Reality of Grief

For the last 6.5 years I have had one main purpose; making sure my kids were okay.

Making sure they have everything they need, a nice place to live, helping them through all of the hard times that they have had to face, without their Dad.

Trying to keep everything afloat on my own. Struggling through my own grief, mostly in silence, trying to put a positive spin on everything when I just wanted to scream, “this is horrible and so unfair!”

Trying to make ends meet so they didn’t feel or see the difference, financially, of how different and difficult it is to go from two incomes to one.

Throwing the football or trying to practice baseball when it was obvious that the person that should be doing those things just wasn’t there.

Attending school functions and faking a smile when it was painfully obvious that their Dad wasn’t there.

Struggling through homework when I couldn’t even do math for myself in school, knowing that their Dad would have been able to help.

Dropping them off at practice when I saw the Dads walking to the field to stay with their kids.

Talking through times when they lost interest in things or gave up on things that were just too hard because he wasn’t there.

Scrolling through FB to see the Daddy Daughter dance pictures or the sports awards pictures. Seeing the heart warming videos of parents returning home from service to see their kids who missed their parent so much while they were gone, wanting to lose it, knowing my kids won’t ever see their Dad again.

Night after night of sleepless nights, followed by mornings when none of us could even hear the alarm go off.

Injuries, ER visits, sicknesses, birthdays, holidays…. Every single day there is something that he is missing, something they were going through and just wanted their Dad.

Answering questions about people leaving their lives, after they had already lost so much, with some generic answer that made it sound okay.

I could go on and on.

But, at the end of the day, it’s not okay. There is nothing okay about two young kids having to grow up without their Dad.

Nothing.

It’s messy.

It’s unfair.

It’s so incredibly heart wrenching.

I found some old videos last night.

There were videos of the kids from before 6/19/2012. They were so happy. Pure joy, innocent laughter; they were just normal and happy kids.

There were videos from shortly after 6/19/2012. There were smiles and laughter, but it wasn’t the same. I heard two little voices, making me painfully aware of just how young they were when it happened. They were trying so hard to be normal, to just be kids. But behind those smiles and laughs, I could see and hear the pain they tried to hide.

There were videos that were a taken a couple of years later. They were much more serious and somber; those little voices and brave laughs were no longer there.

Then I realized that I don’t have any recent videos. The struggles over the last several years have been so hard and so intense that not only do most people not even know about, but made me wonder if we would ever be okay. There wasn’t much happiness to capture.

We have just been trying to get by.

Just trying to survive.

Then, tonight I was hit with such a raw and real picture of all that I just described. It just hit me all at once. It was like 6.5 years of grieving and pain was being felt, out of nowhere, almost as if for the first time.

I have lived every single bit of this with these two, every single day. I have dealt with my own grief and the struggles that come with being the adult left to take care of these two people. But, although I have walked through the hard times with them, I had to be the strong one. I had to make it okay. Or at least try to, the best I knew how; all the while feeling that I was always falling short. But, I hadn’t truly allowed myself to feel the hurt that a Mom feels when they see their kids hurting. That changed, truly out of nowhere, in a moment.

All of the sudden I am sobbing uncontrollably, trying to explain to them what I was feeling, what I just attempted to describe above. I could hardly talk through the trembling in my voice, blowing my nose, and trying with everything to get the tears to stop.

You know what they did?

They hugged their Mom and just kept telling me that it was okay. They wiped my tears and told me not to cry for them. They said that they were okay.

How did those two little heart broken children grow up so fast?

Now, 16 & 18, they were taking care of their Mom and saying whatever necessary to make it okay.

Here is what I realize…

There is nothing okay about what the three of us have had to endure since 6/19/2012.

We have been through hell and back.

We have struggled through things that no one else will ever truly know or understand.

Life doesn’t look the same for us as it does for others and people can judge what it might look like to them all they want, but at the end of the day…

We are okay.

