His Grief is My Grief, but My Grief Cannot Be His Grief.

My son is eight. He has lived much longer without his Dad physically present on this Earth, than the amount of time he received with him here to make memories with. He was only 14 months old when his Daddy died, and much, if not all, of his memories come from his mom that refuses to allow his Daddy to die completely. By completely, I mean this–my son had the unfortunate event of his Dad passing away from this Earth from a battle of colon cancer; I couldn’t possibly bear my son losing the knowledge of how wonderful his Dad truly is. I couldn’t bear the fact that my sweet little boy wouldn’t know all of his Dad’s likes, interests, tics, favorites, and mannerisms. If I didn’t keep those alive, I would only grieve more than my heart already did.

My heart hurt so badly not just because how much I missed my life partner, my best friend, it hurt because of the memories my son would never make. I hurt for things he would never know he would miss. I missed the unmade memory of watching his Dad teach him to ride a bike. I missed the untold story of his Dad and him working on his first truck. I missed the follow-up conversation his Dad and I would share after we watched our son drive away with his prom date. My heart really ached at the thought his Dad wouldn’t share in helping mold our son into a young man, ready to lead the world with integrity, hard work, respect, and love. I missed every single minute in between–the laundry, sick kids, Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas photos, family vacations. I grieved every last part of life without him.

This boy loves ALL rocks–my house is full of “special” rocks that he has found throughout our world travels.

And you know what? My son doesn’t know. Sure, he knows I miss his Dad. We both openly talk about what and how much we miss about his Dad. He knows his Dad’s favorite dinner, ice cream, favorite places to go, friends, hard work ethic, and without any intention on my part–he knows his Dad’s interests, favorite hobbies, and gear head because somehow God just knows exactly what genes get passed into the little souls he creates. But my son doesn’t know about the sleepless nights that I have spent crying my eyes out in my closet floor. He doesn’t know how many nights I have watched him sleep, because my eyes won’t shut. My son doesn’t carry my burden of how hard grief-parenting is without his Dad here to help me with responsibilities, juggling of schedules, and the emotional pain of facing what the future looks like without him. My son doesn’t get to know about the tears that stream down my face–both in sorrow and in pride– because I can literally feel how proud his Dad is in Heaven. This little dude doesn’t get to know about how the strategic planning and sacrifice of being sure I can give him a future of whatever his heart desires can come to fruition. And he most certainly doesn’t get to carry my grief of losing a best friend, my identity, my life partner. And he doesn’t get to know about the second-guessing and guilt of how to love what was and what is, with a never-ending balance I am trying to find.

But his–his grief. Man, it’s heavy. The hard conversations, the most difficult questions that he has so inquisitively asked me. “Mommy, you told me when I want something, to pray to Jesus. But you lied. Mommy, I keep asking Jesus to let Daddy come back so I can see him, but he won’t listen.” And with a flip of my rearview mirror, and a lump in my throat, I didn’t have an answer. When he asks why all of his friends have Daddies, but he doesn’t–I carry that. When he was incredibly small, and Daddy was in Heaven, which he associated with the sky and any time he saw/heard a plane or helicopter, I carried his innocent earnest of wanting his Daddy so badly into my darkest days of grief. I carried his even more mature decision, to ask Christ into his heart, so that he knew he would have eternal life “like Daddy” with me so deeply. I carry his daily questions, “Is this how Daddy would do it?” “Is this what Daddy liked?” with me, because I know a little boy wants to be just like his Dad.

Our memories still hang on our family home walls.

His grief is mine. When his tears flow and his words are barely audible, my heart hurts so dang bad, I cannot stand it. When I wish days were easier, and that burden could be eased by his Dad, I hurt. When a little boy asks questions about his Dad that I don’t have an answer for, my soul is crushed. And when I watch this incredible, handsome, amazing young man continue to grow, mold, and evolve into the person God created him to be, I grieve so deeply for the memories his Dad isn’t apart of, but that I want him to be apart of so badly. And I realize that true love never dies. Ever. And because of the deepest depth of love, a love that defies logic in life and death, it can outlast any other emotion.

I realize it is all worth it–grief, love, pain, sorrow, guilt, all of it. We grieve because we love so deeply. And I would never want an innocent heart and soul to carry any grief, let alone mine. Yet, this is what his life has delivered–to learn that grief is the absence of someone being here to love. He knows love. And he knows that love can extend beyond this physical life. And I continue to learn too. More than anything, like most parents, I learn that his grief is my grief, but my grief cannot be his.

It’s yet another lesson that I learn by promising to live my own advice: Keep going in grief. It’s so worth it.

A Grieving Mom, Kristina

Kristina Smith is a widow, mother, Special Education Administrator, Colorectal Cancer National Advocate, Blogger and Amazon Best-Selling Author of “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir”

You can purchase your personal copy of Smith’s memoir here.

Painfully Beautiful

Life’s most messy moments, are often the ones we learn the most from, aren’t they? Do you ever think about that? Those moments that we were certain would break us, or maybe they did break us, are almost always the defining, most memorable moments of our lives.

I’ve pondered this in the last month, as nostalgia has over swept my heart and soul. Without avail, those beautiful Southwest Missouri hills turning burning red, majestically yellow, and fiery orange as the leaves change, brings an overhaul of emotions to my heart too. Today marks seven years that my husband passed away at the very early age of 37 due to colorectal cancer. And each year, as I think that grief won’t return with its forceful blunt edge because “time heals”, grief does indeed blow in like the leaves of fall. But in the windswept of fall leaves and emotions, so too, does the beauty of it all.

