My New Life



I haven't written in a while because I have been preoccupied establishing my new life. I've been applying to a PhD program. I've also been checking out daycares for the kids for when I start school. There is really a lot to think about when you lose a spouse, even after all the initial items of business are taken care of. Then, you need to start preparing for the life you want to lay ahead of you. Most of the time, taking these steps to set up my new life is exciting or at least emotionally neutral. I feel passionate about my work and I feel very excited about pursuing my doctorate.

When I went to look at daycares, I encountered some things I hadn't expected. The first thing I noticed was that at most of the daycares, all the children were white. Most of the staff was Hispanic or black. I seriously felt I had walked into the movie "The Help." I was glad that at least the staff was diverse but realized for the first time that my children might feel different. Maybe they won't notice at all. When Isaac was alive we attended a Spanish-speaking congregation for our church so we made a lot of friends that were Hispanic or were in interracial, bi-cultural marriages. I became accustomed to being in situations where there was more diversity. It was the first time I realized that my kids might feel different and would identify with being a minority and experience the emotional burden that comes with that. It felt heavy to think that Isaac won't be here to help them navigate that.

With all this busyness, I have been pretty distracted from grieving. Of course, I am constantly reminded of Isaac's death and think of him often, but I realized that I wasn't grieving the same way I had been the month before. It is so strange to see how my grief changes with time. In that moment, I almost missed my grief. So I decided that I was just going to sit and grieve. And I do that sometimes. I'll just sit and listen to music and cry. Sometimes I journal. Sometimes I just think. Music really soothes my soul, so I try to either play the piano or guitar or listen to music when I want to sit in my feelings.

During my graduate program, the faculty really emphasized self-care. I'm trying to be vigilant about self-care. Sometimes that means going to the gym. Sometimes it means skipping the gym. In all the busyness I'm trying to prioritize eating. Ha! I never thought that would be a struggle for me! I've stopped cooking, which if you know me, is giving up one of my favorite things. Costco is my new chef. And although it's not quite as tasty, it makes my days more manageable so I can spend my time doing the things that are most important.  When I work, I take myself out to lunch. Also, I have a dear friend who I schedule a long lunch with a couple times a month. I find that giving myself this break and also connecting with my friend really helps me to have the energy and emotional capacity I need to have for my work.

With the kids, I've tried to make sure we eat breakfast together. They are very into pancakes, so we eat a lot of pancakes. Before Isaac died, I didn't always sit down with the kids to eat but it feels important for them to have a sense of unity and consistency. Maybe it's for me. Also, before Isaac died, we didn't have a super consistent bedtime routine. Now that I've been working more and sometimes later into the evening, I've really tried to make this time, their time. Wyatt is always asking to sleep in my bed, so I decided that it might be fun for them to do our bedtime activities on my bed. So we read stories, sing songs, say prayers, and brush teeth. They think it's the coolest. Sometimes they try to turn it into a wrestling match. I think establishing these times together has helped me feel connected to my kids even when I have to spend the day thinking about a million other things.

In some ways, I'm grateful for grief. It's not always easy to find space for it but it forces me to reflect on how I care for myself. My grief has also helped me to be better at holding boundaries. I can't rely on Isaac to reinforce my parenting, so I have to be fully committed to disciplining. I have to communicate more effectively the expectations I have for my children. So in some ways grief is making me a better parent, at least I think it is! I started seeing a therapist and that has been helpful as well. You don't really have expectations for grief because usually you don't "expect" to be grieving. But as I grieve, I find that things are working out much differently than I would have thought, which means that somewhere in my head I must have had expectations of grief in general. I'm trying to accept that my grief doesn't have to look like that of others, and that if things aren't bad, it doesn't mean that something is going to blow up in my face.

Some other things that have really helped me in my grief is my friends. I have an amazing friend that calls me every week day. This has been so helpful. Sometimes we talk for a while. Sometimes it's five minutes. I have other great friends that invite me to dinner, or we go to Costco together. I've found it important to spend time with friends. I'm pretty extroverted but when Isaac was alive, I didn't really feel like I needed to socialize because I could just socialize with him at home. My family has been helpful as they check-in on me often. Isaac's family has been great as well. I feel really lucky to have their support and love. They treat me like I'm their biological daughter. I think that seeing the bond that they share with my children also makes the loss of Isaac a little less heavy.

Although grief is heavy, I can't help but feel so grateful for all the people that help me carry this burden. It makes all the difference. Sometimes I wonder, "How am I not falling apart?" And the answer is that I have so many people helping me do this. And even though life is much different from what I expected and one of the worst things that can happen, did happen, I feel good. I feel like I'm still me. I'm developing this sense of peace and acceptance that God is in charge and I can trust Him. It feels good to have that message consistently reaffirmed to me. It's so hard to struggle and trust that God will deliver you or bless you when you need it because you always think you need it right now. God continues to bless me in unexpected ways, sometimes through His spirit and sometimes through the people in my life. I'm so grateful for my faith. I'm grateful for my mother who taught me how to develop faith. My relationship with God sustains me when I'm low. It is a humbling experience to let God bless you. I don't understand why I've been so blessed in my circumstances when others have had similar experiences and don't receive all the blessings that I have received. I know that blessings can't be deserved or not deserved; it's God's gift. I think that it's hard for me to comprehend that someone so mystic and all-powerful compels me to Him in such a personal way. And although I've been hearing that my whole life, it's different when I experience it.