I know I have come a long way in my healing journey.
I was still sad.
But the sadness didn’t debilitate me like it did a year ago.
I was still able to function and go about my daily business.
I went to the gym.
I abstracted cancer cases.
I took my daughter to a bounce house place because dance class was canceled. She burned some energy.
But I still felt sad.
I was being hit with a grief wave.
But I am far enough into my grief journey to know the best way for me to cope.
My view on grief waves can be shown on this very hi-tech, wicked awesome graph I made. Sadly, I spent more time on it than I care to admit.
Everything is moving forward, as shown in the green.
The black line represents time which moves forward at an even, steady pace.
The blue shows the grief waves which are more turbulent in the beginning but decrease in intensity as time moves forward. (Though beware, you can get a rogue grief wave at any time. I just did not demonstrate that because, frankly, there wasn’t enough room.)
The red line represents healing. It is all over the place.
For me, I have learned that it is better to just go with the grief wave than fight it.
Lots of widows have their own grief mix. And if they don’t- they should.
So I am going share my top ten favorites from my grief mix. Not all songs are about death. Some are about breakups but my only major requirement for a song to be in my grief mix is that it is sad and there are at least a few lines or verses that resonate with me.
I wasn’t going to put them in any particular order but I could hear Bryon tell me that I can’t have a half-assed song countdown and that I need to count down like Casey Kasem.
Without much further ado, here are my top ten songs from my grief mix.
10. Didn’t We Almost Have It All by Whitney Houston
9. All Out of Love by Air Supply
8. Could’ve Been by Tiffany
7. Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks
6. Don’t Cry Out Loud by Melissa Manchester
5. All By Myself by Eric Carmen
4. Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton
3. Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday by Stevie Wonder
2. It’s So Hard To Say Good-Bye to Yesterday by Boyz II Men
1. Take My Breath Away by Berlin
What songs do you listen to when you are feeling sad?
I have been told that I have a big mouth. And that this mouth is going to get me in trouble.
I have been told that I inherited it from my grandmother’s. She was a civic activist in her town and her mouth got her into trouble. Though I think her mouth did the city a lot of good. The people who didn’t like probably were up to no good and didn’t like being called out.
I almost got into an internet pissing match today.
Because I opened my mouth.
So today was Valentine’s Day. I did okay. Thanks partly to a shit-ton of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
But I am also active in the online young widow community.
Yes, there is enough young widows and widowers that we have online communities.
A member of one of these communities was upset about a MEME.
The MEME would appear benign to any NORM.
(A NORM is the term used in the widow world to denote a person who is otherwise normal and has not suffered the trauma of watching their person die. Most people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s are NORMS. I believe the first time I heard that term was in my friend Michelle’s blog.)
So this MEME showed an old couple and said something to the effect that real love was that of Grandma and Grandpa.
This one might have been it-
Now, stuff like that makes me roll my eyes and say “Must be nice”. Yes, I get that this sweet. And I have nothing against elderly couples. However, some of the widows in the widow community were very upset by this. It’s understandable. We were all married and we all thought we were going to grow old with that person and then they die.
So of course I have to comment saying that posts like that make young widows feel worse than they already do.
Then I forget that I made the comment.
The page (I have the screenshot but for some strange reason, I feel the need to protect the guilty) responds later and while they apologized for my loss (thank you very much) they suggested that I not be on Facebook today.
I should be banished from social media and communication from my family, friends and the outside world because it is too much of a burden on people to take a moment and think about someone other than themselves who may be hurting.
Oh and they accused me of only thinking of myself.
We know that what they say when you point fingers…(that when you point a finger, you have three pointing back at you).
Like, the whole widowed community should be banned from Facebook because the pain of the reality that they live every single day makes people inconvenienced or uncomfortable.
Actually no, I am not sorry.
I was going to let my anger dictate what I wrote next but then I decided that I shouldn’t be mad at the person running the page or the sheeple who liked her comment.
First off, I remember all those times I got mad about people and Bryon would tell me that a fight wasn’t worth it.
Either that or he would say that you can’t argue with stupid.
I decided both Bryon-isms applied to this scenario.
I reminded myself that most people don’t understand the magnitude of this kind of loss. Personally I am surrounded by an army of allies who witnessed what I went through and are sensitive to what a widow goes through. To say my allies don’t understand my loss would be disingenuous.