Just days before Joe lost his life to colorectal cancer.

What are life’s most beautiful moments? Are they the perfectly coordinated birthday parties, the magazine-worthy wedding events, or even the staged moments captured on vacation? Or, if we are being honest in this filtered-centered world we live in, are the most beautiful moments quite the opposite in the most unscheduled, most unpredictable, uncaptured/non-filtered moments of life? The moments you are so engaged in you don’t have a camera, let alone social media, to document it. Those painfully beautiful moments are literally the best of our lives, and most talked about memories: Labor and delivery of your children; no make-up, sick-as-a-dog, nine months of carrying a healthy, beautiful, child to term; step-momming (or any parenting for that matter) and not knowing if anything you say or do is right or wrong, but trying your best anyways. But do you know what I have discovered, and accepted? The other most painfully beautiful moments are these moments too: a terminal cancer health diagnosis; chemo appointments every other week with a new-born infant that you are nursing, while you sit next to your spouse watching them in pain; and even the final moments of one’s life where they struggle to breathe, and attempt with every weak ounce of energy to hang on so they don’t leave you or your children from this world.

Hanging On.

I know many of you can relate to how painfully beautiful being pregnant (or your spouse being pregnant) and expecting a child, no matter how rough pregnancy, labor, and delivery may be. And in that moment where you don’t think it is possible to love your spouse any more, but then you watch them hold your child for the first time, your heart literally feels like it could burst because love oozes out of your heart more than it did just a second before. That feeling–that feeling we all share with newly-expectant parents that none of us can begin to describe of how much more we love our spouse/partner, when we didn’t think it was possible? That exact feeling happens when the doctor comes to tell you that your spouse has cancer, and that they aren’t sure how long they have. My heart, although inexplicably shattered in that moment, oozed and gobbed with more love for my husband when I had already declared there was no way I could love him more. And only a short 16 months later, as I lay in our bed, watching him take fewer and shallower breaths, until he gently took his last, my heart did it again. It shattered into a million more pieces, gripping my breaths in pain that didn’t even have words. And my heart, while breaking, overfilled with the surplus of more love I didn’t think I could possibly feel.

You see–life’s most painful moments really does hold the most beautiful moments too. Likewise, our most beautiful moments are quite often painful. Although some moments reveal their beauty quite instantly (holding our child in our arms after giving birth), some take time to see the beauty that was/is embedded in them. For me, today–seven years out–I can see beauty that is so abundant I can’t articulate all of it. To be loved until one’s dying breath; to GET to be the caretaker of my sweet husband, the father of my children; the intimacy of love that most don’t get to experience until the end of a long life, of how you can love your spouse more when you don’t think it is possible; to grow from your own grief, to help others in theirs; to not give excuses, but rise to the highest level of expectations for you and your son–THAT is painfully beautiful.

Would I wish my life circumstances on anyone? No. No, I absolutely would not.

Would I wish my life perspective on the world? Yes, Yes, I absolutely would.

The only way to have this perspective, is through pain, loss, and grief. It truly is painfully beautiful.

Keep going in grief. It’s so worth it.

Kristina

Kristina Smith is a widow, mother, Special Education Administrator, Colorectal Cancer National Advocate, Blogger and Amazon Best-Selling Author of “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir”

You can purchase your personal copy of Smith’s memoir here.

Grief’s Greatest Gift: Loving What Was and What Is

I wish I could describe it–grief, that is. I wish I could tell you all the rules, the step-by-steps of how to navigate the tricky, messy, crazy, painful beauty of grief. I wish I could tell you how, because I wanted the same manual. I read blog after blog, story after story, testimony after testimony. And with a choke hold I couldn’t swallow, tears burning my cheeks, I just wanted to know “How?” How do I get THERE from HERE.

Here’s the ONLY ANSWER that exists: THROUGH! You get THERE from HERE, by going THROUGH it all. You have to go through the pain, the raw, fresh, take-your-breath-away grief, by going through it. You can crawl, tiptoe, run, walk, sprint, take a time out, but you still have to go through it all. There is no way to go around grief, over or under grief, you have to go through it, in order to heal.

Happiness CAN come after grief. But first–you have to do the work to heal your heart. No one can do the hard work for you.

Many people questioned my grief journey (and likely still do). We are approaching 7 years in October that my husband has died. I no longer am in active grief–the kind where at any given moment you can’t help but tears spilling over your eyes, down your cheeks, and that silence you from talking because it hurts so bad. I am not there, and I haven’t been for some time. I can talk about him, laugh, smile, share memories with our son, without the tears streaming. Yet, there are still days that I miss him terribly, our life together, and what should have been. Even so, I have lived–truly lived with our son, never allowing his dad’s death to be a reason we didn’t make memories.

And as time shifted my heart from the severe, take-your-breath-away pain, and began to heal, so too did my prayer that God could send someone into my life to allow me to love what was, and what is. It was a non-negotiable. I knew there was no way my heart could stop loving Joe, that my soul still had to breathe by sharing memories of the incredible man he was to our son, and acknowledging that because of him, I am who I am today.

Do you know what loving what was, and what is, looks like?

An engagement proposal:
I get to love what was and what is.

