Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Widows Pursuit of Happiness

I have not written in a while.

I have been incredibly happy lately. 

After mentioning to someone that I have nothing to write about, it was suggested that I have the "Adele effect." Usually my writing is prompted by my anxiety or recent struggles. Lately I have had little anxiety. Like Adele, who writes sad songs, if there is nothing to be sad about there is nothing to write about. 

I have been thinking about that "Adele effect" comment and it dawned on me what a travesty that is. It is true, I often find myself writing about my internal conflicts and personal challenges. I do so because it is therapeutic for me to scream it out loud at the top of my lungs, so to speak. I also hope that I might be helping another young (or old) widow(er) when I put into words what I think so many of us are experiencing but are too afraid to say. But then it dawned on me, what about those widows that are doing well?

When Seth first died, and for a few months thereafter, I would read posts on widows pages through social media from women who were "living" again. This would evoke two emotional experiences for me. First, I would wonder if I would ever be happy or ready enough to "live" after losing my husband. Second, I would have hatred and anger towards these woman for disrespecting their husbands and loved ones like so. I conjured up deluded opinions in my mind that to live, to love, and to pursue happiness following the death of a spouse equated to disrespecting the love you had for the departed. The irony of my convoluted thought process was that not one, single person in my life ever suggested to me anything other than the desire for me to find happiness again following the passing of my husband. My opinions were self inflicted and at times they still haunt me today. 

I went to, Cape Cod, MA, my home away from home this past weekend. This is my favorite place in the entire world. When I think of Cape Cod I think of family, relaxing, joy, peace, energy, and love. When I brought Seth there after we met he immediately fell in love with it. It quickly became a place that he also considered home and something we fondly shared. Since Seth died, prior to this weekend, I have only been back twice. The first time I went I was alone and in my 32 years I felt the most sadness I have ever experienced in my life being there without Seth. Imagine someone taking your favorite memory in the world and erasing it from your mind for good. All you know now is that at one point in time that place in your mind held your most cherished moments and you can never get those back no matter how hard your beg and plead. It is heart wrenching. That is how I felt last year when I visited my family in Cape Cod. Physically I was present, but emotionally I was far from there. In my mind, I could not imagine ever being happy in a place that now held a hole in my heart.

This past weekend was 10 months since I last went to Cape Cod. 10 months since I had those horribly tragic emotional responses. This past weekend, I had so much fun. I was elated and could not wait to tell my family how well I was doing. I got to play with my nieces and nephews, eat dinners with family, and catch up with old friends. I laughed so hard and drank so much that I even I made drunk phone calls and I would do it again to feel that kind of emotional freedom I was experiencing. I was relaxed. I felt at home again in my favorite place on this earth. There is no greater sense of freedom than beating your mind and being able to enjoy the beautiful things in life, as simple as they may be. 

For those of you that have followed my story, you know that nothing can come so easily for my mind. What a wonderful ending this would be if I was simply just happy and content with that. But my mind does not work like that. My mind is constantly going 100 miles per hour. Naturally, when leaving Cape Cod I reflected on my time there and how I finally felt like "me" again. Without fail, I started to wonder what people would think. Would they think that I did not love Seth? Is it okay for me to be happy? Or, am I no better than those other women who I berated early on?

The truth is I am happy and my conclusion is that, that is okay. Actually, my opinion is that it is wonderful. I am not sure why am so hard on myself. I expect nothing short of perfection from myself. Be the perfect daughter, perfect physical therapist, perfect sister, perfect widow. Maybe sometimes it is a good thing. Maybe that is where I get my drive to succeed in life, because I am always pushing for more from myself. But maybe I am my own worst enemy too. Imagine a world where we don't judge ourselves so harshly. Imagine a world where we forgive ourselves and are patient with ourselves.  That sounds like an amazing and peaceful world. Now imagine if we have it in our own control to achieve that. To do so we have to stop judging ourselves. We have to stop caring what other people think. And for widows, we have to start believing that our passed loved ones are nothing short of proud of us. 

I am happy and I know that Seth would want that for me. I have a therapy appointment next week and I am going to ask my therapist to help me re-frame my mindset. I want to believe in my heart that "living" is to honor Seth, but never to forget. I want to carry him with me and allow his legacy to live on through the lessons he taught me. I want to fight for my chance at life like he fought for his. 

"When we struggle to change ourselves we, in fact, only continue the patterns of self-judgement and aggression. We keep the war against ourselves alive." - Jack Kornfield.

I will work on change. I will live, learn to love, and pursue happiness for the both of us. And with time and help, I will end this war against myself. With time and help, I will be happy, and I know that will be exactly what we both want. I am a new widow in the pursuit of happiness. 