While some of my friends and acquaintances may have said somethings that were well-intentioned but thoughtless (which I thought this MEME was) no one, and I mean no one, has completely dismissed my feelings. Well one person did but the person made the comment behind my back to one of my best friends and I ended that friendship.
I can’t expect a person to be sympathetic to young widows and widowers if they have no experienced that loss or if they have not witnessed a close friend or family member experience that loss.
They are ignorant.
They do not know.
So instead of engaging in a rude conversation, I said that I hope they never experience this kind of loss but if they do, I sincerely hope people are kinder to them.
Apparently that was the wrong answer. This person then writes back asking how it was rude and then tries to make comparisons that that don’t compare to the scenario.
I was tempted to write back and illustrate the holes in the logic. This person was clearly feeling defensive.
Then I decided that it’s truly wasn’t worth my time and that I couldn’t argue with stupidity and ignorance.
It’s amazing how prideful people can be. A simple “I am sorry. I didn’t realize how this could be offensive to __________” would have worked and it would have saved that person from a lot of typing.
But some people really can’t admit that they may have been wrong.
And I do not feel bad for one second that I stood up for the widowed cause.
At the end of the experience, I had three takeaways.
I am a very different person because in the past, I would have been sucked into an argument with these random internet people. The fact that I did not get sucked in proves that a change has happened with my personality. And I like this change.
Those of us who advocate for “grief awareness” have ALOT of work to do.
The behavior by the guilty party is not limited to ignorance about widowhood. This works in many different areas. You don’t know what a person is going through unless you have walked in their shoes. We all could benefit from being a little understanding and empathetic.
Unlike Andy, I did not know the deceased well. He was the father of one of my best friends. I saw him at their wedding and at the kids birthday parties. He made some delicious chicken wings. It was clear that they were important to him and that he loved them very much.
I feel for my friend. I might know grief but I do not know what it is like to lose a parent. Three of the girls in our tribe have lost a parent. My Chicago best friend and my Maine best friend have lost their mothers at a young age as did my Maine’s best friend’s husband (The Scientist).
And of course, my daughter is also a member of this club.
I have lost three of my grandparents (and my grandmother isn’t doing well currently) and when I lost them, I felt that the memories of them slip further into the past. I feel like there is an active past and a distant past.
The active past consists of people who are alive and memories with those people and the events were probably more recent. Memories like your friend’s wedding last year or that time you went to Chipotle with a friend and your daughter smeared guacamole all over her face. (That might actually be everytime).
To me, the distant past are the memories that are centered around a deceased person, like the times when my Papa Crowley brought us to Horn Pond (pronounced Hond Pond) to feed the ducks or the conversations I had with my Grandma Sullivan.
Of course, some memories fall in the middle of the spectrum. Bryon and my wedding should be in the active past because it was only five years ago and so many of the people who were there are around. But Bryon was a pivotal player in those memories and he is gone. Therefore my wedding feels like it is more in the distant past than the active past.
Again, my parents are still here but I imagine that the transition of the parent going from the active past to the distant past is more pronounced and painful than that of a grandparent. It must make one’s childhood feel further away.
I also feel that the process of losing a parent ages you in a way. Not physically, but the pain gives you more wisdom.
I could be totally off of the mark. And if I am, please tell me. I want to increase my understanding.
Anyway, I digress.
I spent the afternoon at the funeral home. It is important to support the people you care about. I know it meant the world to me that people came to pay their respects when Bryon passed. The grieving need to know that they are loved and are supported.
I may not have known the deceased well but I am thankful that he lived.
He loved his daughter and grandsons. They are his legacy and my daughter and I greatly benefit from his legacy. His daughter and grandsons enrich my life and my daughter’s life.
It’s a great reminder that we are connected. The people in our lives and the events in our lives connect us all. So take time to appreciate everyone in your life, even if you don’t know them well. They are in your life for a reason, even if their role wasn’t a big role.
It’s Friday and that means it’s time for some good vibrations gratitude!
This is what I am thankful for this week.
