Necessary parts of living have continued. I eat, I sleep, I get Gordon to and from daycare, I go to work, I pay bills, I tend to the house. I check on my little boy before going to bed and feel the pride of being a great dad. But very little is the same.
It's hard, but that doesn't mean it's bad. I have grief, I am grieving, but I am not my grief.
I spent so long being what I was doing that I'm going to have to relearn who I am and what I'm all about. I was Amanda's husband. I was Amanda's caregiver. I was Gordon's dad. Then I became a widower. But I'm realizing that those things are not all that I am -- I'm me, and sure, I do things, but those things aren't me. Okay, then, who am I? And what do I do now?
That's up to me.
Amanda's death blew a hole in my being. The aftermath made the hole bigger, more jagged and kind of infected.
I have some "good" grief moments, like when I'm tucking G into bed and start crying because I'd want his mommy to see what a wonderful little boy he is. And I have some "bad" grief moments, like yesterday, the morning after our wedding anniversary, when I began tearing up from bitterness and frustration on the way to work.
I'm doing what I can to accept the feelings as they come, but careful not to get stuck in any. I'm also working not to feel guilty when I have joy and optimism.
The hole in my heart, the hole in my life -- that's space for the life I will create for myself in the months and years to come.
The pain I've felt will drive me forward to make decisions for a fulfilling, loving, satisfying life to come.
Part of building the launching pad for my future self has been taking care of the physical space around me. In the weeks after Amanda died, I took steps to make our home less of a hospital and more of a living space.
|Some of the many drugs I rounded up and disposed of.|
Amanda's sisters came over and we went through closets and drawers and bags and boxes, sorting through clothes, purses and shoes. They took what they wanted. Most of the rest went to Goodwill.
|I hope someone makes new memories with these clothes.|
How is the little dude doing, people ask. Mostly great, actually. Mostly great. He's very factual about losing mommy. He's able to explain that mommy had things growing inside her that weren't supposed to be there, and the doctors and nurses tried to stop them, and take them out, but they kept growing and growing until her body stopped working. And she died. And she's not coming back. And we miss her.
But he's mostly great. He's able to be an energetic little boy now without worrying about waking someone up, or leaning on a colostomy bag or incision, or rolling off a hospital bed. He has a daddy who'll play on the floor, or pretend the couch is a train, or stomp around the house like a dinosaur. In some ways, he's flourishing and thriving. He's mostly great.
That doesn't mean he has forgotten. I wouldn't let him. At bedtime, we often tell stories. Sometimes I'll ask him what he misses about her. One time, he said he missed doing puzzles.
"That's right!" I said. "Mommy would sit in the blue chaise and you'd sit there too, and mommy would build puzzles with you. And what did she teach you?"
"To find the corners and edges first," he said.
"Good! So, whenever you do puzzles from now on, and you get the edges and corners first, you can remember that mommy taught you that. And every time you do, that's a little bit of mommy that's still with you, forever."
"And when there's a missing piece," he added, "that's mommy doing a puzzle .... in my heart."
Amanda's birthday would have been last week. After her dad died, she made a traditional family banana cake each year on his birthday. She made the same cake for Gordon's first birthday. And his second.
This year, Gordon and I made the same cake. For mommy. I'd never baked from scratch before, but at every step of the process, I remembered little pieces of advice Amanda had passed along each time I watched her make this cake. Don't use butter that's too cold. Use vinegar to make milk sour. Use exactly the right amount of flour.
It was delicious.
|Nana Hewitt's Banana Cake - a new tradition for the Simpson boys.|
This in-between life is awkward and kind of scary. That's okay. I'm not afraid of being afraid. My grief will serve me well. I have the rest of my life to live, and it's up to me to make that happen. I'm going to stumble and fall, make bad choices, make great choices, be disappointed, be surprised, be inspired, be an awful mess, and sometimes be the greatest I've ever been.
This hole in my life is the place where I plant the seeds for my future self. There's no reason why I can't have a life of love, excitement, fulfillment, and prosperity. It may not happen soon. It may not happen easily. Or maybe it will. But grief will not hold me forever. It will catapult me toward whatever's next.