Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Widows Guilt




Dear Seth,

Since I last wrote to you a lot has changed for me. Mainly, that I have returned to Baltimore and gone back to work. The truth is, if it was practical, I could stay in Pittsburgh and visit your grave for hours at a time, every day, for the rest of my life. I am sad that I am no longer in Pittsburgh to visit you. I am sad that if I am "lucky" enough to live a long, healthy, life, that it means I will not be able to see you again for many, many, years. People continuously talk about how young you were. I hate to admit this because it is selfish, but I find myself more concerned with my age. I am concerned that I will not be able to see you for 50-60 years because I am so young. I feel guilty admitting that this is a worry of mine. I should be so lucky that I am healthy. You would have given anything for a life much longer than you lived. And here I am wishing mine away so that I can see you again. In reality, I don't mean this. In reality, I just wish this did not happen and that I did not have to think things like that in my mind. I am still going to my counselor. I think I will talk with her about this when I see her this week. 

I have been experiencing a lot of guilt since I got back from Pittsburgh. I am following different pages on Facebook and many of the widows and widowers describe the same feelings. At least I am not alone, I guess. I feel like I am not that anxious, but I probably am, just about different things than I used to be anxious about I suppose. I spend a lot of time thinking about what other people think of my grieving process. Our family and friends tell me not to care what other people think. I can hear you saying to me, "it is okay to not be okay." Heidi told me that you always told her to "be you." You always told me not to be consumed with other peoples opinions. I suppose I should just care about being me and not what other people think. In so many areas of my life this is not a problem for me anymore. But with losing you, it is different. 

Before you passed away, you and I discussed what I would do if you died. You told me you were not scared of dying, but you were worried about me (and our families). How would I handle myself? How would I handle being alone? When you asked me these questions I felt uneasy when I was answering you. I did not want you to worry so I told you I would be okay. I told you I would figure things out. And I knew that the truth was, with time I probably would. On the flip side, when we discussed this and I gave those answers, I worried that you would think that I did not love you. I worried that you would think that I would "move on" and forget you since I would apparently be able to "figure things out." Fortunately, I was able to talk about these concerns with you. How lucky we were to be able to have these discussions with each other. They were not easy conversations. I cannot imagine what it was like for you to talk about your own death. I am so proud of us for being brave enough to do so, especially you. You were not scared. You were simply amazing. 

Since you have died, I continue to experience the same uncertain feelings. I went back to work yesterday. Over the weekend I was very concerned about this. The truth is, I was really looking forward to going back. I was grateful to have the time off and I think I needed it. But over the weekend I could not wait until Monday as I knew I was returning to work for the first time since December 23rd. I was looking forward to the distraction. I was looking forward to working with patients. I was looking forward to seeing my coworkers. When you were sick, the only time I could completely turn my brain off of my worries was while I was at work. I had patients to treat and they relied on me for their safety and their well being. I love what I do and I care very much about the patients that I work with. When I was with them, they had my undivided attention and for those brief moments I did not have to worry about my sick husband. You and I discussed this because you felt the same way about your job. You loved it very much and it gave you a sense of purpose. It gave you freedom from all of the worries you had about life and death. I was happy that you had that freedom at work and you were happy that I did too. This weekend was very difficult for me though. I was so looking forward to returning to my job, but I was consumed with what this would mean to other people. I was concerned with what this would mean to you. I was concerned that I was betraying my late husband.

Would my happiness about work mean that you would think that I did not love you? Did this mean that my coworkers, my family, and my friends would think that I was "over you" after only six weeks? Would they judge me for this perception that they had? Would you be mad at me for "moving on" so quickly? The rational side of me understood that you would never think that, because it simply is not the case. The anxious side of me could not stop thinking about it for days. I love my job and I knew a distraction would be good. I also understood that I could not live off of visiting your grave every day. So why would you be mad at me for being fulfilled at work? Why would you be mad at me for making money to pay the bills? What does experiencing happiness at my job have to do with my love and grieving for you? Nothing! Yet I lay awake at night feeling guilty about things like that. 