Gymnastics. Every week my daughters attends gymnastics class and it is the only night she goes right down to bed. Every other night she is hyper and jumping on the bed. (I was the same way and I know this is payback). Facebook reminded me today that my daughter started gymnastics one year ago. It is amazing to see all that she has learned.
2. Movie dates. One of my best friends and I decided we wanted to do something last weekend. I decided to check the movie listings and I saw that Padington 2 was playing. I made a comment that we hadn’t seen the first Padington and my friend asked me if it really mattered. Then I felt silly.
The kids did great in the movie. It was the first non-animated movie they had seen in the theater. The movie was enjoyable. And boy, Hugh Grant has gotten old.
3. Birthday parties. My daughter was invited to a classmates birthday party. It’s amazing to see her grow into her own personality and make friends.
4. My online widow friends. Some of my coolest friends live in my phone. In fact, one of those friends wrote a blog post about it. I love my “in real life” friends but sometimes I need to let off steam with people who understand those things that only widows understand.
5. Happy Memories. Facebook shared this memory with me. I have to smile when I think about what a great man Bryon was and how lucky I am to have memories like these.
I don’t know exactly when I met my friend Andy. I actually met him because I was friends with his wife. I met his wife (I am going to call her The Scallop Divers Wife because I try not to use living people’s names in my blog) in 2004 when I joined the woman’s council at St. Joe’s Catholic Church in Ellsworth, Maine. I only know it was 2004 because I had another friend that I became friends volunteering for a certain political candidate and she noticed that we both went to 11 am Mass. My political friend and I decided to join the woman council and we both became friends with The Scallop Divers Wife. I probably met Andy at a church function or maybe I met him at his house.
I used to enjoys visits to Andy’s house. I could count on funny stories and lively political discussion. Periodically I would house and dog sit when they went away.
I moved away from Maine in 2009 because Bryon and I had been dating a year and things were serious. I always wanted Bryon and Andy to meet. I know they would have gotten along. Also, Bryon had dreams of being on Deadliest Catch and I told him I could get him on a fishing boat on the Maine Coast.
But sadly, the visit never materialized.
Then Andy got sick. Cancer. He was given a six months to live.
Like Bryon, Andy fought. He turned a 6 months life sentence into three years.
Shortly after Bryon passed, Andy’s niece passed in a car accident and he and his family traveled to Vermont for the funeral. It was about three hours away but I made the trip to see them the day before the funeral. I knew I had to make this trip because I didn’t know how much longer Andy would be here and I didn’t want to have any regrets. I knew that this might be the last chance I got to see Andy. After Bryon died, all the regrets I heard were from people who said they wished they knew him better. No one said they regretted visiting him.
During that visit, Andy and I didn’t know what to say to each other but it wasn’t awkward. I remember him being kind to my daughter who was two at the time. He was too weak to socialize and I spent the afternoon catching up with The Scallop Divers Wife. She gave me a lesson on cooking lobster and they sent me back to New York with some Maine lobster.
Andy and I had a few conversations on Facebook Messenger. He said it was hard to read my blog because he knew his wife was going to be going through the same thing. I admit that it was hard to discuss death with a dying man. I wondered if Bryon had similar thoughts. I will never know because Bryon couldn’t speak.
Around Thanksgiving I got the news that Andy’s cancer had spread to his brain. We had a Facebook Messenger conversation. He told me he wasn’t ready to die, his sons were so young. I really didn’t know what to say. It ended up being our last conversation.
In the beginning of December, I found out that there was nothing more that could be done and Andy would be going to Hospice. Luckily he was able to go home. My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife. I remembered the pure agony of waiting for your husband to die. I only had 24 hours of that agony from the “there’s nothing more we can do” conversation (though for me the words were “your husbands heart is going to stop beating today”) and my friend’s agony was open ended.
When I found out Andy was going to Hospice, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to his funeral. I work in oncology data and I know many patients don’t last long in Hospice. I was out of personal time at work for the year. I was beside myself thinking that I wouldn’t be able to go to Maine and be there for the funeral. I remember who showed up to pay their respects when Bryon died and I wouldn’t get to be one of those supporters for my friend. I decided that if I was meant to be there, it would all work out.
But I was also nervous that this was up in the air because this would be the first funeral I would attend since Bryon’s. That is a huge first for any widow. I have a tendency to obsess about things that potentially give me anxiety. But there was no doubt that I would work through it to be there for my friend but I was having a hard time channeling this nervous energy.
