The Widowhood Puzzle

Becoming an “Only Parent” to your children is one of the biggest pieces of this widowhood puzzle. And it is a puzzle, with so many pieces scattered wildly every day. My job is to try my best to pull these pieces together in the right order, in the most efficient  and sensible way possible. Many, many times that simply doesn’t happen. Not because I don’t want it to but because I just can’t. I don’t have enough time, resources or hands to manage it all. But I do my best and that is good enough – it has to be.

One of the biggest pieces of this puzzle has been my children’s education. All 3 of my girls are very different and learn very differently. As a result, we have gone through neuro-psych testing, evaluations and countless IEP meetings with the school district and tried many different models of education. We have dealt with language-based learning issues, auditory processing issues, processing speed issues, as well as a host of physical and emotional problems that have impacted their education. I have had to fight repeatedly for my kids to get the education they need make some very tough decisions on my own. Well, I shouldn’t say that. I have some amazing friends that are very well versed in these areas that have coached and guided  me along the way, thank goodness. But these are very difficult waters to navigate and  every damn meeting that I have had to go to alone  – with teachers, with evaluators, with doctors, with head of departments in the school district – the weight of the world feels like it’s on my shoulders. I wish I had someone to walk into each of those meetings with me, wish that my husband was there to hear all the same information I did and be able to go home and process it together. So often I have come out of those meetings, walking tall to my car, climb inside, shut the door and fall apart. It is such an emotionally-charged process and managing it all on your own is hard. It often feels like too much, like you can’t possibly handle another thing. Grief  trigger? You bet. It’s not supposed to be this way but this is what you’ve got.

It seems like as soon as I have one issue tackled, another one pops up over there. It feels like playing Whack-a-Mole with children’s problems. As soon as I get that one the proper tutor, another has to be re-evaluated for math in 3rd grade. One is dealing with major anxiety in high school; another is struggling to understand the text of a required reading novel.  One Is moved to the perfect new school; another is discovering they are in the wrong place to learn. Aaaaaggghhhhhh.

It is all made more difficult because so many of the resources that would really be beneficial to my girls are ridiculously expensive and most therapies and testing are not covered by insurance. I have not felt badly even once for applying for financial aid for schools that my children have needed to attend. Some have been very reasonable and some equate to college tuition. I try hard to do my very best by my children and get them all they need but there are many times it just can’t happen. I am envious of those parents with kids in similar situations that have the funds to give their kids all the resources they need. And I am incredulous at those that have the money and do not do all they can for their children with learning issues and special needs. The part of the country that we live in is so rich with resources for these kiddos – I would do so much more for my girls if I was able.

I have often said that when you have children after you get married, it’s all happy and lovely and miraculous and all, and it feels like a fairly big deal to create a human. But once your spouse dies, it feels like the hardest, biggest job in the world. It feels bigger – and it is. It’s a lot for one person to manage even without extraneous issues like learning issues, physical and emotional problems. Throw all that other stuff in and it’s no wonder my puzzle is usually in pieces all over the place. It is overwhelming but we do it and we do the best we can – and that just has to be good enough.

Grief pregnancy is not for the faint of heart

There is no part of being pregnant AFTER your husband dies that is not surreal. Everything to do with it is all kinds of crazy.

There is no part of being pregnant AFTER your husband dies that is not surreal. Everything to do with it is all kinds of crazy. The sharing the news with friends and family: weird. Shopping for maternity clothes and car seats: weird. Crying while looking at diapers and baby clothes: scary. Doctors appointments and blood work and pee tests: weird. It’s all too much really. It’s such a bizarre thing, having this happiness and goodness get in the way of your sadness. Because the sadness has to be there, you have to go thru it, there is no skipping it. So you are just stewing in this combined pit of emotion. It was exhausting.

Pregnancy in itself is exhausting, so to add on to it dealing with this gut wrenching loss and my two little girls – I was beyond tired. I can remember a few occasions, driving home with my girls at night and feeling my eyes so heavy that I was sure I wouldn’t make it without falling asleep. More than once I’d be at a red light and asked the girls to tell me when it turned green so I could rest for a few moments.

PbxhhhI was sure that I was pregnant with a boy from the get go. It made sense to me. And also, having already had 2 girls, it would be harder so of course it would be a boy, right? I brought the little girls with me to my 20 week ultrasound appointment. I’d already two but this was the biggie. This one would tell us if it was a boy or a girl. With my other two babies, I didn’t find out the sex. It drive my husband crazy not to know. He humored me on the first but with the second, he really wanted to know. And with the second they couldn’t tell – at every appointment her body was situated in such a way that they just had no idea. So this was my third time down this road and I was sure it was a boy but my girls were sure it was a girl. They were already planning and their plans did not include a boy.

The appointment that day felt extra weird – I was really worried that a problem was going to be discovered. I just couldn’t shake the feeling my entire pregnancy that something was going to go wrong. And I was really worried that the girls would be there for the news when they were jumping out of their skin to find out pink or blue. I had declined early testing because I just thought I couldn’t handle it if results came with tragic news. Now I was laying on the table rethinking that decision as my girls both held onto my hand.

All was fine. It was a normal, very healthy baby. And it was a girl. I asked them to recheck and check again because, damn was I sure it was a boy. But it was unmistakable. My sweet daughters laughed and hugged each other and were so very glad it was a girl. It felt good to see them so happy – about anything at all at the moment. But this baby felt like such a monumental thing in our lives and we were all in it together. Their happiness made it so much easier to bear.

And while I was listening to their laughter and I was looking at the ultrasound screen, a tear ran down my cheek that no one saw. I’ll never regret this baby being a girl. But just for a moment there, I felt sad. I felt like I lost another little piece of Steve. I had this image in my head of a dark and curly haired adorable boy that looked just like his dad, running circles around all of us and making us constantly think about him. That little boy wasn’t coming but it didn’t matter. The girl that took his place lit up our world in the most amazing way – and not constantly thinking of him wasn’t ever an option. I see the best of him everyday in all of his girls. His soul shines through all of us.

Soulshine – The Allman Brothers