I finally feel at peace.
It has now been 2 and a half years since I lost my husband Matthew to cancer. This past month is always one of the hardest, as we would have celebrated our 12-year wedding anniversary. Of course, I miss him every day and still have moments of getting teary eyed, especially when I think about how much our kids have grown and changed. He has missed so much. Brooke still asks me if I think about her dad and my response is always the same, I think about him every second of every day. But now, I can snap out of the sadness and redirect my train of thought to how proud Matthew would have been of all of us. I see so much of him in each of them. This is my new peaceful way of thinking: the glass half full approach. When I get upset now, instead of bottling it up I reach out to friends in similar situations (often it’s to another widow because it’s comforting to know that I am not alone and it helps me overcome my sadness).
Brooke is turning 11 this year, and just wants to be “normal” and blend in these days. She bonds with other children in similar situations and really enjoyed an art therapy group where all the kids were around her age and had lost a parent too. The other day, Brooke caught me off guard when she asked if she could tell her friends at her new school that Matthew and I are divorced. To her, divorce is more common and she wanted to be like everyone else. I remained calm and told her she can say whatever she wants and I will support her. I also told her that the truth always comes out, but I didn’t push it. I want to keep an open and comfortable environment where my kids can talk to me about anything.
Rifky, my case worker from Chai Lifeline, helps guide me through these rough patches too. She gives me tips for the kids, like telling Brooke to raise her pinky when she starts to feel anxious or send a text to cheer me up when I am feeling sad. She texted me on my anniversary last week with this message: “Wow 12 years, that’s a long time, Matthew would have been so lucky to have you and the kids for so long” — this made my day.
I have simplified my life.
This has helped reduce my feelings of being overwhelmed with the kids. Switching to the neighbourhood school, only doing activities that are realistic for a single parent (house league hockey only!), and taking a day off work when I start to get burnt out. I still find single parenthood extremely difficult with little respite. I notice this when I am too tired to do homework after a long day or to get the 4th glass of water request or to put on a movie, but I try to stay calm and encourage my kids to be independent. Someone at hockey the other week remarked how calm I was, the ultimate compliment, because I have been working so hard at this. In moments of stress, I try to remember that my kids and I are healthy, and that is the most important thing. I say this like a mantra in my head, especially when the kids don’t listen to me or when my 5-year-old has a tantrum and scratches my brand-new car.
I lean on my community a lot these days to help with my loneliness.
The first year after Matthew passed away, I just wanted someone to help. I thought I needed to find a partner but now that I have got my life in order, I don’t feel this urgent rush. I can take care of myself, my family, finances, and the household. I even enjoy calling all the shots and relish my freedom. I want to wait for the right person, however long it takes. What has helped with my loneliness is a stronger community connection. Going to shul more often, participating in Chai lifeline events, lighting the Shabbat candles, and wishing my close friends and family “Shabbat Shalom” make me happy now.
My hope for the New Year
I will continue to look at the glass half full, laugh as much as I can, have fun and continue to simplify my life. I will do my best to take a break to prevent from getting burnt out. I will continue to sing with my kids in the car and try to take a vacation. Just recently, I booked a trip to Arizona with Brooke for early in the New Year. We are so excited!
In memory of our loving Matthew, Brooke, Zachary and Joshua will be Jumping 4 Chai this weekend to fundraise in honour of their Dad! Please consider sponsoring these cuties by clicking this link.
On a last note, Brooke came home from her art therapy last week having talked about gratitude. She drew a picture of our house and all of us in it: it is moments like these that make me realize how far we have come and how well we are doing.