Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There is No Easy Button ....

                                                                   picture from here

... but then, I guess that's what makes most things better.
If everything came easily in life, then we probably wouldn't appreciate most of it, would we?

Funny, even after 4 years of almost nothing being easy .... not one damn thing .... I still foolishly hold out hope that that fact will change.
That something, sometime, somehow .... will be easy.
I wonder why?

I don't really think that everything was easy before Jim died.
In fact, I can recall very many times that were too difficult to go through.  But then, there's not much choice about the "going through", is there?
It is what it is.
You get what you get.
And you go through.

But the difference is ..... things seem a hell of a lot easier to go through when you don't have to go through them alone.
And the past four years have taught me a hard truth .... I am very much alone.
I have wonderful family.
I have wonderful friends.
But at the end of the day ..... when the lights are out and it's just me in that big, empty bed .... I am alone.
And that fact is very hard to understand .... unless that's where you are.

The hardest thing by far?  Parenting.
Hands down.
I cannot parent the way I once parented .... in my "before".
And in most ways .... that makes me sad.
I think that I was a better parent then .... mostly.

I was a stricter parent.
I held my children to a higher standard.
Not an impossible one, by any means.  But a higher one.
I had no idea how easy it was at the time.
Because I wasn't an "only-parent".  I was one of two parents.
Jim was there.
Jim held the same standard.
Jim had my back.

But now .... now it's different.
I have the same standard .... in my mind, and in my heart .... but I just can't seem to hold onto it as tightly as I did in my "before".
I don't have the energy to face the aftermath that comes with that.
I don't have the energy to make sure that there are consequences that are dealt .... and dealt consistently.
I choose my battles now ..... and unfortunately, at least to me .... the parenting battle is not being fought as valiantly as it once was.

I am not a good mother.
I never thought I'd be able to admit that .... or that I'd be able to say, let alone publish, those six words.
But things change.
People change.
People die.
And what was once two .... becomes one.
A very lonely, and very exhausted .... one.

One that has no one to back her up when trying to hold up the standard.
One who gets fed up with dealing with the insolence and anger of teenage sons who need a father desperately, but no longer have that luxury.
One who thinks she cannot take one more day of receiving the brunt of normal teenage behavior .... just because she happens to be the only one around to dump it on.

Nothing is easy.
And nothing really ever was.
It was just .... easier.

But I'm trying.
And I'm re-learning things.
Things I used to know .... but can't seem to completely remember.

I haven't given up.
Not on them.
Not on myself.

But I have learned ..... when to give in.
It might not be the right choice .... but when things are really hard, and when one feels ..... no, not "feels".....  when one is very much alone ..... giving in may be the only choice.
Even if it isn't easy.


  1. 100% right there with you on this one. We are together in our aloneness. Doesn't help a bit but there it is.

    A close friend recently referred to me as a single parent. I gently corrected her saying, "No, I'm an ONLY parent." I could see her perspective change before my eyes.

  2. Janine,
    I'm not one to comment often, but I can't let the "I am not a good mother." line go.

    You may not be a perfect mother. Who is? But I know that you are a good mother and pretty damn close to great. How do I know? Because I have read enough of your writing and listened to you at Camp Widow talk about your children. I can hear love and pride in your written words just as I can see the light in your eyes when you talk about them. Granted the light may be fire at times as you deal with yet another teenage battle. I think sometimes we get lost in the whole, "this wouldn't be happening if your dad was here" thing. Whose to say the boys wouldn't be little shits even with their father still around? I have quit beating myself up over all the things with the kids that would be different, better if their dad was here to help me discipline and follow through.

    Kids are tough - even under the best of circumstances. I'm raising four of them alone now. I am not perfect. I felt like I was a whole lot better at this when I had my husband here to back me up and give me a break. But I know this, we are good enough. And these kids (10 of them between us) are darn lucky to have such amazing moms. We have fought and still fight an agonizing battle with grief so that we can continue to be here for them.

    You ARE a good mother. And I think it's important for you to keep reminding your kids of that. Tell them, "I am a good mother and you are so very lucky to have me." Try not to follow it with "besides who else in their right mind would want you". :)

  3. Janine, you speak for so many of us. Seeing those words in print really set something off in me. Empathy. I am here going through what you are, and I am sorry for all of us. We just do what we can and are able to do. I know I have kept telling my sons that I am only human, and I will always make mistakes, but I love them more than anything and will always try to get it right. Hang tough.