Love,
Meredith

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


Seth Jacob Budai Caring Bridge Page

Friday, March 10, 2017

Who Would Marry a Widow?

Thirteen and a half months ago if someone would have told me that I would think about dating again I would have stopped talking to them. The day my husband died I swore off ever being with a man again. What did those people know about me? What did they know about Seth and my love for each other? If they knew anything they would know that what Seth and I had was very special. What Seth and I had could not be replaced. Ever. 

I remember I was talking to my friend and I was complaining about all of the "bad" widows that exist. The kind of widow that posted on social media groups about sleeping with their husbands best friend or being in love with their husbands brother. I called them sluts. I certainly did not understand them. I believed that those woman did not love their husbands like I loved Seth. I thought that those brothers and friends of the deceased husband were bad people. I judged them harshly. 

Fast forward many months later and I actually admitted to myself that I no longer judged those women. In fact I went so far to believe that I could relate to those women. For a period of time the men in Seth's life were the only people, outside of my therapist, that I could talk to about my feelings. Sometimes I could not even articulate to them what my feelings were, but I felt comfortable crying to them when I didn't feel comfortable crying to anyone else. I wanted to be around them. I wanted to talk with them all the time. Although these feelings were platonic, they were also very perplexing to me. I no longer have those confusing thoughts today. I now know that I gravitated to them because they reminded me of Seth. We had connections with Seth that no one else understood. We could relate to each other in a time in my life when I felt very few could relate to me. But they are my friends. Just friends. I am satisfied with that and relieved too. 

As I worked through those feelings though, and as more time has passed, I started to experience other confusing emotions. All of a sudden I didn't want to be alone for the rest of my life. I was barely in my 30's when my husband died and I have so much life ahead of me.  I have worked incredibly hard for the past 13 months to believe that I can still have a bright future in spite of my past. On a good day, I have genuinely accepted that I am not a bad wife for having this urge. Seth would want me to be happy after all, he told me so. This has not been easy. I have experienced the most incredibly intense guilt that a person can feel without having anything to actually be guilty of. You can imagine the internal conflict I experience when I think about dating again. How can I be in love with Seth and have the desire to find a connection like we had, with a different man? It does not make any sense. Just the thought of dating again makes me feel like I am being deceitful. I believe that am not fulfilling my wedding vows to Seth. I must be minimizing the love that we had for each other. I should be content with what we had, which was beautiful, and yet the thought of not sharing that with someone for the rest of my life is heart wrenching. 

I loved being in a marriage with Seth. I would describe our relationship as happy, emotional, spontaneous, fun, frustrating, exciting, funny, relaxing, and exhausting. I feel grateful for our time together and I cannot adequately explain with words the best part of being with him. I was lucky to have someone who I trusted. I was lucky to have someone who I couldn't wait to go to with exciting news and whom I could confide in without judgement. I loved being that person for Seth too. We argued fiercely sometimes. We were not perfect. But we loved even more fiercely and we fought for each other with everything that we had. What we shared cannot be replaced. Ever. 

If our love cannot ever be replaced, can I even have a connection with a man again? Am I selfish for wanting to find love again? Shouldn't I be grateful for what we had and leave well enough alone? And if I did fall in love again, would this mean that I didn't love Seth after all? Or, since our love was so precious could another man ever compare? Could another man even be with me without being compared? 

I recently had a conversation with a friend who stated that he believed other men would be insecure dating me because they would fear that I am always comparing them to Seth. This got me thinking. Is it possible that he is right? Or, could there be a man who is open to my past? Couldn't another man admire my love for Seth? Doesn't my commitment to Seth show that I am a devoted spouse? Is it possible that I could have two loves in my life? Each love a little different and special in their own unique way? Or is it true, that no man could marry a widow?

For my sake, and for the sake of all of the young and old widow(ers) out there, I hope this is not true. I hope that we can have multiple loves in our life without diminishing our feelings for those who came before. I hope that we can have different love stories with different people so that one does not replace another. I hope that someone will love me fully because of my past. I could not be the person that I am today if not for my past. Seth influenced me. Our marriage shaped me. His death impacted me. A person, a marriage, and a death have all converged to influence my person. Except for Seth living, I would not want to change anything. Why would a man want me any other way? 

