Another holiday is here without you. The last couple days I have been really sad, that sadness that comes when I want to be happy. I smile, laugh, and play but the sadness deep down is never gone…I see you everywhere. About three weeks ago we started thinking about Easter and what we would do. I remembered all the Easter’s before you left us. By now we would have the kids Easter baskets picked out and had filled them with toys and a new outfit. We would plan a cookout with our family and I would make your favorite deviled eggs, we would make confetti eggs with Johnathan and you would stock up on your favorite Cadbury cream eggs – gross! At least we both hated peeps. I was running into Walgreens the other morning before work, I needed to grab a snack for one of my kiddos who always comes in hungry; as I was checking out I saw the Cadbury cream eggs….I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes and I quickly made it to my car just in time before I lost it. All the memories have been flooding back to me since then. I can’t imagine another holiday without you. I can’t make Easter baskets for the kids. I can’t make deviled eggs. I can’t do a family outing. I just can’t. I told Johnathan, I just can’t, I’m sorry. He understands of course, I told him instead we would just have dinner at home with grandma and popo. He asked for spring decorations rather than Easter decorations…as much as I hesitated, I told him we could get some flowers for the table. I told him I can’t do baskets this year, it’s too painful. Instead we’ll make a trip to Toys R Us and he can pick out a little toy that has to be played with outside. He agreed. We went shopping for the dinner this week, I just grabbed random items and thought, “I think I can make a roast with this stuff”.
Tonight is the beginning of the long weekend and it’s hard, I know by now that we would be doing all our normal Easter rituals, but instead I settled for one of our favorite movies and popcorn for dinner with the kids. I scrolled online to see how the scholarship campaign has been coming along. It’s getting there! So happy and so grateful. It’s so hard to relive this tragedy over and over again, each time I see that video on social media. I still can’t believe it’s you, that I’m actually talking about you who died. How did this happen? How am I working for your memory? It just doesn’t making sense, it’s so frustrating that I can’t wrap my head around it. But I’m so honored to do it. Not only is my mind trying to wrap itself around the idea that’s it’s another holiday without you, but my body is also telling me that Sunday is the four month anniversary of when we buried you. I can feel the anxiety rushing through me, the hard to breathe moments, the everything makes me want to cry feeling, the silence that I carry…even Johnathan stopped and asked “are you sad mom?” – yes, I’m always sad, but I’m a little extra sad this weekend….”me too”, he says.
On my way home today I kept thinking about that weekend and what it felt like, I could feel the tightness in my chest again, the tense feeling in my shoulders and neck and the blurriness in my eyes from tears. I can remember staying up that night watching the sun rise and thinking that this can’t be real. I remember the next two mornings waking up and not knowing where I was and then reminded that this is a nightmare, I would pinch myself to see if it were a dream, each time it would hurt and then I would bruise. I remember staring off into nothingness in complete disbelief. Looking back I remember a lot of sitting and gazing off while everyone around me was rushing frantically trying to get answers, answering the telephone, speaking to investigators, speaking to people we knew, calling family and friends, I remember people in and out of the house, plates of food being brought to me every now and then, Johnathan playing, Bella crawling around….but I was still on the couch just staring in disbelief, shock; I couldn’t move for days it seemed. I came home after we buried you, walking into our house and smelling you here still…it hit me like a ton of bricks. I crawled into our bed and cried myself to sleep. I haven’t done that in a while, but I remember those long nights where all I could do was cry myself to sleep and hope for a miracle that I would wake up with you next to me. Now, I wake up slowly, I stare at the ceiling and think of you standing there next to the bed where I last touched you begging you not to leave. It takes everything I have to pull the covers off and start our day.
I don’t know that the anger will ever leave me, but the sadness is getting deeper and that’s the only way I can describe it. That deep cut that stung so bad is now scabbing and so the pain is getting deeper. Weeks don’t seem so fuzzy anymore…reality is settling in. I used to look back at a few weeks and not remember much. Now I can look back at three weeks ago and remember things clearly again. I don’t have to write myself a lot of notes to remind myself of what has to get done, my mind is starting to come back together again. I have been working so hard and I don’t know if it’s to keep myself from really grieving, but it’s what keeps me going for now. I focus on work, I focus on the kids, I focus on the organization and the scholarship is our number one priority. I’m trying my hardest to catch Johnathan up at school and Bella keeps jumping ahead five stages at a time I can barely keep up with her. I wonder what you think of her. She is such a firecracker, go, go, go from sun up to sun down she is on the go and taking in everything around her. She owns the world and she isn’t afraid to take it on. Her development is so fast and her doctor can’t believe it, she just got assessed for gifted! Can you believe that!? I know you would be proud, not just because of her amazing brain, but because of her little attitude, I know that’s you! She’s a wild one and she gets that from you.