It looks like still talking about your husband to another man that eagerly wants to know more about him. It looks like you pushing a man who is full of patience and grace away because there is no way he could accept your love for two men, all at the same time. It looks like that man you prayed to God for, reminding your son of the stories you have shared about that little boy’s daddy when you aren’t even around. It looks like that man wanting to help, wanting to do nice things for you, even when you demand that he shouldn’t because your trauma has you imprisoned that you can do everything yourself and you DON’T. WANT. HELP. And then, he shows up again, without fail, because that’s what you need.

It looks like a man full of humility, zero ego, ten truck loads of patience, even more grace that pours down on you, to let you still love the man that was taken from you too soon, and allow you to love him too. Loving what was and what is, is beautifully painful. It is bittersweet. It is humbling. It is duality. It is the highest high, with the sadness that seeps in because of how you got here. It’s appreciation, a deep, deep appreciation, for the most tragic loss of your life, because it has molded your heart to love so much deeper. It takes forgiveness, permission to love both worlds from yourself, and a boat-load of compromise.

A good, good day.

Loving what was and what is…it’s hard. Really, really hard. It takes so much time. It takes ZERO unsolicited opinions from friends and family, and ESPECIALLY social media. I have earnestly ensured I didn’t seek out opinions from anyone because I wanted to know the opinions I had, were straight from my heart and soul–and no where else.

And loving the duality of both worlds, certainly does not have a how-to manual. Loving what was, and what is, requires you (no one else) to crawl, tiptoe, run, walk, sprint, sometimes take a time out, to get through it. There is no way to go around grief, over or under grief, you have to go through it, in order to heal. And it takes someone else to be able to do this tango dance, armored with grace, humility, patience, and grace, too.

Keep going in grief. On your own time. Without other’s opinions. And allow your heart to beat again. It is SO worth it.

Kristina

Kristina Smith is a widow, mother, Special Education Administrator, Colorectal Cancer National Advocate, Blogger and Amazon Best-Selling Author of “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir”

You can purchase your personal copy of Smith’s memoir here.

Dear Holiday-Grief, You’re Going to Suck

Dear Holiday Grief:

You’ve come again, despite the invitation that was never sent. You have a way of showing up some times far early, but as the years have gone on, you creep in later and later at the last minute. I never appreciate your entrance, but annoyingly, roll my eyes, scoot over, and allow you a seat at my table. You wouldn’t care if I didn’t, you would shove me over and wedge yourself into a spot you didn’t fit anyways, wouldn’t you?

Our first and only Christmas together. December 2013

You know why I don’t like you? You suck me in to the point I have no air in my lungs; you make my legs not want to get out of bed, and you make the simplest tasks the hardest in the whole world. You suck the smile off of my face, and you suck tears out of my eyes that pour down my cheeks, until I have to step into another room to attempt to pull away from your grip.

You are the reason that there is no pure happiness anymore. You linger in the shadows, in the cracks of the family get-togethers and the emptiness of a fully packed house. I see you when we are all laughing, playing games, and being entertained by the little boy who brings me more of you, yet also lightens your grip you have on my heart. I am six years out, and just when I think you and I are done with our obligatory holiday dance, when I feel you distancing yourself from the relationship we have shared all these years, then you pounce out of nowhere, and you insist we sit and get too comfortable again. Year after year, you can’t just go away, can you?

The only memory this little guy has is so many pictures and stories that we share with him.

I really would wish you could pick someone else, but then, I know you already do. You pick so many of us every year, but that is your trick isn’t it? You add to your list of holiday guests, but you never take any off, do you? You are a masterful juggler that visits all over the world, simultaneously, never missing a beat. You wear out your welcome, with me, with everyone, and you can’t just give us a second, can you?

I want to be mad at you; really mad at you. I want to tell you I hate you, and I wish I never knew you. I want to tell you I don’t want you to invite yourself for the holidays this year, or any future year. It isn’t the truth though, is it? You and I both know that although you bring sadness, loneliness, nostalgia, it is only because of love that you have the power to bring the sad things too. In fact, because of you, memory lane is a bit sweeter, more treasured, more loved than if you didn’t accompany it. You bring the happiness, the smile that has tears spill over it, and you always, always bring perspective.

Life is so good today; Our family trip in June 2019 to Hawaii to celebrate the oldest graduating from high school.

Our relationship, holiday-grief, is a complicated one. You suck life away from me, yet somehow you remind me what life is really about. You suck away the really, really annoying, petty, small things, and allow me to focus on the best memories of my life….and the present ones too. I despise you some days, and others I only want to wallow in your company. I’ll never understand how you can taint pure joy with the sharp bitterness of loss, but I’ll also never understand how you can bring the most distant memory to the very surface of my beating heart. Your complexity of bringing the biggest smile to my face, while tears trickle the corners of that smile happen all at once.

I don’t hate you. Our relationship of two-stepping between love and hate is so fine, so blurry I could never see where one side ends or begins. Some days you have no boundaries though, and you are too overbearing for me to handle. I can only hope you suck out the bad, but not the good. But that’s just not how you work, is it?

Holiday-grief, you suck. But I am used to your uninvited-self in my heart. I love the memories, so I guess I’ll let you stay.

Keep going in grief. It’s so worth it. XOXO-Kristina

Kristina Smith is a widow, mother, Special Education Administrator, Colorectal Cancer National Advocate, Blogger and Amazon Best-Selling Author of “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir”

You can purchase your personal copy of Smith’s memoir HERE.

Dear Daddy in Heaven, You Wouldn’t Believe Who I Am Now.