We have survived what could have broken us.

We will be better, more loving, more compassionate, and stronger people because of it.

We are going to make it.

And lastly:

I have to believe that there are still great things in store for us and that we can still find joy and happiness in this life that has dealt us an extremely hard hand.

And….

Despite all the hurt and all the pain…

This is not where or how our story will end.

Love doesn’t end. Not even death can break the strong bond of true love. We may be missing an integral piece, but we are and always will be family.

Walk Your Own Path

I saw this posted on Facebook by Lessons Learned in Life and it really hit home.

I spent the majority of my life doing exactly what this says you shouldn’t do. I was always apologizing. I was always making excuses about why I made certain decisions or chose to do something a certain way. Why? Because people can be so judgmental.

The fact of the matter is that most people, fortunately, couldn’t begin to fathom what it has been like to be a young widowed Mother. You can’t compare me to you. You can’t compare my kids to yours. You surely can’t compare our lives. They aren’t going to look the same!

I finally realized that I have no reason to feel like I need to explain myself to anyone, but God. The path we take to get where we will go isn’t going to “look” like yours. What I do know is that three of us are going to be just fine!

Walk your own path proudly and unapologetically, knowing that every single step you take is a part of your story.

Be Careful With Your Words

When someone you love leaves this earth, you are shattered and life as you know it will never be the same.

Not sure why this is on my mind and heart tonight, but it is, so I’m writing about it.

Typically when someone passes away, you hear everything good about that person. Regardless of how they lived their life, you begin to hear in what people say about them, things that make them sound like a saint. Well, no one is perfect and no one’s life can measure up to that picture that is painted.

Having said that, there isn’t any good reason to speak poorly about someone who is no longer here. My Jonathan would be the first to tell you, and he did while he was here, that he had flaws. He spoke more openly about them than most, usually to help someone else. So, I have never spoken about him like he was perfect. I have sometimes talked about his struggles and things he went through, when appropriate, to help someone else or to teach something to our kids. But, as his wife and as the mother of those children, it is my place to do that.

This past year, my kids have learned some things about their father that don’t put him in the best light. Some of those things were things that I chose to tell them because I knew it would help them. Other things were told to them, things that I chose for good reason not to tell them; yet. Some of the things were absolutely not true. So, I had to speak to them about all of that. Things that I wasn’t ready to say, things that I maybe never would have said. I also had to clear up the things that were not true.

It is never good to gossip about anyone. We are all guilty of that sometimes, including myself. But to gossip about someone who is no longer here, and then to take it upon yourself to share those things said with his kids is never okay.

No one will ever know what I have had to go through with my two children. Helping them grieve the loss of their father. Helping them live day to day without someone that was such a big part of their every day lives has been more difficult than anyone could know. It has been 6 1/2 years since we lost him and it is still a daily struggle for the three of us.

I am given unsolicited advice from people who will not understand unless they have gone through what we have, regularly. I have heard things like: It has been long enough. It’s time to move on. I could go on and on. They are said by people who care, people with good intentions, but it still doesn’t make it okay.

We will never move on. There will never be a day that we don’t miss him and wish he was here. There will never be a day that comes where we are over it and it should all be okay. It’s just not that easy and it is not realistic. We not only want, but we need to talk about him. We want others to talk about him. It’s important for us, especially my kids, to know that he hasn’t been forgotten.

There is so much more that I could say but I am going to stop here. Moral of the story is this… Think about what you say before you say it. Understand that your words can have life altering consequences when heard. Especially by the loved ones of someone that is no longer here.

Kids and Grief

I was reading a post recently of a fellow widow and it broke my heart. It broke my heart for her and her child and it broke my heart for my own children.

It is a fact that often when someone loses a spouse, they lose many people that were in their life pre-loss. I’ve written about this before and given my thoughts and perspectives as to why this might happen. But, quite honestly, it is just plain sad.