Today, Sawyer’s groomer came, the same one who came the day of your funeral. Poor kid, he showed up thinking he was just going to groom a service dog, instead he got a family in chaos and grief. He remembers us so well and has become quite the companion to Sawyer. Each time he comes Sawyer is so excited to see him, today he asked, “the usual?” – an oatmeal bath soap with extra conditioning cream…. I added a trim too. He asked how we are holding up, I said “ok”. He acknowledged how awesome Sawyer is and said that he seems to be adjusting just fine…I agree, Sawyer has gotten so much better. He said, “I have a surprise for you Sawyer, I’ve been saving it for you” I was kind of confused but said, eh maybe a new treat….Sawyer came back with a red marine corps bow tie on his collar, he said I found it on the bottom of our tie bucket and knew this had be Sawyer’s for his next grooming! I took it off and saved it because I know Bella is quick to rip off all of Sawyer’s fresh new bow-ties. I love that everyone has kept a special place in their heart for Sawyer, because he felt this too, he hurts too, and he deserves a little something special every day too.
As much as I wish I could skip through Easter and just jump right into the next weekend, I can’t. I will have to face it like everything else we have had to face. I will spend it quietly at home with our kids, there will be no grilling, there will be no deviled eggs, or candy, there will be no Easter baskets, or stupid bunnies, or stupid chickens, it will be just us and some sort of dinner.
This song reminds me so much of us, you would always play and sing it to me…in the most beautiful awful way, thank you for loving me like that.
I love you, I miss you, I want you home.
Since the death of my husband in December there has been a lot of adjustment I have had to make. We have two children together, Johnathan Alexander, 6 years old and Isabella Ireland 15 months old. My husband passed away December 2, 2016 just 9 days away from our daughters first birthday. His death was sudden and tragic. I was lost and didn’t know where how to pick up the pieces, but knowing I had two young children who needed me. The morning after he died I remember rehearsing in my mind the words I would use to tell our son that his dad had died. I had to be gentle and not disclose too much information to him yet, right then he just needed to know he wasn’t going to see his father anymore and he would also need comforting. I sat him on my niece’s bed at my sister’s house; I told him, “remember last night how I told you daddy needed some help”, “yup” he said, I continued, “Well mommy did her very best to get daddy help, I did everything I could, but there was an accident and last night daddy died.” There was silence, I saw the tears and confusion on his face, he looked up at me and asked, “my dad?” I said, “yes sweetheart, your dad. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry” I hugged him as he started to cry and asked, “what happened?” I told him I wasn’t sure, I called 911 for help and something happened when the police were trying to help his dad. He cried and said, “Wait, I already knew that, I had a dream about it!” he went on to tell me about a dream he had about his dad being locked in a room and he was trying to help him and get him out, but he couldn’t and his dad started to slip away into another dimension. I was stunned and afraid, from that moment the fear has never gone away.
Since that day four months ago my children and I have struggled to pick up the pieces, some days are better than others. As a new single mom I have had a lot of adjustments. I returned to work a month after burying my husband and felt numb. I returned to only part-time as a family therapist choosing to work the hours my children were in school (particularly my son). I was fortunate enough to enroll Isabella into a daycare that is under the same organization as my work, she was enrolled when I was in college still, so she still qualifies for free daycare until age 3; I am so grateful for this. I have lost half my income since my husband’s death and have been supporting my children and myself off of our savings account and my part-time work. I am still waiting for the children’s veteran’s benefits and social security benefits to begin, but that has been a difficult issue to navigate. Luckily we have a very supportive family, who are willing to help financially if we need it. This new money adjustment seems to be the last thing on people’s minds, but I can assure you living in a single income is no easy task and requires careful budgeting that I was not previously used to.
