“I miss mommy”

 I don’t really fully understand the ins and outs of this grief thing. I’ve read a little, and of course there’s the grief group and what I’ve learned from them and the accompanying video series. I don’t understand how I’ve been able to maintain for weeks on end, not happy but treading water and at least not drowning in sorrow.

Last night just about killed me. And it’s dragged into today. What caused it? Who knows. I was looking at pictures when it came on. I’ve looked at the same pictures a hundred times before, and yes I’ve cried sometimes, but not like that. And to have it just drag on into today like a hangover is just… I don’t know. Cruel, I guess.

I became angry at the fact that I was so exhausted. I went to bed at 9:30 last night, slept until 5:30 when the kids woke me, was able to steal an extra 45 minutes or so of sleep after getting their tea and setting up the TV. Did I feel rested? Oddly enough, I was more exhausted when I awoke this morning than when I went to bed. So I am growing angry at this exhaustion. I want it to go away. It’s hard enough to do anything during the day, let alone trying to fight off a weariness that is as foreign to me as it is draining.

I promise all this whining is leading somewhere! All of that to lead to this: I arrived home tonight with the kids at around 6:20 pm. I was getting their bottles ready for story time, my very soul craving the promise of a few hours of child-free nothingness until I can go to bed.

That’s when Sean walked into the kitchen with Buddy (his little stuffed reindeer, his most treasured possession) and said “Daddy, Seanie’s sad.”

Why are you sad, honey?

“Because I miss mommy.”

I suppose I always expected him to say those words eventually. It is 24 August as I write this. Janie went into hospital on 13 June. It has been two and a half months since Seanie has seen his mommy. I knew he missed her. He had to miss her.

But he’d never said it before tonight. Not in those words. Not that plainly.

I sat on the floor of the kitchen and pulled my dear son onto my lap. I told him I was sorry, that I would be there for him, that I loved him. What else could I say? My poor, poor son. I guess he’ll have solid memories of his mother after all, despite being so young.

Mothers have a special bond with their sons. Janie was no different with her Seanie. She loved that boy in a special way. Not more than she did Sophie. Just… different. And he, being her darling boy, worshipped the ground she walked on.

What must his soul be going through? What must he be feeling inside? My poor son.

I’ve shed enough tears in the last day or two to last a lifetime. This particular storm of grief came up unannounced. There was no warning, no way to tell it was on its way. I’ve heard this is common for the bereaved. Funny… knowing so doesn’t help.

Seanie has been “ouchier” than usual today. A sore tummy, a sore head, a sore this, a sore that. He’s wanted to play with me more. He wanted to hang around me more. He must pick up on my sorrow.

I’ve told him before that sometimes daddy is sad and that daddy cries because he misses mommy.

It would appear I offered him a template for expressing what’s going on inside of him. I guess I can be proud of that. I’ve not done much right since Janie died. But this time, I gave my son something to express his pain. I did a good thing for my son.

Part of the arduous aspect of the grief, beyond the exhaustion that is, in my opinion, the worst part of this whole thing, is the fact that I must shepherd my children into this valley with me. Unfortunately, they need to grieve Janie’s death too.

Sophie still thinks Janie is coming home. The babysitter arrived the other night at 5:30 pm. Sophie still remembers that 5:30 is when mommy used to arrive home from work. She shouted “mommy!” She’s done this once before. She has no concept of the passage of time, of the permanence of death. She does not miss mommy, and if she does, she is quickly distracted by something else. She recognizes mommy in pictures. So I’m going to put up LOTS of pictures.

Seanie, however, is making his first tentative steps down this dark path. It hurts to see it. It hurts to witness it. I am expecting a night terror tonight, so I’m keeping a towel in my room ready for that, if/when it happens. It’s been an emotional day for him. But he said it. He said it. That’s the important first step.

Children start out not being able to do anything for themselves. They would die if the parent did not feed them, change them, burp, wash and repeat for them. They grow up quicker than we might realize, but some phases seem to last an eternity. Like the terrible twos. Sophie is two. Oy vey…

However, at three, Seanie is a big boy. He dresses himself, brushes his own teeth (and does it right), takes himself to the bathroom, feeds himself, does basically everything for himself. I think he feels a greater need to do it all now that his world has been turned upside down by the death of his mother.

But tonight, he was my little boy again. The plaintive cry of a broken little heart. I hurt for my son so much. I know he needs to experience this, but I would give anything to spare him the pain. Short of resurrecting his mother from the ashes, though, I cannot protect him from this. Even at the tender age of three, my dear boy will need to confront death.

What a thing to have on his soul. What a landmark to have on his life. Sure, life isn’t fair. But pick on someone your own size, dammit.

That’s what a dad wants to do, though. A dad wants to shield his children from the dangerous and painful things of the world, only allowing them to test the boundaries under controlled circumstances. Can’t do that. Not gonna happen. Not this time. Sorry, but the date for this especially difficult test has been moved up to… NOW. Yeah, your kid is only three, but too bad.

It makes me angry. It makes me feel helpless, a bystander as my children hurt. Maybe Sophie doesn’t notice too much right now, but her time is coming. I’m beginning to pick up on Seanie’s signs. When he’s especially ouchy, that’s when she’s on his mind. I was starting to get really exasperated earlier this evening. I kept thinking “great, on top of all this crap, I have a hypochondriac on my hands!”

But now I see it. His mommy was sick with a sore head. Mommy went to the doctor to get better. Mommy never came back.

Seanie has a sore head. Seanie has a sore tummy. Seanie has a sore ear. Seanie has a sore finger. Seanie has a sore knee. Seanie has a sore bum. Seanie has a sore eye.

Seanie misses mommy.

Maybe Seanie will need to go to the same doctor where mommy is, and he’ll find her there. The last time I took Seanie to the doctor’s office, just last week, he asked me if mommy was there. I didn’t really connect the two. Seanie’s grief therapist mentioned to me that this could be the case. That was on Monday.

And today, I see she is right.

This is obviously nowhere near done. This will go on for years and years. I suppose it’s important to discover these things along the way. I wish I weren’t so tired so I could feel happier about it, but all I can think about right now is sleep. So I’ll probably get on with that.

The challenge is to understand the contours of my own grief and learn to navigate through them whilst trying to understand my children and their version of it. Everyone is unique. Everyone grieves differently.

It’s gonna be a long, long road.

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