Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The tough days

Birthday Candles
Birthday Candles (Photo credit: Chealion)

Tomorrow is Miss K's birthday.
She will turn 10 years old.
I can't believe she is already in double digits as I swear I only gave birth to her two years ago.

Except I didn't.

Two years ago was when I became both mother and father to Miss K and her younger brother.

Of all the wounds of widowhood, grieving for my father-less children has been the hardest.

Miss K was 7 and a half when Greg died.  Mr H was 5 and a half. 
Too young to have lost their father.

For the most part, they cope OK - much better than I could have dreamt of two years ago.

But that may be due to them being oblivious to the loss which is blindingly obvious to me: they simply don't know any different whereas I know what Should Have Been.

Recently, H asked me: "Did my Daddy like riding his bike as much as I do?" 
"Of course he did - don't you remember him riding along beside you on the bike track?"
"Not really Mum.  I don't remember him that well."

That kills me.
This beautiful baby boy of mine does not remember the tower of love that was his father.

His memories come from photographs and half-remembered dream-like moments from his first 5.5 years of life.

This is despite me talking about Greg All The Time.
Making and reading memory books All The Time.
Telling them stories about their Dad All The Time (you get the picture).

But nothing replaces having a Dad who is right there with you.

Miss K remembers more about her Dad, but then, she was older when he died. 
Certain things are etched in her memory.
Most of them are good, but some of them are for the times she was "naughty"..... she was cranky that last morning and she has that memory burnt into her brain. 

....and I feel sad for all the things that he is missing.
Does he know that our beautiful nearly-10-year-old girl is growing up? 
Does he know how clever she is? 
How beautiful?

Does he see that our boy has his engineering brain? 
Does he know how proud his son is of his perfect hero of a father? (in H's mind, his father is the greatest superhero ever).
Does he hear him tell anyone who will listen that he will grow up "Just Like My Dad"?

I'm guessing that he does..... after all, what  is heaven if not to be able to see your loved ones .... at least that's my idea of heaven.

But this coming week of birthdays (H's is the following Monday) is tough .... for me more than them I think... they are young enough to only dream of presents and cake and not dwell on Who Is Missing. 
But me - I've lost the person who can remember the moments after they were born and who loved them as much as I do.
The memories are now only mine.
There is no eye I can catch and know that we are sharing the same memory of birthdays past, or the perfect pinkness of their newborn faces.  Nobody to remember the exact tone of their one-year-old voices stringing sentences together.  Nobody to marvel with at just how amazing they are....

....and it hurts.

But I smile and wrap presents and make preparations to make this a happy birthday for each of them. 
....and I hope that when I tell them that their Daddy is here too, looking over their shoulders and giving them big birthday hugs that they can feel the certainty in my words and know he is really there.
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  1. Amanda - thanks for sharing this.
    I am not a young Mom widow. I am a fairly young widow but all of my children are grown.
    When my brother died he left three young children. I don't know how my sister in law did it. To raise these three boys all alone. He died more than eight years ago and those boys are growing into young men and they are incredible.
    Sadly the youngest does not remember much of his Dad but we keep him alive by telling him about his father.

    When you said "But me - I've lost the person who can remember the moments after they were born and who loved them as much as I do.
    The memories are now only mine."
    Oh I can related and I think so many widows can. In a relationship there is you and them and the "us". That "us" has a communal memory they each carry a piece of the story and they each share the moments of being a couple that no one else has.

    I feel that too. I have lost a part of my life along with my greatest love. I have lost the one person who knows all those moments and stories.

    There is a collective memory in a family - you are the one who will be at the front carrying the memories of Greg - their Dad, your husband, and all of the little things about him and you that only you know and when you share it with them they will carry it into the future too.

