Thursday, June 25, 2009

One year for Christmas Joe gave me a box of perfumes that he went to great lengths and traveled all over the state for. This always seemed a little weird to me because, well, generally speaking I don't wear perfume. I liked it just the same, and appreciated his effort. When he gave the box to me I took one of the little bottles out as the first one to use and it's been on my desk for probably 4 years. It's still almost full. The other day I was sitting at my desk and I picked up the bottle, held it in my hand as I remembered when he gave it to me. For the first time I looked closely at the tiny letters that formed the name of the scent. It is:


Saturday, June 20, 2009

All the end of the year stuff with the kids is hard. Alyssa graduating from preschool (silly I know but still a ceremony which I attend without my husband), field trips, field day, another school year ended, a new summer beginning, just all that stuff that reminds me of what my kids and I are missing. And Father's Day....can someone please make all the Father's Day talk STOP?! Everywhere I look there's a sign or a commercial or an ad or something. It rips my heart out to think of my kids seeing/hearing those things. --I know, I know-- the world doesn't revolve around my family. And I'm sure many different holidays bring up the same emotion for other families for their own specific reasons. And I know there are lots of great and wonderful fathers out there (like my own) that deserve their special day. I know all that, but still, Father's Day hurts a lot.

Luke said to me this morning "I want to give my book (a book he made at school) to Uncle Jeff for Father's Day". He said it very confidently and I was both surprised and not surprised when he said it.

I was not surprised because I have told my kids time and again that if all the kids are making something for their fathers at school at any time of the year, they can make something for another man they love, one of their grandfathers or an Uncle, etc. (**I am gigantically simplifying this last statement because we have had long and many talks about this kind of stuff in which I think about/prepare in advance). Anyway, last year Luke's teacher did not do anything specific for Fathers Day, which she said was out of respect for Luke. I thought that was extremely kind of her, as it was his first year without his dad and I was entirely unsure of what it would be like. This year the kids in Luke's class didn't do anything big either but they did talk about Father's Day to some degree (it helps that it falls at an extremely busy time of year--end of school). I hate thinking about my little boy in class during discussions about Father's Day. But it is a fact of (his) life.

So, the reason why I was surprised that Luke told me he wanted to give his book to Uncle Jeff was because his tone was very "un"sad and very confident of what he wanted to do, and it was entirely unprovoked. He just came up to me and told me. Luke generally is pretty lackadaisical about this kind of stuff-giving gifts-as I am sure many 7-year-olds boys are. I don't think he's ever had something and said "I want to give this to mommy" (absolutely no offense taken either, I want my kids to do their acts of love/kindess towards me in a completely unprompted way). I was surprised because of Luke's own thought and desire to do something kind for his Uncle on Father's Day.

So I guess while he's sitting there in class, and they are talking about Father's Day, maybe he was thinking of what he does have instead of what he doesn't have. And what he does have is an unbelievably loving, energetic, committed and reliable Uncle. There's nothing sad about that.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I am curious, how is everyone else doing in terms of Joe's death? Do you think about it more, less, that same? Does it hurt more, less, the same? Is anyone moving towards peace? Has anyone had any experiences that have given them comfort? Is it "normal" to anyone that this has happened? (normal not in a negative way but I guess do you have more of an acceptance of him being gone than you did?).

I know everyone misses him deeply, that goes without saying. But the pain, has it decreased for you?

Monday, June 8, 2009

When I think about our situation as a family of three now, I feel like I am so grateful that Joe and I have (had?) 2 children. Going through this with only one child seems like it would be so much harder.

As much as they drive me absolutely nuts lately with their bickering and fighting, I am so glad that they have each other. They are so opposite in so many ways, including how they display their emotion about the loss of their father. Alyssa does not go more than a few days without mentioning her daddy in some context. If it isn't a story, or a simple sentence, or a question about him, it is a quiet declaration of "I miss daddy".