Last night, I had a very difficult night. Actually, the last few weeks I have been holding on to a lot of stressful thoughts and I couldn't figure out the best way to express myself to relieve me of this anxiety. I kept it to myself. That is what I typically do when I am afraid of how the world will respond to me. On the train yesterday, on my way home from work, I started crying. It was a crowded train cart and yet I felt so alone and isolated. Finally, I reached out and texted my friend. Seth's friend. I did not even express my "secrets." I simply said I was crying and panicking. He did not have much to say, but it felt amazing to say "out loud" that I was not holding it together in that moment. In my last blog I acknowledged that I am trying to be strong. But sometimes even the strongest people fall apart. After finally falling asleep last night I got the best rest that I have had in a few weeks. 

Today I sent a text to one of Seth's family members. It read, "I work real hard to move forward and I know I need to create a new life for myself. I don't want to be alone for 60 years and I know one day I will date again. I am beginning to accept it without feeling like a bad person or wife." I know today is a better day because I could finally admit these thoughts to someone that I care very much about. I could finally admit to those feelings to someone who cared very much about Seth. For those widows and widowers out there, only you can know the true angst of acknowledging this out loud to those who you love and who loved your spouse. It is with such trepidation that I even post this today. I chose to because I know that I am not alone. 

To the fellow widows and widowers that I am writing for, I believe we will get through this. For me, there have been a lot of changes lately as I make efforts to create a new life for myself. Reality is slapping me in the face. It finally hit me that things will truly never be the same as what I had visioned. Seth and I cannot share with each other the future we planned together. We will not have a family together. But this does not mean that my future is not bright. Our love stories with the deceased will never end. They will never be replaced. Ever. If I am to move forward though, I need to start thinking about a future. A new future. A different life. Maybe even a good life. Maybe even a great life. 

I have been thinking more about what my friend said to me. He suggested that other men will experience insecurities when dating me, for fear that I will always be comparing them to Seth. Maybe he is right that I will do that, at least initially, how couldn't I? But isn't that true of anyone dating someone new, even following a breakup? Our past experiences shape us into the people we are today, hopefully for the better. I am proud of my past. I am proud of my relationship with Seth. What an amazing man he was. It must have taken so much courage for him to sit across from me a few days before he passed, look directly into my eyes, and make me promise that I will move forward. He told me to find love again. He told me that he wanted me to have a bright future. My response was that I did not want to talk about it. Then we hugged and kissed. Then I promised him that I would fulfill his wishes, and I genuinely hope that I do. I want to love again. I want to be loved again. I want to give everything that I have to another relationship, because that is what makes love so beautiful. That is what made my love story with Seth so special. My next story will be different. But that love story will be stronger because of my past. It will be our love story. A new love story. And my love for Seth will still never be replaced. Ever. 

Love,
Meredith

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


Seth Jacob Budai Caring Bridge Page







Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Husband Died But My Journey Goes On

One year ago today my husband Seth passed away.

Life has a very strange way of teaching people lessons. When Seth got sick at age 30, I thought that we were being taught some of the most important life lessons one could learn. I learned that life is precious. I learned that no one is immune to adversity. I learned to slow down and I learned to appreciate everything, especially the small things. But on that summer day in 2014, when Seth and I were told that there was a tumor on his sacrum and that he would need to be rushed to Boston for further work-up, I could not have imagined that the lessons had only just begun. I would never truly understand how important these lessons were for another 19 months. 

One year ago to the day, my favorite person passed away in a cold, sterile, hospital room. The week prior he and I had sat down with his doctor to go over his advanced directives. It was his wish not to be put on life support and to die peacefully in our own home. He never did make it home like he had hoped to. Selfishly, I am so glad that he did not because one year later I am finally beginning to feel at peace inside our four walls. As I sat alone with Seth in the hospital room, and the doctor looked at me with those "I'm sorry..." eyes to tell me Seth had passed, I was in such despair that I never thought I would feel at peace again. A month later I moved back into our house and it felt so cold. It felt painfully quiet, eerie, and especially lonely. Today, as I write this I feel a sense of calmness come over me that I thought I may never experience again. One year later I feel the most at peace when I am home. Inside those four walls I can picture Seth sitting at the bottom of the stairs trying unsuccessfully to put his shoes on while the dog is jumping all over him. I shut my eyes and I can see him sleeping peacefully in bed while I was getting ready to leave for work. I would go over to kiss him on the forehead on my way out. In the basement, I can picture us where we lay sprawled out on the floor, bursting with excitement the very night we closed on our house. We were so proud that we had bought on our very first home together and that it was finally ours! When I am inside my house I feel closest to Seth because I am reminded of a beautiful family that loved each other dearly. It was only Seth, the dog, the cat and I. We never did have children together. But we were happy with our little unit that we called family. Selfishly, I am glad that Seth never made it home. Had he been here when he passed, I am not sure that I could find this sense of peace from being home that I now so desperately try to hold on to. 

