Weekly Gratitude #10: Three Years

Today is my blog’s birthday.

I started this blog as a way to process and cope with all the emotions I was feelings 5 months post-loss.  I was starting to “wake up” from the grief fog and I felt the need to share my emotions as I have noticed a dearth of information to help young widows.  I wanted my information out there so if another widow stumbled across it, they would know that they were not alone.

I also felt the need to share my story because I wanted others to understand the emotions that a widowed person felt, at least from my perspective.  After all, that is the only perspective I can honestly offer.

So much has changed since that time.

At that time I was somewhere between existing and surviving.

Now I am a survivor and on some days, I might even consider myself to be thriving.

Some locations in my story have changed.

Some characters in my story are the same, but some characters are different. I don’t doubt that all the characters in my life are there (or have been there) for a reason.

When I started this blog, my daughter was a toddler.  Now she is a kindergartener.

As I reread some of my earlier blog posts, I feel that strange dichotomy that widows feel.  The dichotomy where my old life and my old self feel current and they exist alongside my new life and new self.

My last two sentences of my first blog post really hit me hard.

“A part of me died with him that morning.  This is the story of the part of me that is still living.”

At that point in time, my soul was completely fractured.  I felt like an empty shell of who I was and I had no clue how I was going to move forward.

Now it is three years later.  I have survived.  I have grown.

Yes, a part of me may have died the same morning Bryon did but the part of me that is still living has forged ahead.

She has grown back into a whole, albeit different, person.

I want to thank all of you who have been a part of this ride.  As I said the other day, nothing ever lasts forever.  But I appreciate all of you who continue to travel this journey with me.

Weekly Gratitude #6: Thank you for being a friend

I hope you all can forgive me for being brief today.  I am writing this on the fly- between work and the festivities going on.  So I apologize for the brevity but please know that it comes from my heart just the same.

I just wanted to take a moment for thanking you for being there.

This post got started in my head because I have been feeling sappy lately and I got a special Christmas ornament in the mail from an old friend.  Isn’t it amazing?

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To thank everyone who has been a friend whether it means you are one of closest friends or an acquaintance.

I am grateful for my old friends, whether they are childhood friends, family friends, high school friends, college friends, political friends (those do exist!), running buddies, old roommates and neighbors, church friends and friends.  Thank you for always being there for me.

I am grateful for all my new friends.  You teach me that you can make new friends at any age.  A lot of my new friends are friends I made because of my daughter.  You know, parents of her friends in all her activities.  I am glad my daughter chose friends with cool parents.

I also appreciate the friends I have not met yet.

I am grateful for internet friends.  Special shoutout to my widow tribe, Sept 2012 brides and to everyone who takes the time to read this blog.  I hope someday to meet all of you.  Well, most of you.  I don’t want to meet anyone who is creepy that might be reading this.  Sorry.

I am grateful for the friends who may not be in my inner circle.  I am grateful for acquaintances who take the time to smile.  You make my day.  I am grateful for awkwardly placed friends in the “more than an acquaintance but maybe not a friend.”  Even if we don’t know each other well and aren’t a big part in each others lives, your kindness does matter.

I am even grateful for former friends.  Not all our times were bad and you sure taught me some tough lessons.  Maybe our paths will intertwine someday though some of you- probably not.  And that is okay.  I wish you the best in your life.

I am grateful for all of you, whether we talk daily or only catch up with years in between, whether we spend time in person or catch up on social media.

Even though I have embraced the loneliness of being a widow, having people who share their joy with me and my daughter does make life sweeter.  I can only hope that I am able to bring you some joy as well.

Thank you for being in my life.

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Weekly Gratitude #5: When grief turns into joy

The holidays are in full swing around here.

Last week we attended the Christmas Tree lighting in the next town over.  We had missed our towns tree lighting due to it being on the same night as gymnastics and swim.

There were crafts and treats and even a visit with Santa.

 

We saw the Grinch as performed by the Frogtown Puppeteers at our local (and historic) theater.

My daughter was in our local holiday parade with her Girl Scout Troop.

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We went to the Downeast Festival of Trees.  I had never been before.  I learned that the trees all have prizes and you put raffle tickets in the buckets of the trees you wanted.  My daughter took my tickets and put them into the buckets of all the trees with toys.

She also saw Santa again and told him she wanted a Barbie.  Because the 30ish she has now isn’t enough.

On Sunday my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop took part in the Wreaths Across America Ceremony.  My father, Local and District VFW Commander was a part of the ceremony.

This week we also had my daughter’s first school Holiday concert.  I am bummed out the Prime Minister didn’t attend but I guess he’s busy with the elections in UK that are wrapping up as I am typing this.  I am also disappointed that I didn’t get to dress her up as a Christmas Lobster.

