can and help my daughter realize her authentic self.

I can spend time with her.

I can read to her and encourage her to read books.

I can do fun activities with her.

I can travel with her.

I can play with her.

I can teach her things.

I can cook with her.

I can provide her with the best opportunities available.

I can take her to sports practices and go to her games.

I can take her shoe shopping. She loves shoe shopping.

One day I will have to teach her about all the things that come with being a woman.

But the one thing I can’t do is be her father.

Bryon gave her life and he loved her very much.

There will always be a hole there.

Weird Weekend

This weekend has been a weird weekend.

I had originally written this as a Facebook status but I decided to expanded that post and post it in my blog here.

Friday was National Widows Day. I have a love-hate relationship with that day.  This day always triggers me.

I hate that we live in a society that doesn’t understand grief so much that widows need to bring awareness to our lives. I love the widows that are brave enough to work towards changing the narrative of grief.

I know this day is about awareness but it always reminds me that I had no choice.  I did not choose to become a widow.

I have never tried to run from my “status” as a widow.  It’s what I have to check on legal documents and widowed forms.  I can’t ignore the fact that this is my life.

While I wrote this blog as a way to process my grief, I also felt it was important to share my story for any widow who needed to read it.  Being a widow is a lonely place to be and if I could make even one person feel a little less alone, then sharing my story was worth it.

There are a lot of things I hate about widowhood.

I hate all the projections and expectations from other people that come with it.

I hate the unsolicited advice.

I hate that some people think I should be over it now.

I hate that some people still treat me like I am a delicate flower.  I think I have proven that I am one tough cookie.

I hate that I have to overthink everything I say.  I hate that I have to think “Wait, I shared too many memories of Bryon.  People are going think I am wallowing because I am not.”

I hate that I am an over-thinker.  I wish I can be one of those people who can easily put the past behind me.  Or maybe it’s not easier.  Maybe other people just have better coping skills.

And I don’t really hate being an over-thinker.  This is just the downside.

Friday would have been my grandmother’s 105th birthday. She was a big part of my young life. I have been told I am a lot like her so that’s probably why I related to her.  She died in 2004 and the age of 90.  We were lucky to have her as long as we did.  But I realized she died before Bryon came into my life.  He never got to meet her but he definitely heard about her.  I always thought about how Bryon’s death was the “before and after” moment of my life but the reality is that my life is full of before and afters.  And my future will have many more before and afters.

Bryon death is just the biggest before and after.

And once you have your biggest before and after- your life may feel like one long episode of This Is Us.   I can’t speak for all widows, but my mind time is no longer linear and slips in the past often but the past is a completely different world.  My memories feel a bit more vivid.  I don’t know if they actually are but when memories come to me, I feel the need to relish them. When Bryon was alive, memories came and went and I didn’t ponder them because he was right next to me.  But when a memory of him comes to me, I have to pause on that memory because that’s all of him I have left.

Friday was also the day I went to a funeral.  I wasn’t very close to this person but I knew him from politics and I have known his wife because we worked together.  We were friendly and had kept in touch through the years. She saw me and even in her grief, showed such concern for me which shows how kind of a person she is. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was okay.  I was there out of respect and to show support.  And to say a final farewell.

And I am Boston-Irish.  I have been bred to be able to handle funerals.  It’s like, my cultural super-power.

I noticed something similar when my other grandmother died a year and a half after Bryon died.  Everyone was very concerned and it wasn’t that I wasn’t sad that my grandmother died. It’s that I already survived one of my worst nightmares.  The truth is that it was more traumatic to bury my 30 year old husband in my 30s than it was to lose my 95 year old grandmother.  We were lucky to have her as long as we did. As long as my daughter outlives me, I am okay. I am not delicate flower.  I’m actually one tough broad.

Though when it’s my cat’s time, I will probably be a mess. He’s ten and Bryon and I adopted him before we were engaged. Through all the changes in my life, my cat has been there.

Saturday was Derby Day which was Bryon’s favorite day.  It was never really my thing but I celebrated for Bryon.  The world goes on as if Bryon never existed.  It’s to be expected really.  Why should I expect people to miss him as much as me? They didn’t live with him and they didn’t have a child with him

It’s a reminder to me of how easily people are forgotten. It has taught me that my daughter is my 1st priority because when I die, she will remember me.  If people have forgotten Bryon then there is no hope for me.  😂😂😂

Saturday I also celebrated two birthdays. The first was the party of a 4 year old.  It was really my daughter’s social engagement. I was just the parent tagging along because she is too young to attend birthday parties without me.  The second birthday celebebration was dinner celebrating one of my besties birthday. A reminder that there are happy times still to be had. And a reminder that birthdays are a privilege and should be celebrated.

