My reason for being, my stressors, my light, my tears, my joy, my sorrows, my future, my gift, my everything, my “what would I do without them”!
Why did they have to become part of the “kids with a parent who died” club? Why did I become part of the “parent with grieving kids and I don’t know how to help them” club? I would pay any penalty fees to get out of this club, but alas, here I am.
I will never forget having the social worker come to my house to help me find the words to tell my 3-year-old that his Dad had cancer – but don’t ask me what words she suggested (I forget that part!) and, for the life of me, I can’t remember how I told my son that his Dad died. Funny what the brain remembers and doesn’t. I was recently told by someone that they remember my son asking why everyone was crying at the funeral. I have zero recollection of that. I do, however, have many painful recollections of having to tell him over and over that his Dad died and that he wasn’t coming back. It still makes my heart hurt when I think about it.
Our first few years after Keith died were spent giving each other lots of hugs and cuddles, sharing tears, laughter and stories, and looking at photos. I worked hard to ensure my kids had the life they deserved after their innocence had been so tragically ripped from them. So many of the tears I shed were for them and the reality that they would never be able to spend time with their Dad and revel in each other’s company. Dad wasn’t going to be there to cheer them on, kiss their booboo’s and tuck them into bed, teach them how to drive, or be there for the first date. I tried to be the best Mom and Dad I could be, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t be a Dad, and there was no way I could fill his shoes.
I did my research and learned what I could to help me help them. I messed up more times than I care to admit – there is no “Mother of the Year” award coming my way anytime soon, but I am OK with that. I never dreamed that I would be in this situation – a widow and solo parent of 2 kids. I never dreamed that I would have to learn how to parent on my own – this was supposed to be a team sport. I never dreamed that I would have to answer “boy” questions for my son, but somehow, I found the answers. I never dreamed that I would have to find the strength to support my daughter through her fears and anxieties. I also never thought I would have such amazing kids. Kids who have fought back from this tragedy and rebuilt their identities. Kids who have learned to be resilient, go with the flow, love unconditionally, and kids who have oodles of compassion for their friends, family, and strangers. We have a bond that can’t be broken – that is stronger because of this tragedy.
Somewhere along this grief journey, I think it is important for all of us to realize where we came from, how far we have travelled and how successful we have been. In our grief, I find it can be easy to focus on the struggles and the challenges, and we forget to look at the accomplishments. I have had a few people over the years who tell me that my kids are who they are because of me. I am not one to take a compliment, but I am learning that there comes a time when we must pat ourselves on our back and say “Wow, I am one heck of a woman (or man) and my kids are so amazing because of what I taught them!”