Luke rarely mentions Joe. When he does, it always takes me a little by (pleasant) surprise. It's weird because Luke and Joe were very close and he has way more memories of his father than Alyssa does. When I ask him what he thinks about daddy he says he misses him but he doesn't think about him much. I do believe that Luke is telling the truth, but I also worry because I believe that when he thinks of his dad, if it feels painful to him, he tries to put it out of his head.

Luke is a thinker and that has been apparent at least since the age of 3. He is constantly sizing up whatever situation he is heading into before he decides if he's going to take part in it. He understands better than Alyssa what "death" means and the enormity of it. He was 6 years and 6 days when his daddy died. I think his mind is still taking it all in in small doses and when it gets too much for him he shuts it off. I know kids can do that. I just worry....because I am his mother....and I want him find a way to deal with this so that it doesn't come out negatively later in life. I can't tell you how often I wonder how my kids are doing mentally with this loss. I just have no way to tell.

One night on the way home from group Luke made a comment though that really gave me hope that **he is okay** and everything will be fine. He was talking about something that happened- and it was all kind of vague- but the idea was that a child in his group strongly expressed sadness that his/her parent had died. Luke kind of acted like he couldn't relate to what the child was feeling, but not because he doesn't love and miss Joe, but because (he said...with certainty):

"I just feel like he is up there mommy. I just feel like he is there."

Obviously it is impossible to convey Luke's tone by writing it, but the way he said it made me think that this kid feels his father with him. Still. I have never said or felt the way Luke said he was feeling, so I know he wasn't repeating back to me something he's heard me say. This was all him and it was 100% expressive truthfulness and the most real thing that I have heard him say about Joe's death. It was crazy to me to hear and it made me think- for the first time- that maybe my son is so unapparently phased by the death of his father because Joe is actually helping him deal in some way.

I don't even know how or if that is possible. But I know that intellectually speaking it would be Luke that needed the most help dealing with Joe's death out of the three of us. Alyssa was barely 3 when it happened and I think that Joe would have confidence in me that I would make it through somehow. But Luke....Joe was his buddy, his playmate, his joy and smile and his yes-man. How could Luke sustain this blow with so little resistance? If it is possible, and Joe is still with him in his little head, in his dreams, in his unconscious thoughts, somehow, anyhow, then it all makes a little more sense.

I have never felt Joe's presence since he died. Never. It is sad to me. But, at the same time, if he is with Luke then that thought gives me an unbelievabe amount of comfort. It's just one way of looking at it, but it's a way that explains a lot to me.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Luke called me "hun" because that's what he always heard his daddy call me. I guess he kinda thought that was my name.

Kids can learn a lot about relationships by how their parents treat each other. They see how two people act when they are in love; when they are repectful toward each other; when they are teasing; when the are mad at each other. I think kids learn a lot of stuff subconsciously by watching their parents interact.

I was completely satisfied and proud of the relationship that Joe and I had when it came to what we were showing our children. I thought of it while it was happening, while Joe was here. We had each other's backs so to speak when it came to the kids. If they were acting disrespectfully towards one of us, the other one always spoke up in their defense. "Don't talk to mommy that way" -or- "don't say no to your father when he asks you to do something". No matter what was going on in our own relationship, if we were feeling aggravated with each other for some reason, we never, ever let that get in the way of treating the other parent with the respect they deserved.

I know not every child has two loving parents in the home for a whole range of reasons. And I know that most of them turn out just fine and capable of having loving relationships. It just kids had it....Joe and I were here and living a great life, ready to parent, loving each other, displaying affection, having arguments, working out problems....all in plain view for our kids to see. But now they don't have that anymore. I hate it.

I am aware that as kids grow up they become more disenchanted with their parents by the week. I know that I have truly great kids. But sometimes I feel so upset that Joe is not here to help me with all of this, and I wonder how and what would be different if he were here to show the kids how their mother should be treated. Would they roll their eyes less? Would they argue with me less when I ask them to do something? Would they still blatanty claim they "didn't hear me" when I tell them something? I guess....probably not. But I'll just never know about that. What I do know is that at least there would be someone there finishing the argument with me. And all the battles wouldn't be mine to fight.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Group" is done.