So lots of thoughts going through my head.  A friend sent me an abbreviated version of this video. I am glad she did.  I found the full version of the video. It resonated with me.  Especially the parts of feeling like moving forward is like living in some sort of alternate universe.

I am so happy this video came to me today.  I am familiar with some of Nora McInerny’s work but I had not seen this Ted Talk.

Lately I have been struggling with the adjustment to my future.  I have accepted that Bryon has died and I have processed it as much as I can make sense of it.

But I am struggling to make sense of the future.  The life I thought I was going to live was taken away from me.

I am struggling with the concept that I needed to let go of the “before” in order to be able to live in the “after”.

And when you become widowed, you are not given any sort of manual on widowhood.  I have read a lot on grief and loss but not much on the adaptation to moving forward.

It also doesn’t help that I overthink everything but it’s who I am.

But watching this video was a huge relief to me because maybe I don’t need to let go of the “before” in order to live in the “after”.

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Since I’ve been gone

If you have followed my writing in any capacity, you may have noticed that I have taken a break.

Can I be totally honest for a minute?

I had to stop writing because I was just so sick of it.

I was sick of being a widow.

I was sick of feeling like I had to defend my feelings. It didn’t matter if those feelings were grief related or not.

I was sick of being put into situations where I felt like I had to defend my feelings.

I was sick of being defined by my grief and my widowed status

I was sick of all the projections and expections. From others and from myself.

I was sick of the grief. It’s not like I asked for any of this to happen to me or my daughter.

I was sick of people trying to take advantage of me. Plot twist: A few were successful. Ironically these people are usually the most vocally outraged when you set boundaries.

I was sick of the people who made me feel like less of a person because I had to accept their help.

I was sick of living a life full of empty dreams.

I was sick of people telling me how to grieve and how to widow.

I was sick of people thinking that they have a say on how I live my life. Everyone has a gosh darn opinion and most aren’t afraid to share it.

I was sick of people telling me that I needed to forgive God.

I had finally had enough.

I needed to retreat and recharge.

All my writing was private. For myself only.

I needed a break from y’all.

I don’t know why I said “y’all”. I am not a Southern girl at all. New England through and through.

And no, I am not dissing Southerners. My Southern friends will agree with me.

The reality is that when I created this blog, I wrote as an outlet to process my feelings.

A way to figure out my grief.

While I can’t say that I have totally figured this grief thing out, but it is much more manageable. Sure, grief still catches me off-guard at times but I know how to handle those emotions now.

I don’t need to write a 1200 word blog post every time the grief monster hits.

And even if I did write a blog post every time grief makes a visit, I do not feel like it would be beneficial to me or to you.

Unfortunately, life never goes back to normal. And how could it? I can’t go back to my life as a wife and mother with the absence of the husband and father.

There’s a gaping hole in what is now my former “normal life”.

And the only person who can fill that gaping hole is never coming back. At least not in any Earthly form.

So I need to figure out exactly what my new normal is.

I took this time of grief and emotional upheaval and purging to question everything I once believed.

I questioned all my relationships. I started to realize which relationships were real and which relationships were fake. Some were surprising.

Once you start seeing the truth, you can’t unsee it. Even if it’s inconvenient.

I now have no choice but to live my truth. At least, the parts of my truth that I have figured out.

I am still working on that.

But really, all of us should be searching for our own truths.

As I search for my truth, I don’t feel comfortable sharing everything.

But I will share what I can.

So what can be expected from my blog at this phase-

1) Any grief related material I feel a need to write about.

2) Aspects of soul searching that I feel called to share.

3) Race-recaps. I ran a race and I still need to write up a recap.

Turning Inward: It’s not you, it’s me.

So January is almost over and I haven’t blogged.

I started 2019 with big plans for the blog.  I even scheduled blog posts into my google calendar.

Then the New Year happened.

And I just didn’t feel like it.

Kind of like Forrest Gump when he decided he didn’t want to run anymore.

I started this blog as an outlet for my emotions and my grief.  I also had hoped to help others understand what a widow went through.

I have tried really hard to be open and honest about my grief.

I do not regret doing that.  Not for one minute.

I know I have helped people as I have also helped myself.

I experienced immense healing and I got to explore my new life and new depths of myself and my personality.

Things began to change.

But I found as time went on, I felt the need to censor myself in my blog.

I put my feelings out there and I feel like people took advantage of my openness.  That they were entitled to know everything and they were entitled to have a say about my decisions.

