Turning down kindness

I am so glad this blog is being read by a wider group of people every day. It’s encouraging to hear that people who have been through a situation such as mine, are single parents, or even folks who haven’t gone through this kind of ordeal are drawing some insight and courage from these posts. That was part of the original intention, and I’m so pleased to see it happening.

Another goal of this blog was to keep people who know me and the kids, knew Janie and want to stay abreast of what’s happening in or world the opportunity to do so. I also want it to be a way to transmit messages that need to put out there but that I haven’t the energy or ability to say to each and every one of you. That was the thought behind the very first post on Janie’s death. Telling the death story over and over again really takes it out of me, so I thought I could put it in one place where anyone with the inkling to find out the details of what went down can go there and read about it.

That is also the intention of this post. I have something to tell all of you, especially those who live nearby.

Many of you who are reading this post today have, since Janie’s death, kindly supplied my family with meals (that we are slowly getting through! So many meals!), offered to babysit or have invited us around to your house for a play date or a birthday and so on. For all of your kindness and good intentions, I want to say a heartfelt thank you, from me and the kids.

I will deal with the last of the three points above first, on coming around to your place. Many of you have invited us around. You may have noticed that we have yet to show up. There are so many reasons for this, but I will try to keep it to four.

1.) We haven’t come around because I don’t have the energy. This will be the case for a long time, still. I am writing this post on Sunday, 21 August. The kids woke up today at 4:30am, and have demanded my attention from that point forward. This is not the case every day, but it does happen more often than I’d care for. But even if they did sleep in every morning, the grief process is wearing. As I have said on this blog before, the processing of this loss happens during waking and sleeping hours. And sometimes, out of the blue, a wave of sorrow blows over me and sucks out the will to live or do anything, really.

But this would seem like an opportune time to come around, wouldn’t you think? Not really. There is the matter of getting the kids ready to go, and once the play date/birthday party/ hang out time is done, there’s the matter of getting them back home, washed, dressed and in bed. This is a lot of work for one guy, and when you are constantly battling with emotional and physical exhaustion, you just don’t want to add to that.

2.) We haven’t come around because of matters pertaining to stability. Seanie and Sophie have just lost their mother. At their young ages, this cornerstone of their short lives literally disappeared from one day to the next forever. This has shaken their foundations and rattled them deeply. As a family, we always had our circle of friends and people the kids knew well, and they were always very keen to hang out with these folks. Suddenly, mommy is gone and now daddy is taking them around to the houses of a whole new batch of people. Suddenly, they have all these new faces, new environments and relational dynamics to contend with. I’m no expert, but my instincts tell me this is a difficult thing for children of their age (or any age) to deal with. So, frankly, I am protecting them. Their circle of acquaintances will grow, but not right away. Remember, it’s just been two months since Janie’s death. I am trying to preserve a sense of continuity for them: their surroundings, their toys, their beds, their routine. This last one brings me to the last point.

3.) We haven’t come around because of matters pertaining to routine and schedule. This point is closely tied to the one above. Janie always came home from work, every night. The kids always had her in their lives, every day, from the day they were born until just over two months ago. She was a part of the rhythm of their lives, and that has suddenly and irrevocably screeched to a halt. That massive and unwelcome change to their routine far eclipses other changes to routine such as naptime, bath time and bedtime, but these other routines must be maintained at all costs in order to preserve a sense of security for the children. That I take them to school, fetch them, take them home, put them down for naps, wake them, feed them, bathe them, play with them and put them to bed at night at the exact same time on our schedule, every day, provides a thread of continuity that helps them cope with the loss. Mommy has gone, but everything else has stayed somewhat the same. So as much as a play date at someone else’s house sounds like a good idea, I am trying to protect my children in this matter, also. Certainly one day out of the week won’t upset them too much, will it? Honestly, I don’t know. Again, I am following my instincts here. I don’t want to mess about with their rhythm just yet.

All of the above said, this does not mean we will never come around. All I am saying is that for now I am turning down almost every invitation to have the kids around for these three reasons. As time passes, I think this will change. Their circle will grow, but it must be done organically, not in response to this tragedy.

So many of you have offered to have us over out of a sense of wanting to help. I can say with sincerity that I am so grateful for your willingness to have us around. However, I have to listen to myself, to my instincts regarding the kids and my own soul when it comes to me. I am not purposefully trying to thwart your well intended attempts to help us. I am simply trying to do what I believe is best for myself and the kids.

Now, on the matter of babysitters: I have followed principle number 2 on this one. I have a babysitter that comes around on Mondays so that I might attend grief group. Her name is Claire and she is the daughter of Faye Weston, who runs the playschool where my children attend. She is well known to the kids, so they feel secure when she is in the house. If I have turned you down for babysitting, it is probably because my kids don’t know you terribly well. In time, you will, and in time, if the offer is still open, I will gladly accept. But not now.

No, food… I have a freezer heaving with meals right now. It is a small freezer at that. To further complicate matters, I am a cook. However, in order to make room for freezable groceries, I first have to clean out the readymade meals that now occupy every square inch of the freezer. Please understand me here, this is NOT me saying that this particular show of concern and care is unwelcome, but the reality is I don’t have any more room left! So, for now, don’t worry about feeding us. Check back in mid-November when I clean out the last meal!

This leaves people living close by to me with very little to go on. Do I not want you to help out in any way at all? Do I really not want any of you folks to be in relationship with me? Have I purposefully shut everyone out? No, people, no.

First of all, there is MUCH you can do, every day, on your own. The most important thing you can do is pray. Pray with others, organize a team, and read this blog to know where we are emotionally, physically and spiritually. If you need more details, shoot me an email. I will gladly fill you in. I had a few almost good days last week, and one amazingly restoring night’s sleep. That is, I believe, as a direct result of your prayers. Our family’s walls are down, our defenses are weak, we are wide open to all kinds of attack. I don’t pray much anymore, mostly for the reasons outlined in point number 1. My prayers normally consist of one word: help. So pray more intelligently than that, and you’ll be doing us a massive favor.

If you want to do more, you can come here and visit. Email or call, and I’ll give you the address. I know that puts the burden of throwing the kids in the car on you, but if you want to help with keeping my kids distracted and have a chat to me so I can have some adult conversation, than that is the way forward. Come here. I WILL return the favor, but right now I just can’t.

Also, if you want to help out with food, come here with your family and I’ll cook for you. That might sound a little odd to you, but cooking is a joy for me. Bring the ingredients. Tell me what you want, and I’ll make it for you. Seriously. Cooking is more relaxing and life-giving to me than pulling a frozen meal out of the freezer. Not that those don’t come in handy, but if you really want to help, then come around for supper. Tell me ahead of time what you’re bringing, and I’ll plan out how I’ll cook the stuff, and we’ll have us an earlyish dinner, and then you can get your kids back home in time for bed, too. This goes for those who don’t have kids too.

I know I can’t have everything I want in life on my terms. Nevertheless, right now I need to go with my gut, and all of the above is what my instinct tells me to do. I must listen to my instincts on this one. I hope you can all understand that.

I know that I will need to go back eventually and do some maintenance work on many of my relationships once I begin to find my feet again. Janie’s passing has massively rocked my world. I do value all of you, all of your shows of care and concern. That I do not reach back every time is not out of ingratitude. I simply do not have the emotional resources to stretch any further at this time. There will come a day when I will be able to do so, and you can expect a phone call on that day.

In the meantime, keep praying for us. Every day is a challenge. Every day has its own hardships. No prayer for us at this time is frivolous, stupid or pointless. I quite literally covet your prayers. That above all is the most important thing you can do.

Originally published August 22, 2011

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