What is this?

What is this? I don't really know, other then a continuation of my updates and writings that I was sharing previously on Caringbridge of this journey through cancer and now widowhood and single parenting.

Maybe it won't end up being anything at all, or maybe it will be a glimpse into my heart, my life, my current situation, my testimony.

Whatever it becomes, I am touched that you are interested.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

6 Months later...

6 months....

Only 6 months, yet already 6 months.  I keep telling myself that with each day passed I'm not one day further from Brandon, but one day closer to him.  Some days that is comforting and some days it isn't.

Why is 6 months so much more "significant" then 5 months or 7 months?  Because it's an easier way for our brain to categorize a length of time?  Half a year?

I have found that, especially being Type-A, I want to figure out my grief.  I want to check the boxes.  Denial - check!  Anger - not checked?  Bargaining - check! Depression - double check! Acceptance - check.  Ok - so, let's work on anger... I have some plans to go Gallagher on some watermelons soon. (For you youngins' click here to understand.)

But these are just 'normal' stages in grief.  They are far from the only stages, and just because we can check the box next to it doesn't mean we have completed that step once and for all.  Hardly.  I feel like I have to accept this loss all over every day, often in different ways.

At my GriefShare group this week I stared at the carpet and for the first time it actually sank in that I have to raise a child on my own.  ON MY OWN.  That is a huge undertaking!  And I am not prepared, at all.  I have no experience with kids.  I was counting on having the help of my husband.  But I don't.  It's just me raising Aria.  Alone.

6 whole months, and I still woke up disoriented the other day.  "Uhhh, why do I always have to get up to get the baby?"  Oh, right - because I'm the only parent.  This nightmare is still real...

So halfway through the first year, what should I expect in my grief?  How can I categorize where I am?  Well, for some the fog is just starting to lift and the pain is setting in.  For others, the demands of responsibilities or dependents allow that fog to hang around longer.  And yet many involved with "expectant death" or "terminal illness" started grieving long ago, and it may be 6 months - but it's also much longer then 6 months.  "Everyone grieves differently."  Gosh, if I have to hear that again my brain may explode.

But it's true.  That's why it is repeated so often.

So I have no "how to" to reference.  And I want one.  I feel so numb.  I robotically go about my days.  I feel guilty that I am not crying over every "trigger".  Shouldn't I?!?  This bag of skittles should have leveled me.  Why can't I cry about it?  Ok, let's sit in the moment and journal about it.  "They" say to lean into your grief.  Don't run from it.  Feeling it brings healing.  But, don't chase after it either, because it will find you when the time is right.  So what the hell do I do?  Journaling brought me nothing.  Am I still in shock?  Is this acceptance?  Am I avoiding the pain? Where do I go from here?

When we are somewhere we don't want to be, what do we do?  Look for a way out.  But the problem is, there isn't really a way "out" of this.  You have to go through it.  And you don't know how to do it other then trial and error.

In reflecting on all of this the other day I feel like God gave me a little gift of a memory from those horrific three months.  Right now my brain has sort of blocked out that time unless I intentionally go digging through it.  But I got flashes of the numerous times Brandon made a point to say, "I'm so proud of how you are handling this, hunnie.  You are an amazing and strong woman."

During that time I was just trying to be his strength.  Trying to handle myself with dignity.  Find the joy among the pain.  Cling to God, not run from Him in anger.  I just wasn't going to let reality take me down and keep me from being the wife I needed to be.

And that's what I seem to be doing now, except substitute "wife" with "mother".  I think this is exactly how Brandon would want me to be grieving.  Seeking support, going about my days and bringing Aria joy and laughter.  I think he would be proud of me.  I don't need to be doing these things I think I "should" be doing to grieve.

Maybe that day will come where I am overcome with pain to the point of delirium.  But maybe it won't.  Or maybe it will just look different for me.

I'm working on finding peace in the way I'm grieving.  Give myself the grace to just go where it takes me.  Good days and bad days.  Numbness or not.  If I feel I am robotically getting through, maybe that's exactly what I need to do to survive as a single mother right now.  Maybe that is simply the grace of God in my life?  Maybe I am incredibly blessed that God is truly carrying the weight of this for me right now?

