Monthly Archives: December 2014

Big, scary feelings

Standard

We use the term big feelings in our house to talk about strong, overwhelming, or scary feelings. When Maddy is having a tough time we acknowledge her big feelings, label them as best we can, and try to help her manage them. We talk about how everyone has big feelings, even adults. We work hard to have her understand that big feelings are okay to have, that we can learn to work with our big feelings instead of against them, and most importantly, that she can trust us to help her with her big feelings for however long she needs us to.

Since the accident, I am the the one having non-stop big feelings. Grief is overwhelming, consuming, and can be downright scary. Right now, I am messy and broken. I have felt messy and broken before in my life… but not this kind of messy and broken. This is new territory for me. I sometimes feel like a shell of my former self, just trying to get through the day, or sometimes the moment. Grief is unpredictable. Emotions wash over you at unexpected times… sometimes contradictory emotions that feel difficult to reconcile. Grief can be irrational, and even though you can identify the lack of rationality in your thoughts, you can’t control the feelings that surface, you can only work with them so that you can continue to heal.

It’s scary to not recognize yourself, to not know who you are anymore. Who am I now that I don’t have a mother? How does my family fit together without the glue? Where do I fit in the world now? I will always miss my mom and uncle, and the world will always be a different place after this experience. I woke up as one person on October 18, and fell asleep as a completely changed person. I am traumatized, grief-stricken, forever changed. I have become, and for the rest of my life will be, a motherless daughter.

Sometimes I feel shame as a grieving parent. I feel guilty that the girls have to live in a house so full of sadness, and anger; that their mom is irritable, sluggish, and pained. I feel guilty thinking that my mom and uncle would want the girls to live in a happy home. Even though I can recognize my mom as an imperfect, but wonderful mother; I feel as though my imperfections, so apparent while I’m grieving, are failing my family. I can tell myself that my mom and uncle deserve to be grieved, and that they would understand, but guilt is a sticky emotion.

I have worked through this idea of being an imperfect parent before, finally accepting that showing your children that you’re human is of huge service to them… because they too are human, and need to accept themselves as the beautiful, unique people that they are. Our family anthem is pretty much Secrets by Mary Lambert. But, I have never felt as imperfect as I do right now. I am not present with my girls in the way that I’d like to be. I am doing my best, but it feels like it’s not enough.

Tonight, while we were driving in the car, I began to cry. After some time, from the backseat we hear Maddy say, “What’s that sound?” There was a pause. Eric responded, “Mommy is crying. She’s feeling really sad thinking about Grammy and Uncle Rob. It’s okay to cry when we’re sad.” Another pause. Then my sweet child said, “Mommy, I want to hold your hand. I want to help you calm down.”

The next time I feel shame creeping into my thoughts, I will think of this moment, of those words. Despite what I want, my girls will one day feel messy and broken. Maybe it won’t be the result of the early loss of their mother, but it will be something. Life gives everyone their knocks, and one day, hopefully a long time from now, it will be Maddy and Ella’s turn. When it’s their turn, I want them to be able to be loving and kind to themselves. I want them to feel as comfortable as they can with those big feelings. I want them to allow themselves to show their messy selves to the world.

Grieving will not just expose the girls to sadness and anger, it will expose them to an imperfect mother who keeps putting one foot in front of the other. A mother who works through big, scary feelings, who shares her big feelings with people she can trust, and who asks for help when she needs it. I hope that it will one day show them that despite all the heartbreak, we can heal into a new version of ourself. Life might break us sometimes, and we might accumulate more life experience than we may have ever wanted, but we can be our authentic, real, imperfect selves.

My sweet Madeleine, Grammy and Uncle Rob would be so proud of the thoughtful, kind, and caring little girl you are becoming. I am so very proud to be your mommy.

Too soon to say goodbye

Standard

I was 30 years old, and 37 weeks pregnant on October 18th. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon at our house. I was sitting on the couch in our living room when I got the call that forever changed my life; changed who I am.

My Mom and Uncle Rob were killed in a car accident that afternoon. My Uncle was declared dead at the scene, my Mom hung on for 3 hours, and was air lifted to the nearest trauma centre before she was declared dead. I lost my breath, my centre, and my heart that day.

The world is not the same to me, it feels unsafe, unpredictable, and confusing. I am not the same. I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know where I fit in the world.

There are no words that I can use to help anyone close to me understand the pain that I feel. The deepest, darkest pain I have ever felt in my life. I can’t tell you what I’m feeling… because there are no words. No words that could paint a picture even remotely close to how I feel. I try, and will continue to try, but the right words just don’t exist.

I lost my closest Uncle and my Mom in the blink of an eye. No chance to say goodbye. I was not finished needing them. I was not finished being mothered. My kids were not finished needing them.

2012 10 21 Chloe's First Birthday Bill's IMG_1958

For now, I will leave you with what my sisters and I wrote and shared at the celebration of life ceremony:

While it is difficult to sum up in a couple of minutes, we hope that what we share will give you a glimpse into the profound effect our Mom and Uncle have had on our lives, and what special people they were.

