A while ago, Jeni was watching an episode of “This Is Us”. This particular scene was from some time after the father had died from the aftermath of a house fire and one of the sons was reminding his mother that she had promised that “everything would be ok and she would take care of everything”. He was also letting her know that she had failed. Things were falling apart around them. I listened as she told her son “It takes all my energy just to breathe and get up in the morning.”
Jeni’s Reaction to this story--
These words took me back many years to the time after my husband’s death when I, too, had promised to take care of everything. It was a major effort just to haul myself out of the bed and I was going to make sure that everything was handled...yeah….right.
Like her, there were days where I just struggled to breathe. Getting out of bed was a MAJOR effort. Once I had accomplished that great feat, I now had to be both Mom and Dad. I had to be the breadwinner. I had to take care of the house. I had to…..the list went on and on. When the transmission fell out of the car, I had to be the one to figure out what to do. I had to figure out ….well, just about everything. I was THE decision maker. I couldn’t even figure out the littlest things (like what to wear in the morning)….and I had to make sure everything was ….well…...taken care of.
I just wanted everything to be back the way it was. To be normal again was one of my biggest wishes. I wanted someone I could depend on without wondering about their motivation and someone with whom I could share the daily joys, struggles and decisions.
Also like her, I failed in many ways. I depended on others for advice. Some I should have listened to...others I should have ignored. Deciding which was which was also a major effort and mistakes were made. Despite it all, I take great comfort in knowing that, through it all, I did the best I could with where I was in life and the knowledge that I had at the time. That and the fact that I kept my family together, kept the house. We were able to get through it the best we could.
Teresa’s reaction -
My vow I stated - “It will be okay, we’ll survive.” I also promised we’ll keep the house until both sons graduate from high-school. I stated those thinking to myself, “I have no clue how we’ll do this or if I could really make that happen”. I was pretty sure the eldest a senior would graduate. The youngest was just a freshman. I made that my goal - survive until they graduated.
I too remember the days that getting out of bed much less go to work were major accomplishments. Parenting was limited to checking in with the boys, giving hugs, verifying they went to school, reheating casseroles that thankfully was brought to us for months by friends and co-workers. Just reheating a casserole was a win in those early days.
I had to take care of the house and 12.5 acres we lived on, the well, pool, gate that kept breaking, and then the yard. People helped, the boys helped. I was overwhelmed taking care of EVERYTHING and dealing with grief. I can still see the plastic grocery bags of mail to sort all over the dining room. Somehow, it just built up.
Like the woman in the show, our world fell apart, it got ugly and it was far from okay. We hung on by a thread, barely getting to school and work. Sometimes not even getting out of the house. I fell into unhealthy coping with food and alcohol. Thankfully, friends, family us, and the school district wrapped their loving arms around us and helped us throught that first year and beyond.
We survived, I managed to keep the house until after both boys graduated. I kept my vow and promise. We got through it together. We’re blessed that almost 11 years later we are thriving.
Like the woman in the story, many of us in the widow journey struggle with the day to day and yet, we must function and move forward not only for our own sakes but for that of our children and others that we love. In the haze of grief, we make the best decisions that we can at the time and we move forward (and sometimes backward) one step at a time, one minute at a time, one breath at a time.
So, when the house floods, the fridge breaks, the dog dies, the car falls apart, the gate won’t open, toilet backs up, kids get into trouble or talk back, and whatever else happens that you must now handle without the assistance of your loved one, please know that we have been there. Take a deep breath and make the best decision that you can at that time. Give yourself grace. Lean into God and ask for help.
Remember, in grief we all do the best we can.
Wishing you peace and blessings,
Teresa & Jeni