Dear Daddy,

Mommy tells me that if I want something, I just need to pray to Jesus, and He will answer my prayers. We say those prayers before every meal, and every night before I go to sleep. And I told mommy the other day that Jesus doesn’t listen to all of my prayers. When she gasped and asked me why not, I reminded her that I pray for you to come home every day, but Jesus just doesn’t listen to that prayer. Ever.

But Daddy, I miss you. I miss you every day. And all of my friends’ dads are on the baseball field, and at our basketball games. There’s daddies at the park, and at the go-cart track and even at Lowe’s buying the gardening stuff, hauling the tools, and building cool things with their kids. They go hunting and fishing, and teach their kids to mow the yard. But now, mommy does that with me. Mommy does all the Daddy things with me, but I wanted you to know what we do so you know that we are doing okay while you are in Heaven.

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Mommy taught me how to mow the yard. She said I am the hardest working kid she knows.

Daddy, I can ride my four-wheeler all by myself. I go really fast, even when mommy tells me not to. I can’t help it. Mommy always laughs and says I like to go fast like Daddy. I never got to see you race your dirt bike, or cool cars, but mommy tells me about you doing that all the time. So I put on your crooked grin that Mommy says she loved the most about you, and I pretend like I am you when I go around the corners, and when I rev up the engine. And then I yell, “Like this mommy? Is this how Daddy did it?” I know that makes mommy really happy.

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I love going fast, Dad! It is so fun.

Those fourteen months you were here with me when I was a baby, I still feel those love strings of my heart connected to you. Mommy doesn’t know the secrets you whispered into my ear about how I am the luckiest boy in the world to have her as a mom. She doesn’t know all the nights you come to me in my dreams and tell me of the sweet things I should do for her to make her feel loved. But I give her hints. Like the other day when we went on a hike out on the mountain, and there was only one purple flower. I saw it, and I knew I was supposed to pick it for her and give it to her. And when I did, I looked at mommy the way she said you always looked at her from across the room. She said when she would look back at you, your smile lit up the room like the luckiest guy in the world. But now, I am the luckiest guy in the world, because she is my mommy.

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Daddy, you wouldn’t believe how I can build just like you. I love to work with mommy around the house and fix things. Most of the time, I give her the ideas that fixes something she cannot figure out. Then I build Lego’s, and mommy says her brain doesn’t work like that. She said only your brain and mine are the ones that can imagine anything, and then build it and make it come true. I always knew I wanted to be just like you. And I am, Daddy.

Teachingmyboytoshoot

Mommy is teaching me how to bow hunt.

Daddy, can you believe how tall I am? Can you believe the freckles across my nose and cheeks? Can you even believe how dark my hair is now, compared to when I was just a baby and you had to go live in Heaven? Mommy says I look just like you. And she says you are the most handsome man in the world. But now Mommy says I am the most handsome man too, because I always remind her of you. And when I look at our pictures together in my room, it makes me happy that I get to see you. I just want to see you “for real,” Daddy. Why won’t you come home?

Mommy says Heaven is wonderful. She says it is perfect up there, and that nobody is sick or hurt–not even Great Grandma Smith. She says you and Great Grandma Smith and  Uncle Gary have parties with Jesus up there. Do you think I could come to those parties too? Mommy says Jesus hears my prayers that I ask Him to bring you home. But Mommy says, Jesus will let all of us come back together in Heaven one day. She says that you are my Guardian Angel, and that Jesus and you watch over me wherever I go. Even when I go to Hawaii. That’s silly Daddy! Do you have super powers or do you spy on me? How can you see me all the way in Hawaii? Do you see me when I fly in the airplane, too? I wish I could see you so I can ask you all these questions.

Mommy says my heart is just like yours. But Mommy says, that you always told her I liked to talk as much as her. I do, Daddy. I have made friends all over the world. Even these older ladies at the airport. They didn’t speak our language. I still showed them all of my drawings though. And the Uber drivers in Hawaii. And all of the people on all of the cruise ships we go on. I made friends with all the people in the Bahamas, Mexico, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, South Carolina, Colorado. It is really fun all the people I know. And I especially like to talk to all of my friends at school. I just know how all of them feel, like when they’re happy and even when they’re sad. I told my friend who said his daddy has to go away from a long time, that I know how bad his heart hurts, because my Daddy had to go to Heaven for a long time too.

Patairport

I met the nicest ladies at a Florida airport. We couldn’t speak the same language, but I showed them my drawings and they gave me a hug. I liked them a lot.

Daddy, our Molly girl is my best friend. Mommy says that Molly was your girl, but I tell Mommy she’s mine now. Molly loves to go for walks, and go bye-bye in our big truck. Mommy says you spoiled her and gave her human food. Don’t tell Mommy, but I do too. Just like you did, Daddy.

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The Three Amigos. We miss you, Daddy.

Hey Daddy, I am not a little boy anymore. I am a big boy. I am going into first grade. I can read and write and do math. And I am really good at it too. I play basketball, baseball, and football. But I really want to learn how to play an instrument. I want to play the drums or saxophone just like you did. And I even know how to fix cars. Your friend, Jimmy, taught me how when Mommy had a scratch on our truck. Jimmy told me, “You are just like your Daddy, Porter.” And then he gave me a Toyota emblem that I put on my night stand in my room.

JimmyandP

My Daddy’s Friend, Jimmy, taught me how to fix Mommy’s truck. And then he let me go into his shop and look at all of the tools. It was the most awesome day, ever.