I finally convinced myself, with the help of our family and friends, that you do not want me to waste my life. You told me that. You told me you wanted me to be happy and I promised you that I would be. But I still could not get over what other people would think. If my coworkers saw me laughing or smiling at work, would they think that I was done grieving? Would they judge me for not loving and honoring my husband? Would my friends think that I ever really loved you in the first place? Believe it or not, I actually asked Josh L. if he knew that I love you. Obviously, he said yes. Of course he said yes. I even asked him how he knew. He said, "you were inconsolable when they closed the casket. That might be one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever heard." You know what got me about that conversation? That I even had to ask him something like that. But, as I said, I was afraid going back to work would mean that I didn't love you in your eyes, and in the eyes of others. I needed proof that this was not the case. He actually said, "of course you love Seth. Being at work has nothing to do with that." He told me you would be happy that I went back to work. He told me that you would be happy that I applied for a new position (I will fill you in on that another day). When I asked why you would be happy his response was, "Um. Meredith had the drive to apply for a new position. Meredith is going to Nashville! (also another day and another conversation). Or,  Meredith is up at 2:00 am crying. Which do you think Seth would like?" Obviously I knew the answer. 

I have been back at work for two days now and I could not be happier. I also know that my fears about my coworkers were wrong. And quite frankly, I am so happy about being back, that even if people judged me I would not care. The chaplain told me not to worry about what other people think. He said, "your grief is your process." Josh L. told me that my happiness at work has nothing to do with my love for you. They were both right. Gina told me that my coworkers would be happy that I was back. She said that they would be more concerned if I did not come back. She was also right. Of course my sister, our brothers, and our parents said the same thing. They were all right. These have been the best two days since you left me. I have experienced the best crying since you died while driving to and from work the last two mornings. They were tears of sadness because I miss you. But they were also tears of joy for realizing that I could be happy at work and that you would want that for me. For the first time, other than at the cemetery, I opened up to you out loud and talked to you in the car. I cried tears of joy because I believe that you really could hear me and that you really were listening to me. I know now that work, love, and grief, have nothing to do with each other. I know now that it does not matter what other people think. Although, it does matter to me what you think. But I know now that you are happy, just like Josh L. (and many others) said you would be. There is no need to feel guilty for "living" at work. There is no shame in having a purpose. I will continue to happily experience "freedom" at work.

Unfortunately, the guilty feelings do not stop with work. The list goes on and I will address those concerns another day. I can only take on one journey at a time. Yesterday I started my journey back to work. Next week I will start my journey back to our house, to our home. Only one journey at a time. 

I love you Seth. I miss you so much. But I want to thank you for being the husband that you were. I want to thank you for having the courage to talk to me about love, death, and dying. I want to thank you for telling me that you wanted me to be happy. I want to thank you for teaching me about faith. On my journey to work I found my faith again. I finally started believing that you were with me and that you were listening to me. Thank you for being a part of all of my journeys. And, as I said to you so often, "thank you for being my favorite." 

Love,
Meredith

"Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

Seth Jacob Budai Caring Bridge Page

Here are pictures from my 2008 graduation from PT school with my doctorate. You were so proud of me and have always supported me in my career. Why wouldn't you be happy that I returned to work?





Here are the links to articles and documents that I have read about Guilt. At least I am not alone?

Survivors Guilt - A Blog

Widowhood: The Psychological Traps

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

This Is My Fight Song...

Dear Seth,

This Thursday is five weeks since you passed away. What a whirlwind it has been and I cannot believe that much time has gone by. I miss you so much that it hurts. 

After your funeral in Pittsburgh I went back to Maryland for two weeks. I stayed with your brother, Gina, and Giuliana. They went back to work and I was left to spend the days alone. Some days I did okay, and other days I had a lot of trouble and would call your brother or Josh L. crying. I wasn't sleeping at night, so I would watch TV or play on my phone until my eyes physically could not stay open any longer. Dinner time was good though. Dinner time meant that Josh, Gina, and Giuls would be home and I could talk with Giuls about her Uncle Seth. I looked forward to those few hours every day. They were peaceful hours. 

Since your funeral we also had a beautiful memorial service for you at your high school. You would have been so proud of your students, the faculty at Winters Mill High School, and our family. They did an amazing job honoring you. Your principle gave the nicest speech about you. I learned so much about "Mr. Budai, the school counselor." During the memorial the choir at your school, the students, myself, and all of your nieces and nephews got onto the stage to sing "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten. I believe that this song symbolizes your spirit and your courage while you fought your fight. It was so powerful to see everyone on the stage, especially all of the kids. You really made an impact on them Seth. You really made an impact on me. I have listened to that song over and over since your memorial service. At the memorial service the chaplain, whom our family met at the hospital the day you passed away, told a story about your fight. He paralleled it to the story of Jacob's ladder. He made sense of your fight the night before you passed away. I needed him to make sense of your struggle, because it was one of the most difficult things I have ever witnessed in my life. It was not supposed to be that way. You showed God that you still had a lot of fight left in you. And boy did you fight. You made an explosion for 20 months. I was so proud of you for that. I hope you heard me in the ambulance when I told you that. I hope you heard me remind you that you did beat cancer. I kept reminding you of the Stewart Scott quote that you lived by, "You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live." You still have a lot of fight left in you Seth. Your legacy will live on and in your honor I will fight to beat Ewings Sarcoma. I hope you heard me in the ambulance.

