A Widowed Mother’s Wish

“I may be imperfect and mess up a lot. I may say things I will later regret. But never doubt for one moment that I love you and want you to live a great life.”

There is no doubt that any mom is imperfect, but a widowed mom carries with her the fear that her imperfections will no longer be balanced out by the one she can no longer turn to. She fears she will never be able to be both mother and father. She won’t be. She can only be herself. She can only do her best. And when her best isn’t as good as she wants it to be, she can only learn to forgive herself for not being more than herself. And then learn that forgiveness is not needed because she is good enough on her own. These are very hard things to learn. I am trying to learn them myself. I do my best, but I am not perfect. I will never be perfect, but I no longer strive for perfection. I strive to be good enough.

You are good enough as long as you stay in the fight. Don’t give up. Don’t decide that you will never be as good as you think you should be. Don’t settle for mediocre, because you are not mediocre. Decide that you are good enough and you will find that you are.

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My Grieving Heart Still Begs To Have My Husband Home

No one knows how to beg like a person who’s lost their love. It was February last year when my husband died. Our daughter hadn’t even learned to walk yet. It’s been nearly 21 months now and our daughter is a firecracker! We have moved and life has changed. It’s not easy finding a way to let it be ok that he is not here, but I’m doing it. I’m here and he is not… and I have this sweet angel to get me through it all. 

I hate the terms moving on and moving forward. I hate those terms because it feels as though it means leaving behind. And it does matter that it never feels as though you are having to leave them behind. And it does matter that you don’t feel as though you are being asked to leave them behind. So I will not say that I am moving forward or moving on… but that I keep moving. I keep putting one foot in front of the other and I don’t stop. 

That old life is now a past life. But I can’t leave it in the past. That is what it means to leave something or someone behind. That past life needs to come with me on my journey through the present and into the future. That past needs to remain my present, so it is imperative that I do not leave it behind, that I do not leave him behind. 

This is why I beg. I used to beg for him to come back, to come home. Today, I still beg for him to come home. The pain isn’t over and the longing hasn’t stopped. But more often now, I find myself begging him to stay with me, just don’t leave me! Because the idea that I might move forward in this life and that he may not remain with me… that’s excruciating. So I need him to remain with me. 
You may have your own beliefs about what happens to a person when they die, but after your love dies, another persons beliefs are of little comfort. My own personal belief that he is with me is all the comfort I will ever get. And I can work to strengthen my spirituality if I choose to, but I will find my way in this on my own.

You see, I have come to believe that the very reason religion exists is because death exists. Spirituality I think comes natural to people as a whole, but the need for community and answers drive us to find religion. And I have come to believe that what you believe in and what I believe in are equally valid, because the only thing that matters at the end of the day is the comfort it brings to a heart in need. Right now my heart has found its way to a spiritual place that I am comfortable with. Right now my heart is still broken and still yearns for another moment in the past and a future that will never happen. And my heart begs. My heart begs for him to stay with me, to never leave me, to stay by my side until the end of my days. Even if I were to find love again, I need him to be with me, too. Because my heart will always love him. And it has been forever changed by losing him, and forever changed by having him. 

So hold the ones you love. Remind yourself why you love them, and then tell them that. Don’t forget. Don’t lose sight of what is important in the forward motion of the day to day. Don’t let “in a minute” become your “should haves”. Love eagerly and passionately. Don’t work so much that you can’t enjoy your life. You will never get another chance at today, and you never know when your time is up.

Parenting Failure: My Admission

This blog is about is about loss, and it’s also about parenting. And for a widow with children, these two things are so deeply intertwined that one has everything to do with the other.

I like to consider myself a patient person and a patient parent. I work hard to make sure that I am as gentle as I can be without becoming a pushover (sometimes I’m a pushover, but I try to take control of even that so she thinks she is winning when really I decided I would give in before I set the boundary). When she is upset, I comfort her. When she is angry, I let her be angry. When she is throwing a tantrum, I walk away with open arms ready to welcome her back to the land of reality whenever she is done having her moment. And when I am at the end of my rope, I work hard to keep my mouth shut. If no useful words will spill out when I open my mouth, then no words should spill out. 

I try hard, but I am not perfect. Sometimes I have to work harder to keep my mouth shut than others. And sometimes those non-helpful words sneak out before I catch them. I’m not perfect, but I try hard to be a good mom. I’m the only parent she has. She doesn’t have another parent here to balance me out, so I have to be everything she needs all wrapped up in one imperfect (and, in many ways, broken) person. I will never be perfect, and I don’t strive to be. I simply strive to be good enough. 

Last night was the first time I truly crossed the line. I hadn’t been sleeping well (or very much lately for that matter) and I have been exhausted! I’m exhausted and up too late right now writing this. My toddler woke up in the middle of the night crying for me. I was instantly angry. I had just managed to fall asleep and now I’m woken up. But I managed to pull it together… for a moment, until she asked me to sit in her room with her for a while. She often does this, particularly if she’s had a bad dream. I get it. It’s a reasonable request. The poor thing just needs a tiny bit of comfort from mommy. But when she laid back down in her bed and I saw her eyes wide open and staring at me I lost it. I yelled at her to close her eyes. Then I yelled at her to come sleep in mommy’s room so that I could go back to sleep (I was so exhausted it hurt). She said no and started crying “mommy sit there!” Pointing to the chair next to her bed that I was already sitting in. Then I got up, told her “no”, I picked her up and grabbed teddy and brought her into my bed and told her she’s sleeping there. Then I proceeded to yell at her to go to sleep!