Mommy says you would be proud of me, Daddy. But sometimes I ask Mommy if you even remember me.

And then Mommy reminded me of this; she said, “Your Daddy made you. He is a part of you. He is your best friend, and loves you more than even Mommy, because when you go to Heaven, love gets bigger than it does on Earth. Your Daddy knows every detail of you, because Jesus tells him. And your Daddy is around you every day. His friends tell you stories and smile (and cry) because you are just like him–and they see Daddy in you.” I just wanted you to know I love you Daddy, and I miss you so much. I hope you have a Happy Father’s Day in Heaven. I wish you were here so I could give you a cake.

daddy-and-p-hands

 

Bye, Daddy. Give Jesus a hug from me. I love you.

**This blog was written by a six-year-old boy’s mother from a collection of stories, memories, and difficult conversations that have been had from a young boy who lost his father to colorectal cancer when he was just a fourteen month old baby. This unique perspective is to shine light on children in grief, and the secondary-level of grief for the remaining parent**

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-12,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

Kristina Smith is a widow, mother, Special Education Administrator, Colorectal Cancer National Advocate, Blogger and Amazon Best-Selling Author of “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir”

You can purchase your personal copy of Smith’s memoir here.

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The List I Lost

When my husband first died, I tried to explain why my grief was so hard, so deep. It was all stereotyped statements though, and everyone just nodded their heads like they understood. Yet, I knew there was no way they could. The more I have spoken in the grief community, the more I realize there is one large commonality we share: we all have a list, that we lost. We didn’t just lose our spouse, our parent, our child, our loved on. We lost an entire list that goes with that person. And maybe, just maybe, if you realize just how long that list is, others can understand why grief is so ugly, so nasty, so incredibly difficult to learn how to exist without the list of all that you used to be, and used to have, when one day you wake up and it is all gone.

I may have lost my husband, but this is the list of what I really lost that October night:

I lost my spouse. And the day he became my spouse, and even before that, I envisioned our lives together when we had kids, when our kids were teenagers, when our kids were adults, and  when we became empty-nesters. I lost my future. I lost all of my future plans, vacations, Christmas card ideas. I lost my retirement plans, I lost my entire future, as I/we had envisioned it to be.

me and Joe baby-FAVE

Oh to be this young and full of life again. A hot, summer night at Silver Dollar City, Branson, MO.

I lost my best friend. I lost the person that supported me, even when I was wrong. I lost the person that I vented, purged, unwound to at the end of the day. I lost the sounding board, advice-giver, comforter, biggest cheerleader. I lost the person that had my back, even when he didn’t agree, even when I was wrong, even when I could have been better. I lost all of that. I lost the one person who thought I was the greatest at my worst, yet pushed me to be the best at all times.

I lost ‘him.’ Just him–to encompass everything he was/does would simply be impossible. I lost my mechanic, the one who took care of the maintenance around the house, the idea-giver, dreamer, inventor. I lost the one who spent money faster than we could make it, because there was another grand-idea. I lost his compassionate, tender heart. I lost the giver, the caretaker, the one who filled my gas tank, washed my car, juggled the household chores, the one who cooked dinner. I lost my life partner at every angle. And of those angles, these are the other things I lost:

I lost my identity. I lost being his wife, being a caretaker, a prescription refiller, a doctor appointment scheduler, a recorder of all the medical records.

I lost getting to be someone’s best friend. I lost getting to create surprises, leaving notes at the coffee pot each morning. I lost getting to be the giver of my own love, compassion, and time.

I lost the person who cooked breakfast every Saturday morning.

I lost my morning coffee-maker, who delivered a fresh cup to my bathroom vanity while I got ready, with a kiss on the forehead.

I lost the person who provided for our family. The one who worked hard, to give us everyone we could possibly want or need.

I lost my Friday night date.

I lost my Saturday morning gardener.

I lost my meal-time go to chef. He knew I hated cooking.

I lost the father to my son. I lost getting to watch him be a Daddy to his son.

I lost the innocence of seeing my son know his Daddy. Now, it is only the memories and videos I intentionally share so he knows his Daddy, but not the way I wished for.

I lost getting to watch him walk his daughter down the aisle, and I lost getting to watch him with his own grandchildren.

I lost the person who sits next to me at school events, the first day of Kindergarten, the last day of their senior year.

I lost the other person in the family pictures in Hawaii, in graduation photos.

I lost the person I wanted to share each life milestone with our kids.

I lost a sense of being. I lost the memories I wanted to make. I lost getting to say, “My husband” and the following words being present or future tense.

I lost who I was, when I didn’t know who I was. I knew who I wanted to be, but eventually I had to give that up, too.

I lost knowing that my life had to look different. I lost security, comfort, feeling loved. And I lost being able to give all of those things too.

I lost the adjective “wife.” Instead, society says I am a widow.

I lost the innocence that went with the word wife, instead of widow.

I lost my existence, my day-to-day operations and routines. I lost it all, and I had to learn how to find it all again.

Don’t you see? I lost so much more than just my husband. All of us that have lost someone loses so much more. Next time you see someone who “should” be over according to your standards, or to society’s standards, please give grace. They have lost their entire existence. They are trying to learn to live in another way. They don’t get to move on. They have to learn to live moving forward, but when everything has to be re-learned, surely you can see just how hard it is to lose everything.

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Our family at a Color Run Fundraiser our community put together for us. This was only two weeks before Joe passed away. It would be our last, and my favorite, family photo of the four of us.