  4. You are a great mother. Own it and believe it. If you make mistakes, we all do, you are giving your children the gift of seeing that you can make mistakes and still be a wonderful loving person. Parents who appear perfect intimidate children because the children do not feel perfect inside. Facing perfection creates insecurities. Being open and honest with your children and admitting when you are wrong creates dialog and a place for them to go when they feel they've made mistakes. Try to do something nice for yourself. I was lying on the floor by my bed last night, my son had come home with head lice and my daughter who had stomach flu last weekend was feeling sick again, and realizing I hadn't taken any time for myself in at least 10 days. When my husband was here he was a super involved dad and he was always willing to spot me. Now it's all me in the stressful times so I better take care of myself. I know it's easier said than done. thanks for your words

  5. We as parents ask our children to "do their best" be it sports, school work, helping around the house or whatever. We can only ask the same of ourselves. I agree with the others who point out that we aren't perfect and weren't perfect when we were two. All we can do is get up every day and get back in the battle! I agree with the song that I'm not as good as I once was!

  6. I have been a single parent, then a co-parent and now (never heard it before today) an only parent. what I am realizing is because of Kevin's cancer I actually have been an only parent for almost 16 months. I was just under the delusion that he because he was physically there that he was an active participant. Truth is I have been parenting alone for months, and what I truly miss is someone taking care of my needs, the way I am constantly trying to take care of my son's. being a good mom is always thinking that you can do better by ur children, not the act of doing better. Its the perpetual need to want to do more that makes us GOOD.

  7. No, being the only parent is not the job we signed on for, nor is it an easy one, even when there are two to deal with the problems. No one said this would be an easy life, we've just been through the worst of it (I hope). I keep reminding myself of that, and keep telling myself if I could watch my husband die and deal with all that came with his death in the last year and 1/2, I can certainly deal with the present day to day conflicts. Be gentle on yourself, and your children, don't view it as getting back in the battle, I like to think of it as back in the saddle. The ride is not over yet. We may not know what trail to follow, but we keep on going forward anyway.

    You are a good parent, Janine, look at all you have been through and dealt with. Yes, stuff still keeps coming at you with a force that you can't believe, but take it at as it comes, and deal with it one by one.

  8. Janine: first of all; I agree with what others have said above; I think that you ARE a good parent; at least what is reflected in how you talk and write about your children. That being said; I am totally with you on the "only" parent thing. And, I can't tell you how GOOD it feels to see that I am not the only one who has had to "give" a bit with my standards. I posted something similar in response to a question on Widowed Village a while back and got blasted for "giving up" and "lowering my standards". Enough that I've given up that board, so much for it being created for "support". (sorry for that little rant). anyhow, you have been, and continue to be such an inspiration for so many of us. thanks once again for being so honest and walking along side of so many of us on this unasked for, unwelcome journey.

  9. Hi Beth, Just want to chime in and let you know that we care about your experience in Widowed Village. One of the amazing things about community is that there are so many different and unique individuals included...and one of the hardest parts about community is that there are so many unique individuals with their own opinions included! Our human-ness makes us less than perfect in so many ways, and yet that same less than perfect self is the one who can write about our pain openly, here on this blog. I am so glad that you have Widow's Voice to confirm that we are all doing the best we can with what we have every single day. And if the best we have on any given day isn't enough, well....there is always tomorrow. Thanks to all of you for being a part of this community, and for having the courage to share what is in your heart.

  10. Just a your sons have any Uncles or other male role models in their lives? It seems to help if they have a man in their lives that takes an interest in them.

  11. To Beth above....I have stopped in at Widowed Village, but never signed up, however I have checked in and commented many times here. You get the good and the bad, but for me it's mostly been good. I remember coming here once on an anniversay day when I felt very down, and I reached out for help, and checked back a couple of times, and there was nothing. Vacant. I also had a very helpful experience once when I laid out everything that had happened to us and how I felt awful that I couldn't do more, because so much was out of my control. Someone wrote something back that I've never forgotten and I've helped others was to the effect that the decisions themselves we are given to choose from are horrible (when helping our spouse go through illness) and beating ourselves up over it after the fact is counterproductive. That helped me so much.....lifted the heaviest of the "grief guilt." One thing you have to remember is that the people who come here are suffering, angry, lost, hurt, and sometimes they take it out on whomever they can. Remember it's never about you, it's their pain screaming out to the world. I know it hurts, I know the above mentioned time when I looked for help here and it didn't come I was having a super bad day, and kept hoping to hear a word of encouragement from someone, it would've meant alot that day. But this is kind of an independent, everyone-throw-their-stuff out their site, as opposed to a place to come for help and you are guaranteed someone is keeping an eye out. Sorry you were a target for someone else that day. Keep the faith.

