Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fighting the Old Fight ......

...... of feeling like a failure.

I have struggled with this battle off and on during the past 5 years.
In the beginning it was a constant feeling.
I was in such shock, depression and deep, deep grief ...... that I could barely function during that first year.
The second year started off with a diagnosis of cancer in January and major surgery in February.  The depression only worsened during that second year, as I spent most of it recovering from that surgery and the pain it left behind.

Add that to the horrendous grief ...... and everything else I kept getting thrown my way ...... and I still didn't function very well.
I felt like I had failed everyone, but most of all, my children.
I still had 3 teenage sons living with me and they were grieving the loss of their father.

Now even on a good day, with no grief to deal with, teenage boys are not known for their eloquent communication skills.
Throw in the death of their father and you can imagine how much less they communicate ...... even with constant encouragement.

There were many days when it felt like I was the only person in my home who was grieving Jim.  And I hated that.
I also hated crying so much and so often during that first year.  I felt badly for the boys, having to see me like that most of the time.
I knew early on, as did they, that they lost both parents that horrible night in December.
But there was nothing I could do to change things.

I tried taking two of them to counselors, but boys will not communicate if they don't want to communicate (nor will anyone).  The good thing that came out of that was that I continued to see the first counselor after she decided it was useless to continue to see him.
So she helped me learn how to deal with him, and how to deal with living through my grief.

There was a time when I felt horrible for how hard I had grieved, and how much I had not done for my children.  I apologized to each of them, more than once, for that.  I also told them that if I had it all to do over again ...... I would most likely do it exactly the same.
I lost my best friend, my husband, my lover, my protector, my confidante, my partner, the father of my children, the first and only man I'd ever loved and the love of my life.  We loved each other "hard".  And very, very much. And we liked each other a lot.  Not every couple can say that.  Heck, I don't think even 50% of couples can say that.
Unfortunately.  That alone depresses me and makes me sad for them.

We were just approaching the time in life when we could do more things with each other ...... and plan trips we wanted to take after the kids were "out".  The future looked wonderful.
And then there was no future.
At all.

But sometime last year I stopped feeling guilty.  I stopped feeling like a failure.  I refused to let myself go there because I knew that I had not failed and that I was not guilty of anything ...... except loving Jim with all of my heart.  And showing our 6 children what it takes to have a great marriage.  Not a perfect one, by far, but still ...... a great one.

So I stopped apologizing and told them, again, I had done the best I could with what I had.  And just the fact that I'm not dead right now is proof of that.
The seven of us have survived ...... in spite of how each of us grieved.  Or maybe because of it.
I'm not a failure.  Even if a so called "friend" told me that I was.
Fortunately by the time I heard those words I knew better.  And didn't own them, but completely rejected them.  And her.

But this past week I felt Guilt trying to rear its ugly head again.
I was involved in a study that talked about how hugely important "the family meal" is.  And how fast the practice of families gathering at the same table for meals is being lost.
And how that correlates with the rise in problems our young people are having.  Fewer and fewer families spend time together at the dinner table ...... or anywhere.

I thought about how firmly Jim and I believed in the family eating together.  He wasn't always able to make it home in time for dinner, due to the demands of his job, but he always made it home every Wednesday night in time.  Everyone who worked with him knew that.  They knew they couldn't schedule meetings late on Wednesdays, or he'd be absent.
He made it home for other nights, too, but Wednesday was set in stone.

And then he died.
And the family dinners have been few and far between.  Granted, it's mostly been just 2 of us here.  And one of us is in school full time, has a part time job after school and on the weekends, and also has a decent social life.
In case you're wondering ...... that would not be me.

So I went to this Son last week and sat next to him to ask him a question.
"You remember the family meals we had when Dad was alive, right?"  Of course he did.  Why did I ask?
"I just wanted to make sure you remembered.  And that you remembered how important it was ...... and that you'll remember how important it is when you have a family."
These last two sentences were said with tears running down my face.  I'm sure he thought I was losing it ...... yet again.
He assured me that he not only remembered, but did indeed plan to make sure his family ate together.
Which made me feel much, much better.

So even though guilt and failure tried to worm their way back into my head ...... I kept the door firmly shut.  And then locked it.

I did the very best I could.  It may not have been much, but it was all I had.
I had no handbook.
I had no warning.
I had no clue.

And I have no guilt.
If you do, please try to let it go.  Don't take ownership of that horrible feeling.  You don't deserve it.
You're doing the best you can ...... with what you have ...... and who you lost.
Keep breathing.


  1. Janine, you brought out tears in me and a chuckle when you described your son! Yes, I have felt very guilty these last two years. I have felt like I failed as a mother especially in that first year. My children, who are in their twenties, quickly became my "go to" people for grief relief. They would listen and try to comfort me. But we switched roles and it should not have happened. I did make some adjustments but unfortunately, I can't go back as we all know too well.

    So, I will frame your blog from today and remind myself that "I am doing the best I can...".

    Thank you!!!!!!

  2. After reading what you wrote today, I broke down and sob the hardest I have in a while, because I felt like someone else finally understood all that I have been feeling after 3 long years alone! I have two teenage daughters. One is very difficult, but I know someday that will serve her well and she is tough as nails. My other daughter is strong too, but on a much quieter level. And no matter what people say and how sometimes teenagers will say all that you have/do wrong, in my heart I know that I am doing the very best I can with what I have been dealt with! It was healing to hear those same feelings and words coming from another widow! This stinks and please do not give up writing this blog yet, because there are many of us who are past the year mark, I am at three years, who need to come hear to read your words that let us know that it is ok to still feel all of these things years later! Who else would get it!
    God bless you , your family and all that your do, because you deserve it!

  3. I swear you channel what I'm thinking and feeling 9 times out of 10. Remarkable.

  4. well said! TY for sharing! You're so do have to make a conscious effort to firmly shut the door and keep it locked on the guilt! Much love and hugs to you!! <3

  5. Janine,
    You are the first person that has put a description of my husband and me into words (besides me!) that I have read anyway:

    "I lost my best friend, my husband, my lover, my protector, my confidante, my partner, the father of my children, the first and only man I'd ever loved and the love of my life. We loved each other "hard". And very, very much. And we liked each other a lot. Not every couple can say that. Heck, I don't think even 50% of couples can say that.
    Unfortunately. That alone depresses me and makes me sad for them."

    YES YES YES. WOW. And the next paragraph about starting to plan trips for when the kids left the nest; my kids had left the nest, and we had taken two of those "trips" but longed for so many more. We finally were on the verge of reaping the payback of 20+ intensively involved parenting years that we loved - and now the reward was, no matter that the two of the three kids moved to other states for work and marriage, it was easier to let go because I had my husband, my Marty......and now I don't have him either.......saddens my heart so much. Even today, it's just a week over two years for me, I was driving home from a new work appointment that he would be so pleased about for me, and I found myself shaking my head yet again, as I processed that he really is dead.

    A million thanks for this note.

  6. Thanks Janine,

    We always had family dinners on Sundays. My love has been gone two years. I keep holding onto those Sundays but I can see how they are starting to fall away a bit. I have to hold onto them. They are important.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  7. OMG, Janine. Your timing. I'm bawling.