This Christmas and holiday season, the greatest gift you can give anyone you love that is grieving is permission. Give them permission to do whatever they need to do. If that means the miss your get together, tell them you love them, and you understand. If they choose to show up, but want to talk about their loved one. Give them permission to do so, by sitting next to them and listening. Talk about their loved one, say their name. Will they cry? Yes. Just because it makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t mean they don’t get to show emotion. They will either cry with you there to comfort them, or cry by themselves when they go home. Whatever it is they choose–YOU have to give them permission, not guilt.

Remember our list this Christmas isn’t full of things we want, it is things we lost. Be kind. Show love however that is for the ones grieving in your life.

Please keep going in grief. It’s so worth it.

Holiday Wishes-Kristina

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Kristina Smith is a widow, mother, Special Education Administrator, Colorectal Cancer National Advocate, Blogger and Amazon Best-Selling Author of “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir”

You can purchase your personal copy of Smith’s memoir here.

Dear Friends, I Forgot You Were Grieving Too

Sometimes our lens that we look out of is so narrow, so confined that we are unable to see everything and everyone outside of it. Grief has certainly narrowed my lens and vision of what I am able to see and not see. Five years out in grief and just in the past year have I started to see just how much grief my friends were/are going through too. I want to say “I’m sorry”: I’m sorry I couldn’t see it, I’m sorry I only had eyes for my own grief, I’m sorry that you were hurting too. Maybe, though, maybe a letter to my friends is what I can do in order for them to see that I can see some of their grief differently.

Dear Friends:

You stood by me, you picked me up out of bed, literally, and cried with me. You drove over an hour to sit on my front porch and hold me like a small child while I cried my eyes out to you and told you I couldn’t do “it”–life without him, and all that entailed. You took me to dinner, checked on me frequently, you showed up to help with house repairs, you text me back when I asked for a simple story of my late husband, just because it made me feel like I was closer to him. You watched my baby, you went to the pumpkin patch with us, cooked us dinner, bought me a bottle of wine. You let me cry and blubber on, and you never said a word, you just cried too.

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Now though, now five years out, my heart breaks a little more because I look back and see how much you were grieving too.  Yet, you held your grief in, so my own grief could soar. I see it now. I see so much of it. And I am equally as thankful as my broken heart.

Those tears that streamed down your face while I talked out how much I missed Joe: I know they weren’t just because I was crying too. You were crying, because you were watching one of your best friends hurting so badly, and there was nothing you could do. I see how much you grieved your friend who used to be happy, upbeat, full of life and laughter. You wanted her back, and you lost a piece of her when her husband died too. I am sorry I didn’t see that.

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Those dinners we met for, as you shared stories of you and Joe in high school and the early days of adulthood, I now know were for you too. I am sorry I couldn’t see how much your heart was broken when your best friend died. I am sorry that I was so consumed in my own grief that I couldn’t see how much of a piece of your heart was missing when your best bud, someone that was in your life far longer than mine, was no longer here for you to come hang out with. I am sorry I never validated that your entire world had changed too.

Friend that came the very next morning to tell me I had to get out of bed, and hold my baby: I am sorry I didn’t see the grief you had sitting on your heart. Those tears weren’t just for me when I begged you to believe me that I couldn’t do this life without him. I know you were grieving for my pain, but also my son’s. I know you were broken that a sweet baby would grow up without his Daddy, that there was nothing you could say or do to fix this. I know your grief was doubled when I couldn’t even talk to get out any words.

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Life-long friends: I am sorry I didn’t see it. I didn’t see how much you truly loved me. We’ve been friends since we were kids, and you came. You came to the funeral, you hugged me tight, but no words could do our life long friendship justice. No words could explain how bad your heart was broken, and how much you not only lost a friend in death, but you just lost a piece of the girl you have been friends with since we were in elementary school playing pick-up basketball on the playground at recess. I see it now: I see how much you love me, how much friendship multiplied by all the years, and the good and the bad of life can only make you love someone more. I see how you lost a friend that I brought into your life, but you lost me too when I wanted to close everyone off and demand that no one could possibly understand.

I am sorry friends. My grief has consumed my vision, my sights to only the pain my heart has experienced. Now, my heart feels more because I know just how deeply we are loved. I know you were grieving too at the loss of your friend, at the grief you couldn’t fix for us, for the part of your life that was lost that October day, five years ago.

What I can say is “Thank You.” Thank you for loving me through the storm. Thank you for loving me even when I was not lovable. Thank you for being a friend that sacrificed their own grief to validate my own. Thank you for having patience, grace, understanding. But most of all, thank you for being our friends. There’s no way I could have made it without each of you.

I genuinely hope you will always keep going in grief. It’s so worth it.

Kristina

 

Smith is a mom, widow, education administrator, Colon Cancer Advocate, and an Amazon Best-Selling Author of “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir” You can purchase your copy HERE.

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My Father’s Day Prayer for Our Son, While His Dad is in Heaven

The amount of anger and bitterness I had to fight through after losing my husband is quite embarrassing, really. No matter what anyone attempted to say or offer in their condolences or half-attempt to rationalize why my wonderful husband passed when our son was only fourteen months old, ignited my anger even more. If people offered love and sympathy, I was mad. If others said they are more grateful for their husbands, after watching Joe pass and seeing my struggle, that fueled my anger too. No one could win with me, and I never made it easy for others to be my support.