The Tuesday night bereavement group that the kids and I were attending is over. I can't believe it's been 10 weeks already. If you remember we were all in separate age-appropriate groups. We met a lot of great people I think all three of us benefited from it.

It's weird how it works for the kids, and honestly, I don't know specifically how or why it works, but it does work. Every time we left after group the kids were happy, energized and seemed to really enjoy themselves. I think that it was just good for them to see and hear the stories of other children who had lost a parent, to know that they are not alone. They did not sit around and talk and cry (like the adults often do), everything was very project oriented and allowed the kids to express themselves as much or as little as they wanted to each week. Everything in each group is confidential, the facilitators can not/do not tell what your child talked about. Because of that, I don't have any big revelations in terms of what they talked about in the loss of their father. All I know is that the whole experience seemed positive for them and I do believe that they got something good out of going.

I was so happily surprised to see Luke equally as content going to group as Alyssa. I worried a little at the beginning because he hates crafty type stuff and would much prefer to be playing something....a game or a sport or something like that...but he didn't ever complain about it. Alyssa loooooved every moment because she makes crafts and talks all day on any regular day, so to do that with other 4 and 5 year olds with whom she shared a unique connection was great for her. Obviously kids don't have the capacity to sit and talk about their feelings about loss, but it seems that just sitting next to someone "like them" and coloring might tie a strong bond that in some way helps them to heal.

This is also the end of my own personal group "marathon"....and honestly I was ready to be done. In additon to the previous 10 weeks of young widow/widowers, you may remember I was also in another smaller group of widows that lasted 6 weeks. So I've been 4 straight months of working through stuff and I've got to say it is hard work. Lots of times I would dread going but I was usually glad that I went when it was over.

The reason why I call it "hard work" is because it causes me to face stuff each week that maybe I might not be thinking about otherwise. It causes a lot more thoughts throughout the week pertaining to the loss and the accident itself. What it does is really not allow me to sweep it under the rug so to speak and put it away. As much as I want to be done with these dreaded feelings, I do want to deal with them and think them through so that some day (when, I have no idea) they do not feel so painful and so that they do not eventually bubble to the surface and damage my future happiness.

The other reason why I call it "hard work" is because I have sat in several groups now and listened to so many people's losses. This is really, really sad stuff to hear and exhausting sometimes to think about. Disease, suicide, accidents and even murder. All circumstances are different. Everyone is struggling and looking for answers. But really there are none. There are commonalities that hold us all together. The things you cannot explain to people who have not lost a spouse. Somehow through the common bond comes a little bit of comfort. I cannot tell you how I wish I did not qualify for this kind of group, but I am thankful that they exist, and I am humbled by all the brave people who come to share their stories.

I did have one pretty awful experience at a session a few weeks ago. Sometimes things hit you by surprise when you are talking at these things. Topics that you didn't think bothered you anymore are suddenly extremely painful. At one point during this particular meeting we were talking about what was coming up for everyone the following week, which was to include Memorial Day weekend. When I started talking about what I would be doing, which was going to camp in VT, suddenly my eyes began to sting and the tears poured out. I could not stop crying, even after I had stopped talking.

Camp is a difficult subject for me. Last summer almost every trip up there I cried quietly behind my sunglasses with the kids in the back seat. Camp is the last place I saw Joe. The last place I kissed him. The last place I saw him with our children. The last place I slept next to him. It is where we spent so, so many good times before and after we had kids. It's the place where he asked me to marry him. And Memorial Day weekend is the weekend that he did it. I didn't consciously think that it all was still so painful. But I guess based on my reaction at my group I still am grappling with it. When I am at camp I busy my mind with nothingness, just trying to steer clear of anything that could send me over the edge. It's a fine line to mentally navigate. And I know that it bubbles just below the surface for many people there.

I wonder what it is like for my kids that the last time they saw their father was at camp and then they just.....never...saw....him....again. I am so sorry that it happened this way. I am sure when they grow up they will be able to explain to me better about what this was all like for them.

I met some great people in the last 4 months. I think about them all the time. And I pray that there is peace somewhere in their futures.