Since my husband’s death, I have struggled with my heartbreak, feeling lost, sad, lonely and everything that is wrapped up in the package of grief and loss. I have also struggled through successes, changes, and new beginnings. With all of these experiences, I have been challenged to my core. There is one thing that is even more difficult than experiencing my loss…watching my children grieve.
Every new experience, change, big or small, brings to them another way that they are without their dad. Many times, this feeling is not expressed or maybe comes out in anger or frustration. My big boy is changing every day. Not only is he growing physically, but he is maturing and trying to make his own choices, friends, and well, living his life. This year, he finishes elementary school. The upcoming weeks are filled with fun activities. He gets to go to Catalina Island for an outdoor education trip, there is a dance, trip to the water park and 8th grade promotion. Lots of fun lined up ready to experience to the fullest! He is excited and nervous. He is looking forward to high school and a summer off with friends. He is also sad. He is missing his dad a lot these days.
I never assume to know how my kid’s are feeling. I know how I feel about certain things and I share that with them. They both are pretty good at talking about their feelings about their dad. When things go well, when exciting times are going on, even in the midst of the fun, they will suddenly be sad. They will get in touch with what’s missing and come to me. Some days a hug helps and some days it doesn’t.
My sweet, big boy is going to be 14 in a few weeks. He has grown a head taller than me. It seems like every time I turn around, he is an inch taller. I forget sometimes that wrapped up in this blossoming young man is still the little boy who lost his daddy just a few weeks before he turned seven. The little boy misses his daddy. He wishes his daddy was here to see the young man he is becoming. I knew this would be hard to experience with him…but the heartbreak is suffocating some days.
My little one doesn’t remember much about his dad. He is very troubled by this. He wants, no, he longs for a memory of his dad. He feels guilty and sad that he doesn’t remember him. We can look at videos, tell the stories, but when it comes down to it, they are our stories, not his. Again…heartbreaking.
I knew raising my boys alone would be tough. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I knew that with each new start, with each new turn their lives took that they would miss their dad. I know there will be a hole in their lives. I know that I can love them to pieces every moment of their sweet lives…but I also know that I can never replace what they’ve lost. There is no way for me to be their dad…no matter how much I wish it, will it, hope for it…I will always be mom. I can help them build the tools to cope with the hole, but no matter what happens in our lives, they will always miss him and wish he could see the men they become. For me, this is the most heartbreaking part…Dave loved his boys so much. He would be so, so proud of them. I wish they could hear him say how much he loved them…just one more time. I wish each time they have a moment of success that feels bittersweet that he would whisper in their ear…I love you son and I am so proud of you.
I will say it! I will always say how much their dad loved them and that he would have done anything to stay with them. I will tell them how proud he was from the moment they were in my belly…how much he loved his boys! I will hope, I will pray that somehow, some day the hole in their hearts will be filled with the love that brought them into this world and that they will know…just know that he is always with them. Even if they don’t see him, even if they can’t remember how he smelled or the sound of his voice…he is there with them and through them. They are his legacy. They are the wonderful part of him that got to stay here. They are the children he wanted. They are his boys!
So as I watch them cope with heartbreak, I will remember that the men they will become is very much because he was their dad. There are moments that will take my breath away, moments that will bring tears, and many moments that will bring joy. Through the pain of observing their grief, I am so proud of how they face their own heartbreak and survive each day. It can’t be easy, but they do it…every single day.
Through my tears, my pride will prevail and I will continue to watch no matter how difficult it is. I will continue to hug, listen and love them with all my might. Hopefully some day they will look back and know that losing their dad will weave through every part of who they are, but it doesn’t define them…only they can do that. Hopefully they will live with compassion, open hearts, and love life…no matter how many challenges they may face.