Why I Didn’t Want to Be Okay in Grief

It’s been two years, eight months, and fourteen days since my husband passed away from this Earth. I get “the look” quite often, when friends and family realize the Earthly time table that he has been gone, and that I am “still” mourning, grieving, and missing him tremendously. The look, but no verbal acknowledgement that, “Really, it’s been almost three years, and you are STILL grieving this hard. Come on, you have to move on.”

I get it: the look. Quite honestly, I have given the look, and thought the same thoughts when others have lost their loved ones, before I lost Joe. The time table on Earth does indeed lull the pain, take the edge of the gripping sharpness that left me gasping for air in those first days. “That” is what others do not get though–I didn’t want it to get easier, I didn’t want the pain to dull, and I certainly did not want others to ever forget the fight, the legacy, the character of my husband, my best friend, but most importantly the father of my son.

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Porter and his Daddy on his First birthday. The boy has expensive taste–shrimp and steak for this boy, he eats good. 

In months that passed after Joe died, friends, colleagues, family would ask how I was doing. Although life appeared to be moving on, as I went back to work, continued working on my Master’s Degree, and continued being a mom to our infant son, the inevitable choking lump would rise to the top of my throat and the tears would burn the brim of my eyes. I attempted to smile, and just nod my head. I wasn’t okay. I appeared to be, because life required me to to continue to be a functioning member of society. I didn’t get to stop working, or stop being a mom that cared for our son. Had I chose the latter, no one in society would have given me the excuse that I was “just grieving.” Everyone would have told me to get a grip, and continue on in life. I still did things with our son, and still lived, making conscious decisions every day to get out of bed, and still have a life full of memories for our son. It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t, but I refuse to allow sorrow to navigate our lives.

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Porter and I LIVING at Porter’s first trip to Busch Stadium, June 2017. 

I guess I was afraid that if things started getting easier, less painful–yet still hurting–I would love him less. I felt like as time passed, others would think I cared less, forgot about our love, journey, and the road that led to where I was. Quite frankly, I didn’t, DON’T want to love him less, or forget about the man he was. I certainly never want to forget what a wonderful dad he was, because there is a little boy that only got to experience fourteen months of him being a dad. He deserves to still know the Daddy he has, the memories, excitement, and character of who his Daddy is. After all children on Earth get to experience that every day, I refuse to allow our son to be devoid of that, on top of not having his Daddy here every day.

I read other’s encounters through blogs, books, testimonies that although time dulled the intense amount of pain, you don’t love them less. You just learn to deal with the pain better; that it is more manageable. They are right, though I didn’t want them to be either. I wanted to stay there–that painful place that allowed me to feel the loss so significantly, because…. well, just because. Time did not allow it though. Time only allowed me to realize I’ll always love him, and that I can still be happy, and continue on in life. Time did not promise me moments that I would still cry, still miss him beyond any words, it just promised me to allow me to breathe during those times it still hurt. And somehow, some way, I think Joe made it known he wouldn’t dare let me camp out and feel sorry for myself, or our son. He made me keep going, evident by the opportunities and people he has set along my path.

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Knowing he knew how much I loved him, is the greatest gift through grief.

It may sound weird to some, but when you are walking the never-ending journey of grief, you get “it.” You get that others do, in fact, talk about your loved one less, you do realize that your life is moving on without them–and that hurts. Others see this as a good thing, that it is healthy. But I didn’t want this life without him. I didn’t want our son’s life without his dad here to raise him. Although I know that Joe would, and does, want me to continue to live life to the very maximum, every moment I think of him. I think of his half-crooked smile he would have as our son tries to power his four-wheeler up our driveway. I think of the quiet giggle he would have as Porter begins dancing to his own beat in the middle of a restaurant, not a care in the world at what other’s might think of him. That lump in my throat continues as I think about the lessons in life he will miss out on teaching our son which tools go with what jobs, knowing that my half-attempt at researching all of these things just are not the same.

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Porter and I, June 2017 at St. Louis Zoo

Those that are grieving: one day it will hurt a little less. I am almost three years out, and it certainly does hurt less than those first months, days, year without him. I don’t love him less. I still think about him every day. And I still talk about him every day. For those that don’t understand, have grace for those that are hurting. We didn’t get a manual on how to navigate the grief that consumes our heart–in the bad, and even in the good. We just miss them, and are doing our best to get through without them.