What was I thinking? She’s a toddler, she’s not even three years old. She woke up from a bad dream and all I have for her is to berate her like this? The poor thing did nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, wrong! Where was soft and compassionate mommy when she just needed a few minutes of comfort? 

I cried myself to sleep. I burst into tears and I hugged her and apologized for yelling, for being mean. She just rolled over and went to sleep. I don’t know if she was stunned, or if my perspective made me feel like it was so much worse than it was, or if she really is just one tough cookie. I don’t know that answer. But I do know that as terrible as I felt about it this morning, I still ended up repeating the same mistake again today! Again I yelled. And this time I was so mad at myself in the moment that I stood up and I stormed into my bedroom and slammed the door. I dropped onto my bed and sobbed into my pillow. I gave myself about 2 minutes before I pulled it together enough to open the door. She was standing right there playing with some mark on the door itself. I grabbed her and hugged her and just held her, apologizing through my tears. I picked her up and we both sat down on my bed quietly where I apologized without the tears this time. I told her that she did nothing wrong and that I was wrong to yell and get mad like that. I asked her if mommy was mean last night, she said yes. I said, “I am so sorry I was mean to you, you didn’t do anything wrong”. I really needed to drive the point home. 

I’ve been holding back tears all day because I know that yelling at my toddler is not ok with me, and I can’t be that mom. So I am trying to change my internal dialogue from “I am a piece of shit” to “I am not being my best self” because I can fix one of those things… and the other is just self-deprecating. It’s not always easy in these moments. But I’m trying! I also decided that I need to do something about this exhaustion, so I called my parents and arranged for them to take my daughter for an overnight so that I can get some relaxation and sleep. 

I crossed the line last night. I know that Matt would have looked at me and decided that we needed to make a plan. He wouldn’t have been upset with me, as long as I fixed it. Not eventually, but now. He was a wonderful husband, he was so good to me. So when something like this happens, I can’t help but realize how much this has to do with losing him. I don’t say that with blame or to excuse my behavior, I simply mean that I miss him. I’m exhausted from doing all of this solo. I’m exhausted from missing him. Grief creeps in from behind if you ignore it for too long. You can pretend like it’s not there but it will always follow you like a shadow, so tend to it. And for the love of everything that is good in the world, get some sleep!

When Will Good Enough Ever Be Good Enough?

 

I am a widow, and the mom of a toddler. It isn’t easy to be both of those things. Hell, it isn’t easy to be either one of those things, but here we are. When I lost my husband everything changed. My life changed, everything was different and I didn’t know what to do. But I knew that if I was going to give my daughter any chance at the life she deserves, I had to change.

Self-compassion is something I learned only after Matt died. Everyone would tell me to go easy on myself, but to me these were words that had no meaning. As much as I wanted to understand what this meant, I had no idea how to do it! I had my ah-ha moment after doing a lot of work with my therapist and doing a lot of soul searching. And then one night, as I was hanging pictures on my wall, I dropped a picture frame. It wasn’t a special or important picture frame, or one that I even particularly liked. It didn’t break, I simply fumbled and dropped it. But when I did, the words that came out of my mouth were terrible, and they were cruel. You’re so stupid! What is wrong with you? I hate you. This may seem like an over the top reaction to dropping a picture frame that didn’t break and that I don’t even like. It is. This is an over the top reaction to absolutely anything. And these are things that I would NEVER say to anyone… except me. But on this night something was different because I stopped myself, and I said out loud, “Stop it! Shut the hell up. Go to bed.” And I did.

I made a habit of doing that until I learned how to give myself a break, how to speak to myself the way I would speak to anyone else. Now I try to follow one simple rule; to speak to myself the way I would speak to a friend. I practice this and it isn’t always easy, but it is important to me. It is important that those terrible words don’t enter my house or my head. They are not welcome here anymore.

I did all that soul searching and healing of old wounds because I knew in my heart that I could not heal from Matt’s death if I didn’t heal other things about myself first. I couldn’t be the person he would want me to be, or the mother that my daughter deserves, if I didn’t heal myself. So I put my grief on hold for a while and I dealt with me. It’s all just so much work! It’s hard to be a widow. It’s hard to be a mom. I need to be the person standing in my own corner, picking myself back up. I need to show myself the same kindness and compassion that I can no longer look to my husband for.

I want only the best for my daughter. I want to teach her that she can do anything. I want her to be confident enough in herself to be authentically her. To figure out what she really wants in this life and then to be courageous enough to go for it. I want her to dream big, knowing that big dreams take hard work and a lot of failure. I can’t teach her any of this if I am not living it. I can’t teach her to believe in herself if I don’t believe in myself. So I’m figuring it out.

I told this to a friend of mine recently and now I am reminding myself:

Sometimes surviving is a full time job. Sometimes it feels like you can’t handle as much as you think you should, because you forget to include all the things you are doing that you can’t put on a list or on your schedule. You are picking up the pieces and going a thousand miles an hour… and trying to be normal. But he died. This isn’t normal. Nothing about this is normal. You can’t be superwoman because this isn’t a comic book. Don’t try to be superwoman, she’s not real. Be you, you are real and you are wonderful. Don’t risk getting lost trying to be more than human. I prefer you when you are human.

I’m not the same person that I used to be. I am not yet where I want to be but I am working on it, and that is good enough for me because I am healing.