I am also still overcoming the barriers of day to day tasks, every day is different. Usually I am up by 5 a.m. to get myself ready for the day and hopefully enjoy a cup of coffee by myself. I wake up my son at 6:45 for breakfast, he is quite independent now and can get himself dressed and brush his teeth. He still needs help making breakfast, packing his lunch, and doing his hair. These tasks are all new to him since his father died, but without encouraging this independence we would not make it to school and work on time. I wake up Isabella at about 7:30, I change her diaper, get her dressed, do her hair, and offer her a bottle. I then let the dogs out and feed them. We are hopefully out the door by 7:40. First we drop off Johnathan, then Isabella and I go to work and school together. I take her to her teacher about 8:15-8:30 a.m. I check myself into my office and hopefully do a little meditating before I begin seeing my clients for sessions. My last session ends at 2:00 p.m. and I leave to pick up Johnathan from school by 2:30 across town, then we head back across town to pick up his little sister when she is out of school by 3:00 p.m. When we arrive home, I bring the dogs in, give them water inside, check if my niece has come to walk the dogs and fix the children a snack. I sit at the kitchen table and go through mail, review Johnathan’s homework folder, and begin any home or business tasks that need to be addressed, such as: scheduling appointments, making phone calls etc. I will start a load of laundry, clean up, have the kids finish their snacks and wash up to play a little before dinner. After dinner the kids take their baths. I help Isabella of course and get her dressed for bed. She has a bottle and falls asleep in her crib at about 7:30 p.m. Johnathan and I then do homework together and read before his bed time at 8:30-9:00 p.m. I then take a little time for myself, feed the dogs, go outside and spend some quiet time to reflect and maybe write.
It’s hard to find a breather in these typical day to day tasks. I don’t get to watch T.V. like I used to enjoy or read books. I have missed many of my favorite shows because my time doesn’t have any room for them, I haven’t finished a book I started back in September. I am so exhausted by the end of the day, but I struggle to fall asleep because the memories of my husband keep me awake at night. I cry a lot during the day, when I’m home with the kids, or even alone at home. Mostly I cry because I miss my husband. Sometimes I cry because I feel so overwhelmed with everything. I don’t know how I’m doing it, but it’s the only choice I have because of my babies. When my husband was alive, he would make dinner, even do laundry, sweep and mop the floors, the kids would be bathed if I had to work late, sometimes they would even be in bed by the time I got home. He was a stay-at-home dad and went to school in the evenings twice a week. He took on a lot of the responsibilities at home, like those chores, but also picking our kids up from school, coaching our son’s soccer team, and taking them for the occasional ice cream cone after school. Now, I’m sometimes late to pick up Johnathan from school and he gets very angry when I am, Johnathan hasn’t been able to do soccer because I must take care of his sister. Not only have I had to make some hard adjustments, but so have our children. My son still only likes the way his dad makes French toast for breakfast, he misses him as his soccer coach, he only likes ice cream with dad, and I never read the characters of his favorite books right. But he appreciates me trying, even though we both don’t like our new roles in the family we are doing our best.
Isabella, though as an infant you might think she would adjust easily, has had quite a difficult time in her adjustment. She didn’t sleep at all in those first couple weeks her dad died. She ended up getting strep throat too that week he died. She only slept with me. She regressed too, she had just started to give up her pacifier and her bottle; after her dad died she took back to those comforts of sucking. Just as she was about to walk, she stayed crawling a little longer until almost 13 months old. About a week before I returned to work, Isabella began to sleep in her own crib again, but even today she still needs a bottle before bed and her pacifier throughout the day. She is very attached to me. I give her narratives of where I’m going and what I’m going to do next. For example: “Bella I’m going to go to the kitchen now to cook dinner” and she will then follow close behind me. If I don’t tell her where I’m going or what I’m going to do she will not be cued to follow me and will be left behind in the next room. If she so happens to turn around and realize I have left her without a narrative she will begin to cry and get scared, I will have to go pick her up and she will not let me put her down until she feels “safe” or can trust me again. I have been very mindful of her needs. I joke that she is my little shadow and I look for her now everywhere I go, even when I know she is not around. I believe that even though Bella doesn’t know her dad died, she knows he’s gone and she is fearful that if he can leave so suddenly and not come back, the same can happen to mom and that is why she is so attached and keeps close to me.
We live everyday on the tips of our toes not knowing what to expect or if there will be a new challenge we have yet to face. But I keep my kids close, we comfort each other, and they out everyone else know how hard this adjustment has been.