Uncle Rob was more than an uncle to us. He was so incredibly involved in our lives, spending more time with us than typical of an uncle. Over the past couple weeks we have described him as a second father, and an additional grandfather.

Our uncle had a great sense of humour and a quick wit. He was thoughtful, generous and kind, always thinking of others. He was someone you could call for advice – especially if you wanted a perspective on cars, or home renovations. No offense to our loving dad, but in most cases, Uncle Rob was the go-to person on these topics. He would always set aside time for us, and it never felt as though you were intruding or asking too much. No matter our need, Uncle Rob could always be counted on.

He was a collector – in his own life seeking toy soldiers, die-cast cars, model tanks, old currencies, and parts for his 1950 Chevy. This is a passion that he shared with us. Attentive and in-tune with our individual interests, he scoured the internet for hard-to-find items we enjoyed, including Betty Boop figurines, cow collectables, and the more difficult to find Disney Cars cars.

Uncle Rob was affectionate and loving. As we became teenagers and then adults, he showed his affection through different means, like marking our first mothers’ day with bouquets of flowers, and showering our children with love. He wasn’t shy about calling or sending us an email to express pride in our accomplishments.

Our uncle absolutely adored Logan, Madeleine, and Chloé, as well as the family dog Loki – and the feeling was mutual. He shared a particularly strong bond with Logan. Logan spoke of Uncle Rob so frequently his daycare providers confused him for Uncle, rather than Great Uncle. Always wanting others to feel special, Uncle Rob would let Madeleine paint his nails with the purple nail polish he had given her for Christmas, and had a piece of Logan’s handmade Cars artwork framed for Logan’s room.

In the last few years prior to our Grammy’s death, Uncle Rob demonstrated many attributes that we admire. He was strong for Grammy, always showing care and compassion. Without ever complaining, Uncle Rob drove Grammy to and from her medical appointments, and always ensured that she was well cared for. Uncle Rob made sure that Grammy had every opportunity to see family, including those out in New Brunswick.

It is easy to see that mom and Uncle Rob were brother and sister. They shared many admirable traits.

We have always admired our mom, not just as a mom, but for who she was as a person. She was family focused – the super mom of moms – but also a Girl Guide leader, an active church member, a sewer, a lover of the colour pink, but best of all, someone we could always count on. Mom was a very sensitive, warm, loving, generous and compassionate person. She centered her universe around taking care of others. She led by example and unintentionally influenced many of her children into various careers that help others. She was a wonderful listener and we always knew that we could call her any time.

Growing up, even though she had her hands full with four kids, Mom supported us all in our individual varied interests including dance, swimming, music, and many team sports. It didn’t matter how we performed. Even if we made mistakes, whether little or big, Mom just knew how to make us feel that effort was all that mattered, so proud of everything we all did. As adults, she watched us cross finish lines, fundraised with us, and helped us paint our homes.

Mom has given us a strong example of how to be a caring person not just within a family, but also within a community. She has shown us that the greatest blessing in life is to connect and support others, that we are all stronger together. In our most vulnerable moments, we knew that we could always count on Mom to be gentle and kind. Mom fearlessly gave unconditional love, loving people for who they were, not for who she wished they would be. This allowed her to provide each of her kids and grandkids with the support and love that they needed to thrive. Mom always gave people the benefit of the doubt, took a situational approach to understanding others actions, and ascribed to the philosophy that kindness could heal. She instilled in us the importance of building others up, and the values of family, education, and work.

Of course, mom had her share of endearing quirks, like not allowing us to load the dishwasher, filling the ice-cube trays from the Brita, picking out all of the Cheetos from the Munchies mix, and not letting us sit in the living room. But, she was lighthearted, and showed us through example, how to accept ourselves quirks and all.

Although she didn’t have dad’s sense of humour – some might say thankfully – she was fun to be silly and joke with. We can recall many fun moments when we teased her for her singing, or jokingly told her that one of us was pregnant when we weren’t. We made her Facebook profile one Christmas without her knowing, jokingly focusing the profile information around her love for Logan. We had no idea how much she would eventually use Facebook to stay connected with family and friends.

Mom has always been a role model for us as mothers. She has always lit up with the presence of her kids and grandkids, not just with pride in the things we’ve accomplished, but out of pure joy of our existence. No matter what was happening in Mom’s life, she always managed to make sure we knew that we were among the most important things to her. She supported us in the paths we chose in life, never questioning our motives or abilities. She gave us confidence to pursue all of our career goals and other life aspirations.

Mom adored her grandchildren, Logan, Madeleine and Chloé, more than you can love life itself. The day Mom learned that she was going to be a grandma, she had tears of joy. Both the grandmother and the teacher in her loved to hear every little accomplishment the kids’ made, no matter how small. We can only believe that she will be watching over the arrival of her newest grandchild in just a week.

Mom was a caring, kind, fun-loving woman, who has left a huge mark on the world that she has left behind. She made our world a calmer, safer, and better place.

To Mom and Uncle Rob – thank you for the years of support, and guidance you have given us. Thank you for filling our lives with love, laughter, and irreplaceable memories. We will forever remember you both as two of the best cheerleaders we have been blessed to have in our lives.