(Bonus points if you got the Love Actually Reference)

The excitement isn’t ending any time soon.

But this week it dawned on me.

I spend so much time thinking about Bryon isn’t here to see our daughter grow up.

I don’t think about what a blessing it is that I get to our daughter grow up.

It doesn’t mean that it isn’t sad that Bryon isn’t here.

We will never forget him.  Never.

I will always think about the fact that he is missing whatever milestone we are celebrating or what fun event we are doing.

But maybe it’s okay to stop dwelling on it so much.

My daughter and I have many years ahead of us.  Years filled with busy, hectic weekends.

My daughter’s joy has always been my biggest priority.

My second priority has been thinking about Bryon, being sad and dwelling on his death and absence.

And my happiness comes last.

But maybe it’s time to swap the second and third.  It’s a hard thing to admit but being sad all the time is exhausting.

And I can’t believe that Bryon would want that.

My daughter and I are still living on this Earth and it is time to embrace life for what it is and enjoy it.

Weekly Gratitude #4: Luckiest Girl in the World

This morning I looked out at the ocean and I felt like luckiest girl in the world.

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I can think of a million reasons why I am not the luckiest girl in the world.  I have definitely had my share of bad luck.

But this morning as I looked out at the ocean, drinking my peppermint bark iced coffee, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Maybe it is because I am still here.   I survived.

Maybe it is because I have an awesome daughter and I enjoy all the time I spend with here.  Even if she does try to push my buttons sometimes.

Maybe it is because I live in such a beautiful place with four very distinct seasons.  I see the cycle of life every year.

Maybe it’s because of the peppermint bark iced coffee.  It is the Christmas Season after all.

For ever reason I can think of that I am unlucky, I can think of another reason for which I am lucky.  It is just about what perspective you choose to take.

 

Survivor’s guilt and forgiveness

I have been on this planet for 41 and a quarter years.

I have had lots of experiences throughout my life.  I have had the opportunity of education in two very different areas of study.  If you told 18-year-old Kerry that she would go back to school in her thirties and take classes such as “Anatomy and Physiology,” “Pharmacology”  and “Pathophysiology”, she probably would have laughed at you.

Though truthfully, 18-year-old Kerry did not know what pathophysiology was, so she would not have had any business laughing at you.

(Pathophysiology is basically the functional changes a body has to an illness.)

I have been lucky to have had met some great people and have traveled to some great places.

I ate some fancy dinners and listened to some very important people talk.

The dinners themselves were not that interesting.  It was almost always some form of chicken.

I have been lucky to have a career and own a home.

And most importantly, I have experienced love within marriage and motherhood.

I know I often lament about how I did not realize how great my life was during those years.

My life was great during those years.  And I should cut myself slack for not appreciating it.

Because that was Before.

Before IT all happened.

Before my life changed forever.

That version of myself stopped existing on March 23, 2016.

But after I lost everything- after I hit my rock bottom- it was impossible not to think about my years with Bryon and regret that I did not make the most of those years.

I took him, our marriage and our love for granted.

And I took our future for granted.  We were supposed to grow old together.

But we all know that life had other plans.  The proverbial curve ball.

True to my Boston-Irish-Catholic upbringing, guilt is one of the few emotions that my upbringing taught me that it was okay to express (anger and restrained amusement are okay too).

The first place my mind went was that Bryon’s death was some sort of punishment.

God was clearly punishing me for something.

Either that or he was punishing my daughter.  She wasn’t even two at that point, so I really don’t think she could have committed an infraction so bad that it would warrant losing her father.

I could write another whole post on my thoughts on God so I will save that for another time.

For another time when I feel like being preached at….

So God, or the Universe, or Whoever is in charge decided that Bryon’s life was over.

And my mind immediately starts searching for any reason that it could have happened.

Because Bryon dying did not make sense.

So I turned inward and figured this must have been some sort of punishment from God for something I did.

Who knows, maybe I did something in a past life to deserve this because I really do try to be a good person.

To this day, I will never understand why Bryon had to die.

I have accepted that I will probably never know that answer.

Maye God is just cruel.

Why do some people get to live long lives and why do some people have to die young?

But one thing I can tell you with all certainty is that survivor’s guilt is real.

I once heard that survivor’s guilt is your psyche’s way of trying to assume control in a situation where you did not have any control.

That makes sense to me.  When Bryon was sick, I never felt so helpless in my life.  All I could do was wait and hope for the best.  Luckily we had visitors but there was a lot of time where I read some fluffy books, said some rosaries and I organized all my pinterest boards.

For years, I beat myself up for taking Bryon for granted.  Maybe if I appreciated him more, he wouldn’t have had to die.

