Four years after Phil's death, I am still trying to work out how to do twice as many tasks with half the amount of hands. The anniversary of his death stirs up emotions for the kids each and every year. You would think I could anticipate their reactions to this day of remembering by now, but I can't. My own walk down memory lane includes my children, of course, but each year I get caught up in my own pain and then am surprised once again by theirs.
Being a parent used to require me to be an adult in every difficult situation with my kids. As a mother I used to remind myself not to take things personally, to remember that their reactions to things are not always about me (no matter what they say), and to respond with calm assurance when my teens were throwing a load of angst my way. With Phil gone, I find my reserves for this kind of great advice to be very low. Not only do I have one less adult to help with the every day needs of raising a family, but his death has added an element of need that was not there before. Unfair!
Things have changed around our home. Perfection is no longer an option (funny how I really believed in that concept four years ago!). I can't always be counted on to remain calm in the face of dramatic behavior. More often than not their tears reduce me to a puddle of "Why can't I do this right?" tears of my own. Even though I know the answer to that rhetorical question...there is no instruction manual for healing a family from a loss like this. Initially, counting on my intuition seemed risky, at best.
The amazing thing is that my kids have flourished despite my tendency to be blindsided by their on-going grief. Despite the fact that I often feel as if my last nerve is about to burst. Despite the hole in the middle of our living room where contentment used to be commonplace. Despite the aching need we all feel as a reduced family of four. Despite the fact that I am not silly like Phil. Despite the tears that burst out of nowhere that always seem to have the same source. Despite my fear that just me is not enough.
Our little family unit has learned to count on each other in ways we didn't before. We have come to accept that life isn't always fair. As a mother I listen more than I used to, and cry more than I once did. Together we examine the problem solving options...because we are all that is left. Where once Phil and I would have decided on a course of action, now the kids and I decide. There is a strange camaraderie that has developed as a direct result of my inability to pretend that I have everything under control. I wish things were different. I wish they didn't know all they know about loss, sorrow, the pain of moving forward when the whole world is upside down. But, I am proud of us, because somehow we are making it through with our love for each other not only intact, but enhanced.