Loved One Lost: Christopher Shaughnessy, age 34
After years of dating disaster after dating disaster, including a failed engagement, I went to visit a friend at work for lunch at a local dive bar. Chris walked in with his brother and sat down at the bar next to me and throughout lunch we started talking. Afterwards he requested to be my friend and said how nice it was to see me again. Again? I had zero recollection of ever meeting this person before, so of course I call my friend Liz for clarification. Apparently he went to kindergarten with us, and had grown up in the same neighborhood of Boston, Hyde Park, as us my entire life. I have a horrible memory.
He asked me out and took me on a marathon first date, and I knew then that he was different. We dated for just over a year when he proposed at the Thanksgiving table in front of my entire family. We were engaged for a year and were married on November 8, 2014 which will always go down as the happiest day of my life. We were that couple that everyone gets sick of and makes fun of for being too perfect for each other. We very rarely even argued. We laughed all the time. He was thoughtful and caring and treated me like an absolute princess. I was spoiled if I am being honest, but to be fair I tried to treat him the same. We held hands whenever we were out or in the car. We said “I love you” and “Thank you” countless times a day. We spent football Sundays snuggled up on the couch and loved date nights every week or so. We were trying to make a baby. We were ridiculously happy.
February of 2016 we celebrated Valentine’s day at my niece’s 3rd birthday party and then date night. The following day was a work holiday and we didn’t leave the house. We had a lazy day in pajamas and curled up on the couch watching movies and enjoying each other’s company. The next day, February 16th, I started a new job at the company I work for. Chris and I had worked together in the same department up until that point, but he was set to start a new job himself the following Monday. We were overly excited about the new changes ahead of us with both of us starting these new jobs, new opportunities, more money, moving forward. I remember him saying things were starting to look up.
I went to bed early that night, exhausted from the first day. We went to the bedroom and got changed for bed, he pulled me into a giant hug as he did every night. I pretended to fall asleep on his chest standing up. He tickled me to stop my fake snores. I squirmed and he gave me a big kiss, and we said goodnight. I watched him walk up the stairs and told him that I loved him. He said he loved me too.
The next morning I was awake at 6:00 am for no explanation. My alarm wasn’t set for another hour and I am a “hit snooze a million times” before I can drag my butt out of bed kind of person. But I was awake. Wide awake. That never happens. I got in the shower, started getting ready. About 7:00 am I realized I didn’t hear him up and about upstairs. (Our bedroom was in the basement and he had fallen asleep on the couch watching TV and never made it down to bed the night before, which happened every so often).
I yelled up. Nothing. Yelled up again. Nothing. I walk up to the top of the steps, pantless, yell to him its time to get up for work. Nothing. I walk into the living room and see him asleep on the couch and nudge him to wake up. Nothing. Then I actually looked at him. And I knew the minute I saw him he was gone.
He looked peaceful actually. Like he was sleeping. But I could tell from his coloring and the fact he wasn’t responding what had happened. I remember the moment the thought “Oh my god my husband is dead” went through my mind. It didn’t stop me from screaming, shaking him, hitting him, yelling for him to wake up. Finally it hit me that I needed to call 911. I ran downstairs for my phone and some pants.
The operator talked me through CPR which I did until the fire department arrived. I remember thinking “Wow they got here SO FAST”. The fire station is literally three houses down. They ran, they didn’t even get in the truck. I paced the kitchen and ran back and forth to the bathroom to vomit while the EMTs did all the stuff you see on TV to try to bring him back. I think they tried for so long for my benefit, I knew just from looking at him there was nothing that could be done.
I remember this woman, an EMT coming into the kitchen telling me they had done everything they could. He was pronounced dead in our home. No hospital. He had a history of high blood pressure, he had a family history of heart problems. He had been complaining of heartburn the past 24 hours which in retrospect should have been checked out. The police and EMTs contacted his primary care and let me know he had suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep, he probably didn’t feel a thing.
It wasn’t the scene you see in the movies where the widow collapses to the floor. I said “I know” and “thank you”. I was numb. I apologized to the police officer for how messy my house was. She had to ask me if there was anyone I could call to come be with me. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me yet. I called my sister and his brother, both live very close by. I just told them each to get to my house. They were there within minutes. It took years to see that scene through my own eyes in my memory.
On February 21st we celebrated what should have been his 35th birthday. We went to the same bar we met at, where we had our wedding after party, and we wrote messages to him on balloons and set them free. The next day we had his wake, and the following day his funeral. I gave myself a couple days, and started cleaning out my apartment. Threw away a ton, and moved back in with my parents. By March 1st I was back at work, day 2 of my brand new job.
What I struggle with the most:
PTSD. Finding him was a trauma completely separate from the grief and loss. I’ve gotten much better about it, but I still panic when I come accross sleeping people at times. If I come home to my dad sleeping on the couch, or if I get up for work in the morning before either of my parents are awake, I still need to check to make sure they are alive.
The fact that we never got to have children. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t imagine how hard it must be to tell a child their parent is gone and watch them grieve in addition to your own grief. I don’t have a part of him that will live on in a child. I never got to see him be a dad. When you get married, and eventually have kids, your nuclear family shifts. Instead of it being me and my brother and sister and parents, Chris became my immediate family. Chris and our future kids. I’m a Shaughnessy now, I’m no longer a Connerty. My new nuclear family is now just me. I take a lot of selfies.
What I am grateful for:
I have an incredible and amazing support system comprised of the best friends and family a girl could ever ask for. The outpouring of love and support.
We Do Care! This group has lifted me up when I was down and I have forged so many incredible friendships.
To have had the kind of love that a lot of people spend their entire lives looking for. We had the real thing. The stuff fairy tales are made of. The stuff I wasn’t sure really even existed until I met him. He literally taught me what it was like to be happy, what true love really meant. He made me a better person. I will always be so grateful to have had the honor of being his wife, even if that was cut far too short.