But it wasn’t until recently that I decided to cut “Before Kerry” some slack.

I have suffered from survivors guilt for over three years and I realize that it is time that I have to forgive myself.

There was no way I could have known.

I had a husband who loved me very much.  Sure we could argue.  We were two people who both had Mercury in Leo.  But we loved each other fiercely.

Frankly, there were times Bryon took me for granted too.

Our love and our bond was strong.  There was enough trust for us to be able to take each other for granted.

Isn’t this what life is supposed to be about- taking what we learn from life’s difficult moments and use them to be a better person.

I don’t recommend taking people for granted.

But “Before Kerry” was doing the best she could with what she knew at the time.

Aren’t we all just trying to do our best?

I remember one day just feeling completely beside myself.  Bryon couldn’t speak because he was on a trach.  I remember saying to him, out of complete desperation, that I wish I could have switched places with him.  As if that was even an option.  It wasn’t an option but yet it seemed like the best option.  He just looked at me and shook his head no.

I know he wouldn’t want me to feel this way.

I need to forgive myself so I can move forward.

Weekly Gratitude #1

If you have been a longtime reader of my blog (thank you!), you would know that I used to do a weekly gratitude post on Fridays called “Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday.”  It was a fun post to write every week.  I would put in a GIF of Marky Mark. Writing the post gave me a chance to look back on my week and share the highlights.

I stopped doing those posts at the end of 2018.

It wasn’t because I stopped having gratitude.  I just shared a lot about my personal life in those posts.

I didn’t write much because I was burned out.  I went through a lot of change and a lot of healing in 2019.

When Bryon died in 2016, my life changed and I had to heal from that.  Though I will never be 100% healed from that.  Because his death had changed me and his loss will always be in my heart.

2016 will always be the worst year of my life.  (Note to the Universe or God or whoever is in charge- please don’t view this as a challenge to be accepted.  Let it ride).

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2018 was a messy and awkward year. I learned a lot about relationships, human nature and myself.

It was a year that I realized I was totally alone in my grief. Truly alone. Sure, there are people who miss Bryon. Some people miss Bryon a lot. But with all do respect, no one misses Bryon as much as I do.

It’s not rocket science, but psychology does back that up. At least the Social Readjustment Scale does.

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The Social Readjustment Scale ranks life events and rates them based on the stress impact.  Death of Spouse is the number one stresses which ranks 100 on the scale.  Divorce is the second largest stressful event and that ranks at 73 and Marital Separation ranks at 65.  Jail term (63) and Personal Injury (53) round out the top 5.  You can have more than one stressful event and those events can add up to over 100.  But death of spouse is the single most stressful event.

I am not writing these words to be hurtful to those who also miss Bryon.  I am just trying to illustrate the point that his loss was very different for me than anyone else.  Many people are respectful of that, others are not.  Some people are supportive, others are not.  Some people say wonderful things, others said horrible things.

It was a harsh realization when I realized that I was seeking support from the wrong people.  I should have leaned on my online widow tribe more than people who knew Bryon.  Even though our stories are different, we have all experienced level 100 stress.

But this year, I had to turn into myself.

I had to set some boundaries.

This has been a year of change and healing.

I am grateful that I am here.

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And I finally feel inspired to write again.

I truly try to live a life filled with Gratitude.

I thought about bringing back Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday but I decided to retire that series.

I felt like I was just making a weekly list.  Which is fine but I came to the realization that I’d rather pick one thing and delve into it.

And if I ever do feel like making a gratitude list, I can.  Because I am the CEO of this blog.

I was a little sad to start over with a new series. I had 48 Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday and I was hesitant to start over at 1 but life is about change and growth.  I can’t be afraid of change.

I shouldn’t be afraid of change. My life has had enough change over the past couple of years that I feel like I am stuck in a revolving door.

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So I hope you will join me each week and think about the things that you are grateful for.

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Eaten words

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

2016 was the year Bryon died.

2016 was also the year of a lot of celebrity deaths.

I have very little recollection of which celebrities died that year.  2016 was a bit of a blur to me.

~Kerry’s 2016 recap~

~pretend there is a dream transition sequence like they had in 1980’s sitcoms~

The first three months were pretty normal.  It was winter.  We went on a cruise.  My daughter got an ear infection, pinkeye and hand, foot and mouth disease each about a week apart.  I got pink eye and viral pharyngitis.  Bryon did not get pink eye.  I started running again and signed up for a half marathon.  And Bryon and I watched a lot of 2016 presidential debates.

Then I spent five months splitting my time sitting next to my husband in an ICU room while he clung to his life and waiting in waiting rooms while he was taken off to procedures.  I cried a lot.  I prayed and waited.  Lots of people would bring me iced coffee that I subsisted on.  My daughter got another ear infection and we discovered she was allergic to amoxicillin because she broke out in hives.  