I got tired of people telling me how I am supposed to feel, how I am supposed to live my life and what my boundaries are supposed to be.

Especially when most people have not gone through what I had.

I have always been a very closed off person with a lot of walls.  Bryon was able to tear down some of those walls but sadly, it took his death to tear down the rest of the walls.

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I’m going to focus on another president and another wall. Because this is America and I can.  Yes, I can.

I believed that tearing down my walls and letting people in was one of my spiritual lessons that my soul needed to accomplish in this lifetime.

I still do.

But the pendulum went too far.

And now I need to learn how to set boundaries again.  Albeit healthier boundaries.

It’s okay to have walls but instead of huge 10 foot walls, I need some of those cute stone walls you find in New England.  Remnants of a colonial time, strong but low enough  to the ground that people can easily climb over them.

My blog stopped being my space.

A good friend of mine pointed out that I feel the need to explain myself in my blog and apologize for moving forward.

This blog, a place that was once therapeutic, has now become a bit of a chore.

Writing no longer felt therapeutic.

In fact, I began to wonder if the blog was hindering my growth and healing.

And it defeats the purpose of why I am writing in the first place.  At least, writing in a public platform.

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So I have decided that I am turning inward for the time being.

I will continue to write, but in my personal journals.

I have come to the realization that while I have been open and honest about my grief, it does not mean that I have to be open about every area of my life.  

It’s okay to keep some parts of my life to myself, my daughter and those closest to me.

And that is okay.

I will write in here when I feel called to write to.

Yes, I am passed the worst of my grief but I still have my moments.  And those moments will always creep up on me.

Or maybe I will be called to write about other aspects of my life.

Who knows?

There is a bright and long future ahead of me.

So for those who have always supported me and my writing, I thank you.

You will be seeing less of me here.

But this isn’t good-bye.

 

18 Lessons I learned in 2018

This is my final word about 2018.

At least on this blog.

Was 2018 really that bad?

Maybe.

But 2016 will always be the worst year of my life.

There was a lot of negativity in 2018.

And some very hard lessons.

I am grateful for those lessons because pain brings growth.

I absolutely refuse to carry that into 2019.

At the beginning of 2018, I felt like the year was going to end very differently than it began.

2018 started with the funeral of a good friend (followed by two more, one of which was my grandmother.) I also lost an old high school friend in July.

I traveled every month except July. Austin, Boston, NYC, Philly, Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee and Ohio. I spent a lot of time in Maine and it has felt good to be home.

I suffer from wanderlust and traveling has been good for my soul. It’s been part of my healing process.

It was a year of reunions. I saw my cousin three times and I saw my Chicago best friend three times.

And the year ended with a fabulous wedding between two amazing friends.

I am leaving with this list of 18 lessons I learned.

In no particular order-

Kerry’s top 18 lesson from 2018

1. I have come far from my early days of grief.

2. The Paw Patrol can fix anything. No job too big, no pup too small.

3. Forgiving people really is for me. A quote that reasonated with me was that by not forgiving, it is like you are drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. The offending party doesn’t care how you feel. In fact, they may enjoy that you are upset. So forgive and let to.

However…

4. Forgiving someone does not mean you grant them absolution for what they did. It just means you’ve let go of the anger for yourself. It doesn’t mean that the offending party is off the hook.

5. You are not entitled to anyone’s loyalty.

6. Be careful who YOU are loyal to and who YOU trust. No one is entitled to your loyalty and trust but don’t be stingy to those who do deserve it.

7. Let go of friends who took me for granted and don’t respect my boundaries. And that’s okay.

8. Boundaries are everything.

9. Truly appreciate the friends who are supportive and continue to truly be there for you.

10. I am an empath. Not to be confused with empathetic. Empaths absorb the emotions of those around them. It’s overwhelming at times. You have to work out your emotions vs others.

11. Empaths attract narcissists and I need to avoid narcissists.

12. It doesn’t matter where I go, Bryon will find me. He even found me on what would have been our 6th wedding anniversary while I was waiting for my lunch at a takeout window at a clam shack on the Maine Coast.

13. It’s amazing how much a 4 year old can teach me.

14. I need to stop trying to please people. Some people will never be satisfied.

15. It is important to love yourself.

16. Everyone is free to make their own choices You are only responsible for YOUR choices and no one else’s.

17. I can’t do the fake and superficial thing.

18. I am officially out of give a f*cks. I have no f*cks to give. All out of f*cks.

I do not know what is in store for 2019 but I am ready! It’s going to be a good year.