"Fight Song" By Rachel Platten

We had people over our house following the memorial service. Our closest friends and family and those who traveled to Maryland. Nothing big, but it was nice none the less. It was my third time at the house since you passed away. My counselor thought it would be good for me to be there, surrounded by our family and friends. I could not bring myself to sleep there that night. I have not been back since.

On Monday, March 1, 2016 I started my first journey since you passed away. I needed to get away from Maryland so I decided to go "home." That morning I got in the car and I started driving to Connecticut. Before pulling out onto the road I found a compartment in our car that I had long since forgotten about. Inside it I found a binder filled with CDs that you made, likely between the years 2000 and 2006, right before we started dating. I remembered seeing it in the past, in your old cars, but I never gave it much thought. The CDs have your writing on them. It made me happy to see your hand writing. I decided I would listen to your mixes while I drove to New England. Each time one CD ended I replaced it with another. Between CDs the radio was full of static. I never changed the station after leaving Baltimore. 

I made it to Connecticut and spent the evening there. When I got to my parents house, I was very anxious to go inside since neither of them were home and I would be alone. I don't exactly know why I was nervous, it is not like you grew up with me in that house. But, for some reason, it made me sad that you were not there with me. Naturally when I got inside the house music was on. My mother always leaves the radio playing softly in the kitchen. The song that I heard was "Fight Song." I knew you were with me and it put me at peace. I went to dinner that night with my parents. I only stayed for one night. Jackson slept in the same bed that you last used when we were there for my grandma's funeral. 


The next morning I left for Cape Cod. I had mixed emotions about being there. It would be the first night since you passed away that I would be alone. I was terrified and anxious, but I was also looking forward to the peace and quiet so that I could be surrounded by my thoughts. While driving I thought long and hard about this blog. How would I do it? Would people read it? What should I call it? After deciding what I would do for the blog, I contemplated what to name it. Some thoughts were, "#SethStrong" and "Seth's Journeys." I kept coming back to "Journeys With Seth," but I was unsure. At that very moment the CD in the car finished playing. I took the CD out to replace it with the next one. For the first time there was no static on the radio. Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" was on. I chose "Journeys With Seth." 

While driving to Cape Cod I turned the GPS on, even though I can drive there in my sleep. I turned it on because I like to watch the ETA change as I make better time. Before I knew it I followed the GPS and I accidentally got off the highway at a different exit than I would ordinarily take. The GPS took me right by St. Pius, the church where we got married. I do not think that is a coincidence. 

I went to my grandmother's house first, like we always did. I realized when I got there that it was the first time I was at her house since she passed away last September. I walked around and talked to her. I told her that I loved her and I asked her to introduce you to my Papa in Heaven. I hope that she has. Jackson and I walked to the beach. It was a beautiful and sunny day and I was so excited to be there. I cannot explain the peace that it gave me by being there. I knew that you were there with me. You loved Cape Cod so much. 

 

It was so calm and it was a perfect day to talk to you and remember our times together at Cape Cod. We had some incredible journeys there with our family and friends. Here are a few pictures from our past.

 Martha's Vineyard ~ 2011
Summer 2015 
 Summer 2015
 Labor Day Weekend ~ 2008
 Labor Day Weekend ~ 2009
 Chatham ~ 2013
Royal Palace ~ 2013
Marylou's Coffee ~ 2015

You would have loved being at the beach with me the other day. I brought the dog with me (even though I know it is off limits). He had so much fun. Just like his dad, he was in his glory. We went for a long walk and we took the time to take in the views and experience the calmness. I decided I would take pictures with your #SethStrong bracelet. That bracelet symbolizes your strength and your fight. You and your bracelet will travel with me everywhere I go. Here are some of the pictures of our Journey last week. 