Andy’s family got one more Christmas with him and he passed on December 28, 2017.
I confirmed with my manager at work at my personal time for 2018 become effective at the New Year and then I made arrangements to go to Maine for the funeral. Ironically my parents were in Albany so their trip was cut short but they were fine with it because I was bringing my daughter to Maine and they got to spend time with her there.
And my daughter likes playing play-doh with her Grammy.
I went to the wake (I guess outside New England they call it a viewing?) to pay my respects and visit with The Scallop Divers Wife. I didn’t stay long because I didn’t recognize anyone else and I knew The Scallop Divers Wife was busy greeting people. It’s a long night.
I ended up grabbing dinner with another good friend.
I forgot to take a pic of us together, but here is a pic from us last summer at my best friends wedding. This was also in Maine but it was much, much warmer.
The following morning I made the 45 minute drive to Bar Harbor for Andy’s funeral.
On the drive I was thinking about how I have been widowed long enough that I am not the newest young widow in my circle of friends. Time has a way of slapping you in the face like that.
Andy was a well-liked guy and the church was full.
I tend to think I am invincible when it comes to funerals. I attribute it to my Boston Irish upbringing.
I will mention something important. It was during Andy’s funeral that I realized that despite being angry at God that I want a Catholic funeral when I die. It’s how my grandparents went out. It’s how my uncles went out. It’s how Bryon went out. And while God might be a hateful jerk who took my husband from me, I am not going to let him take something from me that is part of my heritage. Andy and I had had several conversations where he challenged my current views on God. I tended to get angry at the other 99.9% of the people who did that, Andy got a pass. It’s hard to stay mad at him and I also wasn’t going to argue with a dying man about God. But as the realization about my own mortality hit me, I just said to myself, “Well played, Andy. Well played.”
I was fine until the moment the funeral started. Seeing The Scallop Divers Wife have to walk down after the coffin. I had walked in 5 funerals before Bryon (three grandparents and two uncles) and nothing can prepare you for that moment for when it’s your spouse. My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife and three sons. I felt shaky during the processional and I asked Bryon to be with me (something I don’t tend to do. I figure he comes and goes when he feels like it) and suddenly I had my Boston Irish composure back. I don’t doubt for a second that he was there with me.
Though The Scallop Divers Wife wins the award for being the strongest. She got up and gave a beautiful eulogy. I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
I had asked The Scallop Divers Wife if she was okay if I wrote this post. She said she was curious about reading it from my point of view. I hope I don’t disappoint her because I don’t remember the details. I was a jumble of emotions that day and my account is likely to come across as self-absorbed. No widow(er) means to be self absorbs. We just have lots of emotions to sort out. And once we get those emotions sorted out, we hit another widow milestone and it brings up a whole new batch of feelings.
The Scallop Divers Wife is my friend and I hope she will be through the rest of our lives We will always be bonded by the fact that we are young widows. I am far enough into my widowhood journey (17 months and 5 days) to know that the funeral is like a wedding. Both are important days but while a wedding is just one day of a marriage, the funeral is just one day in the life without a loved one.
And just like our wedding day, we will remember our husbands funeral for the rest of our lives.
You think about some fond memories with the deceased.
You may want to write about these lovely memories on Facebook and add a picture.
But for the love of all that is Holy, don’t post anything on social media until the next of kin has made the death public.
While the post may come with good intentions, it is actually one of the most disrespectful things you can do to a grieving person.
This is like births and engagements. The ones who are the most affected get to share the news.
The next of kin, which is usually the spouse, parents, child or sibling of the deceased has a lot of do before the death is made public. They have to notify all the other family members and close friends of the death. And if someone posts about the death before it is made public, then those family members and close friends may hear about the death first on Facebook.
How would you feel if you found out about your aunts death on Facebook?
So please, please, please, save your social media condolences until after the next of kin has shared the news.
Your post will be appreciated. I was worried that I was only going to remember Bryon as he was in the ICU. Once I made his death public, Facebook was showered with memories and pictures of him. After spending five months sitting beside him in the ICU, I was instantly reminded that he was a man who was full of life and I was relieved that that was how he was remembered.