As a widow with young children, the worst thing about parenting now is NOT watching fathers whirl their delighted little girls around in the air or push their little boys on the swings. It is NOT arriving to your child's dance recital alone and wishing that someone was there to experience the joy and pride with you. It is NOT that you are now the only one to remember the day of your little one's birth or what their first word was. It is NOT the strange and uncomfortable silence when your child announces to the check-out clerk that "daddy is dead". No, the worst thing about being a widowed parent is that you can't fix that their other parent is gone....forever.
All parents want to fix their children's injuries, soften their disappointments, explain any misunderstandings and replace what is broken. But no matter how hard I've tried, I cannot bring him back. I can't make it better. I cannot take the pain away.
Nineteen months since my husband, Jeff, died and our seven year old daughter still cries for him often. I can often tell when it's coming. When missing him has overwhelmed her. She becomes angry and combative. She screams and yells at any small injustice, whether it be her three year old brother adding his own embellishments to her drawings, my requests that she keeps her fingers from my nostrils (she is a true pest - like Jeff was).
When the crash comes, she sobs. Her little shoulders shaking as she asks me for the millionth time why he died. She rages at the way things are and screams that 'it's not fair'. I feel helpless. I want to soothe her little heart. I want to offer some remedy for grief, a magical elixir.
Last week, she asked me if Jeff and I really did have Santa's phone number. I was confused by the change of direction in our tear-filled conversation. I misunderstood. I thought she was tired and just saddened by the world in general and had a desire for some toy. But no. Our little Bean wanted Santa's phone number because Santa "knows everything" and Santa would know Heaven's phone number. She wanted to talk to her daddy.
That night, I tucked her into our bed, with his shirt swaddled around her little body, the necklace containing some of Jeff's ashes clutched in her hand and a hotwater bottle nestled into her back. She fell asleep with tears on her cheeks....as I did - not just for the loss of Jeff, but for the sadness that my little ones bear.
What I have learned in these last nineteen months is that the best, and really, the only thing I can do for her is to be here. To let her lean on me. To hold her hand. To bring her tissues and hot water bottles. To hold her on my lap and listen as she cries. To assure her that we will smile again and that I will be here whenever she needs me.