I was just mad. And you know what? There are still days, four and a half years out, that I have to check myself, reign it in, and stop trying to justify why God chose to take my husband and the best Daddy I have ever seen, from this world. I work in public education, I see the parents who refuse to show up, who never answer phone calls and emails, who’s children are raising themselves. And I try to rationalize why God chose my hands-on, always-at-school-volunteering-for-his-daughter, still-trying-to-share-parenting-responsibilities-with-me-for-our-newborn-while-on-chemotherapy- Dad. And you know what? There is no answer. There is no answer, no why, that is going to make sense, or come close to why Joe was cut short with his daughter and his son on this Earth. And THAT is a hard reality to swallow.

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Joe volunteered once a month as a Watch  Dog, in our local elementary school for his daughter, up until he got sick. It was their very, favorite day of the month.

So, albeit trying to control my anger and bitterness, I remember changing my prayer and talk with God. I stopped asking Him “Why?”; I gave up dwelling on fathers I know who choose not to be apart of their children’s lives, and I asked God something different. I asked him this:

“God, if we can’t have Joe back, if our son does not get to grow up with him, please send good, solid men role models to our son’s life. Allow the people that will be needed to mold our son into the man we prayed he would become, to enter his life path whenever they are supposed to, to teach him the things he will need to be successful in this world.” 

I forgot I asked God this request, for quite some time. Until this Father’s Day has been approaching, the past few weeks. Take note, all holidays kill me; EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. THEM. I’d love to tell you one more than the other, but every single one of them is a tidal wave that drowns me in longing for the life I always dreamed of. Father’s Day approaching, I always try to think of what I am going to do with our son to celebrate the Daddy he loves so much. We never fail to celebrate Daddy on all of his special days. And THAT is when it hit me.

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Celebrating Daddy, by going up in a helicopter ride. Our guy said, “We are really close to Daddy now, hu, mommy?” Flying in the sky is pretty darn close to Heaven after all. 

God did deliver. He has delivered. And He WILL continue to deliver. There are men that have been placed in our son’s life who our son ADORES! Whether it my friend’s husband that takes him to the farm for the day, teaches him how to call cows, and jumps in the lake with their underpants on. It may be one of the great men I work with, that my son stops dead in his tracks, yells his name, and runs into his arms every time he sees him; and then demands to hang out with him, his wife, and daughter, rather than me. It’s the other friend’s husband that takes him under his wing, hikes trails with him and his own son, and loves him among his own kids. Or even the employee at work who takes our son on movie/dinner nights–that gives me a chance to breathe as a momma, but also gives my son a male influence he needs. I can’t tell you how many times God has delivered. The day after Joe passed away, basketball season began. I had a new assistant coach, that I knew nothing about. That man is one of my son’s best friends. He picked him up at those early-morning practices, spoiled him with M&M’s at 7 a.m., and even just recently had our little man stand up with him on his wedding day.

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These two were inseparable. Nope–are inseparable. There is never a day we don’t talk about his Daddy. We are over four and a half years out after colon cancer took Joe from us. And their love and bond are something I have never seen before, in my life.

The list is endless. The prayer has been answered, and I know, it will continue to be. Would I love to have my husband, the father of my son to be here today to celebrate him for Father’s Day, birthdays, well, heck, every day? More than I could ever begin to tell anyone. But if I can’t have that, then Joe’s son has the very next best thing. He has incredible men, who they may not even know, are an answered prayer to a momma who hurts so bad she can’t give her son the one thing he wants the most–his Dad. Our son has strong, male role models in his life that give him love, life lessons, and above all time. And in the end, isn’t that all we want more of? Time? It always is.

Happy Father’s Day to all those men out there giving a little extra of themselves to a little boy who’s Daddy is in Heaven this Father’s Day. This struggling momma isn’t angry, but thankful tonight!

One Proud Momma,

Kristina Smith

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Smith is an Amazon best-selling author of “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir.” You can purchase your copy HERE.

Death Changed The Mother I Wanted to Be

Death changed me, for that, there is zero doubt. It’s just that I didn’t expect death to change me in so many intricate and intimate ways, that continues to surprise me as they unfold themselves. Death did this, though, and continues to surface why life is so delicate.

My husband passed away at the age of 37, leaving his fourteen month old son, and his thirteen-year-old daughter here on Earth to do life without him. The details of these kiddos, is that I am step-momma to that red headed little girl, and momma to that sweet little boy that looks just like his Daddy. And each of these roles are so very different, yet share the biggest similarity of all: I love them both with all of my heart. Their age difference, the difference in how I parent both of them, and my expectations for each of them are different. And just like every other mom, I struggle to make sure they both know how much I love them.

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These two cuties–They love each other so much. Their love for each other is the greatest gift I could ever be given.

Also just like every other mom, I had expectations. I knew what kind of mom I wanted to be, what I would look like doing it, and by golly my Pinterest boards proved that I had researched every recipe, craft, bedroom decor for a boy, for a teenage girl, and the trips that we would take along the way. Death changed that. You know why? Because nowhere in my childhood dreams, my adult goals, my planning did I ever put on my planner, “Plan your children’s daddy’s funeral when one is a teenager and one is a baby.” Nope–that event never got put on my planner.