Over the last year I have have been told over and over again how strong of a woman that I am. It is hard for me to believe that because it has been a long, very exhausting, journey. For days after Seth died I only ate pizza and drank coffee. I slept a lot and quite honestly I don't even remember planning the funeral or the memorial services. Somehow I managed to go back to work, to move back home, and I took care of all of the business needs that are required after someone dies. Looking back, I have no idea how I was capable of doing all of that. The process after someone dies is exhausting, and there is not much help that anyone can give you. When I reflect on all that I accomplished I understand why people consider me strong. But when you are going through this you feel nothing short of a failure. There is a constant feeling that something has been forgotten. Every piece of paperwork that needs to be completed and the accounts that need to be closed take multiple phone calls and multiple attempts to near completion. You begin to wonder why you are so stupid. You cannot understand why things are so difficult and why you don't do them right the first time. For the first year, every action that I took made me feel a tremendous amount of guilt. You wonder, am I honoring Seth right? Does Seth know that I loved him? If I do this, or go there, will other people think that I have moved on? Will people think that I have forgotten my husband? If I feel lonely and think about a day when I might find new love, does this mean I am cheating on my husband? What will our friends and family think of me just for thinking that I am saddened by the loss of sharing my life with someone? Why do I care so much what other people think? Do I really care what other people think or am I just judging myself for my thoughts because I don't want to have them? And so on. The first year has been a very long year filled with worries that I desperately wanted to get out of my head all the while trying to honor my husband while living my own life.

When I started this blog I called it Journeys with Seth. Over time my entries stopped being letters to Seth and opportunities for me to work through my own personal journey. Twelve months ago I thought my journey with Seth had just started, but in reality our journey had just ended and a new path began for me. Despite the anxiety that my inner monologue created, I am so proud of myself for working hard to push forward despite it. And although this is my own life I am paving for myself, I am without a doubt that Seth has been by my side throughout it all.  In 2014 when Seth got Sick he handled the circumstances he was given gracefully. He was grateful for our family, friends, and jobs. He found purpose through the students that he worked with daily. He laughed, he cried, he was stubborn, he got angry, and he fought hard for his life. He fought hard for the people that he loved. He fought hard for me. When I look back on the last 12 months, I realize that I have been strong. I have made mistakes. I have been blindsided by grief. I thought that I figured my feelings out only to find out I don't understand my feelings at all. But I have lived. I have laughed. I have honored Seth. I have loved. And, I have been strong (or so they tell me). Seth taught me what it is to fight for your life, and I have fought. 

On this one year anniversary I am deeply saddened by the loss of my best friend. I cannot believe one year of my life has passed without him by my side. He is still my best friend, how can it be possible that he is gone? After one year, how can this still be so shocking? And yet I am also so amazed by myself. I made it one year and people tell me that I did well. Maybe I did? Maybe these lessons that I have learned have been invaluable. I know that I am lucky for every day that I have been given. I know there are real problems in this world that are worth spending time on and others which are not really problems at all. Seth showed me that we are not always dealt the best hand, but we should fight through it anyway. We should do our best to enjoy the ride because we are only given one life. We are only given one chance to leave an imprint on this world. I hope one day that I can leave half the imprint that my husband left on this world. 

I have read that year two is harder than year one for widows and widowers. I expect that this year will bring me new challenges. But I am done identifying myself as a widow. My husband died one year ago and as we rode in the ambulance to the hospital I promised him that I would be alright. I promised him that I would live my life fully. I promised him that I would be happy again. The term widow is sad. It is a name indicating that I have been hurt. I don't want this challenge to label me. I want it to empower me just as my husband used his challenges to empower him. I want to live my life fully because of my husband. I want to enjoy life for my husband. In this way, I will honor my husband. I imagine that the next year will still be difficult. I am certain I will have my set-backs. But I am also certain that I will get up every single day, put my feet on the ground, and take steps forward to find out who the new Meredith is and what my life has in store for me. In 2014 I learned that life is precious and one year ago my husband reminded me of this tough lesson.

I am so lucky to have had the marriage that I did with Seth. He was kind, sweet, goofy, stubborn as hell, always right (or so he said), smart, loving, and generous. Seth cared about others more than he did of himself. He devoted his life to helping others and to being a wonderful son, brother, husband, etc. He will never go forgotten by me no matter where I go on this journey we call life. Because of my husband I will remain strong. Because of my husband, I know that it is okay to not be okay. But because of my husband, I know that I will be okay. I love you Seth.

Love,
Meredith

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

Seth Jacob Budai Caring Bridge Page