Grieving and Parenting
Two scenes, same day.
I have been a rough patch for a while. The girls have been good. They are upbeat and energized and have even been getting along really well and playing together without screaming or fighting. I hope putting those words to paper didn’t jinx it. But I am in a rough patch where I have to actively fight sliding into depression. I feel it. I feel the heaviness that makes me want to stay in bed, curl up on the couch and do nothing, say nothing, feel nothing. I am fighting it and I am mostly winning but it is so hard. It is all the time, always, so hard. I read something recently that has been running through my head. “Just do the next right thing” (Glennon). That is as much as has to happen at each moment. I remember needing to just breathe through the next few minutes after Ron died. Forget one day at a time; it was a couple of minutes at a time. Time broken into tiny chunks to make it manageable. In this period that I am thinking should be called, “FUCK!!!! What am I supposed to do now?” , I am having to coach myself into just doing the next right thing even if it is only turning on the dishwasher. The idea is that all these small right things keep you moving, keep you living.
This morning at breakfast I read a blog post about a woman and her son. Her husband/his father died when he was 13 months. He has no memories of his father. She wrote that he is a happy, well adjusted 5 year old. Out of the blue, one day on the way to school, he said that he missed his real daddy and started asking questions about him. When his curiosity was satisfied he moved on to chatter about different subjects. His mom was taken completely by surprise. Here is what she thought about after she dropped off her son:
“I can't fix this.
There is nothing I can do to give my children their father back. There is nothing I can do to give them their innocence lost or security they may have had in their invincible parents back. Death stole these things from them and I am incapable of fixing that reality.
My kids know loss. My kids know death. My kids miss their dad. Period. End of story. End of discussion.
Or is it???
What my children also know is resiliency. They know that life is made up of choices and that when all seems lost we can still make the choices in this life to be and do more. They know from a tender age that bad things happen but that resiliency can help to carry them through very dark days. They have learned that why we may never move ON we can move forward for a new and different path.
My children know love. They know that people die but even in death we still can love them beyond this world. They know that the people who remain in their present life love them deeply and care for their happiness. They know that community matters, choices matter, LIFE matters.
My children know joy. We practice happiness in our house because we have known the worst sadness possible. We grasp at the good and practice counting the blessing that surround us daily.
I can't fix what has happened in our lives. All I can do is continue to live, answer the hard questions when they come up, and show my babies why we all deserve to live a beautiful life.” (One Fit Widow)
Her post made me cry. I didn’t want Samantha to see me crying so I quickly walked to my bathroom so I could cry alone. What I didn’t realize was that Samantha was following me, she’d been watching me and now was worried about what was going on. She said, “What is the matter, Mommy?” I told her that I had just read about another family who lost a daddy and it made me sad. As she patted me on the back she said, “It’s okay, Mommy, it’s okay”. She took my hand and told me to follow her and patted the bed and told me to sit down. Then she walked over to Ron’s ashes and brought them over to me to hold. This led into a conversation about when, if ever, we might feel ready to sprinkle the ashes, that she wants to keep some for herself and that others will want some of him, too. She told me that she hopes her portion of the ashes contains his heart. I told her that no matter what, she would have a part of his heart, that it was all mixed up in there together. Then we got into a somewhat gruesome, 8 year old conversation about cremation versus burial. She told me that she thought a graveyard was kind of icky and too sad, “all those people who died-all over the place”. I’d never thought of it like that! The sad moment passed and we went back to the kitchen and breakfast continued.
Sophie is going to middle school next year. My baby is leaving elementary school. Very hard to believe. I look at her face and I see her babyhood and I see her as a 3 year old and I see her now. She has a face that will stay almost the same when she is an adult. She applied to and got into two super competitive magnet programs for middle school. When I opened the second letter (which I thought was a rejection because the first letter came in a big envelope and the second came in a regular letter-sized envelope) all I could do was cry. I am so proud of her. She is smart and funny and loving and present. She is a delightful, thoughtful child. I cried, not because I was so thrilled that she got into the programs. The regular middle school program is fine. I wouldn’t have been upset if she hadn’t gotten in. I cried because Ron would have been so proud of her and he will never know. I grieve for him, for what he will never have, what he will never know. He won’t get to see how his parenting helped her turn into the kid that she is today. As parents, isn’t that what we want to know? I know that it isn’t all up to us. That we do what we can and then our kids are and become their own people, make their own choices and their successes and failures are their’s to own. But his influence was great and his love and stability grounded her. He will never be able to tell her how proud he is and I don’t know if my telling her how I think he would feel holds all that much weight. He is not ever going to know. And she isn’t ever going to have him here to cheer her on. And I can’t fix it. All I can do is help her live with it.