    Thinking of you and hoping the memory of your wonderful childrens birth is one of the joys to help carry you through.
    I am inspired by your courage - young widows with children - you remind us to carry on.
    Thank you

  2. So well said. I feel all of these emotions too and they are definitely the worst part of widowhood. Knowing what should have been as they grow up with just me as their parent is heartbreaking on a regular basis. And at almost three years and 5 months into this new life, my kids are growing tired of me always bringing up their Dad in an attempt to keep his memory and influence present in their lives. I'm needing to find a new balance that keeps him with us but allows my kids to not spend so much time being overshadowed by their Dad. As teenagers now, they are moving into new phases of their lives and this widowed mom is trying desperately to keep up with their changing emotional needs. Hormones, the biological need for more independence and having a dead father are a very complicated mix in my house these days. And as you said so well, not having the one other person on the planet who could totally relate as he was the one other person who loved them as fiercely as I do, is so bloody difficult. Happy Birthday to your kids and happy birth-day to their mama.

  3. Amanda - in the 11 months since Jim has passed - nothing I have read has touched me more -

    "But me - I've lost the person who can remember the moments after they were born and who loved them as much as I do. The memories are now only mine. There is no eye I can catch . ."

    This is what keeps me up at night. This is where my greatest sadness for myself (and them) lies. Thank you for putting it out there so beautifully and making me realize I am not alone in this journey.

  4. Amanda, you definitely brought tears to me today. I am the mother of two children in their mid-twenties. I think that sometimes the hardest part of this widowed life is missing that person "who loved them as much as I do". My kids' birthdays always brings that feeling to the forefront and makes those days incredibly difficult.

    As difficult as it is for me, my heart breaks for you and other widows/widowers with young children. I can't even begin to imagine raising children alone. Hats off to the tremendous job that you and others do as "only" parents.

  5. Amanda,

    I can relate to every word you wrote, as if you were in my head. This is the very hardest part for me as well. Our boys were 3, 5, and 12 at the time of our loss almost three years ago. This past year has brought a lot more healing. We feel their dad with us always and know he is not missing out on seeing them grow and thrive. I used to wish and hope that was true. In the past year I know it to be so. It makes such a difference.

    Much love to you,

  6. We also have so many August birthdays including the 17th which is also the anniversary of Michael's death. My newest grandchild was just born on August 1. My daughter, who was daddy's little girl, turned 19 on the 7th. I left her card on her bed because I always write that Daddy would be so proud of her and I know it makes her break down and cry. The little boys are fishing on their own which was Michael's favorite thing to do and he couldn't wait until they were old enough to go with him. The oldest caught his first one all by himself a week ago. My second grandchild turned 6 today and he was Michael's favorite. I have photos of them together the last weekend Michael was well and the love was so evident. We spend so much time together as a family in August celebrating all the birthdays but it is definitely a sad time as well. Someone is missing and we all feel it. Thank you for this column. Love and hugs to you.

  7. Amanda, this was so well spoken. My kids are in their 20s and I'm 20 months into this journey. People don't understand when I tell them that Father's Day is the worst day of the year for me. My children have lost their father. For me, that's worse than me losing my husband. I got 30 years with him and I am sooooo grateful for that. But my kids and grandkids really got cheated. I'm grateful that our kids were grown before we lost him, but they still lost their father way too soon. Hopefully, I will someday move forward and find a new love for this stage of my life. But they can't find a new father. The only father they will ever have is gone. And that hurts!

  8. Hi Amanda,

    There is no doubt that the hardest part of this journey is the grieving for what our children have lost. I am crying as I write this for what my little angel has lost and am constantly wondering if he gets to see her where ever he is......I want him to come home.

  9. I can so relate to this...my heart breaks for my kids every new turn in their journey...

  10. Amanda,

    This is so what I have been thinking lately: "I've lost the person who can remember the moments after they were born and who loved them as much as I do. The memories are now only mine." I am 13 months out with two boys 11 and 15. The younger very vocal about everything and the older one very quiet and seeking his independence. We did so much as a family and now we aren't complete - it's very strange! I just wanted to say "Thank You" for putting to words what I wasn't able to! ((HUGS)) to you and your kids!

  11. Thanks you all - your comments let me know that I am not alone in grieving this dimension of loss.