I was a widow at 38 years of age. I lost my husband, Matthew after a 7 year battle with brain cancer. I lost the love of my life and had assumed the role of single mother to my three young children, Brooke now 10, Zachary now 6 and Joshua now 4. Suffice it to say: not where I had envisioned my life was going to take me.
I learned quickly that grief is not something you do for a period of time and move on; it is a lifelong process with ups and downs. That first year turned out to be more difficult then I could have imagined. I went from being a self-sufficient and multitasking person to someone who had to struggle to get through a day. This was tough for me to accept and often led to me feeling like a failure. I was overwhelmed by all the daily tasks I used to share with Matthew like attending school events, going to birthday parties, socializing, organizing playdates, doing the groceries or paying the bills. I was now faced with a scheduling nightmare; nothing was simple or easy anymore! Always worrying about the well-being of my kids would keep me up at night and I was starting to feel emotionally out of control. My physical health started to deteriorate as well; my body was feeling the effects. It was all becoming too much to bear.
This is where I started to rely on Chai Lifeline to help me figure out how to push through and carry on.
Matthew and I heard about Chai Lifeline from friends of ours whose daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. They couldn’t stop talking about how much support Chai Lifeline provided their family. Our friends insisted we meet with them and for this I am forever grateful. Meeting with Chai Lifeline was the first time Matthew and I had felt hopeful and less anxious since his diagnosis: they just knew what we needed. Today, I am the one encouraging other families to reach out to them and help raise awareness any way I can.
My amazing case worker Rifky
Rifky was on call for me 24/7 for anything and everything I needed. After Matthew passed away, just knowing she was there helped ease my anxiety. I would call her for advice about everything from school decisions to therapy recommendations. She would listen without judgement and offered me her professional and personal advice. She helped fill the void of a second ear that I was missing. She always looked out for my well-being by encouraging me to carve out “me time” by meeting a friend for coffee, manicure or a quick phone chat. She empowered me to believe that I was making the right decisions for my family and made me feel “normal.”
Today I feel more in control
Now almost two years later, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection and cannot believe how far I’ve come. People always ask me: “How do you do manage it all?” Well for starters, I have implemented new strategies. I let people help with things that overwhelm me as a single parent such as lifts, play-dates, taking Brooke to gymnastics, or having my family bring the kids to Montreal for holidays and summers. I participate and enroll the kids in as many Chai Lifeline programs and events that I can. They do the Chai Lifeline Shining Stars program on Tuesday night (they love it and look forward to it!), they have big sisters and brothers that come to play and take them out. I am able to organize my days and schedules with all this help and fit in that much needed alone time. It has also helped that my kids are now older and more self-sufficient; they are portable and I can finally take them on outings myself. I have even enrolled Zachary in hockey, something I could not see myself doing last year. We are settled into our new routine and our new normal.
When people ask me if I am busy these days, I respond with, “Not really.” I have learned to slow down and enjoy relaxing with my kids. We do simple things that make us happy, like singing in the car and watching movies. I have a new confidence now that I am doing the best that I can as a single parent. I no longer feel like I have to get through the days, I feel that I am able to enjoy the days, even those that are not perfect.
I am having more fun, making some new single friends, and sleeping better. In hindsight, I realize I had to go through those emotionally and almost crippling moments to get to this better and more relaxed place. I was lucky to have the understanding and non-judgmental help of Chai Lifeline to help me figure it all out. Just being able to pop into their offices for advice or a quick chat has made me feel not so alone. They have become my family.