So where am I in my grief 6 months later?  I guess just where I need to be....

*Note: As I quickly edit what I wrote late last night I am finding peace and truth in it.  Today is our 9 year wedding anniversary - and by the grace of God I am getting through so far...

Monday, March 9, 2015

March Update

My little nugget is crawling!  Somewhere between 7 and 8 months, she has become super mobile.  It started with an army crawl, then quickly progressed to a wobbly crawl and now is full speed ahead where ever her little heart desires to go.  She giggles at her new found freedom, alerting me that she's on the move.

This age is so fun.  Interaction is more intentional and she is finding her voice and stating her opinions (uh-oh!).  She is expressive like me and content like Brandon.

Nothing melts my heart like when she lays her head in my lap and smiles up at me.

As for me, things have improved a little since my last post about the messy truth.  

God put it on my mom's heart to pay me a visit for a long weekend, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect.  She helped me get my head above the water.  We took care of my taxes (ouch!), looked at the big picture of my budget and played out numerous hypothetical scenarios for the short term future so I know better where I stand.  Finally having a clearer picture of my financial situation has relieved a tremendous amount of weight from my shoulders.  

Without sharing too much, but also acknowledging that my survival right now has been contingent on other's generosity, I would like to share a few details of how the gifts we have been given have blessed me.

Brandon and I always had to give with our time because we could not give above and beyond with our wallet.  I know how valuable time is.  Now more then ever.  Many have given to us this way in taking care of yard work, snow removal, child care, counseling, praying, cooking, corresponding and such, all making a huge impact on my grief and day to day life.

We have also received many donations of baby gear, which has been an amazing financial relief. I just love when I see a last name written on the tag of a bib or jacket, reminding me of the kind families who have given so much.  

Then there has been the monetary help.  I shake my head and sigh, because there is no way to put into words how grateful I am for the tremendous generosity of friends, family and complete strangers.  

Since so many gave in this way, it has allowed me many things in this time.  I can keep our house with all our memories.  I am not forced into having to make decisions regarding Brandon's things.  I can leave them right where he left them until I am ready to do otherwise.  This is an absolutely priceless gift.

I have cut nearly everywhere I can, but for now can still have some luxuries like cable for distraction and a semi regular hair appointment.  I have even been able to treat myself from time to time with dinner to-go, a massage, a manicure or a little retail therapy from one of the many gift cards I received. 

In the beginning of the year I was contacted by a bunch of the guys that Brandon had walked through the past 5+ years with, many of them the husbands to my close girl friends.  They wanted to come by and give me a gift.   A pledge and financial sacrifice from 12 guys (and their families) to help me with the cost of childcare for the entire year!

I think back to the things Brandon repeated the most in that last month. "Thank you so much for taking such good care of me" to all of his caretakers, and "Take care of my girls, please just take care of my girls."  I think he is rejoicing in Heaven watching how God has used so many people to grant that request.

After stepping back looking at my budget I can see how God works in such incredible ways.  With more then half our household income gone, minimal social security benefits and the added expense of a child and child care, guess what?  I have exactly what I need to get by.  No more, no less.  That's how God works.

My mom getting taken
advantage of by baby and cat
He gives us what we need.  And before this "accounting miracle", I had sadly accepted the idea that I may have no choice but sell the house.  Maybe God was going to take me somewhere else?  Or I may have to get rid of cable and internet.  Maybe I need to be less concerned with the worldly?  Or I may have to use all of the donated money in the next few years to stay afloat and not be able to save any of it. Maybe God is asking to be my only safety net?

No, none of that is what I would want, but it may be what I need for what ever reason I may never understand.

But for now, I am grateful that I get to stay, I get to watch Master Chef, and I get to have a little security for the unknown ahead.  Any day they too can be gone.  I've learned there is a lot that I thought I needed that has since been lost to me, but I've found the only thing I really need is my faith in God.

Thank you for continuing to walk this with me.  Please pray as the upcoming weeks are going to be some of the most difficult to date, with the 6 month Angelversary and our 9 year Anniversary just days apart (March 23rd & 25th).  Turns out my Widow & Widowers group is the evening of our Anniversary, and it may be exactly where I need to be that night...