Marylou's Coffee  ~ 2016
Jackson ~ 2016
Jackson ~ 2016
#SethStrong
#SethStrong
#SethStrong

Notice that your bracelet is supported by a stone that I found while walking on the beach. My co-worker is taking a pilgrimage to a city called Santiago De Compostela. It is where the remains of St. James are buried. She explained to me that one of the most meaningful places along the route is a tall iron cross called Cruz De Ferro. Pilgrims carry a small rock with them along the route and leave it at the foot of the cross as a symbol of leaving behind their burdens and sins. She asked me if she could carry a stone there in your honor. The stone that wears your bracelet in this picture will be traveling to Spain. Pretty cool, right?

All of a sudden, while walking along the beaches and taking pictures, Jackson stopped in his tracks. I found myself staring in the face of a seal! In 31 years I have never before seen a seal on Longell Road Beach. My mom and uncle were amazed by this! They have been going to that beach since they were children and they have never seen one there either. You and I used to go see them in Chatham at the piers, but never in my wildest imagination did I expect to see one staring at Jackson and I on my grandma's beach. It was incredible! I was able to get quite close before it swam into the ocean. Jackson was not a fan, but everyone I have told keeps telling me that it was you or my grandma coming to me to say hi. I wish you would have been with me, you would have loved it!
Seal ~ 2016


When I went to the Cape I had hoped to use the time to reflect on our life together and to start this blog. As it turned out, my parents do not have internet or TV at their house during the off-season. It does not make sense for them to pay for it when they are not there. This is reasonable, but none of us thought of this before I left for the Cape. After a beautiful day at the beach and some clam chowder at our favorite place I went to my parent's house. I was so proud of myself for having the courage to be there all alone until I realized there was no TV or internet. I was not going to be able to work on my blog. The sun went down and it was lonely. All to quickly I learned that I am not ready to be alone yet. I cried for a long time. 

All things considered, I thought I was doing pretty well. I am figuring out our bills. I am spending time with our family and our friends. I am going to counseling. I am planning to go back to work next week. I am actively seeking groups for young widows. (Incidentally, there are none!) And then I find myself hysterically crying while I was all alone. The quietness of my parents house was excruciating. Being in Cape Cod, without you, was suddenly awful. After breakfast with my Aunt the next morning, I left Cape Cod.

I headed to my sister's house in Burlington, MA. I stayed there for a few days and then I went to my brother's house in New Hampshire. After leaving there I drove to Pittsburgh to stay with your parents. I am in Pittsburgh now. On my way through Connecticut, when heading to Pittsburgh, I stopped at Shady Glenn to meet my parents for lunch. It is still as good as ever. I remember the last time that you and I went to Shady Glenn. It was really nice to spend time with my family. I miss them a lot. I relaxed and I enjoyed being surrounded by everyone, especially the kids. We told stories of Uncle Seth and I told them how proud you were of all of them. Sarah told me, "Uncle Seth is just invisible now. But he is always with us and is watching us. I bet he is happy in Heaven." I hope that you are happy in Heaven Seth.


Sarah and Jackson ~ 2016

I am doing better now that I am in Pittsburgh. The temperature is pleasant and I can walk to the cemetery with Jackson to visit you. It has been beautiful out. I bought a notebook and on the cover it says, "happy thoughts." I am writing down fond memories that I have with/of you so that I never forget our life together. It makes me happy to do this. I am calm when I am at the cemetery. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I laugh when thinking of some of our funnier times together. My tears are sad, but they are also happy. I love my memories of us and writing them down is as therapeutic to me as it was to share stories of you at the funeral and the memorial service. I just love remembering you. I just love you.


You and Jackson ~ 2016

Today I will get together with friends from college. Katie and I are going to lunch and a movie. She has been such a wonderful friend, I am glad that I have her. Thursday night I am getting together with all of the women in your family (Jaseks and Kostelniks). I thought it would be fun to have a ladies night with your family. Fourteen of us will be going to the Waterfront for Sushi and I will be getting some wine too, I need it! I will visit you again today with my notebook in hand. 

I love you Seth and I hope you are resting peacefully. I will keep writing to you to update you on our adventures. I will bring you with me where ever I go. I am not sure what our next adventure will be, but I do know that I am going to start working again next week. I will start out just a few days a week, but I will get to five days soon. I have not been there since before Christmas when you were admitted to the hospital. I think it will be good to be back. My experience being alone in Cape Cod showed me that I benefit tremendously from distraction. Luckily we have the greatest family and friends and I have a lot of wonderful distractions in my life. 