This woman made a post on her personal FB page stating that she was tired of people disappointing her child. Now, normally we save that sort of thing for our widow support groups where we can freely talk about things with people who truly understand. She was brave enough to just come out and say it. GOOD. FOR. HER.

People should know that their actions (or lack thereof) have real and damaging affects on children who have already lost so much. It’s hard enough for us as adults; children should not have to suffer so much loss.

Children who have lost a parent should be shown MORE love, not experience more loss.

PERIOD

Some might not like to hear that but they need to.

I’m gonna go ahead and leave this right here.

The Pain is Worth the Cost

The pain of losing a spouse and watching your kids grieve the loss of their parent, brings a sorrow that I can’t quite put into words. It’s unlike any feeling I could’ve ever even imagined.

It is said that “it” gets better in time. Just give it time. Time heals all wounds. As well meaning as the one saying these things might be, it’s just not true.

“It” doesn’t get better and it most certainly doesn’t go away. But, you do learn to live with it. It becomes a part of you. Just as the person you grieve leaves an unexplainable void in your heart and life, the impact they had while living leaves an imprint in who you are. As you carry the pain that their loss leaves, you also carry them with you.

Deep grief is the price you pay for deep love. It is always worth the cost.

Is There Really a Choice?

I’ll be honest, there have been several times where I truly wanted to throat punch someone who said to me that happiness is a choice. I often thought to myself, “how in the world is it as easy as saying that I choose to be happy when I feel so bad?” I have even told myself several times, “just make a decision to be happy!”

Ugh, if only it were that easy!

It didn’t matter how many times I told myself that I was going to be happy, the weight of the reality I was facing and the feelings I felt weighed more in comparison to that choice.

I finally realized though, it really is as simple as making a choice. I can wake up each day and entertain all of the feelings I am faced with, all of the thoughts floating around in my head or, I could just tell myself that none of those things matter and it was going to be a good day. Now, I might have to tell myself that very same thing 20 times in that same day but, the attitude I was choosing was much better than the alternative!

Long story short, here is what I tell myself now: “Joni, you either trust God or you don’t.” So yeah, it’s not easy but I am making a conscious decision every day to put my trust in the one who actually has a say in what happens!

One day at a time. Sometimes, one hour or even, one minute at a time.

This is us

This picture popped up today. If ever there was a picture that captured our little family, without words, this would be it.

We laughed. A lot. We smiled. A lot.

I sometimes look at old pictures and see the difference in our eyes and our smiles. They’ve changed. I see pictures or think of old memories and my heart is happy and I smile. But, it makes me so sad. Not just because we miss him so much, that’s a given. I miss those smiles on my children. The real, genuine, and innocent smiles. I’m sad because of the pain and struggle they have experienced as children. It makes me mad because I feel like they have been cheated. I do believe with all my heart that God will restore their hearts and bring real joy back into their lives but, it still makes me sad. That’s how I feel today and that’s okay.

Sure, there were the normal family downs and we surely had our share of struggles but this… This is us.

Bringing Light to Dark Places

How do you start your day?  Coffee?  Shower? Excercise? Excited to get your day started?Hitting snooze 15 times? Dreading what is ahead?  To be perfectly honest (and this makes me cringe to say this) each morning starts with dread; the moment I open my eyes.  At least, it has been that way.  I would wake up and feel this terrible feeling come over me; a heaviness that I couldn’t explain if I tried.  I would drag myself out of bed, only because I had to because of the kids, and that feeling stayed with me; all day. I felt sad and anxious, overwhelmed and tired; SO TIRED.  I was walking through my day in an absolute fog.  It has been like that longer than I would like to admit.

So, if you can at all relate to what I described, you can understand what it’s like to struggle with grief and/or depression and anxiety.  If you can’t relate, I am telling you, you have something to be extremely grateful for!  I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  Whether what you are feeling is passed down from family, is seasonal, is situational, is complicated grief, PTSD, and so on… It’s a struggle and it is a very real thing that sometimes has a negative sort of stigma attached to it; which is beyond unfortunate.