Death has sucked life from me. Death has taken away my Pinterest board presents that I had planned for their Dad. Juggling of high school prom, with they younger one is learning to ride a bike didn’t get to have a divide-and-conquer style. Mother’s Day Breakfast in bed seems weird to teach your child, as I feel a bit self-centered teaching my kid to do that. Days I want to be the exciting mom, full of energy, let’s go to the park because the sun is shining for the first time in a week? It has me laying in bed, because I am completely exhausted. The home-cooked meals I promised I would serve my kids, because their Daddy is the best cook ever–are usually meals out-to-eat because we’re juggling one too many things…again.

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He is the best Daddy. He was ALWAYS volunteering at school, and spending time with his girl. We are truly the lucky ones.

I wanted to be a better mom. I promised that their Dad and I would be the ultimate duo to support and love them. And we are–in a very different way. I am the mom that smiles as bright as possible for prom pictures, field trip pictures, awards banquets because I–no their Dad and I– are so proud of them. This is not before–or after– I run to the restroom to cry my eyes out, because my heart hurts so bad that their Dad isn’t here for those pictures too. I am the mom that refuses to allows them to succeed without saying, “Your Dad and I are so proud of you!” Because we are–both of us, not just me. And as long as I live, even if I cry every happy moment, death has changed the mother I wanted to be. I wanted to be the mom, with their children’s Dad, right next to me in the day-to-day of these parenting days. I wanted the person I loved the most, that made me a mom, to be here with me.

Death changed me as a mother. I love them more–I love them as their mom and step-mom, and as the constant reminder of their Dad who would have wanted nothing more than to be right here with them.

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My First, and Only, Mother’s Day card from my husband. It is my most cherished belonging. To know I gave him his greatest desire for the rest of his days…I have no words.

A Widow’s Mother’s Day Perspective,

Kristina Smith

Smith is an Amazon Best Selling Author of What I Wasn’t Expecting When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir. You can purchase your copy here.

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How I Know My Dying Husband’s Nurses Played Cards

This past week Washington State Senator, Maureen Walsh, proclaimed that nurses in smaller hospitals “probably played cards for a considerable amount of the day, ” (CNN). What she was specifically referring to, is rural hospitals with smaller number of patients/beds to take care of. What she underestimated in her ill-planned statement though is a true caregiver’s perspective.

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True Love

You see, I was seven months pregnant with my first child, when my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. We were blindsided by the diagnosis, let alone the late stage, and even the detrimental words “terminal.” We live very rural, a small lake-town that thrives off of tourism in our service industry businesses. And, I have to tell you, Senator Walsh was right: those chemotherapy infusion nurses, those post-surgery, seventh floor angels, those pain-control, specialty oncology nurses, they did play cards. I watched, observed, cried, thanked, and even begged them to keep playing cards to save my husband. Let me tell you about those cards they played:

When those masked, and scrubbed-in angels pushed my husband out on his hospital bed, down the corridors, and into his new “home” for the next 10 days–they played the card of who they should take care of first–their patient or the patient’s wife. They struggled if they should take care of the man wincing and crying out in pain, or if they should take care of the seven-month swollen expecting momma that was beside herself as she hovered over his body in his bed. They played the cards of wondering what they should convince that desperate wife and expecting mother of first: should she eat and feed that small babe growing inside her, or do we tell her she needs to sleep for the first time since they checked in four days ago?

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Eight Months Pregnant, in for another surgery for an infection that developed.

Those blue-scrubbed Mercy Angels played the cards of wondering if they wrap their arms around that depleted wife when she was on her hands and knees begging God to relieve the pain her husband gasped for help with–or do they hold the small nine-month old chunky baby that was in the hospital floor playing with his toys to give that devoted wife a moment to just be her husband’s best friend and saving grace.

Those chemotherapy and infusion nurses–the real heroes in our story–they juggled the most cards of all. They juggled do we take care of the expecting momma, and later the momma of a five-day old, or do we tend to our patient’s every need. Do we take food, baby toys, or any of their needs to their overnight hospital stay, or do we stay home with our own families that we need to spend time with? They juggled whether they got to cry in front of us, or escape to the backroom to relieve emotions, when the oncologist said there was nothing more we could do. When those champion card players saw that frail, bony husband of mine disoriented, unaware of everything going on around him, and a momma carrying him on one arm, and their sweet year old baby in the other out of the chemo clinic–they played the card of what emotion they got to show that day.

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Our “spot” at our doctor’s appointment every other Thursday. All day infusion, meant juggling lesson plan writing, grading papers, and a sweet baby taking a nap in between me and his Daddy’s chair.

Senator Walsh, you are correct. Our rural, country, small-town nurses do play cards all day–in fact, a considerable amount of the day. Wait–no– all day and all night. They play cards when they go home, when they are supposed to be with their families, when they are supposed to take care of themselves. They are master card players, the real poker faces in this game of healthcare. They play the cards of taking care of patients, taking care of patient’s caregivers, families, dying wishes, egos, dignity, and every single basic need in between. And while they are playing those cards, they are card sharks at playing their own cards of emotions, family, vulnerability, and juggling their personal time that they devote to their patients and their families. They attend funerals, they hold that wife and that brand new baby in their arms while they weep because they are standing at the coffin of a patient they loved.

They are card sharks. Poker faces. True Vegas-style card players. Yes, Senator Walsh, my husband’s country, rural-small town nurses play cards. The very best cards there are to play. And I couldn’t be more thankful.

A Champion for Nurses,

Joe Smith’s Widow

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Kristina Smith is a widow, mother, Special Education Administrator, Colorectal Cancer National Advocate, Blogger and Amazon Best-Selling Author of “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir”

You can purchase your personal copy of Smith’s memoir here.