I wish not to be in this situation. I wish you were still here and that I could talk to you and hug you and kiss you. But I am thankful for the time that we did have and for our marriage. I am thankful for our family and our friends and the support that I have been getting. I am doing my best to be strong for you Setherina, like I promised you I would be. I will update you again soon, but until then, please keep looking down on me. Until then, please keep being happy in Heaven. 

Love Always,
Meredith

"Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

Seth Jacob Budai Caring Bridge Page

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong (I'll be strong)
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me
Know I've still got a lot of fight left in me

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why Blog?

Hi. Welcome to my blog. My name is Meredith Jane Budai and my husband is Seth Jacob Budai. Seth passed away this past February 4, 2016 from Ewings Sarcoma, a rare type of cancer. We were married for one year and two days when he was diagnosed with cancer. We were married for two years, seven months, and five days when he died. I was 31 when I lost the love of my life. I was 31 when I became a widow. 

When Seth was diagnosed with cancer we started a Caring Bridge website (Seth Jacob Budai Caring Bridge Page) to update our family and friends on his status and scan results.  When we started that we had no idea the profound effect it would have on us and on those who read it. At the funeral home following Seth's passing, people thanked me (and Seth) over and over again for our caring bridge posts. They called it "inspiring," and appreciated our updates. While it was so kind of everyone to say, the truth is, we needed to write. It helped us to clear our minds by typing out our fears, our thoughts, and the details of Seth's Journey. All of the support that we received in the form of comments and "likes" on social media were so appreciated. It helped to validate the feelings that Seth and I had. It was also comforting to read all of the responses and the prayers that were being said for us. It helped us as much as it apparently helped those who read it. 

Oddly enough, I enjoyed being at the funeral home, attending the funeral, and participating in a memorial services that we had for Seth. I have felt a tremendous amount of guilt for admitting that I "liked" these experiences. But the truth is, I did. I liked being surrounded by our family and friends. I liked talking about Seth and sharing stories of our life together. I liked learning of new stories about Seth that I did not know. And I liked learning of the impact that our caring bridge page and writing had on our family and friends and even strangers. In the days that have followed it has become increasingly more difficult for me to cope with the loss of my best friend. Everyone went home and my family and I were left alone for the very first time. I have struggled to be alone since February 4, 2016. I miss being surrounded by people and talking about Seth. I have since realized, I cannot stop writing. 

When I wrote the caring bridge pages, I had no idea if anyone would read them. But it did not matter. I needed a forum where I could share my thoughts and my fears and the "what ifs." Now Seth has died. Now I am a widow. Now I have lost my best friend. I still have fears, some of them the same, and many of them very different. One of my greatest fears is that my family and friends will not want to keep talking about Seth. I fear that people will move on, but I will still be a widow who lost her best friend. I fear that Seth will be forgotten. Above all, I fear how I will go on without having my best friend to talk to, to run ideas by, to laugh with, and to share life with. These fears and my love for Seth have inspired me to start writing this blog. I am hopeful that this blog will help me (and many others) just as the caring bridge page did. I am excited to talk with Seth. I am looking forward to sharing all that I am doing to cope with my loss and to honor my husband. I am hopeful to reach other young widows. And mostly, I am looking forward to using this forum to update Seth on the projects and endeavors I will take on to honor him and to keep his legacy alive.

Since deciding to keep writing, I have been thinking long and hard about where I wanted to take the blog. I recently drove from Maryland to New England and I had a lot of time to think about this. How could I honor Seth, talk to Seth, share our past with others, share my future with him, update he and our family and friends on his legacy, discuss my fears and concerns with him, and connect with other widows all in one forum? Ultimately it was Seth who told me what to do. I decided I will write letters to Seth. I will update him on what I am doing in his honor. I will travel to places we went to together and new places to honor him and I will tell him all about it. I will bring him with me everywhere I go and I will write to him about these journeys. I will share old pictures and new pictures and he will be a part of all of the new adventures. I will continue to take Journeys with Seth for all of the days of my life.

My name is Meredith Jane Budai and my husband is Seth Jacob Budai. Seth passed away this past February 4, 2016 from Ewings Sarcoma, a rare type of cancer. We were married for one year and two days when he was diagnosed with cancer. We were married for two years, seven months, and five days when he died. I was 31 when I lost the love of my life. I was 31 when I became a widow. This is my blog. I hope that it influences those who read it as much as I know it will help me to write it. I am looking forward to sharing my journeys with Seth.

Love,
Meredith

"Don't give up. Don't ever give up." ~ Jimmy V.