Thinking on this subject, especially that part about the negative stigma, I started doing research for statistics out of curiosity.  I first started looking at numbers surrounding people affected by mental health and they are staggering!  I dug a little deeper until I was stopped at the part that just broke my heart.  Suicide.  This is the reason that the stigma needs to be changed!  Mental health is a very important thing and if not taken care of, those with poor mental health could end up in a situation where there is no turning back.  Some of the statistics I read about were relating to those with mental health issues that are left untreated.  Those numbers were just plain scary to me!  Why??? I can only guess that it’s mostly a result of unnecessary embarrassment or shame.  And guess what? I realized that I get it!!!

It took me a long time to realize that I needed help for my anxiety and depression.  Once I knew I needed help, I still didn’t pursue i.  I can’t answer why for everyone else but I can open up and be honest about myself; that will be in my next post.

Some statistics about suicide:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America
  • 44, 965 (Americans) commit suicide each year
  • For every one completed suicide, there are 25 attempts
  • On average there are 123 suicides each day
  • It is expected that the 2017 statistics will show a significant increase
  • Children committing suicide is becoming more prevalent

This cannot be okay, it just can’t!  This is what I call a crisis.  My heart is burdened to get involved somehow but I’m not sure what that will look like.  For now, I can openly and without shame, talk about it.  We have to talk about this and bring light to those dark places so that more people will feel like they can get the help they need!

Wishing time away

This was written by my beautiful (inside & out) 15 year old daughter who has been through way more than any child should have to go through. She has a gift. It spoke to me and where I’m at in this season of life. It was too good not to share. Hopefully it encourages someone else.

Time is precious. I think about this so frequently, practically all the time. I’ve had horribly sad times, and unexplainably happy times. One thing I’ve realized is, no matter what life is like in this very moment, cherish it. I’ve spent too much of my life, sulking in sadness over the most little things you can think of. For example, looks, people you can’t control, things not working out my way. Horrible things happen in life, and it can break a person. I’ve experienced this, but nothing can ruin your life. No matter how hard the situation, you can always try and find happiness again. Find happiness in little things. If the weathers nice, if you reconnect with someone, a good workout, waking up in a good mood, talking to god, anything. Time flies by, and I don’t want to live in regret by being sad. I’m tired of thinking about all of the negatives or having a fear for the future. God is in control of my future, and everyone else’s. Everything has and will happen for a reason, there’s no need to fear anything. The whole message is, be thankful, be blessed, pray. Everything will be okay, no matter what circumstance, be happy. Life is way too short to live in sadness.

Kids n’ Grief 

As incredibly difficult as it has been to deal with pain and loss as an adult, I cannot even begin to imagine what it is like for children. Sure, I see the ways they struggle and I’ve been there to witness how the void left by the loss of their Father effects them. But, I still cannot fathom how their young minds and hearts process and deal on a daily basis. 

As their Mother, I am there for them in every way I know how and am able. I can give hugs and wipe away tears but I can’t fix it. What a helpless feeling to have as a Mother! I try to encourage them to be positive, push forward and to look on the bright side. I have to be honest though, sometimes you just have to say, this really really sucks! 

These kids get up and do life, while having to deal with something that no one else sees. They are strong and amazing. But I have to be honest, not only does it completely suck; it pisses me off! 

I don’t bother asking the question why anymore. I’m way past that; but still… It is so far beyond me how two young kids can have to bear so much. 

They didn’t just lose their Dad. They have suffered loss upon loss upon loss. Dad. Home. Relationships. Church. Innocence. I could go on and on. It’s just not fair. No, life is not fair but all of this… I don’t get it. The saddest part is that I feel like they receive more judgment than compassion. 

All I can do is keep moving forward and walk beside them the best I know how. That, and pray that they don’t grow cold from it all.