Then Bryon died. 

The biggest before and after moment of my life.

The last four months of 2016 I cried a lot and wondered what the f*ck just happened to my life.

~dream transition sequence~

I vaguely remember a lot of celebrities died.  However I can only remember three.

While we were on our cruise, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died.

Are Supreme Court Justices considered celebrities?  They are famous but does famous = celebrity?  That is a philosophical point I will have to ponder when I should be doing something more productive.  Though I do see a lot of fanfare for Ruth Bader Ginsburg on my Facebook Newsfeed so for the purpose of this blog post, Supreme Court Justices will be considered celebrities.

Bryon loved and respected Justice Scalia.  One time Bryon was telling me about a certain Bar that you can get admitted to where you can argue cases in front of the Supreme Court.  If I remember correctly, he said, if admitted, one of the best things was that his name would be read in front of the nine Supreme Court Justices.

Bryon never saw Mean Girls but I told him that I could imagine him having a Regina George moment.  I had to explain the whole Regina George thing to him.

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Once Bryon grasped the idea of Regina George’s popularity, he agreed.  He said he could totally see himself gushing “Justice Scalia sneered at me.  IT WAS AWESOME.”

We took an Eastern Caribbean Cruise in early 2016.  One that would be very ominous.  One omen being Justice Scalia’s death, another death being Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential run.  But don’t worry…I am not bitter about it.  Not at all.

The second death I remember was the death of Prince.  Or the artist formerly known as Prince.  Did he ever go back to being Prince?

I remember that because I was following a spoof Joe Biden Facebook account and when Prince died the spoof facebook account had a condolence posted with a picture of Prince William.  Bryon was aware at the point and I remember showing the meme and he smiled.  Or laughed the best he could.

And the third death of 2016 I remember was Alan Thicke’s death.  Dr. Seaver.

It was after Bryon was dead.

I remembered the fact that despite having a Facebook newsfeed full of Patriots fan, it was Bryon who showed me this genius video from Julian Edelman.

So yeah…I don’t remember much about who died in 2016 because one of the two most important people in my life died.

But I do remember being annoyed with seeing Facebook posts where people bemoaned the deaths of the celebrities.

Maybe these people were just paying tribute and I was blowing it out of proportion in my head.

At the time, this public grief felt disingenuous.

And I spoke up.

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Yes it is sad when someone dies.

These celebrities had family and friends and their death was going to leave a much bigger whole in their lives than us average folk.

Each person has a variety of layers of relationships.  The inner core will likely be your  family and very closest friends.  The next layer would be friends and family you aren’t close to and co-workers.  The next layer after that would probably be acquaintances.  Maybe you have a layer between friends and acquaintances for those people who are in that “more than an acquaintance but less than a friend” space.

Most of us have no more relationships after acquaintances.  Anyone else would be a stranger really.

But celebrities have tons of people outside that layer called fans.

If you are a fan, the celebrity can hold a cherished spot in your heart but that celebrity probably has no clue who you are.

When a celebrity dies, chances are your daily life is not altered.

Maybe, but probably not.

I felt strongly about it at the time.  But tonight, I am have to eat my words.

Admittingly, I was watching Golden Girls and thought about how sad it was that the only living one is Betty White.  I don’t want to think about a world without Betty White, so I won’t.

But tonight, I read the news story about Alex Trebek getting emotional.  I did not see the episode.  This evening slipped away.

I found myself thinking that I need to DVR Jeopardy because we don’t know how much longer we have Alex Trebek.

I am 41 and for as long as I remember, Alex Trebek has faithfully hosted Jeopardy.

He bridges a time in my life when my grandparents were still alive and we talked on rotary phones and cable TV was a new phenomenon to the present day.  If I wanted to watch him, I would actually have to walk up to the TV, which was probably small and black and white, turn a knob to get the TV to turn on and maybe even turn the dial if the TV previously was on a different channel.  If I was lucky, I wouldn’t have to mess with the antenna (because the only TV that had cable was in the living room).

I work in oncology data.  The best way to describe what I do is that I am the person in between the patient record and government statistics.  Our data is also used in medical research.

I truly hope Alex Trebek beats the odds.  But working in oncology data, I know Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer is a grim diagnosis.

I am in awe of Alex Trebek because instead of retiring, he chose to continue hosting the show.  He chose to be continue to be there for us when he doesn’t have to be.

And from what I read in the news, he is tolerating chemo pretty well.

But life is fragile and illness can bring complications.  Complications that we may never be prepared for.

I don’t want to think about it.  So I am going to end this blog post abruptly and stew in my eaten words.  And enjoy watching Alex Trebek for as long as I am able.