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.

Reminders of love

I was sorting through Christmas decorations this weekend, purging a bit because we’ve got too much. I came across both of these treasures that I haven’t seen in a few years because they were buried in Santa hats and ribbons. One is a note that was on a present for my husband the first Christmas after we moved to Seattle. He was having a hard time finding his way around, getting lost all the time, so the family and I got him a GPS for his car. He loved it. The note says, “We don’t know what we’d do if we ever lost you.” That was our last Christmas with him.

The second is a note Steven wrote to me 15 years ago at Christmas time, telling me how much he loved me and how Christmas was so wonderful now with our two girls. He told me I was amazing and beautiful and a great mom, and he told me how much he was looking forward to us watching our daughters grow up. He signed it “Your husband, Steve” as he always signed notes to me, which always made me smile.

I remember the first time I came across this letter in my decoration boxes. It brought me to my knees. Now I keep both of them in my Christmas bins so that I can pull out and sit with those memories each year. Sometimes they make me sad but usually they make me smile and feel warm because I’m so grateful for the love and the life we shared. I adore the ways in which he still manages to stay so present in our lives and the ways he reminds me that I am so worthy of love. ❤️