It's been a little over a year since my ex husband passed away. And we've come a long way since then. Life is moving on but we also are learning to take our moments to grieve when needed.
I missed writing at the one year because it was a pretty tough time. I didn't really want to write much about it. I think we were all just feeling 'blah.'
The one year mark of my exes passing has come and gone and I didn't really pressure the kids at all into having to do something on that day. I had ideas in the back of my mind to remember and make the day more of a positive instead of a negative but I really had to let the kids drive this one.
Here is how our grief looks today at the one year mark and the worries and concerns:
For the most part, I am doing okay. Life has established a sense of normalacy again but I find my greatest worry is still for the kids. Prior to the one year mark I scoured the internet, talked to several people who had gone through similar experiences and really tried to get a sense of how I should approach the kids and the one year date of my exes passing. the best piece of advice I was given was to let each kid grieve in the way that they felt they needed to.
I had several things in my back pocket though just in case they were struggling or needed to stay busy doing something that day. Dinner out at one of Dad's favorite places, looking through photos, having some of his friends come up for dessert that night, going out to see a movie, etc. I was armed and ready for every possible scenario.
I find that is a lot of my life now. Trying to be armed and ready for any situation. For the kid I will find crying in their bed, or the kid whose sudden burst of anger really means they're hurting and not able to express it.
I also find that one year out the thing I miss the most is a coparent. Even with my exes very unstable mental state, there is no one who knew my child better than he did. And even when my ex was at his worst towards the end there were moments of clarity that he was able to help answer a question about one of the kids or address a concern in a way that no one else could because he was the only other person who knew our children as well as I did.
THE ALMOST ADULT
This year was such a difference from the past few years. The last few years I worried a lot about this child. This year I saw a very different maturity come out. I don't know if it's because this particular child is nearing adulthood or therapy, medication and every other help put in place has finally clicked or what but I saw a huge maturity in how she handled the one year mark. She was a lot more vocal about what she needed and was more vocal about how she was going to spend the one year mark day. She also would reassure me that she was okay and was more vocal about if she was struggling more or less around the one year mark. She knows she doesn't have to tell me everything, (I work with teenagers and know how much they LOVE to talk to their parents) but that because of what we have gone through I DID expect her to tell me if she thought she was going downhill and needed some help and I in return would let her know what I was noticing.
Depression can be a beast sometimes and it's often putting puzzle pieces together. It can be difficult as a parent to determine if the naps she took three days in a row and the lack of energy she had the past couple of weeks are from pushing herself hard, hormones, or if I'm starting to see her sliding back into a depressive phase. You're constantly keeping mental notes and tabs on your child and watching for signs that may indicate it's more than a small issue while trying not to be the crazy parent that runs to the doctor for any little change only to be told they are just fine.
She decided that "the day" was going to be spent in bed doing nothing. No homework, just reading or watching movies and allowing herself to feel the emotions. We were really worried too that she had a trip with her drama department planned for around the anniversary of his death and when she found out her Dad had passed away last year she was on that trip. It was the last day and they were coming home that night when I had to call and give her the news. She debated even going on the trip wondering if she could emotionally handle it. She opted to go and her teachers did a great job of taking the group to the activity where I had had to call her to let her know her Dad had passed away. Instead of waiting until the end of the trip, they took the group to do that activity at the beginning of the trip so she could have her moment, work through her emotions, and then get back to work and end the trip on a more positive note instead of having her worry about having to deal with having to go back to that spot during the whole trip.
THE MIDDLE TEEN
This one is probably the one that I worry the most about. He's the child that hides his emotions a lot. "I'm okay," "I'm fine," are all common phrases I get when I tell him that I notice he's struggling or that I'm worried about him and can tell something is 'off.'
He also wanted to do nothing that day and I also let him have his day. Only this time he was the one struggling with how to express his emotions and I saw a progressive downhill slide in his emotions for a couple of months after the anniversary.
Because I had gone through a lot of it with my oldest, I recognized the signs more quickly. We are in the process of adjusting his medications and hoping that helps.
But I have noticed that he's changed. He lost his Dad at a vulnerable time of life and he lost him at a time that is important in a growing man's life.
I've noticed he's finding his way in this world and he's recognizing what helps he needs. He is great to let me know that when he needs to see his counselor and talk to him. He's come to me let me know when he is struggling. He's good to let me rub his back or hug him when he cries or just let me know that he needs to be alone to cry and is working through some things and is okay. He also knows that he needs a physical outlet for working through his emotions and has found that in football.
The youngest has her moments she misses him but overall I think she may be delayed grief. I think a lot of what she will experience will come later. She's not as good about putting her thoughts or feelings into words.
With her we see a lot of anger or jealousy come out when she's upset and can't express her emotions in the way that she wants. That can get frustrating for us sometimes and I'm sure for her. We've really had to work hard on setting behavioral expectations and reiterating "when you're sad, it's NOT okay to say hurtful things to other people. Let them know that you are sad and we can give you a few minutes alone or try some solutions to help you."
A COUPLE WEEKENDS AGO, THE KIDS GOT THE BEST GIFT TO DATE:
We had my exes Thanksgiving/Christmas family dinner together and at the dinner the kids were presented with their own quilts made with their Dad's shirts. My sister in law had several of her youth in her neighborhood help with the making of the quilts and it took them nine months to complete them. Tears were shed. A lot.
I don't know if the girls know how much those blankets mean to the kids. On the tough days you'll find them wrapped up in them. My youngest takes hers everywhere alongside her stuffed animal dog.
It's been a good experience to sit around at night and have them ask about a story behind one of the shirts they see on their quilt. Some shirts they remember vividly and others they don't. But it doesn't really matter, those shirts are a comfort to them and a tie to someone they loved. I am seriously indebted to my in laws and the girls who spent all those months making them because they have meant so much to the kids.