XOXO, Kristina

Preserving the Innocence of a Child Through Grief

I often catch myself holding my breath and clenching my chest more often when my son’s innocence of his Daddy’s absence comes out. When we hear the motor of an airplane, or see the streak it leaves through a crystal blue sky, you can hear his voice rise when he jumps up and down and screams, “DADDY, DADDY, IT’S MY DADDY.” My throat gets even more restricted when I see him on the playground and his friends chime in with excitement when they think they are seeing our son’s daddy playing captain, while flying high in the sky. The tears fight my will not to fall when we bow our head each day, three times a day, to pray for our food. He doesn’t just thank God for his food, but his daddy too. Each and every time.

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What really gets me though, is when I don’t expect it all. The grief, the painstaking stab in the throat, when he watches other kids at the park  play with their dad’s and asks out loud, looking up to the sky, “Daddy, I keep asking you to come down here, but you won’t listen.” With a sad face, he looks at me, shoulders slumped, and asks me why his Daddy doesn’t come down to play with him. The catch in my throat often delays the response to give to him, although my heart and mind are racing to find the appropriate answer. His innocence and joy are so pure, as are all young ones, and you see, I don’t want to take that away from him.

 

Part of his innocence was taken that day in late October when his Daddy drew his last breath. He was in the arms of one of my best friends, when I let out the blood curdling scream of “NO,” begging God instantly to reverse the decision He just made. Too young at fourteen months old, to have a conversation with explaining what just happened, he only knew the screams his mommy was letting out. That best friend had to comfort him, since my heart was handicapped to do so myself. You see, in that moment, both of his parents were incapable of comforting him. One that had left his Earthly body, and the other who’s body released every bit of stress, grief, tension and was oblivious to anything but the shattered heart attempting to keep beating without her soulmate.  He was not afforded the innocence of having his Daddy here to teach him to ride a bike, play in the floor with cars, or be his daddy’s little buckaroo. He was granted a life with a shadow of sadness always lingering, always absent of one man he would need the rest of his years. He, without choice, had that innocence taken away from him far too young.

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I find myself every day questioning whether or not I am handling grief correctly; not just my personal grief, but leading my son’s grief. I do not know whether I am doing right, wrong, or just okay. I guess only time will tell me the answer to this. What I do know is this–they grow up far too fast. Each day I reel at how fast the past four years has gone–four years since my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer, while we were seven months pregnant. Four years since our son was born into an inopportune situation. Four years since cancer changed our lives forever, and eventually took my husband, and his dad, from us. Four years of learning to lead a life I didn’t choose, or want. Four years. I feel like I still live the heaviness of cancer in our every day lives, although that picture has changed drastically.

Since four years of different forms and stages of grief has come, I have decided this: if seeing or hearing an airplane in the sky, makes my son’s heart jump with joy and excitement because he thinks his Daddy is the one flying that thing, then I am going to let it. If his prayers every meal and every night consist of telling Jesus thank you for his Daddy, then I want to keep those sweet prayers coming. Even if he gets sad, and asks me why his Daddy won’t listen to him and come down here to play with him, then I am going to encourage him to keep having those conversations with his Daddy, since I do not have the answer to give to him. I am even going to let him keep talking to his Daddy’s pictures every time he gets mad at me, and tells him “Daddy, mommy is being mean to me, you come down here and swat her.” Because as frustrated as I can get at that almost four-year-old little boy, my goodness, that makes me laugh every time.

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His innocence will grow into something that will tell him different far too soon. My heart might just break a little sooner than I ever thought possible, when reality hits him hard. I forever want him to have conversations with his Dad, I always did. After all, I choose the world’s best Daddy to be that boy’s Daddy. I love the stories he makes up about his Daddy, and I love the things that his Daddy comes down to tell him, when there is no other way to justify that child knowing details that he, in fact, does.

Innocence in grief has been a blessing. It is a blessing. The reality of this ugly world is not. I beg you to not take the innocence of a child in their grief. It is all they have to get through.

XOXO,

A Little One’s Widowed Mommy