Finding the balance of moving on with life and being the link to the past and a good mom to 2 little boyz who don’t have a daddy is becoming increasingly difficult.
After the first year anniversary of Brian’s death, I felt an odd sense of freedom. I felt as if perhaps I was no longer under what I perceived was the watchful eye of many on-lookers awaiting my response and reaction to each “first.” And while I had been moving on with life and trying to help the boyz move on with life, I still felt an expectation was upon me to handle each situation with a certain degree of emotion even if I wasn’t feeling much of anything.
Now, I feel the expectations are perhaps dissipating. I am forming new relationships and friendships that didn’t know me as Brian’s wife. I have people in my life that wouldn’t even know I am a widow if I didn’t tell them. They know me as this girl, Angie, not this “you are so strong, you have been through so much yet look at you” 38 year old widow. I can’t tell you how liberating that is. Because I spent so much of the first 6 months embracing the role of grieving widow, reaching a point of wanting to live life again was conflicting to say the least.
In order to reach a point of wanting to seek a possible intimate relationship again, I had to ensure myself I was not in love with Brian anymore. This was especially difficult because I was very much in love with Brian when he died. And because I embraced the role of grieving widow for so many months, I was still fostering that love. Then I started to feel stirrings to advance with this part of my life. I knew I couldn’t give my heart to anyone else if I was still holding it for Brian. So I had to fall out of love with Brian. It was a very guilt-ridden process to allow myself to fall out of love with a dead man that did nothing to me except die.
Today I am very okay with that. I know this is so painful for so many of you that read this blog to hear, but I am no longer in love with Brian. I love and value what we had. I cherish him as I do anyone that I loved or cared for that has passed on before me. But, in order for me to love again and be loved again, I can’t be in love with Brian anymore.
The only difficult part about not being in love with Brian is the pain I know it causes so many others. I know for Brian’s family, friends and many of my family, I am the link that instantly reminds them of him. I know they look at me and expect him to shuffle in behind me at times. I know to watch me move on is a painful reminder of his permanent absence.
So, it is hard to be me. It is hard to be excited about the next chapters of my life when I am with people that realize they experienced the last chapter of that part of their life just by my presence. The book is over. They cannot have another Christmas with their son or watch their brother celebrate another birthday. They will not experience another backyard barbeque or card game with their friend/relative. And they are incredibly sad about it as I concurrently have been able to let go of that and become excited about the possibility of holidays and special occasions with someone else someday.
It is also hard to be me in the sense that talking & reminiscing a lot about Brian can, depending on the situation, hold me in the past. It can cause me heartache and keep me reliving past moments instead of looking towards the future. I feel like I have a lot of future ahead of me. I am 38. I hope and pray I have as much life to live ahead as I’ve already lived behind.
The largest conflict is the boyz. Oh my, the boyz! It is a constant struggle to find a healthy balance of healthy grieving and acceptance. One day there may be a brief mention of Daddy’s ability to play hockey, then there are several days with no mention of Daddy at all, then there are days when they hold tightly to every piece of memorabilia they have and refer to him as if he may walk through the door at any moment. I realize that is grief – it comes in waves and it is unpredictable and illogical. But, the most difficult aspect of helping them handle their grief is knowing that I have come so far in my acceptance and am even eager about what lies ahead while they just want Daddy. I can almost sense that they know I have let go of Brian so much, so they purposefully hold on to try to force me to.
I will always keep Brian’s memory alive for them as much as I can. However, the healthy balance between keeping his memory alive and living in a past life is difficult to find. I want them to have pride about their daddy. I want them to remember the activities they did together. I want them to know about the type of man he was. I want them to know as much about their daddy as possible. However, I also know that they were 6 and 7-1/2 when he died. I know they will likely have spotty recollections from this time of their life at best. Knowing that, for the last year I spent so much effort drilling those memories into them so they will have more vivid recollections, I am no longer sure if I have done them a favor or a disservice.
This is all not even mentioning that they both handle and process life and its issues in polar opposite of each other and the challenges associated with that.
Regarding Brian, so often the boyz seem to live in the past. I want them to have a healthy outlook on what lies ahead of them. I want them to feel empowered and strong. I want them to feel capable and sure of themselves. And Brian isn’t here to help me do it. It’s all me. So, I have started to change my focus from our former family of 4 to our current family dynamic trio. I am more intentional in the role of encourager and cheer-leader and leader instead of saying things like “your daddy would be so proud.” And he would be. I just don’t know the best way to handle having them accept his death, yet want to know he WOULD be proud and also know that we have to live with our current circumstances and use what we currently have to forge ahead in life. I want the memories of Brian to be healthy and to be just that – memories, not what drives them in life, not what they are looking to as their present circumstance.
As I do this, I notice them holding on and grieving all over again. I don’t know if it is good or bad. I am mixed and conflicted. They are reminiscing a ton about Dad. They are sad and I am here for them. If they have questions about Brian, I answer them. If they feel like they need to cry, I give my shoulder. I kind of feel like maybe this is good to an extent, that we have been living in the past to such a large degree that they haven’t really processed as much as I had thought they had. I wonder if their nostalgia and sadness is a step forward.
I don’t know. I just know it is hard. WAY HARDER THAN I THOUGHT. It is complicated to know how to manage and handle it all.
Mostly, though, it is very difficult to find the right balance.
I imagine it will get easier in time, but it’s all gonna be about balance.