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.
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.
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.