Becoming a widow at age 33 threw my expectations of life out the window.
There was an expectation July was going to be one of the worst months in my first year without Adam. I didn’t want there to be much time to think about our last summer together. Adam wanted me to live and enjoy life so I tried.
I really wanted to forget how much hope we had last year at this time because it stings so badly. A big part of me wanted to have this “new normal” that doesn’t exist, by keeping ourselves busy and making new memories so we wouldn’t dwell in the past.
See, I can anticipate when certain dates, certain seasons, certain events will be more difficult. What I didn’t anticipate, was that my grief would not get any easier. I did not anticipate that at some point my coping skills I’ve relied on so heavily would not be enough.
Lately my days have been busy filling out preschool, daycare, and screening forms for my boys. Parenting duties which were my job before, but fall all on my now. These forms ask for names of parents, emergency contact persons, and “special life events” teachers need to know about. A constant trigger and reminder I need to talk with new teachers this year about my son’s deceased father, his coping skills, and our home life.
I am really at a loss lately. I have to dig deep to find the good in my day. I second guess all my decisions and hope I am making the right ones.
A few months ago, it felt like I was rocking this widow life. I leaned into my grief, cried, and would find the good in my day to keep going. Now I am more angry than not at cancer and the universe. Being a solo parent is hard. What is even harder, is remembering that my path to solo parenting started well before Adam passed.
This sounds harsh. It is harsh. I would yell at Adam and correct others when they would comment on how I was handling parenting and the house on my own. I wasn’t handling them on my own a year ago, not at all.
I still had Adam. He was still reading a few stories to the boys and could pay bills when I forgot. There were even good days sprinkled in after surgery where he made breakfast one day and supper the next. I was still married and wore my wedding ring with pride.
There was hope. Hope we held for more time. Hope for a miracle. Even if he only felt food a few hours a week, I had his humor and smile. I could still hold his hand and give him a kiss good night.
The truth of the matter, is that a year ago I became the primary caretaker of bills, the household (aka organizing help), and parenting. When people tell me how “strong” I am, I hear it, sometimes I own it. Other times, I silently say to myself “I have been grieving and preparing for widowhood since we learned there was a grapefruit sized tumor in his colon.”
For the last twenty months I have been taking care of so many details. I am tired. I send my boys to their grandparents and I still feel tired. I feel guilty because I rarely accomplish anything other then some extra sleep. At the same time, I know to be a good parent I must take breaks. To grieve, I need time alone. I need rest.
This post was started a week ago but my body finally said “enough is enough”. What I thought was allergies, or maybe even hives from stress, turned into shingles on my left eye, face, and scalp. I have laid in bed the last few days, completely fatigued and angry because I am ill, falling more behind instead of holding my own.
It also made me realize, I got away from taking care of myself and let grief dictate what felt good in the moment. I shed more tears this summer, alone, with friends, and even in public than I have in months. The balancing ct of enjoying life and grieving is a fine art. I tried to run from my grief but grief will always find you.
The expectations I have for myself are unrealistic. The little bit left of my logical brain knows this. Then grief rears its ugly head. The huge waves of emotions, while raising two small children leaves me mentally and physically exhausted. At 33 years old, I cannot make it through a day without a nap.
In a recent conversation with my new therapist and in my cancer widow support group, we talked about exhaustion. How in the world did I manage everything in the short year Adam was sick? I survived on a few hours of sleep at night and bits of naps during the day for most of 2016.
Caregiver adrenaline, that is how. When my therapist and group told me fatigue is very common in the first two to three years, I almost crumbled. At the same time, hearing this helps me feel more normal. It is helping me to adjust my expectations and get back to living life day to day. Focusing on what really needs to be done. Trying so hard to hear Adam’s voice, telling me to cut myself some slack.
Again and again, I need to adjust my expectations. Enjoy our boys while they are little. Relax my mind when I think about what really needs to be done. I erased the list on the fridge and put it away where it can only be seen if there is energy for it.
Get back to the basics.
And throw those expectations out the window.