  12. Our circumstances are different, as my kids are raised, but I strongly agree that we are alone, no matter how supportive our family and friends are. That is the very hardest part. Due to the loneliness of living alone, I moved to another state to live with my son and family and babysit their infant daughter. One month later, I realize that I'm now too busy too think about how lonely I am, but I'm still very alone and lonely. I don't have a partner to live my life with, to plan, share, and enjoy. I still feel so empty. And as much as I love my granddaughter, I'm primarily in a caregiving place. I lost my long-term spouse right before retirement, and I haven't found a way to live happily without him. I don't know that I ever will. And those that haven't experienced this don't have a clue. It will be 3 years this month that my guy died, and I've tried very hard to go through all the steps of grief so I could move on. What I know is that I'm alone and I feel like I need love and nurturing after the trauma that I've gone through,but the person that plays that role in my life is gone forever. Although i would never want to go through what my husband did in dying from cancer, it is also very difficult being the one left behind who always has to be strong.

  13. To anon above living with your son and family. Your post is so meaningful, it so resonates. You describe beautifully what we go through after losing our rock, the one we turned to who was our security and grounded our life. And the lonliness we are left to deal with. There is no easy answer. For myself, I try not to project into the future, to just be present with whatever is before me and deal with one minute at a time. But I also keep in mind that we never know what our future holds, our life can change on a dime, just as it did the second we met our spouse and fell in love and that was the beginning of everything. You never know what's around the corner, so don't give up hope.

  14. thank you Michele - I do agree that there are as as many different perspectives and opinions as there are people on these sites. If I have learned anything over the past 3+ years it is that we all grieve differently and there is not a right or wrong way to do it. The support from being able to read these blogs has gotten me through many a tough day.

  15. Oh my gosh! I am new to the sight and it is like you are reading my mind, living my life! What a comfort to know that someone else feels the same way that I do and I am not crazy!! I am raising three daughters 18, 14 & 11 alone since the death of my husband of 20 years almost three years ago. I never could have anticipated how difficult parenting without him would be OR how alone I would feel. Parenting by yourself is so lonely and unfulfilling. I, too am blessed with fabulous family, coworkers, friends, and church community but at the end of the day I am alone in my bed with books and a laptop and not a man. And when the rubber hits the road with my children it comes down to me alone--no one else can parent for you. Thank you so much for sharing--It wasn't that long ago that I confessed to my dear friend--I am not a good mother--something that I never thought I would say. Lori

  16. Thank you so much to all of you who commented .... especially to those of you who felt a connection with my words .... and knew that you're not alone. That is the reason I write .... and pretty much the only reason. It's my passion to let others on this road know that they are not alone, not crazy .... and not grieving in the "wrong way". We're all doing something we've never done before .... and that most of our friends have never done before. We live through this one day at a time and we need to know that someone out there "gets it". The bond I feel with other widowed people is instantaneous. Even in this virtual reality. It is still reality .... and a mostly sucky one at that. But it doesn't stay that way. And connecting with you is one huge reason. So thank you. Thank you for coming here and reading what we write. We get our encouragement from you .... and know that our grief has not been in vain. Not if we're able to connect with just one person out there. And you continually let us know that you are definitely more than just one.
    And thank you to all who encouraged me in my role as an "after mom" ... an only parent. You've helped me so often ... and today you gave me some light. Maybe I'm not as bad of a parent as I mostly think. Thank you for that. I'm definitely not as good as it as I was "before" .... but I'm learning to be ok with that. After all .... it is what it is. And we get what we get. As do our children.
    And to Anon who's come here before .... and got nothing .... I'm sorry. Yes, most of us do come here to just vent and get things out, but we also want to be here for you. Yes, we are all busy and have a multitude of things to take care of now .... but we still want to support you, and each other. You've given me something to think about .... and I'm going to try to do a better job of commenting when others are reaching out for help. Or just a word of encouragement. I can't change the path you're on, but I can show you that you're not alone. Just as you did today. Thank you for that. :)

  17. Hi Janine
    All your comments are so very true you are a very good mother but like you say ALONE and that's not easy at all I admire you so much having the strength to carry on and deal with all lifes problems...good luck for the future xxxx